How God’s Pronouns and CBMW Could Save Beth Allison Barr’s Church


(RNS) – A small Texas Baptist church has received more than $ 10,000 in donations after a conservative group criticized the congregation’s website for using the wrong pronouns for God.

“That’s close to paying for a month of our operating budget,” author Beth Allison Barr, whose husband is the pastor of the church, Recount his Twitter followers on Wednesday (November 9). “We are overwhelmed, humiliated and in awe of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

The donations were inspired by an unlikely source – a fundraising appeal from the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which criticized a recent popular book by Barr.

Colin Smothers, the executive director of CBMW – started in the late 1980s to help churches defend themselves against “secular feminism” – recently wrote a fundraising email that criticized both Barr and his church, First Baptist Church in Elm Mott, Texas. The church’s online declaration of faith included the word “God” instead of “himself” for God. Smothers also wrote a longer article, which ended with a request for donations, which further criticized the church and its “mind-boggling statement of faith.”

“This kind of revisionism is dangerous, unorthodox, and should be rejected by denominational Christians,” Smothers wrote. The article also challenged a pair of columns by Religion New Service columnist Mark Silk on God and pronouns.

RELATED: Why our favorite pronoun for God should be “they”

First Baptist-Elm Mott, a small little-known congregation outside of Waco, was mentioned because of its connections to Barr, a professor at Baylor University and associate dean. She is the author of “The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth,” which criticizes the teaching of groups like CBMW.

Barr has no official role in the church and has nothing to do with the declaration of faith. This declaration of faith, according to the church’s website, predates her husband’s arrival as pastor. She’s used to people challenging her work, but said attacking her church was “below the belt.”

Beth Allison Barr. Courtesy Photo by Katelyn Casper

“What really annoyed me was that it wasn’t just about attacking me,” she said. “It was attacking this congregation that had nothing to do with any of this other than the fact that they hired my husband. “

She added: “It was really unwarranted.”

Barr was also concerned that CBMW was trying to raise funds to criticize his church. Like many small congregations, First Baptist struggled during COVID, with service attendance dropping from around 70 to less than 30.

The church also faced financial difficulties. Last fall, the former church secretary was charged with embezzling more than $ 150,000 from the church, wiping out much of the congregation’s savings.

Barr said the church has an Orthodox view of Christian beliefs such as the Trinity and a high view of the Bible. He also has a long history of supporting women in ministry, dating back to the 1930s, and has tried to be loyal in service to his community, she said, despite COVID struggles.

The criticism of First Baptist reflects a broader debate over the roles of women in the church and at home that has intensified in recent years, pitting groups such as the CBMW that promote “complementarism,” a view that men and women are equal but have roles, against those with egalitarian views.

Authors such as historian Barr and Calvin Kristen Kobes Du Mez – whose book “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” was also criticized in Smothers’ letter – argued that the Complementary perspective has been detrimental to women in the church, while leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have branded women who preach as threats to biblical authority.

RELATED: Beth Allison Barr wants Christians to know where “biblical femininity” comes from (not the Bible)

After Barr shared the CBMW article on social media, it was updated to include a statement from the First Baptist website, which has since replaced the term “Godself” with “Himself.”

“Although there is nothing inaccurate in the word ‘God’, the scriptures clearly use ‘Himself’ in reference to God, and our church has no problem with that,” it reads. the statement. “We seek to use neutral pronouns when the scriptural text does so in the original languages, and we use gendered pronouns when the text does so in the original languages. “

Smothers, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, called the statement “the ‘sterilization’ of God’s self-revelation.”

After Barr tweeted about CBMW’s fundraising email, First Baptist began receiving donations through the church’s website. As of Wednesday afternoon, over $ 6,500 had been received from 80 donors. After Barr tweeted that total, Texas Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic promised more was on the way.

Becky Castle Miller was one of the donors who contributed. Recently graduated from Northern Seminary in Lisle, Ill., She knows Barr on Twitter but has never met her in person. Miller was on the staff of a small church in the Netherlands, a congregation she loved very much, before returning to the United States.

“I would have been mad at mom if someone attacked my church like CBMW made fun of Dr Barr’s church,” she said. “I love Jesus and I love the church. I care about small churches. I am sad to hear about the difficulties that First Baptist of Elm Mott faced.

As of Thursday morning, nearly $ 11,000 in donations from 134 people had been received at the church, according to church pastor Reverend Jeb Barr.

“We are a small church in a low-resource community, and COVID has hit us hard,” he said. “This will be our Thanksgiving miracle!

“It is also a reminder of God’s faithfulness and provision, often in ways we could never anticipate. On a practical level, we are meeting in an aging facility, and there are necessary repairs that we have postponed and that we may now be able to resolve, ”he continued.

“It could help save our church,” said Beth Allison Barr.

RELATED: Beth Moore apologizes for promoting complementarism

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