DALLAS (BP)–More than 800 evangelical pastors and lay leaders, including Southern Baptists, heard a call for “clarity, conviction and courage in biblical manhood and womanhood” at a national conference March 20-22 in Dallas.
With a theme of “Building Strong Families in Your Church,” the conference was called a “historic event in evangelicalism — the first nationwide gathering of leaders who hold to and defend a complementarian view of biblical manhood and womanhood in the home,” according to an official of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, one of the sponsors.
Wayne Grudem, chairman of the department of biblical and systemic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill., and a CBMW founder and current vice president, said the historic event also addressed the “real-life ministry concerns that churches face, the tough academic challenges that evangelical feminists have raised against a complementarian position, and the personal concerns that participants face in their own marriages and in their relationship to God.”
A number of Southern Baptist pastors, wives and lay leaders attended the conference at a Dallas/Fort Worth airport hotel. Several speakers commended the Southern Baptist Convention in adding a family statement in 1998 to the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message summary of Southern Baptist beliefs. Evangelicals generally see the family article as supporting the complementarian view of marriage.
SBC President Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., brought the closing message for the conference, calling participants to stand “courageously in your home, church and community” for the biblical model.
Using Judges 6 as his text, Patterson said “courage has its fountainhead in a meeting with God … courage is only a real virtue in the presence of fear … and courage produces revival in others.”
Dennis Rainey, executive director of FamilyLife, Little Rock, Ark., a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and a sponsor of the conference, called it “a historic gathering of leaders … a time of spiritual refreshment and encouragement” for ministers, their wives and lay leaders.
“No nation can rise above the spiritual condition of its families,” Rainey said. “Today, U.S. families are weak in the understanding of the spiritual life. The family is God’s smallest battle formation for the soul of our country.”
For a “reformation” to begin in families, Rainey said, “we need a standard, a yardstick, fresh courage, new tactics, innovative strategies, and ‘it needs to start in your home and mine.'”
Rainey also challenged leaders to “seize the Internet for the family and marriages in your community.” Churches must become family and marriage equipping centers, he said, and they must be the “guardian and protector of the marriage covenant.” Men and women likewise need to be challenged and enlisted to be “generational protectors of marriage and the family in the church,” he said.
Grudem began the conference with a defense of the complementarian view of the manhood-womanhood controversy.
Citing the “key issues,” Grudem said 1) men and women are equal in value, 2) men and women have different roles in marriage as part of the biblical order, 3) there is both equality and differences in the Trinity, 4) the differences are good, the created order is fair, 5) it is a matter of obedience and 6) the controversy is “much bigger than we realize because it touches all of life.”
Robert M. Lewis, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church, Little Rock, in a featured address to “men only,” said “until the church helps men reclaim a compelling biblical manhood, it will be difficult for men at home.”
Many men are terrified, humiliated and alone, Lewis said, because of “bullies.” He said a difficult home background and the “politically correct” bullies are keeping men from achieving real masculinity.
“Where do men go for help?” Lewis asked. Men need to go to their biblical shepherds, he said. The church and home go together “like the Father and the Son.”
The church can help men find a “safe place where they can discover they are not alone,” a clear, compelling vision of biblical manhood that they can use, the time and “other men” to process their biblical masculinity, practical how-to’s to help them, “male cheerleaders” in the most important things in life, and a “sacred moment when they can know they’ve become a biblical man,” Lewis said.
John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, and also a founder of CBMW, told participants marriage needs to be lived for the glory of God.
“God is ultimate, marriage is not,” Piper said. Marriage exists to magnify God, but as a telescope brings things into reality and not as a microscope which makes things small seem bigger. He suggested pastors preach “less about marriage and more about God.”
“I fear for most of our people, God is marginal,” Piper said. “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.”
Southern Baptists who led workshops included Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, on “Women Nurturing the Next Generation;” Bruce Ware, associate dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., on “Tampering With the Trinity: Does the Son Submit to the Father?;” Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Seminary, on “The Eternal Significance of Fixed Sexual Being: Is Sexual Identity Changeable?;” Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Nashville, Tenn., on “Adding a Statement on the Family to a Church Governing Document: Why and How;” Danny Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, on “What Are the Differences Between Men and Women?;” Paige Patterson, on “Reclaiming Egalitarian Territory: Strategies for Leadership.” Both Pattersons assisted in a workshop on “How Submission Works in Practice: a panel discussion.”
Ware was elected president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is based in Libertyville, Ill., at its annual meeting last year in Dallas. During this year’s conference, Randy Stinson, a Ph.D. student at Southern, was named CBMW’s executive director.
CBMW has 28 members. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, also is a member of the council.