Bob Jones University, known for being a bastion of fundamentalism and being disengaged from society, recently released an apology for its long standing policy supporting segregation. It’s hard to say what prompted such a move, especially after all the years the school has resisted cultural and societal shifts. The apology reminds me of what the Southern Baptist Convention did years ago in apologizing for its support and connection to slavery.
There seems to be more dialogue taking place regarding race relations in our country, especially after the election of the first African-American President of the United States a few weeks ago. No doubt the Bob Jones action will stimulate further discussion on this subject. It is remarkable to see such an action from this institution, but it is welcomed.
Having heard about this historic move from this fundamentalist institution, I wonder whether there is any hope for similar changes to occur in the Southern Baptist Convention regarding its mentality toward women in ministry. The origins of the SBC are well known, as it began with Baptists who believed missionaries could be slave holders. This created a rift with Northern Baptists and thus the denomination was born out of racial tensions. The Bible was cited to support the use of slaves at that time, and now of course that viewpoint has been rejected.
The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, the SBC’s statement of faith, effectively limits the pastorate to men and by implication the position of deacon as well. There are biblical references quoted that refer to keeping women in their place, much like verses that related to slavery. These latter scriptural notations are now interpreted in their cultural and historical context, and it would be consistent to do the same with those that relate to women in the church.
I am not holding my breath for this happen and won’t be checking SBC websites for such an apology, but the surprising action by Bob Jones gives me reason to wonder what might happen a few decades from now.