Beth Moore is conducting her own personal, yet very public exodus from the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists – and all Christians – should take note of what’s going on here. Hopefully, she will be the first of many who count the cost and follow Christ, not men.
Beth grew up in Arkansas and has been a Texan for many years. She was born into the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and served from that base for decades. Her ministry reaches millions of mostly evangelical women with Bible studies and encouragement.
She has in the past called out the SBC for sexism and misogyny. Since the election of Trump, she has spoken up more and more about politics. Last December, during the post-election disorder, she urged church leaders to stand up against Christian nationalism/Trumpism. On January 6 she denounced the Capitol riot:
I don't know the Jesus some have paraded and waved around in the middle of this treachery today. They may be acting in the name of some other Jesus but that's not Jesus of the Gospels.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) January 6, 2021
She took a lot of heat each time she pushed back against the SBC (and evangelicalism in general), and her relationship with that body became more and more strained.
Finally this week, Beth Moore up and left the Southern Baptist Convention.
It’s probably been in the works for a while, but it couldn’t have been an easy decision. Likely, many of her dearest friends are from the SBC, and she risks losing them – plus she is bound to get a lot of grief for airing her denomination’s dirty laundry in public. Her career as a Bible teacher, writer, and speaker is also at stake.
Jesus calls us to count the cost (Luke 14:25-34) of true discipleship. Some of us are willing to pay it, and some of us just aren’t.
Beth could have gone the less costly route, quietly leaving the denomination – but then she would have only saved herself. It’s like knowing that a tornado is coming, and running to the basement without telling anyone else. The issue she had was not personal, but systemic, so it was her duty to call it out: the SBC has a problem with misogyny and idolatry.
Coming from a godly, thoughtful woman, one would hope that the leadership is taking the criticism seriously and doing a bit of soul-searching.
This is an important occasion, and here’s why: while Beth Moore is certainly not the first to leave an evangelical denomination, she is arguably the biggest celebrity to do so in recent memory, especially among evangelical women. While some are criticizing her brutally, others are no doubt watching for the right moment to make their own exit, and wondering whether they’ll have the guts to go through with it.
Too many Christians would never think of…well, of thinking about their theology, let alone questioning it. It’s easy to “know/assume I’m already right” (and criticize those who rock the boat). It takes effort and humility to listen to others, study the Word, and seek the heart of God. That’s hard work and risky business.
Beth did it. She knew that there were problems within the SBC, and she wasn’t afraid to confront them. When the leadership would have none of it, she left (see Mark 6:11) – choosing to be true to what her own, God-informed heart was telling her, rather than what a man-made, power-informed denomination was saying.
It’s hard for a whole denomination to engage in self-reflection – and the SBC has struggled with it in the past. But if the leadership won’t do it, the members must. If false doctrine or wrong behavior is uncovered, it needs to be dealt with, no matter how awkward things get. And if nothing changes, it becomes necessary to walk away.
Beth Moore gave the SBC plenty of chances, but ultimately found it unwilling to reflect, unwilling to listen, unwilling to change.
Many Christians are walking away from, not just their denominations but Christianity altogether, because leaders are too proud to consider the possibility that they’re wrong – but the Beth Moores are giving us a vision of bold leadership that is willing to put it all on the line to follow Jesus.
May she be followed by many more leaders and congregants, that American Christianity can better reflect the heart of God.
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