Not going home: Beth Moore and female preachers

November 5th, 2019

For a while now, the popularity of Christian author and speaker Beth Moore has had conservative evangelicals in fits, particularly as she has advocated for abuse survivors in the #MeToo movement. While technically a teacher and leader in women’s ministries, her social media presence and her ability to fill arenas is almost unparalleled, causing great consternation among those who don’t think women should teach or preach. Then, two weeks ago, John MacArthur, a prominent evangelical leader with a radio program, was asked for his take on Beth Moore, and his response was, “Go home.”

The backlash was swift, even from fellow Southern Baptists, with the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear tweeting that Beth was “welcome in his home anytime.” Though MacArthur’s attack on Moore received the most airtime, the rest of the recording included his criticisms of Southern Baptist Convention resolutions supporting diversity and intersectionality. Many white feminists and women clergy rushed to defend Moore, while ignoring MacArthur’s other problematic statements. Across social media, women posted pictures of themselves preaching with the hashtag #AtHomeinthePulpit and others added badges to their profiles with the tagline “Not Going Home: I Support Women Clergy.”

As popular as Beth Moore is, she is not without her own issues, particularly from a more theologically and socially progressive viewpoint. Although she has been a supporter of women abused in the church and critical of the president, she remains in the Southern Baptist Convention and has never publicly opposed their positions on gender and sexuality. Despite packing churches with people there to hear her speak, she has never suggested that what she is doing is “preaching” (only speaking or teaching) or called herself a pastor, and she remains non-affirming of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Regardless of my own theological quibbles with Moore, it was still gross and disheartening to hear her dismissed and put-down by the likes of John MacArthur, along with the chortles from the audience. Once again, small men who are threatened by a powerful and popular woman act out using their institutional privilege. Once again, those of us who are in denominations that ordain women are reminded that there are men out there, even some in our own pews, who wish we would “go home” rather than preach the Gospel. It’s tiresome, old, and frankly, boring. Misogyny actually isn’t exciting or edgy.

Beth Moore is one of the most influential women in the Christian world. She also has the structural privileges of being white, married to a man, and cisgendered. Even with all of that privilege, she is still subject to men like John MacArthur telling her to “go home.” While Clergy Appreciation Month may be an observance dreamed up by the greeting card industry or clergy themselves, as it comes to a close, if your pastor doesn’t fit the John MacArthur mold, it’s a good opportunity to tell them that you don’t want them to go home, that you value their ministry and their perspective.

As for me, I’m tentatively grateful for Beth Moore’s ministry, for her ability to reach those who might not otherwise see many women speaking in a Christian context and for gently pushing the boundaries within her denomination. Neither Beth Moore nor I are going home anytime soon because God has called us to preach and teach about the amazing, liberating love of God in Christ.

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