Evangelist Has Powerful Response To Claim That Women Shouldn't Preach

Carol Kuruvilla
Evangelist and author Beth Moore speaks at a luncheon for nominees of the Dove Awards, a Christian music industry honor, on Oct. 6, 2014, in Nashville. (Photo: Terry Wyatt via Getty Images)

Faced with increasingly heated vitriol from men who think women should keep silent in church, a popular evangelical Christian writer is digging in and affirming her calling as an evangelist.

Beth Moore has been criticized for teaching in front of mixed-gender audiences ― pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in her conservative denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

Most recently, Moore has been the target of fiery criticism from John MacArthur, an 80-year-old evangelical leader from California who insists that it is against God’s plan for a woman to preach ― or even utter a single word ― at church. 

In mid-October, when MacArthur was asked what he thought of Moore, he responded with the phrase, “Go home.” MacArthur expanded on his feelings in an explicitly misogynistic diatribe against women preachers during a sermon at his nondenominational church last week. 

The pastor, whose Bible commentaries have influenced generations of conservative evangelicals, used Scripture to reinforce the idea that female preachers are “sordid, disgraceful, [and] shameful” and that women in general are vulnerable and susceptible to deception. Women can teach other women, MacArthur said, but the Bible mandates that women must control their desires to exert any power over men. When women assume positions of authority, chaos and destruction will inevitably follow in the church and in society at large, he claimed.

“Empowering women makes weak men. Weak men make everybody vulnerable to danger,” MacArthur said during a sermon published on YouTube on Nov. 8.

“When you overthrow the divine order, the results are always disastrous,” he added. “It’s a divine judgment on a nation that its young and its women are in power.” 

In the midst of this fervid attack on women’s calling to preach, Moore succinctly pointed out that Jesus himself used women to spread the gospel.

On Twitter, Moore referred to a Bible passage in John 4, in which Jesus speaks to a woman getting water at a well. According to the passage, Jesus reveals to this woman that he is the Messiah. She is so persuaded by this message that she runs back to her village, shares the news and convinces the villagers to come meet him, which results in many more conversions.

Reflecting on that passage and on other stories about the roles of women in Christian Scriptures, Moore called it “insanity” that “anyone could sell the idea that Jesus no longer uses women in spreading the gospel.”

Moore declined to give HuffPost any further comment or clarification about her tweets.

Moore’s tweets are an illustration of how conservative evangelical women have carefully and creatively negotiated space for themselves within a religious tradition that blocks them from accessing the pulpit.

Several Christian denominations, including some evangelical denominations, already support the ordination of women. The Southern Baptist Convention does not.

Moore considers herself a complementarian ― meaning she believes that the Bible assigns men and women different roles and responsibilities, and that men ultimately have spiritual authority over women. Her ministry focuses on women, and she’s careful to say she has no desire to become a pastor.

But with the rise of social media, Moore has been able to carve out a prominent platform. She has thousands of more followers online than some of the leading male figures in the SBC.

And since the 2016 presidential campaign, she’s become increasingly vocal about the misogyny and white nationalism she’s seen in white evangelical circles.

Beth Moore, who has spoken out about misogyny and white nationalism in the white evangelical church, has thousands of more followers on social media than many male leaders. (Photo: Terry Wyatt via Getty Images)

Although they often faced opposition, women have taught and preached throughout the history of American evangelicalism, according to Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University who is writing a book about white evangelical masculinity. But the stakes were raised in the 1970s, Du Mez said, when conservative white evangelicals felt increasingly marginalized by the feminist and civil rights movements. During this time, they positioned conservative views about gender and sexual purity at the heart of Christian orthodoxy and denounced alternative interpretations as heretical or unbiblical, she said. 

“They sought to take control of institutions and denominations —and, if at all possible, to gain influence over the culture at large,” Du Mez said. 

Moore’s rising popularity is alarming to these leaders because she is a “powerful and beloved” teacher who is “threatening to undo these efforts, the very basis of their religious identity and authority.”

“She was long deemed acceptable largely because her ministry focused on women, and she didn’t directly challenge the authority of male leaders,” Du Mez said. “Thanks to social media, however, her following now extends far beyond the women who read her Bible studies, and for that reason she’s become more dangerous, and she’s drawing more fire.”

“Thus far she’s walked the line very carefully, even winsomely, but it is a very fine line.”

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Rev. Karlene Clark

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- Rev. Karlene Clark, Wesley United Methodist Church

Rev. Jennifer Crumpton

"Christian women in particular have been deeply patriarchalized over the course of history, due to the male hierarchy of the church and the theology and doctrine that claims women were made secondarily by God for the service of men, and that men hold dominion not just over the earth, but over women and their bodies. Many Christian women have been forced to ignore, go along with, and even perpetuate misogynistic principles and behavior We are still fighting this undercurrent of male domination today. This election situation is a critical moment in time to stand up to this phenomenon and the willingness with which people dismiss it."
- Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, Femmevangelical

Rev. Traci D. Blackmon

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I believe it is my moral obligation to cry out against the sexual exploitation and violence perpetrated against women. It is my moral obligation to interrupt gender shaming and sexual misconduct wherever it is found.
Unfortunately for us all, these interruptions are currently needed in the inexcusable hateful rhetoric of one of our candidates for the highest office of this land. I believe if I do not speak out, no matter how many or how few are courageous enough to join me, that the harm done to women in our society will be irreparable.
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- Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, Acting Executive Minister, Justice & Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

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- Rev. Linda Higgins, St John's Richmond United Church of Christ

Rev. Kimberly Rogers

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- Dr. Laura Levens, Assistant Professor of Christian Mission, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky

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- Diana Butler Bass, Author and Historian

The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis

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- The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D., Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church

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- Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite

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- Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology,  Chicago Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson

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- Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters

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- Rev. Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Elon University

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.