Back in January, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History (ASCH), four scholars presented papers and held a panel discussion on “Conflict and Compromise: Reappraising the History of Gender in Southern Baptist Battles.”
The scholars explored the argument that sufficient attention must be given to gender to fully understand Baptist history.
Presenter Eileen Campbell-Reed of Luther Seminary, reflected on the panel discussion in the ASCH newsletter:
Too much scholarship on Baptist history has not considered gender adequately for the “roles play or contributions made by women” in particular. The papers expressed a critical distance in their consideration of Southern Baptists, a deeper analysis of gender and signs of a growing maturity in the field. This panel was a significant step in the right direction toward raising the bar for scholarly engagement and analysis of Southern Baptists.
Below are brief descriptions of the paper presentations from the ASCH newsletter:
Susan M. Shaw (Oregon State University) argued, in her paper, “Conflict and Contradiction: Southern Baptists and Engagement with Feminism” that Southern Baptists have simultaneously supported and opposed feminist thought and feminist goals. And yet feminism has played a significant role in the gendered discourse of Southern Baptists.
Elizabeth Flowers (Texas Christian University) presented a paper entitled, “The Christian Woman versus Woman’s Lib’: Southern Baptists, Women, and 1970s Evangelical Culture.” She highlighted several conflicts over women’s roles in Southern Baptist life from 1973 to 1978, arguing that these “forgotten moments” reveal how for Southern Baptist women their roles were never secondary or side issues. Long before the Baptist controversy “gendered ideas about women coalesced with inerrancy” and fueled the unease among Southern Baptist and Protestant evangelicals.
Eileen R. Campbell-Reed (Luther Seminary) made her case out of her ethnographic study of Baptist clergywomen. In her paper, “(Sub)mission: How Clergywomen Re-imagine Southern Baptist Identity and Reinterpret Schism” she argued that clergywomen’s narratives reinterpret schism in the SBC (1979-2000) as not only a political dispute or a battle for the Bible, but also a deeply gendered psychological struggle, waged in Baptist imaginations, relationships, and social structures.
Karen K. Seat (University of Arizona) examined current gender discourses in the Southern Baptist Convention in her paper, “The Politics of Southern Baptist Complementarianism.” In particular, she analyzed the various ways Southern Baptists have negotiated the rise of powerful women in conservative politics, as they have attempted to remain committed to both complementarianism and the Republican Party.
Drs. Susan Shaw and Elizabeth Flowers have authored recent books on Southern Baptists and women. In 2008, the University Press of Kentucky published Shaw’s God Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society.
Flowers’ book, Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power since World War II, comes out in April with the University of North Carolina Press.
Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, How Clergywomen’s Narratives Reinterpret the Fracturing of the Southern Baptist Convention (Baylor University Press).