Loving Leadership, Joyful Submission: The Dismantling of Female Ordination in the Southern Baptist Denomination

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In this paper, I explore how members of the Southern Baptist (SB) denomination developed their arguments, tactics, and rhetoric to stall integration during the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and how these SBs later refined their strategies during the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) to successfully overturn female ordination. As the SBC’s annual reports, SBC’s resolutions passed at their yearly convention meetings, Christianity Today, and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism demonstrate, many SBs understood themselves as culturally estranged and on the “wrong” side of history once the CRM concluded. In order to overcome this sense of failure, regain a prior status, and ensure future success, these Baptists utilized the tactics and rhetoric first employed to oppose the CRM as a paradigm for how to combat the WLM. Certain SB leaders sought to expose what they interpreted as the unbiblical implications of the WLM, prevent the movement’s advancement, and reobtain their perceived loss of influence in the South. These leaders emphasized individual choice in the denomination’s publications, promoted Biblical arguments about traditional gender roles, outlined their definition of God’s social hierarchy, and endorsed practices that embodied what they portrayed as proper SB representations of men’s divine masculinity and women’s sacred femininity. These tactics enabled SB leaders to overturn female ordination, contribute to the creation of the Moral Majority in 1979, and influence the creation of legislation that aligned with their claims.





Hundley, Morgan (2021). Loving Leadership, Joyful Submission: The Dismantling of Female Ordination in the Southern Baptist Denomination. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22557.

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