Over the last generation, Beth Moore has been one of the most prominent female leaders and speakers in American Evangelical circles. Her Bible studies are hugely popular among women. She’s the founder of Living Proof Ministries, a ministry for women based out of Houston.
She’s not a pastor. She’s an author and speaker.
Although she’s popular in Evangelical circles, she’s not universally supported. Some of the criticisms of her theology include that it’s a prosperity gospel or that it’s intellectually light theology.
My purpose in writing today is not to argue for or against the merits of her theology. Agree or disagree with her, she’s hugely influential. And today, Moore posted an open letter on the blog for Living Proof Ministries “A letter to my brothers” where she discusses some of her experiences as a prominent speaker in circles that are generally dominated by men.
The subject of women in ministry is one that is debated within Christian circles. Can a woman be a pastor? Can a women ever preach a sermon? Can a woman teach men in the church? People have different opinions on these issues. Some would say yes to all three, some would say no to all three. Others are in the middle.
In writing, Moore talks about some of the misogynistic treatment she’s received over the years. Considering the divergent opinions within Christian circles on women in leadership, Moore’s letter talks about how she had chalked up some of her treatment as being a byproduct of deeply rooted Biblical convictions among sincere Christians with whom she simply disagreed.
From the letter:
I accepted the peculiarities accompanying female leadership in a conservative Christian world because I chose to believe that, whether or not some of the actions and attitudes seemed godly to me, they were rooted in deep convictions based on passages from 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.
As Moore continues to elaborate, she talks of coming to a realization that it wasn’t simply about differences in opinion.
I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness.
Our culture largely disrespects women. The #metoo movement showed the rampant sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. As the movement spread, more and more areas of life came to light that were stained by the mistreatment of women. The #churchtoo movement showed further examples of assault and harassment from within the church. Obviously we knew that there were issues but these movements have created a national dialogue.
While Moore’s post dealt more with misogyny than sexual assault, both are a reflection of a culture which far too often devalues women.
The church is meant to be a light in a dark world. But we also live in society and the world is sinful. For too many Christians, misogyny and sexism are overlooked blindspots.
I hold to a complementarian theology where I believe that preaching and teaching is reserved for men. Theologically, it’s how I see God having designed his created order. I think that’s the best way to interpret the applicable Biblical passages. I think that complementarianism can (and should) be honoring to women. Women are created in the image of God and are precious. But with a theological belief that there are certain things that men can do within the church and that women can’t do; with beliefs on submissiveness (without also understanding the self-sacrifice to which men are called), it can be easy for an Evangelical Christian male to develop a misogynistic view of women. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that the Bible is misogynistic. I’m saying that sinful men can distort the Bible and become sexist within our culture that often accepts sexism and misogyny. The default is just to do what the rest of the world is doing unless proactively living out a different set of values.
Again, we can agree or disagree with what Beth Moore believes and teaches. But we shouldn’t dismiss her points. The church needs to be a leader in our society in showing honor and respect to all women.
At the end of her letter, Moore makes a simple request:
I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.