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The Southern Baptist Controversy

Don't know about your home and office, but around mine there has been a lot of conversation today about this fact:

The leadership of the nation's largest Christian Protestant church group has adopted a declaration concerning what it sees as the proper relationship between husbands and wives.

The Southern Baptist Convention declaration says....women should "submit graciously to their husbands' leadership."

It goes on to say that a husband and wife are of equal worth before God...but that a husband should provide for, protect and lead the family. And, a wife has "the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing their household and nurturing the next generation."

To say the least, many people...especially women...don't agree with this. You may want to note that many Baptists don't agree with it. And, the church leadership acknowledges, as one of its main members said today, that this is not binding on Baptists, "It's not binding on anybody." It is, another said, what the current leadership of Southern Baptists believes needed to be said about what a biblical family is.

As one who grew up in the l4th Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, your reporter accurately reports the following : Baptists, as individuals and as a group, are among the most independent of Christian believers. They are not inclined, generally speaking, to follow commands from a hierarchy--any hierarchy, anywhere...short of God himself, as each individual conceives of him and listens to him.

Which is to say: their religious leaders here on earth can suggest what they want. But individual Baptists are going to make up their own minds and decide for themselves...with mainly their own prayers and God's direct help to guide them.

That being so, you may want to consider carefully how much to make about all of the publicity coming out of the Baptist convention in Salt Lake City today.

You may want to see it in the context of America's overall, continuing concern and debate about what, exactly, a family is...in this, the last years of the 20th century. The United States is having trouble with its families, and the definition of family. A 50 percent or so divorce rate, widespread spousal abuse, and much child abuse has many Americans conflicted over what, truly, is a family.

As the Southern Baptists outgoing president, Tom Elliff warned: complacency abounds as modern culture erodes traditional, biblical definitions of family, marriage and the roles of men and women in the home.

It is the rare person these days who does not, in one way or another, struggle for answers on this subject, searching for ways to go, ways to live.

That, of course, includes Baptists, but is by no means confined to them...whatever one may think of the Baptists leadership declaration making headlines.

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