ATLANTA (BP)–With songs and prayers to “Mother God,” an auxiliary organization of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship opened its annual meeting at the CBF General Assembly Thursday with a clear message — the current controversy is about more than women pastors. The annual Baptist Women in Ministry breakfast was rife with stridently feminist God language, culminating in a litany read by BWIM members about their discomfort at calling God “Father,” “Lord,” and “King.”
The CBF promotes Baptist Women in Ministry as a partner in missions and ministry and will give BWIM $30,000 from the 2001-02 CBF operating budget.
The BWIM breakfast was promoted in the CBF national magazine, Fellowship, and in the official program of the General Assembly. Participants included CBF Coordinating Council member Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, a BWIM board member, and new BWIM president Karen Massey, a professor at the CBF-sponsored McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.
The group sang a hymn to “strong mother God,” whom the song praised as “working night and day, planning all the wonders of creation, setting each equation, genius at play.” The hymn went on to designate the Deity as the “old aching God” and the “young, growing God” who is “eager, on the move.”
During the litany, participants chanted in unison that they “can say” the words Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, “no problem.” God the Father, however, is an altogether different story. The litany continued:
“But what of you, O first person of the Trinity?
If I don’t pay attention during church
I can roll through all those names without a hitch:
Father, Lord, King.
But when I hear myself, or focus on the words upon the page,
I falter, resisting human baggage of human fathers, lords, kings
But human baggage cannot weigh you down.”
The litany went on to assert that this reticence to call God “Father” or “Lord” might be because “we know instinctively that to name something is to control it as Adam named the animals.”
Radical feminist theologians have long insisted that terms such as “Father,” “Lord,” and “King” are oppressive to women because they represent a male-dominated patriarchy.
Feminist language for God continued throughout the two-hour long business session and worship service. BWIM treasurer Sally Burgess told the crowd she believed more SBC women would be ordained to the pastorate “because I believe God is good, and She knows what She’s doing.” Speakers also referred to the Trinity as “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,” language promoted by various feminist theologians in mainline Protestant denominations to replace the “patriarchal” language of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Randy Stinson, national director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, attended the breakfast meeting, interested in the CBF’s hearty opposition in recent years to SBC confessional stands on male leadership in the home and in the church. Stinson said he was “aghast” that the women’s group had adopted so explicitly the theological agenda of liberal feminist theology. Stinson said the abandonment of God’s self-revelation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has far-reaching implications.
“I was expecting some statements in support of women pastors along with some bashing of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, but I was not prepared to hear worship of ‘Mother God,'” Stinson said. “This is not just a ‘kinder, gentler Christianity,’ this is an entirely different religion.”
The meeting included CBF women sharing in a round-robin “dreaming” session about the future of Baptist women in the pulpit. Outgoing BWIM president Raye Nell Dyer said she dreamed that “a new generation will have the freedom to come up with a variety of inclusive images for God.” Other “dreams” included the hope that “the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was just a bad dream” and the hope for “men who will marry Baptist women in ministry.” One participant noted that her dream was for Baptists to “stop singing the hymns that make us second class citizens.”
The CBF exhibit hall bookstore displayed a new Methodist “gender inclusive” hymnal with numerous songs describing “mother God” as the “womb of creation,” along with a hymn written from the point of view of the earth entitled, “I am your Mother.”
The meeting ended with a communion service, blessed by Dyer who prayed that participants would “spread our wings and flap toward You.” Bread and wine were received, with the bread said to represent diversity as the varieties of grains were gathered into one loaf of bread. No mention was made of the wine representing the shed blood of Jesus. Along with the traditional elements of the Lord’s Supper, each communicant was given a mirror “which symbolizes your reflection of God in this world and God’s reflection of you.”
Three messages were given by what the BWIM program designated as “proclaimers,” although none of the women expounded a biblical text. Speaker Len Sehested reminisced of the people who had “been God” to her, since “the only place I can see the face of God is in the face of other human beings.” As a keyboardist played background strains of “How Great Thou Art,” preacher Elizabeth Clements read a sermon about her spiritual experiences in the presence of starry skies, winding rivers, and “trees older than Jesus.”