Dear Christian Standard (Mark Taylor),
In a business where objectivity is seen as a vital factor for the bottom line, I understand the struggle to remain above the cesspool of favoritism, nepotism, and political favors can be challenging. Keeping the CS safe from the primordial soup of special access, and slow-festering standards is, I am sure, a full-time endeavor. It is a job, to be fair, that is extraordinarily difficult.
Pity, too, the children of any of the editors of the CS. The burden they must feel to achieve and maintain positions of prominence within the movement based solely on their own merits must be overwhelming.
You have my sympathies because as a pastor of a church, I face similarly corrupting, and otherwise compromising temptations – albeit on an infinitely smaller scale. In fact, when it comes to yours truly and maintaining a humble self-awareness, I confess to being hopelessly affected by my ego as much as the next guy. As I do not claim to exercise a monopoly over unbiased truth, I realize that I cannot be trusted or relied on to give readers anywhere near objectivity, or anything like it.
So when influential friends, and former NACC presidents need help getting their mojo back after a particularly poorly attended and supported national convention – an imbroglio so public that it punched a hole in painstakingly manicured reputations and let the air out of some public profiles in a way that is difficult to get back – I understand the impulse to acquiesce; particularly when one’s interests are way too commingled with theirs in the first place.
The caring and feeding of the Fourth Estate has become an important skill set for any pastor who has hit the Big Time and aspires to expand his brand. When you make an editor or web-master your “special friend,” you have a powerful ally. In addition to singing your praises early and often from the rooftops, they can act as your proxy, shouting down those who might question your magnificence. But I digress. Let’s get to the action.
Earlier this year, I made the case that Mike Baker and Tim Harlow were promoting false doctrine through our national convention. And, apparently, a few people shared that sentiment.
So, Harlow, respected mega-church preacher, author of the call to action book, Life on Mission: God’s People Finding God’s Heart for the World, and President of the 2014 NACC, responded in keeping with his position and in the time-honored tradition of his craft.
He said, we are all just “jealous.”
That’s right. Harlow believes our objections are without merit, and that he is simply a victim of his own success. Now this was not the first time I have encountered this, mind you. The first time was from fellow mega-church pastor, Dudley Rutherford. Actually, it was somewhat worse than that. Dudley’s defense of Harlow and Baker scorched the wall of my personal Facebook account with an unprovoked, angry, and, at times, indecipherable rant, boasting about the “BIG DOLLARS” he had personally contributed to the NACC and accused me of being jealous or overly judgmental.
So I guess Harlow et al. got their feelings hurt.
And I get that. If I were to call you, say . . . a goofball? You’d probably call me a goofball right back. Or maybe you’d go me one better. You’d call me an ugly goofball. Or, better yet, get really personal: A loud, Pharisaic, one-note goofball who’s been cruising on the reputation of one obnoxious, over-testosteroned blog post for too long, jealous of the success of others and someone who should do us all a favor by shutting up and get off social media.
This would be entirely fair and appropriate, one would think. You perceived my words as a schoolyard name. You respond in kind. You acknowledge the insult and reply with a pithy riposte.
The problem is, while Harlow’s high-brow, erudite response produces lots of valuable “internet buzz” for your online periodical, it does not address, in any substantive way, the original concern. Are we or are we not, as a movement, out of line with God’s design for His church? And how can any local church or missionary advocating the Complementarian view of gender roles in scripture participate in our national conventions without being undermined by them?
You see, what was noticeably absent from Rutherford’s defense or Harlow’s self-defense was any attempt to persuade readers using biblical authority by way of exposition. (It should be obvious from the comments section below the article that Harlow’s explanation was neither exculpatory nor persuasive.)
This speaks volumes about the strength of their theological position.
In fact, after reviewing a series of past CS articles advocating the “women as preachers” view, the most persuasive scriptural argument employed highlighted barely a handful of New Testament women who may or may not have held biblical leadership roles within the first century church.
Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and accept the premise that these women did, in fact, serve as leaders in the church. Does the mention of women leaders in the New Testament invalidate God’s direction for male leadership in the church? No more than the four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy invalidates the patriarchal system of the Old Testament. (The same conclusion Matt Proctor, President of Ozark Christian College, came to in the CS article published here.)
Therefore, when the NACC or ICOM invite women – functioning as pastors, preachers, and adult teachers within their own ministries – to preach or otherwise address our national gatherings, they endorse a misconception and set a false precedent for our movement – regardless of whether or not the event is, as CS Writer Darrel Rowland put it, “outside a formal church setting” or whether or not they are introduced by a male counterpart – the apparent strategy for the 2016 NACC.
This – regardless of the motivations ascribed to me and others with the temerity to challenge past and future convention presidents – is why we take the time to write. We continue to do so because of the sacrifice and faithfulness of those who came before us and in obedience to a biblical mandate which I have outlined here in a previous post.
Speaking-out is not easy, particularly within a white, middle-class, Christian culture that operates under the divine afflatus: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But a few of us refuse to allow the way we were raised to override our Christian responsibility – even if we lose the applause of men.
It is true that speaking truth to the establishment can sometimes coincide with desire or even self-interest, however experience has shown me that this is an unusual conjunction. More often, speaking-out marches in a direction independent of desire, a reality in which some of us find ourselves today.