WILLIS—Shirley Taylor, an East Texas-based Christian advocate for women’s equality, has been waiting 10 years for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to apologize for promoting what she considers “a gender-based caste system.”
But she hasn’t been holding her breath.
“There are too many reputations involved, too much money and too much power for them to give up their cherished position,” said Taylor, who noted the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Seneca Falls 2 Christian Women’s Rights Convention passed on July 24 without comment from the council.
Danvers Statement and male headship
The 2010 convention—named for the historic 19th century women’s rights convention—called on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to apologize for teachings in the Danvers Statement about “male headship” in the family and church.
The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—drafted in December 1987 and published by the council the following year—presents the “complementarian” view of gender roles in the home and church. Complementarianism teaches that God granted men and women equal worth but assigned them different roles of headship and submission that complement each other.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood did not respond to a request from the Baptist Standard for comment.
Complementarian teachings and the Danvers Statement have had a “tremendous influence” on evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular, Taylor said.
Women and girls who join Southern Baptist churches need to realize “their membership comes with restrictions” that do not apply to men and boys in the same congregations, she asserted.
In 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention amended its Baptist Faith & Message to include an article on “family” that stated “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant headship of her husband.” The 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith & Message’s article about the church added a statement that “the office of pastor is limited to men.”
Sign up for our weekly email newsletter.
Complementarian teaching permeates Southern Baptist seminaries. Current members of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood include Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jason Duesing, provost of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 2009, the board of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary adopted the Danvers Statement as a guiding document in the seminary’s policy manual. Trustees at Southeastern Seminary had adopted it earlier, and Midwestern Seminary subsequently adopted it.
Male headship and abuse
Among other issues raised in the 2010 call for an apology, the Seneca Falls 2 declaration states, “We are concerned about wife abuse, girlfriend abuse and abuse to female children that takes place in many homes where evangelical men are taught that they have earthly and spiritual authority over women.”
The declaration also states, “We are concerned that men who are taught that they have male headship over a home and church do not feel that they are accountable for abusive attitudes and actions toward women.”
Investigative reporting by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News revealed more than 700 victims of clergy sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches in 20 years.
Some Southern Baptist pastors and leaders—including SBC President J.D. Greear and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore—have been at the forefront of addressing clergy sexual abuse issues and calling for accountability in churches.
Greear appointed an SBC sexual abuse advisory group and led the SBC to adopt changes to its governing documents and create a standing Credentials Committee to consider whether churches that mishandle sexual abuse claims are in “friendly cooperation” with the convention.
However, they continue to hold a complementarian view of gender roles that Taylor believes can provide the foundation for abuse to occur.
“There’s definitely a link” between teachings about male headship and abuse of women, she insisted.
“I worry about the effect it has on pastors who counsel women,” she said, noting some pastors encourage women in abusive situations to continue to submit to their husbands and allow the abuse to continue.
Street evangelist for women’s equality
Taylor—who worked 15 years at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, primarily in its church starting center—felt God calling her 12 years ago to become an advocate for women.
“I felt the call to get up and go, and I got up and went,” she said, adding that she tried to effect change in Baptist life but grew frustrated with it.
Taylor, who lives in Willis, has worked on the office staff of a Disciples of Christ church in Conroe for 14 years and currently worships at a United Methodist church in Montgomery, but she still considers herself a Baptist by conviction.
“I don’t speak for any organization. I’m completely on my own,” she said. “I just strike up conversations with strange men—when you get older, you can do that. And I give away copies of my books. Only two people have ever turned the books down, and I have given hundreds of books away.
“I just give them the good news. What they do with it is up to the Lord and them. That’s what an evangelist does, and I felt called to this.”