Quitting the SBC wasn’t an all at once decision. It just sort of happened slowly over a long period of time. The last service we attended was the one where the worship leader, pastor and his family, as well as us had decided to move on. There were only two things we liked about that church – the pastor was a millennial who ground the scripture in it’s historical and cultural context; the bible study was reading the Bible verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, debating it and discussing it and drawing out it’s wisdom even if it meant just managing to get through three verses in a half hour. Some of the things we didn’t like included it’s worship style – hymns, it’s theological stances on certain subjects, and it’s extremely small size.
Over the next few weeks – we just skipped church together, in the doldrums of not belonging and not being at church, we began to read up and figure out where it all started to go wrong. For me, one of the stumbling blocks was the emphasis on complementarianism and everything that went with it – gender roles, biblical manhood and womanhood, male headship and female submission, and so on. It spoke to the half of the world that was married as if they were all that mattered. The only messages given to single people were that we ought to pay attention to the marriage sermons because we would need to know it when we were married. There weren’t any sermons or teachings that focused on how single people could best serve God in their everyday lives as single believers. It’s not as if there weren’t any Bible verses on the subject, it’s just that the church usually chose to ignore the verses as they would go against the overall pro-marriage message. Single people need more than to be told to get married as soon as possible so that complementarianism will apply to them and teach them how to live their lives day and day out. Not only that, but complementarianism is too narrow for those who are married – it holds to a traditional understanding that depends upon both parties being healthy enough to fulfill their respective roles. It doesn’t always guide couples dealing with disease, injury, unemployment, etc. with the hurdles they face.
Another stumbling block has been the increasing influence of calvinism – particularly online, but also through seminaries, creating pastors who will teach the next generation the doctrines of grace even against the wishes of the church they pastor. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in exploring different interpretations as equally valid from different perspectives. There usually wasn’t much room or discussion – it was pretty much always: “What we are teaching true, anything we don’t teach is not true.” Part of it was the Baptist Faith and Message – I was just told to accept that’s what I have to believe – I was never told who wrote it, why each point was important, or permitted to point out alternative interpretations. I found that the lack of historical and cultural context also seemed to skew everything and cause misinterpretation to be common.
Sometimes it just seems that the church is so invested in being counter-cultural that it has given no thought regarding to the positive change in culture as something worth replicating in churches. In recent decades, the SBC’s connection to the politics of the Republican party hasn’t won it many of the younger generation. The politics of taking stances against anything and everything and boycotting everything else hasn’t won it a lot of trust either. It seems to be more about being against all the right things than being compassionate towards struggling individuals all the while paying lip-service to individuals as they’re steam-rolled by unkind, uncaring policies and stances. A church is supposed to be against oppression, but it’s not supposed to be oppressive. A church is supposed to be against injustice, but it’s not supposed to be unjust. A church is supposed to be against corruption, but it’s not supposed to be corrupt. I think it’s time to stop being known for what the church is against and long past time for the church to start to be for things because they’re for the people who believe in and represent those things.
It’s been about two years since I quit the SBC. I’ve been eavesdropping on the annual SBC conference and I’ve heard nothing that really shows me that they’ve changed. I’ve heard language that shows that they’re still against a lot of people, places, and things. They still view the human spectrum in traditional eyes and with an ancient understanding of roles. They still care about hierarchy and power and money and influence and they don’t want to let all of that go in order to follow Jesus on much of anything. I don’t think they get it how they’ve been partial to people who are like them and exclusive to anyone who doesn’t measure up. I don’t think they have a plan about how to encourage single men and women to make the most of each day as they’re still sending the message that marriage is a doctrinal essential. I don’t think they’re really interested in making the changes that are required in order to reach the next generation or the one after that or the one after that or even meeting them half-way because they’re so anchored into serving the previous generations. I’m still stumbling over these and other ‘blocks’ of the SBC church and that’s why I’m not coming back.