Being Baptist I know mentioning certain words such as inerrant or authoritative can cause church folks ears to perk up, especially surrounding the creation stories found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Now, I’m not here to debate the fallibility of scripture. That fight was fought in Baptist churches, seminaries, and backyards a generation ago leaving both sides to rub sore scars to this day. I believe no matter which side of the divide you come down on, ole’ Adam was on to something when he mumbled the words, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” For Adam, a shift had taken place in the way he understood his own life. I imagine Adam beginning to comprehend several notions in the moment Eve stood before him. One, how small the world could seem as he stood in her awe inspiring presence, and two, all of this (creation) isn’t just about me anymore (as if it ever were).
I felt like I was in Adam’s sandals (Adam probably went barefoot, but bare with me) this past summer when my wife Lauren came to me and uttered those two words representing love, hope, and certainly fear;
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
Lots of things go through one’s mind when they hear those words. The first usually being “thank you God” followed by “oh my God, I hope we can afford this baby” and one for me personally, “God, please let me survive divinity school and a newborn!”
Our emotions went through the gamut in the following weeks. We waited awhile before we told our parents. We waited even longer before we told close friends and other family members. So much can happen in those first few months and we wanted to wait until we knew the kid’s gender before we let the news become common knowledge. On the 19th week, Lauren and I went into the doctor’s office, and while watching this human like shape move around on a computer screen that had a heartbeat attached to it, the nurse informed us we were having a little girl.
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
Since hearing those words, my eyes and ears have become open in new ways. I look at the news and read about injustice towards women in our world. Lately, I’ve seen new sexual harassment charges being brought upon male celebrities almost every other day for the past two months. Statistics, which I knew about, began to get personal; such as the gender pay gap. While I had always been for the equality of women, knowing my child could be discriminated against because of her gender was the breaking point. I would need to become an active participant in ways I hadn’t before to help ensure her future choices and freedoms.
Where to start in this endeavor? Well, that was actually pretty easy.
I’m starting with the church.
Recently I was having a discussion with someone about allowing a blessing to be administered to our baby. I still hold relatively strong convictions toward a believer’s baptism, but my wife and I love the idea of having a very ecumenical blessing when the time comes. Leaders representing all different denominations and faiths will charge and offer encouragement to us that we, and our daughter, are not alone in this journey. During the discussion, the person mentioned their own tradition and how only men could perform this task. Immediately I saw the issue and said I wouldn’t feel comfortable allowing that tradition to bless our child. The idea of exposing our daughter to a tradition where she is seen as a second class citizen has huge theological implications to me. If our daughter couldn’t perform the same function as her male counterparts in the same situation what would we be teaching her?
Since becoming involved in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship I have met women who represent the best of us who call ourselves Baptist. These women are whom I attend school and share class space with. They offer a perspective which I do not possess and most certainly need to hear. They will be the examples I point to when our daughter looks to see what her place is in the Baptist church. Sure, I’ll tell her of Ann Hasseltine Judson and Alice Armstrong and of Molly Marshall and Karen E. Smith, but hopefully she’ll get to meet and hear for herself women like Amy Butler and Susan Sparks.
For the past 25 years, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has made space for such women, and yet we as a denomination still have a long way to go. Baptist William Powell Tuck wrote concerning the significance of the priesthood of all believers. “Let us identify and acknowledge the gift of every Christian. Let us then recognize and affirm those gifts to service for Christ to glorify and build up the body of Christ, the church.”
In the near future, my wife and I will stand and be charged with raising our daughter in our Christian faith. However, I would like to charge the church with a similar task.
That we as Cooperative Baptist we’ll do more for raising women into positions of leadership within our churches. 6.5% is not enough.
That we as Cooperative Baptist will work to cultivate true sanctuaries; where women’s voices can be heard without having to shout.
That we as Cooperative Baptist will not only do this inside the church walls, but outside where standing in support and solidarity with women is just as needed.
In The Challenge of Being Baptist church historian Bill Leonard writes, “If Baptist identity is to be carried beyond midcentury it must be reasserted, reinterpreted, and reformed – and none too soon.” As Baptist we are called to do this sort of work not only for our own children, but for the generations to come. Consider this your official invitation; to help co-create a world where my daughter could stand in your pulpit one day.