Baptist sermon with a twist Ministers who oppose wives' submission rule preach compromise

June 15, 1998|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Like many Baptist ministers around the country, the Rev. David Albert Farmer took to his pulpit yesterday to address whether wives should submit to their husbands.

But Farmer's sermon had a twist, made evident by its title: "Men, Submit to Your Wives -- If You Have One."

Farmer, pastor of University Baptist Church in North Baltimore, is among a group of people who consider themselves devout Baptists, but out of step with the resolutions adopted last week by the Southern Baptist Convention that amended its Baptist Faith and Message Statement, the theological statement of its basic beliefs.

"For the Southern Baptists to make a resolution like they did zeroing in on women as those who should do all the compromising to their husbands, who are taken by the fundamentalists to be the ones in the home to whom God would prefer to relate, is clearly irresponsible," he said.

"It is a matter of attempted control and if you want to know the truth, an attempted brainwashing. And I'm not exaggerating.

"We cannot stand for this," Farmer said. "We need to be affirming women and encouraging them to think and act for themselves as spiritual beings loved by the God who created them."

Bruce Salmon, pastor of Village Baptist Church in Bowie, is another minister who says he'll be preaching on the theme of submission, which he believes the convention got wrong.

"The emphasis of Scripture, as I read it, is on mutual submission. They seem to begin with Ephesians 5: 22 ['Wives, submit to your husbands'] and skipped over Ephesians 5: 21, which says 'Be submissive to one another.' "

Farmer, in his sermon yesterday, agreed with that interpretation. "Both of us in the relationship are going to make sacrifices for the good of the spouse or partner. Both of us will compromise along the way. We will jointly make decisions and define roles," he said.

Farmer and Salmon, and their congregations, are part of a movement called the Alliance of Baptists, which was formed in 1987 by more moderate elements within the denomination after the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was assumed by people who were more conservative and fundamentalist in their interpretation of the Bible.

Other Baltimore-area congregations that have affiliated themselves with the alliance include Woodbrook Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church, both in Towson.

Members of the alliance, who consider themselves every bit as Baptist as the Southern Baptist Convention, have opposed the recent moves by the convention, including last week's resolutions that wives should graciously submit to their PTC husbands and that a marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman. They point out that individual Baptists and congregations are not bound by the Faith and Message Statement, but rely on the Bible for moral guidance.

Last year, the convention voted to boycott the Disney Corp. to protest questionable moral practices by some of its media subsidiaries.

"Our church is so out of step with the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention that rarely do we have anybody interested in going to one of the annual meetings to serve as messenger," Farmer told his congregation. "Our folks don't want to go to the convention to fight or to hear nonsense, and the convention doesn't want people who belong to a church like ours to serve at any level of its life."

University Baptist still sends money to the Southern Baptist Convention for mission work, but he described the relationship between the church and the denomination as "tangential."

The resolutions are "symptomatic of the reactionary stance of the new Southern Baptist Convention," said the Rev. Stan Hasty, executive director of the Alliance of Baptists.

"Every year there seems to be the need for some outrageous, reactionary statement to be made by that body, and I'm not quite sure why that is, other than the sense that this society is going to hell in a handbasket and feels the need to lash out, whether at the Disney Co., or women or gays.

"It certainly is a convention that no longer tolerates dissent," he said.

"That is 180 degrees from where the convention used to be. Southern Baptists used to represent the best in Baptist tradition. That has been lost in a rush to uniformity in theology and a uniformity in social views."

Farmer said that even though his congregation didn't agree with the Southern Baptists on many issues, they are still associated with those views. "Most people don't know that you can think for yourself," he said, "and still be a Baptist."

Pub Date: 6/15/98

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