Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
  • Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
  • Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner
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    Soul Rythem

    Righteous Mind with Rev. Cynthia T. Turner

    It’s Women’s History Month, and all I can do is smh.

    In case you don’t know, smh is the text-world shorthand for shaking my head. And that was all I could do when I heard this statement: “Men need to fellowship alone – women just mess it up.” That was the answer the president of a D.C.  Missionary Baptist Minister’s Fellowship gave this month when the issue of women joining the fellowship came up.

    Yes, I did say D.C., as in Washington, D.C. Yes, this is 2010. Yes, he did say “mess it up.”

    No, these are not primarily Southern Baptists; they are local African American pastors and church leaders from the D.C. metropolitan area who share fellowship with such national organizations as Progressive National Baptists, National Baptists, Full Gospel Baptists, Cooperative Baptists and American Baptists.  This justification was given in the nation’s capital, where we are surrounded by competent women who hold powerful positions of leadership in the federal, judicial, for-profit and nonprofit, academic and religious arenas – without messing them up, I might add.

    Well, thank you, Mr. President. That clears up a great deal. All this time, I knew those excuses used to justify the all-male membership were not the full truth. I knew it wasn’t because everyone really believed that God could not (would not) call a woman. I knew it wasn’t that Jesus did not have any female disciples among the 12. And I knew it wasn’t because Galatians 3 was omitted from memory, neither was the myriad other examples where Christ welcomed and elevated women and where women furthered the gospel in both prominent and behind-the-scene roles. I knew you were way too smart for those to be the real reasons. So you can imagine the relief I felt when I heard the underlying cause of your longstanding rejection of women – they just mess it up.

    I guess now I’m left wondering exactly what is it they are messing up?

    Do they mess up your worship services? When they usher, teach, nurse, serve as missionaries, count money and preach the occasional women’s day, do they mess that up, too? Or are they barred from those duties and only allowed to, say, prepare the Lord’s Supper, clean and cook fish dinners (or breakfasts) for your fellowships?

    To be fair, many of those who purported the strongest stances against including women in this fellowship have gone on to their (supposed) all-male glory in the sky. The unyielding remnants who hold fast to these views are referred to as Fowler’s boys, referring to the late Rev. Fowler, a longtime president who was the chief opponent of women. They are not nearly as numerous or at least not as vociferous as they once were, but the lingering impact of their viewpoint is evident by those who answer the all-male roll call each week.

    Most member-pastors willingly confess outside the meetings that they are not in agreement with the anti-women stance, and are merely wedded to the Monday morning routine of the fellowship and the occasional preaching engagements they get from being a part of the group. By and large, they do not object to admitting women, they say, but it’s not their battle. Hmmm. Others are quick to point out that the convention has lessened its restriction on women in recent years. Now they say a woman could join, that is, if she receives 100 percent approval from all the male members. (The same is not required for male membership.) I don’t know any woman desperate enough to subject herself to that sort of scrutiny even if approval were guaranteed beforehand.

    At any rate, being denied access is not a major concern for any women I know.  In truth, it never even comes up in our discussions. It just amazes me. It’s unfortunate. And it makes me shake my head. But at least now I can rest easier knowing that it’s nothing professional, rational or biblical; it’s just a whole lot of mess.

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