As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek;
there is no longer slave or free;
there is no longer male and female,
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3: 27-28
I had worthwhile conversations last evening and this morning with a brother-in-law who was passing through and stayed the night. He is quite involved in his congregation where he lives as well as an outreach organization in the city he left when he married my sister-in-law.
He is a thoughtful guy who is a committed Christian as a personal level and in living out the gospel with others. His congregation might be regarded as evangelical except that they no longer use that term. In fact, they describe themselves as "Jesus followers" because even the term Christian has taken on such negative connotations for lots of the people. This has actually been a successful strategy in that a significant portion of their congregation is younger and many are either ex-vangelicals or those who had given up on conventional expressions of Christianity.
We chatted about the release of a damning independent report by the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States which reveals decades of cover-up of sexual abuse in one of the largest denominations in the country. This process began with the investigative work by two newspapers in Texas in 2019. When they went public with their findings there was denial in the SBC hierarchy at first, then cautious admission which was really damage control.
The report has shaken many in the evangelical world to the core because it reveals an awareness of the extent of the abuse and the secret list of pastors who have been abusers and yet often allowed to continue in congregational ministry or positions of denominational leadership. One former SBC leader who was turfed because he challenged assumptions and practice likens it to the mafia in terms of secrecy and control.
In the conversations with my brother-in-law we talked about the toxic outcome of patriarchal Christian organizations which silence victims and protect the perpetrators in a system which claims the authority of men within that chilling hierarchical tyranny. We agreed that it twists scripture to keep women in a state of subjugation which is not consistent with Jesus' own witness nor the gospel. In the case of the SBC this has also applied to race.
We also concurred that the language used by leaders in worship, congregational life, and denominational structures is powerful in shaping the narrative. And its no accident that far too many evangelical churches in the United States and Canada have drifted toward an anti-biblical hyper-nationalism and ultimately white supremacy. We saw this on full display in the Ottawa protests earlier this year, as racists and right-wing Christians mingled together.
Our chin-wags were reminders that Christians across the theology spectrum can seek common ground that is rooted in scripture and the person of Jesus, the Christ. And not only do we need to be vigilant in resisting a false gospel, we need to affirm the Good News of equality in our conversations and daily lives.