By Will Hall, Baptist Message Executive Editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – At a time of already heightened black-white tensions in the country, the executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware has ratcheted up the rhetoric, using racist language on Twitter, June 14, in his defense of the push for women preachers in Southern Baptist pulpits.
In supporting an innocuous social media post by Beth Moore — the best-selling Bible study author for LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and, someone who in recent years has been strident in her comments about those who oppose women preachers — Kevin Smith, who is black, wrote, “I see why can’t-preach white-boys oppose her … she has [fire], they have talks, posing as sermons.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who once advocated for the ordination of women, is one of several prominent Southern Baptist leaders who has strongly opposed the call for women preachers. Citing 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence,” NKJV), Mohler argued in a podcast last year that it is a matter of “biblical authority.”
“Did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to say that or not?” he said May 10, 2019. “If the Holy Spirit did inspire Paul to say that, then it’s the Word of God.”
Mohler’s position is consistent with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the official consensus statement of Southern Baptist beliefs about key doctrines and social issues, which declares “both men and women are gifted for service in the church” but also underscores “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Meanwhile, J.D. Greear, outgoing SBC president and the pastor of The Summit in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, appeared to give a wink and a nod treatment to the issue last year, tweeting Oct. 19 in response to statements opposing women preachers, “Dear @BethMooreLPM, you’re welcome in our [SBC] home any time.”
According to his online bio with the BCMD, Smith taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary “for over a decade.” He also states that he studied at SBTS as well as Hampton University and the Church of God Theological Seminary, but does not indicate what degree programs he completed. He has led the combined two-state convention since 2016.
Smith’s injection of racism into the issue of women preachers at this time does not appear to be prompted by any public comments in the Twitter thread in which his statement appears.
The issue was a front-burner item in 2019 when Moore made accusations, May 11, that “sexism and misogyny” were “rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety and bearing the stench of hypocrisy.” She also argued that the prohibitions against women preachers in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians should be grappled with “alongside other words Paul wrote” that were “equally inspired.” Moreover, she insisted that these examples needed to be balanced against “the attitudes & practices of Christ Jesus … toward women,” noting that “He had women followers! Evangelists!”
However, the debate about “women preachers” — a distinction from “women pastors” some proponents make to argue for women in the pulpit — had appeared to have subsided in recent months as Southern Baptists raised concerns about the surging popularity on the campuses of Southern and Southeastern Seminaries of the concepts of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, both ideas rooted in Marxism, whose stated objective is “to dethrone God.”
Two days after he made the “can’t-preach white boys” remark, Smith tweeted “Saints, constant nagging, suspecting, slandering, or warring among those supposedly worshipping the one true God is not a good ‘witness,’ and might be evidence of #idolatry.” Later, he added “’How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!’ Psalms 133:1 CSB.”
Then, June 17, he appeared online as one of five Southern Baptist African American panelists for “A 60 Minute Conversation on Race in America,” hosted by Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
According to Baptist Press, during the discussion Smith said there has been positive change since the founding of the SBC but he lamented the “indifference and insensitivity” about social justice by white evangelicals in recent years.
“I’m certainly encouraged. Things have certainly moved and changed since 1845 and I’m comfortable saying they’ve changed since 1945,” Smith said. “But I don’t think the last decade or so … has been the best window in that long story of Christians in the United States dealing with the issue of race. And I really have a burden about it, because I think it matters evangelistically and missiologically.”