In certain Christian denominations, it is nearly impossible for a woman to reach the upper echelons of a church’s power system without being either the wife or daughter of an already powerful man. Beth Moore, a noted teacher and author who worked under the watchful eye of the Southern Baptist Convention, was one of the few women to breathe the rarified air of someone like Joyce Meyer. Moore’s influence was so powerful that she transcended her denomination and her books can be found in the home of any good Christian reader, regardless of their affiliation with Baptists of any region. One of Moore’s books, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, was gifted to me when a tyrannical non-denominational pastor asked me to choose between never speaking in his church again or only speaking using pre-approved language that did not align with my faith. Moore’s shtick, if you will, was unique in that she fought against an old Christian teaching that prevented women from becoming pastors, and so it was fitting that in a moment I was being asked to shut up Moore’s work made its way onto my nightstand.
But after years of fighting an uphill battle, Moore announced to the Religion News Service that she was parting ways with the Southern Baptist church. Although it should come as no surprise, considering Moore had been at odds with the Southern Baptists the moment she began criticizing Donald Trump. Moore was quick to call out Trump’s sexism and misogyny, incorporating it into the experiences of women in the Bible and in the modern church who had long suffered under the thumb of men. In one 2016 tweet, Moore mentioned that Trump’s behavior is something women “have dealt with all along” and it was disgusting but not surprising.
Simultaneously, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was doing mental and verbal gymnastics to uphold Trump as a beacon of conservative Christianity because of his empty promises to uphold conservative values and his evangelical grandstanding. Moore told RNS that she expected support from her church when she spoke against Trump’s behavior, particularly after the Access Hollywood incident in which Trump was heard bragging to Billy Bush about grabbing women by the pussy. Instead, the incident was essentially brushed under the rug and the SBC stuck to their single-issue playbook.
“He became the banner, the poster child for the great white hope of evangelicalism, the salvation of the church in America,” Moore told RNS. “Nothing could have prepared me for that.”
An event that Moore said she was truly unprepared for came on Mother’s Day, 2019. In the week prior Moore shared on Twitter that she was going to be preaching at her local church. Across many denominations, it is common practice for women to be asked to deliver a sermon on Mother’s Day, wherein they usually talk about Mary or Hannah. But the SBC thought differently. Debates on women’s role in the church were rehashed and one Christian blogger, in a lengthy tirade, urged the SBC to cut ties with Moore and her ministry, Living Proof, all together. According to RNS, the president of the SBC even mentioned it in his podcast, saying, “There’s just something about the order of creation that means that God intends for the preaching voice to be a male voice.”
Suddenly, Moore, a staunch conservative who tweets about loving Jesus every hour on the hour, was too liberal and too loud. Moore told the RNS that she is still a Baptist but can no longer abide by the practices of the SBC that should have remained in the past. She will continue her work via Living Proof Ministries and will likely continue bringing a necessary and critical eye to her former denomination.
I never did finish reading When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, mostly because I was bitter and Moore’s answer to my question seemed to just be to pray on it a little longer. But it seems now that her book, published in 2003, was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps Moore will emerge from this split with the full confidence that God merely “sifted” the Southern Baptist Church out of her life so she could find a different, less misogynist path to follow. Godspeed, Beth.