What Carter Said

From Jimmy Carter, on women, ordination, and the great religions:

Well, religion can be, and I think there’s a slow, very slow, move around the world to give women equal rights in the eyes of God. What has been the case for many centuries is that the great religions, the major religions, have discriminated against women in a very abusive fashion and set an example for the rest of society to treat women as secondary citizens. In a marriage or in the workplace or wherever, they are discriminated against. And I think the great religions have set the example for that, by ordaining, in effect, that women are not equal to men in the eyes of God.

This has been done and still is done by the Catholic Church ever since the third century, when the Catholic Church ordained that a woman cannot be a priest for instance but a man can. A woman can be a nurse or a teacher but she can’t be a priest. This is wrong, I think. As you may or may not know, the Southern Baptist Convention back now about 13 years ago in Orlando, voted that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands, and ordained that a woman could not be a deacon or a pastor or a chaplain or even a teacher in a classroom in some seminaries where men are in the classroom, boys are in the classroom. So my wife and I withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention primarily because of that.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Alan

    I have searched the Southern Baptist Convention resolutions on their online resolution search feature, and found nothing anywhere close to what Carter says here:

    “As you may or may not know, the Southern Baptist Convention back now about 13 years ago in Orlando, voted that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands, and ordained that a woman could not be a deacon or a pastor or a chaplain or even a teacher in a classroom in some seminaries where men are in the classroom, boys are in the classroom.”

    The SBC was in Orlando in 2000 (13 years ago), and the only resolution regarding women was a denouncing of sex trafficking.

    If someone could find where the SBC “voted that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands,” as well as the rest of his statement, I’d love to see it. Otherwise, he’s fighting another strawman.

  • http://azspot.net naum

    Though PolitiFact scores Carter’s remark as “mostly false”, Carter spokesperson says Carter based his comments on the 1998 resolution, which this paragraph read:

    “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

  • Alan

    Certainly appreciate the link to that article. It’s exactly as I thought–a terrible interpretation (to the point of being a twisting and misrepresentation) of what the SBC actually stands for. It’s a shame that he has to do that to try to make his point.

  • Wolf N. Paul

    I think Carter’s statement is either ill-informed or malicious. Most Christian groups that believe in different roles for men and women do not say anything about women being inferior, and it is very bad behaviour to impute motives to others like that.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, to be fair, the SBC statement is full of double-speak as well…

    It makes no sense to say that husband is the leader and the wife is expected to submit to him, but at the same time she is equal to him. They can’t have it both ways.

  • SFG

    In 2000 the SBC revised the Baptist Faith and Message to include the following sentence in VI. The Church: “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

    In 2004 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary told Professor Sheri Klouda that she would be denied tenure because she was a female, and terminated her in 2006.

  • chris2002white

    The SBC statement defined or qualified leadership with “servant”. In my church, we have home churches with leaders and followers. We consider ourselves equal. Phil, why do you see this as double speak? Jesus followed the leadership of the Father for he was obedient in all ways–yet did not see equality with the Father as something that needed to be grasped or sought after. Equality is not based on role assignment, or gift distribution.
    It has taken a while, but I now realize women can be leaders in the church.

  • http://azspot.net naum

    Is it really a “terrible interpretation”?

    Is Carter so off base with the “inferior” descriptor, given that SBC have codified that women are indeed less than men, unfit for leadership; hence, “inferior”?

  • Phil Miller

    The statement isn’t really talking about roles or “gift distribution”, though. A role suggests something that is a temporary duty or office. The SBC statement makes it clear that they believe a wife’s place is to always submit, and the husband’s place is to always lead. These aren’t temporary roles – they’re permanent positions.

    And if they’re basing it off of the idea of the subordination within the Godhead, well that idea is just plain wrong. Yes, Christ submitted to the Father while He was on earth, but eternal subordination within the Trinity was rejected as heretical long ago.

  • Alan

    I fully believe that at Southwestern. I know at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC, women are allowed to teach. That’s not to say there are many female professors, but they’re certainly allowed.

    But, more to the point, the SBC hasn’t “ordained” that women not be allowed to be professors. Maybe one seminary has a president who acted as such, but that doesn’t mean the whole SBC has made a statement that no woman can serve as a professor.

    Furthermore, Carter specifically said that the SBC “ordained” that no woman could be a deacon, chaplain, pastor, or teacher. The only role in the BFM2000 that is set aside for men is the role of pastor. Carter makes it sound like women aren’t supposed to do anything in an SBC church. However, you will find female deacons, female Sunday School teachers/small group leaders, female youth and children’s pastors, etc. The BFM2000 only reserves the role of pastor (usually only the senior pastor) for men.

    Again, Carter is either speaking in ignorance, or intentionally lying to make his point sound better.

  • Alan

    Nowhere will you find that the “SBC have codified that women are indeed less than men.” When the SBC says that men and women are equal and have equal gifting, but believe the Scriptures to reserve the office of pastor (and that’s the only office) for men, it doesn’t mean women are unfit. And it certainly doesn’t mean that women are inferior.

    Based on the passage Carter’s spokesperson gave, the statement from the SBC is that husband and wife are equal (used twice), are both created in the Image of God (used twice), and both have God-given responsibilities toward the way they treat the other.

    In every relationship, someone is going to lead. Both partners can’t lead. Both partners can’t follow. We believe that a pastor leads a church. Does that make him superior and all the people in the congregation inferior? No, it means that God has called one to lead, and others to follow. But, each person is still equal in the eyes of God, and we can still believe in the priesthood of the believer.

    Since Carter was president, and charged with leading the people of this country, does that mean he views all of us as inferior to him? Based on his, and your, definition, it does.

  • chris2002white

    okay. but in heaven there is no marriage–so then it is just a temporal arrangement here on this earth. Yes, the SBC would probably agree that the husband is to always lead–but in a servant way just as Christ served the Church and gave himself for her. Please address this idea of servant leadership which is absent from your comments. I see the husband and wife as a team–each with responsibilities to the other and their children. The husband is the team leader in the SBC view.
    By the way, I am not a Baptist, nor a fundamentalist.

  • Phil Miller

    Ideally, in a marriage, both partners will submit to and serve each other. It makes no sense to refer to one partner, the husband in this case, as the one who is always leading. I would say, that in any given situation, either the husband or wife may lead, and there are times when one will defer to the other. To say that the husband is in the role of leader isn’t really necessary, imo.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “When the SBC says that men and women are equal and have equal gifting,
    but believe the Scriptures to reserve the office of pastor (and that’s
    the only office) for men, it doesn’t mean women are unfit. And it
    certainly doesn’t mean that women are inferior.”

    Ha, so what does that mean then? If one can’t see that denying leadership based on gender infers inferiority, I don’t know what to say. Equating it to a pastor or President doesn’t really work as those are temporary roles that are chosen by others (and the President certainly isn’t seen as my or your equal by most-I don’t get to fly Air Force One or have the power to nuke countries into oblivion for example, although I did kill an ant pile on my lawn this weekend); you are talking about permanent roles signifying both leadership and subservience in permanent (ideally) relationships based on whether someone is male or female.

    Language about ‘serventhood’ and ‘equality under God; sound nice and fluffy, but in the end if you say I can be at the head of our group, and you can be my partner but submit to my final say, well then we aren’t really equal, are we?
    I know James Dobson’s work, which is very popular among Southern Baptists. I don’t think anyone with a straight face can say that man believes men and women are equal.

  • chris2002white

    You do know the SBC statement is reflecting their view of Ephesians 5? So Phil–you still have not dealt with how they qualified leadership (servant)? How do you see the admonition of Scripture which is the foundation of the statement Eph.5?

  • Phil Miller

    Ephesians 5:21 instructs all Christians to submit to one another. The idea of servant leadership is fine, but the emphasis has to be on the servant. One can’t very well serve and demand to be served at the same time.

    I just don’t see Ephesians 5 as establishing a patriarchy. If anything it turns the existing concept of patriarchy on its head. Paul tells both men and women to submit to each other – that’s the radical idea. Men can be the head in the sense that they can take the place as head servant, but that’s not demanding that a woman’s role is to be lower in some sort of hierarchy.

  • chris2002white

    Agreed on Eph.5:21. Jesus came to serve but also called the people to follow him. So why do you think the SBC statement has something to do with patriarchy? You are bringing something to that statement that doesn’t seem to be there. It was President Carter’s remarks in the OP or maybe your take on it as well that see the women’s role as lower. By lower I take it to mean demeaning. The same passage that has instructs us all to submit to one another is preceded by the idea that is in the SBC statement. Quit dancing around those verses in Ephesians. Quit importing your fears into the SBC statement.
    Having said that, there has been abuses by men and leaders (male) and whole churches on this issue. By whole churches I don’t just mean the men. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    Peace and grace to you.


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