Beth Moore and the Baptist kerfuffle
Beth Moore is in trouble again
Well, it’s out now. No real news channel gives a hoot about teacher Beth Moore or about anything Christian other than what a bunch of dopes we are, but this big-haired Southern maven was caught red-handed at an Episcopal Church service. Some intrepid soul has even released photos of her smiling and helping with the service. Christian outlets are agog with caring. Baptists would understand if she were forced to attend by a cranky husband, aka Jesus and John Wayne, but it appears that she is happy about the whole affair.
This happens on the heels of a public scolding that no woman is to man the pulpit (See what I did there?) or teach men in the church. In truth though, the public part was voiced by the people doing the scolding. As far as I could tell, Moore kept doing what she does, which is currently studying Galatians for a book to be published. So, after months and years, she pulled up roots and moved. Who wants to stay where they’re not wanted? I doubt it was an easy move for her.
I did the same thing decades ago.
I’ve been there
I was married, and we were both Christians. I didn’t see it then, but different paths led us down different roads. She – my wife – remembered asking Jesus into her heart when she was two or three years old. She grew up in a Baptist home where church and being Baptist took center stage every day.
Only once did I run headlong into this mindset. We were visiting, and I teased her mom about her views of what she called ‘so-called Catholic Christians.’ She turned to me like a boiling teapot and yelled that “That’s was a pastor told me, and that’s what I believe!” Enough said, and end of story. I didn’t make many jokes after that.
While my wife grew up drinking Baptist water from the Baptist well, I became a Christian at 16. I was reading about religions, and a few Christian friends impressed me, and I decided this might work for me, too.
So, my wife decided as a child that she would follow the right way.
I decided on the brink of adulthood that The Way might work for me.
I didn’t notice the difference for years.
On to Maine and a new experience
We moved from Seattle to Maine for temporary work and went to an Episcopal church. My wife would choose a church based on theology and the name on the sign out front. More of a free spirit, I chose churches based on architecture. The Wiscasset Episcopal Church had been steadily peopled by saintly parishioners since the 1700s. It was like winning the lotto to me. So while the priest waved his hands, wafting candle smoke, and while my wife wondered what was happening at the real church, I stared at the aisle’s steps in wonder, amazed at the indented wear from two hundred years of snowy boots.
No one said a thing to me, but I heard later that people wondered. What was happening to Dennis? Was he really a Christian? Had he really accepted Jesus into his heart? Then why is he going to that church that is almost Catholic? My wife never said a thing, but went along dutifully, maybe secretly coached that she is to do what her husband demands as long as it wasn’t outright sinister. She is the woman, after all, and we are Baptists.
Gossip and caring
I have no idea about Beth Moore’s story. I’ve never met her or anyone connected with her. I do, however, adhere to the rule of writing and social media: pick one or two outlets and stick with them. I like Twitter, and it’s abuzz with Beth Moore. Some would call it gossip, but Christians call it caring. Will Lifeway still publish her work now that she’s practically Catholic? What about her events? Will people still go? Will people believe anything she has ever taught?
Some will, and some won’t. Let me say it again: I don’t know her and I haven’t read any of her books. I do follow her on Twitter, and am always uplifted by her tweets. This I’m sure of: if you loved her and have followed her and believe she argued that a ‘godly woman is a Baptist woman’, you will struggle while you work through what’s happened. Or maybe you won’t. With the meager exposure I’ve had, I’ve seen none of this from Beth. But if you’re a reader who has enjoyed her teaching as a way to come closer to Jesus and to deal with your shortcomings, it won’t faze you. She has found a new home where she can grow and help, and that’s a good thing.
And if you find yourself falling in with those who snicker, saying, “Good. She was never one of us anyway,” well, get alone with G for a while and ask him to sift your heart about ‘others’ who aren’t in your group. Don’t be surprised if you sense an urge to go to the local black or immigrant church or want to help out that young lady you heard about from a caring friend who just had an abortion. It’s weird how G often leads you in the exact opposite direction from what you expect when you ask seriously about what to do.
First, I should say that I attend a Southern Baptist church now. It’s a great place, with great people, who went beyond any expectation to care for my family while I was hospitalized for three months. For those interested like I always am, our church was founded in 1778, and the building we used to meet in was built in 1889. Now we meet in a huge sheet metal box, sprayed flat black on the inside to hide exposed pipes and insulation. But, the Spirit still falls. G doesn’t care much about location.
I discovered that the Episcopal Church in Maine is considered a ‘low church‘ and is quite Protestant. I tried it again after moving to Georgia for work and found that ‘high church’ rules the roost there. I didn’t like it as much. We attended what is in the center of every southern town – the First Baptist Church – and enjoyed it, though I did sneak off to the tiny Catholic Church in the woods every now and then.
I’m amazed that some people attend the same church for their entire life. Heck, I haven’t lived in the same state for more than twenty years. My dad went to two churches, and his parents did too. I’ve explored and find that, just like in real life, there are good people everywhere. Lifelong Baptists and Catholics and Episcopalians and non-denominationals can all learn from this. There are good and kind and Christ-loving people everywhere just like there are ruffians and scallywags and liars and thieves everywhere. I’ve found that the best congregations are usually filled with ruffians and scallywags and liars and thieves who have seen their need for a savior.
“I came not for the healthy, but for the sick,” I heard a man say once.
Go here to an online chapel of ruffians and scallywags and liars and thieves who have found new roads following The Way. It’s run by Nadia Bolz-Webber who takes seriously the words of Jesus to minister to outcasts and to those in real need.
The real message?
This is just me having a say. If you love and serve Jesus with a whole heart… brother or sister, I love you ’til the cows come home. I don’t care much about particulars after that, and I don’t think G does either. We imagine ourselves and our beliefs to be something important, and the transcendent G laughs at how tiny we are. I’m a redeemed sinner and have my own issues and that’s enough to keep me busy. Your issues are between you and G.
See Moore’s Living Proof Ministries here.
Go here to the Religious News Service for a fair minded telling of Moore leaving the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Beth Moore page at Lifeway.
Beth Moore departs from Lifeway. Caveat emptor: this is a Baptist rag talking about Baptists…
Beth Moore at Amazon.
Go here for my own story about secreting away to Mass.
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