Feminist Analyst Comes to Church

Last Thursday Dr. Valerie Hobbs published Beyond Symbolic Gestures: The PCA and Underprivileged Women. I don't have access to the audience she has, but I thought someone ought to respond which I did at my humble Blog with a post: A Feminist and Chauvinist Try to Walk into a Bar - But Can't Resolve Who Goes in First. Yesterday, Dr. Hobbs published the second in her three part series: Portrait of a Deviant Woman.

I continue to think that someone ought to offer a response. This is my attempt to do so. I will do three things: (1) Do one piece of housekeeping. (2) Make one observation. (3) Respond to one part of Dr. Hobbs' second post.

(1) Housekeeping. When Dr. Hobbs's friend, Rachel Miller, sent Dr. Hobbs my post, Dr. Hobbs noted that I had used a picture of her that is available on her biographical page at the Sheffield University website and also easily found by typing "Valerie Hobbs" into the Google search engine. She asserted that the photograph is copyrighted and that I should remove it. So I removed it and used a second picture, this from the Greystone Theological Institute and also available to a Google search. This did not please her. Again she asserted that the picture was copyrighted and added that I did not have permission to use any picture of her whatsover wherever I found it. In my years of Blogging I have never experienced anyone asserting an exclusive legal right to a photograph; nor has anyone ever asked me to remove a picture. Frankly I find it petty in the extreme. I do not know whether Dr. Hobbs is correct in her assertion that the pictures are copyrighted material, but Saturday night I removed her picture. I figured that was the end of that. But, I guess Dr. Hobbs had second thoughts. So she used Twitter to send me an "alternative" picture that she approves my using. Here it is copied from her Twitter note to me:

Frankly I thought the first two pictures were more flattering. But she, perhaps remembering Cromwell's instructions as he sat for a portrait, "Paint me warts and all," prefers this one as a more accurate and honest representation.

(2) Observation. Dr. Hobbs is using her three posts to write about the case of Ms. Jessica Fore. Ms. Fore left her "abusive" husband. The church where she served as a "worship leader" removed her from that position. From there Ms. Fore experienced conflict with the Pastor and Session of her church, with the Clerk of her Presbytery, and with the Presbytery. Dr. Hobbs's contention is that the Session, Clerk, and Presbytery have misused the applicable processes and procedures and have abused Ms. Fore who is now on a quest for justice.

My observation is this: I do not know, and most who read Dr. Hobbs's posts do not know, the facts of this whole mess. There are two things to remember: The first is that we have heard (read) one side - Ms. Fore's story as told by Dr. Hobbs. We are often reminded in reports about civil lawsuits which are filed that we are reading only one side of the case. The respondent's side of the case will follow. We do not know how the pastor, Session, clerk, and Presbytery would report what has happened. The other thing we must remember is that Dr. Hobbs writes from a particular view - the view of academic feminism regarding words, gestures, and the dynamics of male-female relationships.

We do not know of what kind of abuse Ms. Fore accuses her (ex?) husband. We do not know all that has transpired between Ms. Fore and her Pastor, Ms. Fore and her Session, Ms. Fore and the Clerk of the Presbytery, or Ms. Fore and the Presbytery. But the report of Ms. Fore's experience metaphorically screams: "There must be another side to this story." (I would commend to anyone listening to Willie Nelson's album Phases and Stages in which he tells the story of a break-up first from the perspective of the woman, then from the perspective of the man.) We cannot possibly judge the case on its merits without knowing the other side.

One thing we know from the public record is that the General Assembly cited Ms. Fore's Presbytery for not have handled her complaints correctly. Presumably the Presbytery will receive with due deference the finding of the General Assembly, try to untangle the mess that exists, and hear and act upon the complaints, if that is still possible.

(Let me add this as a former Presbyterian: Cases that are or potentially are cases of church discipline or where there is the possibility that complaints may be filed, are extremely difficult. I have served as a prosecutor, as a member of a church court (acting as a whole or through a commission) trying cases, and sat on judicial commissions of the General Assembly to which cases were referred, and I always found process and procedure to be confusing. I have often thought that there ought to be something like "canon judges" and "canon lawyers" to handle all legal cases. I much prefer - and I know this will make no difference to jure divino Presbyterians - the pastoral nature, as opposed to legal nature, of the government of the episcopal government of the Reformed Episcopal Church.)

The other thing we know from reading her posts is that Dr. Hobbs's approach to reporting this case is to portray Ms. Fore as a female victim of a system controlled by men.
3. Response. Dr Hobbs writes:
Jessica had been abused by her husband, treated unjustly by her church leadership and was now refusing to be treated thus again. She wouldn’t give up. She wouldn’t be quiet or submissive. What woman behaves this way? Something is wrong with her.

Jessica began to feel ever more invisible. Desperate to be seen and heard, she painted a dress with all of the names the clerk had called her and wore it to presbytery. She began carrying a sign reading ‘Justice not abuse’ with her to church and placing it at her feet during worship as a form of lament. She showed up unannounced at the small group who had turned her out and shared her struggles as a prayer request. She began speaking publicly about her complaints on social media... 
Vulnerable members of the church are frequently portrayed as abnormal and even deserving of suffering... As for Jessica, she didn’t behave like a wounded female is supposed to behave. She wasn’t quiet. She wasn’t submissive to those who hurt her. She talked about her problems openly, without shame. Time passed, but she didn’t just get over her trauma. She made people uncomfortable with her dress and her sign. Was she a woman or some kind of monster? Rather than asking, what could have possibly happened to Jessica to lead to her actions, people instead asked, what kind of perverse person would do this? See the difference there? The portrait of a vulnerable person as deviant allows us to avoid examining our actions towards them. It means we can point the finger. That person is crazy! Nothing she says can be trusted! These portrayals serve the purpose of self-protection and, we hope, expulsion of the vulnerable and problematic person. We can then carry on as we were. (Emphasis original)
Allow me to make sure that a couple of things are not missed. Ms. Fore painted on a dress all the names she believed the Presbytery Clerk had called her and wore that dress to Presbytery. She made a sign that said, "Justice not abuse," took this sign to church with her, and placed it at her feet as "a form of lament."

Is this the way aggrieved persons conduct themselves in the church of God? We would not be surprised to see a woman at a political protest for women's rights wearing a dress on which are printed what she believes are derogatory names women are called by men - "honey, darlin', little lady, girl," and worse. We would not be surprised to see a woman at a rally calling attention to domestic abuse carrying a sign saying, "Justice Not Abuse." But we do not expect these in the church of God. Why? Because the Apostolic Scriptures make it plain that no one, not men, not women, not young people, not children, should bring the methods of socio/political protest into the worship and the convocations of church leaders. The Apostles make clear we are to respect those who govern the church (Hebrews 13:17) and that we are to draw near to God in worship with "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28). 

But we also cannot ignore that the Apostles have specific things to say to women. In the first epistle to Timothy, the letter where Paul specifically gives instructions about how we are to conduct ourselves in the church of God, he says just the opposite of women bringing protest signs into worship:
... that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (1 Timothy 2:9-12).

After speaking to servants about the difficult circumstances of working for harsh masters, Paul goes on to deal with the equally hard cases of women who are married to men who do not live with them "in an understanding way":
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct...but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:1-6).

If there are ways that these texts can be located in and limited to a certain time, location, or church, I am happy to be instructed in such a way. But, reading them as though they are timeless and universal, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Ms. Fore has not followed these texts and that Dr. Hobbs approves it.

But, if you wish, leave the Scriptures aside. Just apply common sense. Is the conduct of Ms. Fore the way Christians protest what they believe are injustices they have suffered in the church? Is carrying a sign into worship "as a lament" the way Christians go about the worship of God, enabling themselves and others to worship in Spirit and truth? And, is this behavior the balanced and stable Christian in the life of the church?

Many may remember many years ago the General Assembly that met at Briarwood Church. There was a man there who each day, walked up and down the sidewalks carrying a sign. I do not remember what the sign said, but I think he was protesting the inaction of his church and presbytery when his wife left him without (in his view) justifiable cause. At least he never attempted to enter the church and sit in the Assembly with his sign. But, as I recall, few people went up to him and asked. "Why are you doing this? What has happened in your life to make you come to Birmingham and walk up and down with this sign?" And, of course, the protest was ineffective except as a testimony to the injustice he believed he had suffered. His protest did not produce a different result. 

Whoever has counseled Ms. Fore to or has approved her performing such bizarre acts has done her, her cause, her pastor, her Session, her Presbytery, and Jesus Christ a grave disservice. This series ought to have been written by an expert on the Book of Church Order with knowledge of the case to point out the deficiencies of process and procedure for the good of the church. Rather it has been written by a feminist scholar who has her own axe to grind.  

Roy Moore: God's Man?

Moore, Please

What is below is very old. It was written in 2003 at the request of the Editor of the PCA magazine, By Faith. The plan was that I would present one view of Chief Justice Roy Moore's first placing and then refusing when ordered to remove a Ten Commandments monument in the building where the Alabama Supreme Court meets. Dr. D. James Kennedy would present the other view. Because of financial constraints the magazine was not published. However, Dr. Dominic Aquila, who then was the Editor of the online PCANews picked up my article, edited and published it. 

Judge Moore has the distinction of having twice been removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Most recently, it was because he ordered the Clerks of Alabama counties to follow the previously issued orders of the Alabama Supreme Court instructing them not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples rather than to follow the directions of Federal Courts. 

Judge Moore is now in a runoff for the Republican nomination for the vacated Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, currently held by Luther Strange, appointed by the Governor. Judge Moore is a hero to a lot of Christians. They consider him to be the "Christian candidate." He is also supported by those who want to resist what they see as intrusions of the Federal government and courts into state affairs. Then he is the candidate of those who, despite the President's endorsement of his opponent, see him as the the candidate who will help "drain the swamp" that is D.C.

This Blog post is offered to challenge the view that the Judge Moore is God's man for the Senate. 

Two years ago, overnight on a weekend, Chief Justice Roy Moore had installed in the Alabama Supreme Court building a 5,300-pound monument inscribed with a short form of the Ten Commandments along with other quotations. The inevitable lawsuits were filed by the usual suspects. 

On August 21, 2003, Federal District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the monument removed. He refused to stay his order pending appeal, and the Court of Appeals and United States Supreme Court declined to intervene. Judge Moore has chosen to defy Judge Thompson's order, and appealed to his own reading of American history and the United States Constitution.

Judge Moore's stance has evoked for some images of George Wallace's "standing in the school house door" to prevent blacks from enrolling at the University ofAlabama. This has caused not a little embarrassment for the state and some of her citizens. That Judge Moore has one of those Southern accents Jeff Foxworthy says can reduce your IQ by 100 points and has spoken stridently and repeatedly in public defending his defiance has not helped.

The eight other Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, seven of whom are Republicans, have overruled Justice Moore and ordered the building manager to remove the monument. Alabama Attorney General, Bill Pryor, a staunch Roman Catholic and a nominee to the federal bench (Democrats have thus far stalled the nomination by filibuster), agrees with Judge Moore that the United States was founded on Christian principles, but insists that Judge Thompson's order must be obeyed. (Now some conservative Christians are calling on the President to withdraw Pryor's nomination.) 

Governor Bob Riley, who has filed briefs supporting Judge Moore, and who is prepared to file another when an appeal goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, also holds that Judge Moore must comply. Now the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which received an ethics complaint against Judge Moore, has suspended him with pay, pending the hearing of the case by the Court of the Judiciary that has power to discipline or remove from office.

The state is stirred up and divided. There are those (a rather small but vociferous minority) who oppose the monument. Others not only support it, but are prepared to keep it at almost any cost, and are sure its removal will mean the pulling out of another foundation stone of the republic. Others, some who are indifferent to the monument and some who favor it, think now Judge Moore has gone too far and agree with Attorney General Pryor who said, "No person, including the Chief Justice of Alabama, is above the law." And, this being Alabama, many are like the Monday caller to the most listened to sports talk show in the state who said that we need to put all this behind us because something really important is coming up this weekend – the start of the college football season.

Many Christians, both within and without the state, are upset. They believe Judge Moore is right in appealing to a higher law, to his own conviction that America is a Christian nation, and to his own reading of the Constitution. They have rallied to him, for they too believe America is a Christian nation. With Judge Moore they see the Ten Commandments Monument as a symbol of that Christian heritage and its removal as another exclusion of God from American life.

But was America ever a "Christian nation?" The intuition of many Christians is to say, "Of course, it was." But this assumption is challengeable. In their 1983 book, The Search for Christian America, Christian scholars Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, and George Marsden argued that "a careful study of the facts of history shows that early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctly, nor even predominantly Christian, if we mean by the word 'Christian' a state or society reflecting ideals presented in Scripture. There is no lost golden age to which American Christians may return." Those interested in the full argument may consult the book. 

From the perspective of the Constitution it is clear that the United States was not established as a Christian nation. While the freedom of the exercise of religion was guaranteed (an amendment that has been tortuously read to require what it did not require when written – the near total excision of religion from public life), there is no mention of a god, to say nothing of the God of the Bible and his Son, Jesus Christ. 

It may fairly be argued that the culture that gave us the Constitution was far more "Christian" than that of today. Christianity was believed, tolerated, assumed, or considered benign enough by the founders and their fellow citizens, but had they intended to establish a Christian nation, they would have said so. Indeed, our brothers in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (sometimes called "The Covenanters") know that the founders did not found the nation on God, think they should have, and for a long time refused participation in the government or the practice of law just because the nation and its laws were not founded on the Kingship of Jesus.

Whatever one may think about the founding, it is impossible seriously to contend that the United States today is Christian. It seems to me that that several things have turned the nation away from its mildly Protestant consensus. First, there was the influx of Roman Catholic Europeans. These Roman Catholics would hardly agree with the Protestant view of the Ten Commandments. The Roman Catholic version, and hence the numbering of the Commandments, is different. Moreover, Roman Catholics would surely not believe that the images in their churches are what Protestants would say they are – violations of the second commandment. Then Roman Catholics do not think that Sunday sports are forbidden by the fourth commandment. The immigration of Catholics had much to do with the acceptance of Sunday sports in the big cities of the East.

Second, there was the liberalization of Protestantism. Liberalism led not only to the questioning of the facts and doctrines of Christianity, but also to the values and rules of Christianity. The very idea of revealed, timeless law given by God at Sinai is laughable to liberals. 

Third, there is the current wave of immigration that has brought in millions who do not at all acknowledge or worship the God of Christianity. They not only do not in any sense worship the God of Christianity, they also actively worship other gods or worship no God. Add to these all the post-modern historically white Protestants who worship a god of their own imaginings or no god. To this group the God of the Bible and his commandments are nothing.

Fourth, there is emasculated evangelicalism. What seeker-sensitive, post-every-things-ministering churches worship the historic "aweful" Law-Giver God of historic of Protestantism? Which of these declare that man is hopeless and helpless in sin, under the wrath of God? Which proclaim the gospel of Christ, who was born under the law and suffered its penalties? Which teaches the law to restrain the ungodly, to convict sinners and to point them to Christ the Law-Keeper, and to show believers the life of gratitude leading to law-obedience? And to be more specific, where in the PCA is observance of the Sabbath command?

Now we have to ask: What do we really mean to do when we push for Ten Commandments monuments and assert that they are the bases for United Stateslaw? I expect that most think of the "second table of the law." Even with the "second six" there are big questions of how to implement them for a whole state, even one so "Christian" as Alabama. 

But the second table is based on the first. What would we do with those? Would Christians outlaw the worship of other gods? Would they suppress all false worship, even if directed to the true God? (There go some of our seeker churches!) Would they try to forbid any insincerity, thoughtlessness, or superficiality in true worship? (Oops, there go some contemporary services!) Would they close the malls and the stadiums on the Sabbath? We cannot avoid those questions when we assert that this is a Christian country with Christian laws. To do less is to take the name of the Lord our God in vain. 

I think Judge Thompson is wrong. He would have done better not "to make a federal case of it" but rather to have allowed the Supreme Court, legislature, and people of the State of Alabama to decide if they want the Ten Commandments in their state Supreme Court building. Until recently no one thought that such displays in state or federal buildings violated the Constitution. In fact, pictures of Moses and inscriptions of the Ten Commandments abound in WashingtonD.C.Further, the Supreme Court has not ruled that the Ten Commandments constitute a violation of the First Amendment. Yet the judge rules they are illegal in the Alabama Supreme Court Building.

I also think that Judge Moore is wrong. He wrongly asserts that this nation is a Christian nation. He is wrong to stand in defiance of a court order. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 are timeless instructions that were given to those who lived under a pagan and immoral government that, as Peter warned, would soon turn its powers against Christians. Yet, both Paul and Peter teach submission to the government that is. Judge Moore is now rebelling against the established authority.

What are Christians to do as they sense that their country is "going to hell in a hand basket?" Well, we might try reminding ourselves that we are "citizens of heaven" (Philippians 3:20) and that we are receiving an "unshakeable kingdom" (Hebrews 12:28). 

But what about God's Law? We might try first going back to our heritage. Read the Law and confess our sins against it in worship. Proclaim the Law so as to convict sinners and display the glory of Christ. Teach the Law as God's will for every life redeemed by Christ, filled with the Spirit, and motivated by love. And, we might try keeping it. I expect a multitude of law-loving, law-obeying Christians (on whose hearts the Law is written by the Spirit) will make a lot bigger impact than Tablets of Stone sitting in the Supreme Court building in Montgomery.

A Feminist and Chauvinist Try to Walk into a Bar

But Can't Resolve Who Goes in First

Who is Dr. Valerie Hobbs? She is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the University of Sheffield and a Fellow in Christianity and Language at the Greystone Theological Institute. She holds a B.A. from Covenant College, a M.A. from Georgia State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield. On her University of Sheffield page she writes: "My primary research at present focuses on the discourse of conservative evangelical Christians, particularly the ways in which members of this community talk about gender roles..."

The first time I experienced Dr. Hobbs was reading her report of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church presbytery's handling of a judicial case (Women on Trial: One Observer's View), involving a minister whose wife, having physical problems, did not often attend church. (His conviction by the presbytery for failure to fulfill his duties was subsequently overturned by the General Assembly.)

Reading Dr. Hobbs's report of the case, I sensed that we agreed about the particular case (that the minister was not guilty of any offense regarding his wife's church attendance), but I also had concerns (Shootout in an O.P. Corral) about the philosophical/academic perspective which informed Dr. Hobbs's analysis and reporting of the trial.

I wrote:

There is something about Dr. Hobbs' paper that I noted in my first reading and have in every reading since that gives me concern...My concern is the academic framework that seems (to me clearly) to influence both her thoughts and her vocabulary... It appears that she is influenced to some (significant) degree by feminist scholarship in the fields of language and sociology. A few quotes taken from three sections of the article will show why I have this concern. She writes:
I am a linguist at the University of Sheffield, and so my interest was academic to some extent. For several years, I have been researching the kinds of language used by Reformed Christians to characterize women and their roles in the home, church, and society. As this trial involves not just the defendant but also his wife, I attended to observe the kinds of language used to speak about the defendant’s wife. (Emphasis added by me indicated by bold print in quotes.)
What I aim to show in this report is that central to the trial itself and to my experiences therein are the repeated denial of a woman’s physical self and the elevation of her spiritual, domestic, idealized self.
... this Presbyter’s questions and behavior were, in my opinion, founded on the assumption that since my physical presence was neither domestic nor docile, it was unacceptable. 
Now Dr. Hobbs has written the first (Beyond Symbolic Gestures: The PCA and Underprivileged Women) of what she promises will be three posts on the case of a woman named Jessica Fore whose case came before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, not as a complaint or appeal, but by the finding of an irregularity (not of form but) of substance, by the committee that annually reviews the records of each presbytery. The committee found the Presbytery had failed in its duty of oversight by not giving due consideration to two complaints filed by Ms. Fore. Dr. Hobbs expresses regret that, following the debate on and adoption of the report of a committee tasked to study women in ministry, most commissioners left the room, "few realizing that amongst them was a woman in ministry for whom this GA was especially significant."

Here is what I take to be the burden of the first post:
Jessica’s case is long and complex, going back at least five years. It involves a PCA church firing Jessica from her job as worship leader for refusing to move back in with her abusive husband. It involves a more recent dispute with members of the congregation which had resulted in the leaders of her small group allegedly removing her without due process. It involves a nearly two-hour phone call with the clerk of her presbytery, who called her story ‘crap’ and told her she was a ‘pariah,’ ‘coercive,’ ‘violent,’ ‘frightening,’ ‘aggressive,’ a ‘tormentor’, an ‘abuser,’ a ‘threat to our church.’ It involves numerous attempts by Jessica to file complaints related to these matters, only to be frustrated for years by delays and administrative red tape. It involves Jessica’s session eventually indicting her, though these charges were later dropped.
Dr. Hobbs is concerned that, while the finding of the General Assembly of substantive irregularity on the party presbytery may be small victory, it remains to be seen if Ms. Fore's case will be justly resolved:
On the one hand, Jessica was encouraged. This was the first acknowledgement from a church court that her church leaders had wronged her. The RPR Committee had officially (for the second time in two years) cited her presbytery. Perhaps members of her church might begin to question the ways Jessica had been characterized and treated by her session and presbytery. 
On the other hand, public exposure of this case at GA would’ve been a step towards necessary public acknowledgement of cases of abuse. It would’ve signaled that such cases present a tangible opportunity to do the very thing laid out in Recommendation 8. Perhaps the RPR believed they were doing all they could do with the resources available to them. But the reality is that the RPR committee sent her case back to a court in which Jessica has no real advocate. Those who care about such things may see the vote on Jessica’s case at PCA GA as a kind of small victory. However, for me, the jury is still out on whether or not the leaders of the PCA will move beyond symbolic gestures.
I have come a long way to be able to make two comments:

1. What is the definition of the"abuse" of which Ms. Fore accuses her (ex?) husband? Dr. Hobbs says that Ms. Fore's case originated with "a PCA church firing Jessica from her job as worship leader for refusing to move back in with her abusive husband." She goes on to say "public exposure of this case at GA would’ve been a step towards necessary public acknowledgement of cases of abuse." I don't know the facts of this case. Neither, I expect, will any of the readers of this Blog. Probably the session of the church and the presbytery do. Perhaps Dr. Hobbs does. I doubt the members of the committee that reviewed the presbytery records do. But, whatever the case, with what definition of abuse is Dr. Hobbs operating? She seems to think that we know the definition, but I, for one, don't. 

Perhaps, Mr. Fore became enraged, and, rather than walking away, slapped his wife in the face, or punched her in the stomach, or hit her with a household object he picked up. There is little doubt that all would agree that this is physical abuse and justifies a woman's separating her from her husband for her physical safety and could, after due consideration, if she cannot be and feel safe, justify divorce. 

But that is not the only definition with which evangelical women operate. Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts who run the Cry for Justice site have this definition of abuse:
The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it. 
The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
Ms. Roberts says outright that the PCA's position is wrong: 
The PCA’s Position Paper on Divorce is dangerous for abuse victims
The PCA’s Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage suggests that only physical violence is grounds for divorce. And it assumes that marriage problems are mutually caused so both parties are partly at fault if the marriage is in difficulties.
Barbara Roberts believes any of the things defined above as "abuse" justify a "disciplinary divorce."

What is Dr. Hobb's definition of abuse? With what definition of abuse are the editors of The Aquila Report, which published Dr. Hobbs's post, operating?

Perhaps the church has been wrong in its understanding of "abuse" and "divorce." The church may need to rethink its view of what "abuse" is and to change what it understands to be the legitimate grounds of divorce. But, if so, this must not "just happen" by people assuming that persons such as Barbara Roberts are obviously right. It must be done in a careful and deliberative manner by revisiting the Scriptures and finding that the church, if it has, till now has been wrong.

(2) What is the good and bad of the influence of feminism on members of the church?

Susan and I became adults and married in times of great societal tumult. I was born in 1947, she in 1950. We married in 1969. We went off to seminary the same year with no money and everything we owned in the back of my father's pick-up truck. We lived through the assassinations of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. We married the summer of Woodstock. We experienced the Vietnam war, with its deferments and lottery numbers. (If you're not watching the Ken Burns series on Vietnam, either on television or online, you should.) We know about beads and sandals and flowers in your hair. We watched on television, the moon walk, the Watergate hearings, and the resignation of President Nixon. We experienced three revolutions: Civil Rights, Sexual, Feminist. These three revolutions undeniably happened, and they have beyond question changed the nature of American society. 

At times we "went with the flow" of our generation. My hair was too long and Susan's dresses too short for Mississippi 1969-72. I spent two summers working in a somewhat liberal black Presbyterian church in Jackson, MS. Still we came through all of that as conservative Christians and as political/social conservatives. I wanted to be a minister in a conservative Presbyterian church and earn a living for our family, and, though she eventually had to work, Susan wanted to be a mama of babies and a homemaker. That was the fulfillment she wanted and needed. We believed in, as our minister often prayed for, "victory in Vietnam." When the "Continuing Church movement" began, we soon were were all in. 

I think it is fair to say that conservative Christians saw as right, accepted, and have tried to live by the Civil Rights movement as it was embodied in Martin Luther King (judging people by the content of their character not the color of their skin). We have not made peace with the sexual revolution. We believe that God intends sexual experience to take place within heterosexual marriage. Our generation of fundamentalist-evangelical-reformed young people talked about and pressed the limits of "how far you can go." Subsequent generations have, with or without thought, crossed boundaries we took to be beyond question, whether related to their own sexual behavior, or accepting sex outside of marriage as "no big deal," or accepting homosexual relationships, and especially not "judging" the choices of others.

But what about the feminist revolution? Practically in marriage we live as egalitarians. She mows the grass; I watch. She cooks; I eat. She makes the bed; I sleep in it. In terms of principles we believe in male headship. When asked by the minister if to include "and obey" in the marriage vows, Susan said "yes." We both remember a time when one of our sons said something to the effect, "Four of us have 'Smith marriages;' one of us has a different kind."

But where does the church stand? What does the church believe about male-female roles in church? In marriage and home? There is no doubt that we, along with most of our Christian contemporaries, are "traditionalists." There is also no doubt, however, that most younger people (and from the perspective of an almost 70 year old that includes most everybody), including Christian young people, have been much more influenced by feminism - some in their homes, others in school, and all in society. They have absorbed it, and it has shaped the way they think and live. Things we took as self-evident are not so taken by our daughters-in-law. When my parents visited, Susan would make a chocolate pie. Why? Because my father loved her chocolate pie. Today most wives would ask, "Why?" And if not within our own families, we all experience everywhere the success of the feminist revolution. In our generation girls learned to "sit like a lady," to set a table, and to write "thank you" notes. Boys learned to hold doors open, pull chairs out, walk on the side nearest the street, and go ahead of a woman going upstairs and ahead going downstairs. Now such things are looked on charitably as quaint and uncharitably as the remains of a repressive culture.

The question for the church is, "Where do we want to/think we should go as the church when it comes to "women's issues?" How are men and women, instructed by the Bible, supposed to relate to one another in home and church - and in society? Where, if anywhere, is feminism wrong? neutral? an inevitable societal development? an affront to what God reveals in his Word?

The church needs to decide about male-female relationships not passively but actively. Let the church acknowledge and repent where it has misunderstood the the role of women. Let the church firmly declare what the church believes it has been and is right about. The church should be honest. Were we wrong about female congregational leadership? Female ordination to the ministry of the Word? The role of women in marriage and the home? The role of women in society? Look at the culture. Study the Bible. Say what the church believes.

Most organizations, including the church, have a way of backing into rather than walking into decisions. I can say of the Presbyterian Church in America, in which I spent so many years, that it is not what it was when founded, and that many of the changes have occurred without deliberate or deliberative decisions. For instance, there came a point at which I realized that a church which came into existence insisting on the spirituality of the church and its distinctive mission of proclaiming the Gospel had become a "word and deed" church without any opportunity for discussion. Today the pervasive influence of critical race theory on the subject of "racial reconciliation" is evident, while most of the lay leaders have never heard of this academic method of analysis that is rife on college campuses. Similarly in my own connection, the Reformed Episcopal Church, it is clear that people who agreed that we needed not to be isolationists but to understand the history, beliefs, and practice of our Anglican heritage, had no idea how Anglo-catholic "authentic Anglicanism" would turn out to be.

With regard to the feminist revolution and feminist scholarship of people such as Dr. Hobbs, the church needs to have to have honest, transparent discussions and then to make intentional decisions.

The Battle of Nashville


Why not sign?
Joel Belz

Everyone: Why I did/didn't sign the Nashville Statement 

Me: Why I didn't even read it
Valerie Hobbs

The Civil War Battle of Nashville took place December 15 and 16, 1864. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, after his defeat by U.S. General William T. Sherman in the Battle of Atlanta, headed for Nashville, occupied since February, 1862 by northern forces, in an effort to disrupt Gen. Sherman's supply line and to change the course of the War. The battle proved a turning point. It was a decisive Union victory. It rendered the Confederate Army of Tennessee ineffective as a fighting force. It effectively ended the War in the west. It destroyed the military career and reputation of the brave and aggressive Gen. Hood.

Presently there is a new battle of Nashville being fought by evangelical-reformed against evangelical-reformed. And as often is the case with fights, it is about women and sex. We mean the "Nashville Statement" of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 

For those who have not read it, here is the entire statement:
Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God. This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin? We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes gladhearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be. We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials. 
Article 1 WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church. WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. Article 
2 WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage. WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality. Article 
3 WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female. WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth. 
Article 4 WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing. WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome. 
Article 5 WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female. WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female. 
Article 6 WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known. WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ. 
Article 7 WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture. WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. 
Article 8 WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life. WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel. 
Article 9 WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality — a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality. WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior. 
Article 10 WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness. WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree. 
Article 11 WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female. WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image-bearers as male and female. 
Article 12 WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin. 
Article 13 WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female. WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will. 
Article 14 WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure. WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach. 

Our purpose is not to analyze the statement, noting agreement, disagreement, and suggested modifications.

It is rather to do two things:

First, we note that the church is no longer the church but the para-church is. This statement was not rendered by an ecclesial body but by a non-ecclesial body, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, acting as though it were an ecclesial body. This has been pointed out by persons such as Darryl Hart, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd. The statement has no ecclesial authority to bind the conscience of any Christian. No one must affirm the statement to be a minister, lay ruler, or member in good standing of any Christian church for the simple reason that no Christian church has adopted it.

The truth is that in the West we have passed the point where any theological statement could be produced by Protestantism. Protestantism has no way of producing anything like the catholic creeds - Nicene, Apostles', Chalcedonian Definition, and Athansian, which state the universal faith of all Christians. To produce such there must be "one true, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" which does not exist in the West and has not since the Reformation. It would be impossible today even to produce a statement binding on a family of churches - no Augsburg Confession, no Second Helvetic Confession, no Belgic Confession or Heidelbeg Catechism, no Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, no Westminster Confession and Catechisms. 

In the West we have no universal Church, no church that can can say "he who would be saved must acknowledge...". In the West, Jesus prayer "that they may all be one as we are one" has gone unanswered. In the West, every man, and now every woman, is his/her own Pope determining what he/she will believe and practice. In the west there is no binding consensus of what the Christian faith is or requires. 

Even if you could get, say the PCA or the OPC, to make a statement about the subjects covered in the CBMW statement, it would be nothing more than a statement to be considered. It would be binding on no one save their ministers and elders, and perhaps, given that a statement of one of their Assemblies is nothing more that a statement of a particular Assembly, binding on no one at all.

Some, especially Americans, for whom the right to believe what you want to believe and do what you want to do, is the most sacred of all rights, will celebrate diversity of belief and practice and rejoice in this reality. Others, who believe the church should have authority to declare universal Christian faith and practice, can only grieve and ask, "What, if anything at all, will be the church and its authority in the future?" It is difficult to see how anything short of the Second Coming of our Lord can save the Western church from itself.

The sad truth is that in the West the closest we can get to any declaration of faith on contemporary issues (and it is disingenuous to think that the Westminster or other confessions address these matters, given that the matters regarding the role relations of men and women, homosexual practice, and transgederism were self-evident to them) is statements such as those of the CBMW statement. And, even then, every man and woman will do what is right in his/her eyes.

Second we ask this perennial question: What do the ladies want?

Aimee Byrd expresses her concerns:

She wishes that the CBMW would agree with her on the doctrine of the Trinity and would distance itself from those who do no share that view:
I made a plea to CBMW, asking them to take a firm stance on the Trinity. Here we are a year later with a new statement from CBMW, signed by many of the proponents of ESS/ERAS/EFS, and those who formerly supported this teaching but have now backed away from it. Looking back a year later, I would have loved to see CBMW lead the way in retracting the unorthodox, harmful teaching from their own movement and leaders. I would have loved to see some apologies for leading people in such error and for calling some of us names who pointed it out. I would have loved to see men and women invited to sign off on orthodox teaching that doesn't reduce men and women to stereotypes. But this was not the case.
I agree with Ms. Byrd that the eternal relation of the Persons of the Trinity is co-eternality and co-equality. But, the history of  the doctrine of the relationships of the Persons of the Trinity is not so simple as she supposes. When I served on a committee dealing with the doctrine of the Creation, I asked, "Do we want a church from which from which B.B. Warfield is excluded?" Similarly I would ask Ms. Byrd, "Do we really want an evangelicalism from which J.I. Packer is excluded?" Speaking for myself, the answer to both questions is, "No."

But Ms. Byrd has other issues:
And now we have this new statement, which makes me ask more questions: 
What do they mean by “divinely ordained differences between male and female” in Article 4? I agree with the words themselves. But CBMW hasn’t retracted their teaching on eternal subordination of women by God’s design. Just last year, sessions from their conference “The Beauty of Complementarity” connected ESS/EFS to complementarianism in an ontological context of authority and submission. Just last year they promoted the release of Owen Strachen and Gavin Peacock’s book, The Grand Design, which taught this very connection (and is endorsed by others also signing the Nashville Statement).
She goes on:
And if this is not the case, then I have to wonder why include CBMW proponents of ESS who used this teaching in conjunction with masculinity and femininity such as Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachen, as signatories? I looks to me like this is still the accepted teaching. How else should I read it? 
CBMW also hasn’t retracted any of the hyper-authoritarian, hyper-machismo teaching about manhood and their hyper-submissive and stereotypical teaching about womanhood. (Ed: talk about "hyper" - this is a hyper way of describing a position)  Instead, I have seen much more of the same by some of their popular leaders. So once again, I wonder if this is what applies to their “divinely ordained differences”? 
Are these divinely ordained differences ultimately expressed in sex and marriage and authority and submission? The statement says nothing about friendship. God didn't design the two sexes only for marriage. What about how we were designed for the new heavens and the new earth? Where's the brother/sister language? This is an important part of our sexuality that carries over into our eternal bodies when we will not marry. The church needs to speak more into how we were created for communion with the Triune God and with one another in platonic---intimate but non-erotic---relationships. This too is a faithful witness against the sexual revolution and for promoting one another’s holiness. And a great hope for those who suffer with same sex attraction.

Ms. Byrd's concerns are shared by Rachel Miller who adds other concerns:

...there has also been a significant amount of pushback by some who share the concerns addressed in the Nashville Statement but who disagree with various aspects of the statement. Some are concerned about what CBMW means by "divinely ordained differences between male and female." Considering what CBMW has taught since its inception regarding male and female roles of authority and submission and the connection they have made with authority and submission in the Trinity, it's a reasonable concern to have. 
After the Trinity debate last summer, the official answer from CBMW was that to be a complementarian one only needed to uphold the Danvers Statement and that it was not necessary to hold to the Nicene teaching on the Trinity. Such a position appears to make the Danvers Statement more essential for complementarianism than Nicene orthodoxy. That is a very rocky foundation and a legitimate concern for many who have not signed the Nashville Statement.
Another concern has been raised over the use of "procreative" describing marriage in the Nashville Statement. Again, because of the well-known teachings of CBMW and its authors on the topic of marriage and procreation, it's reasonable to ask exactly what they meant.
Others have expressed concern over the timing and usefulness of the new statement. They are concerned about the pastoral implications of such a statement. Will the Nashville Statement help or hinder efforts to reach and share the gospel with those in the LGBT+ community? Certainly it's true that the Bible's teachings on sexuality will be challenging and even offensive to many, but does the Nashville Statement add clarity or generate more heat than light? These are valid questions.
I don't desire further to complicate the issues the ladies have raised but I do have just a few questions of them:

(1) What do they think about about the meaning of and present day significance of Genesis 1:28 and its repetition in Genesis 9:7 for the role of procreation in marriage?
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” 

(2) What do they think is the original and present day significance of 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 for the God-ordained relations of man and woman in the church?
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 
Similarly of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35:
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 
And of 1 Timothy 2:9-15:
...likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.  Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve;  and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 
(3) What do they believe is the original meaning and and present day significance for the relationship of husband and wife in marriage of St. Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5:22-24, and 33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands...However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

What does the Apostle mean by "the husband is head of the wife" or "wives should submit in everything to their husbands" or "let the wife see that she respects her husband"?

And what of St.Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3:1-6 for wives married to unbelievers who do not live with them in "an understanding way"?
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable abeauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
What does the Apostle mean by "be subject to your own husbands," "respectful and pure conduct," "gentle and quiet spirit," "holy women...submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord"?

For that matter what do they think of the language "and obey" promised by the wife in the traditional marriage service?

Are we talking about a God-ordained, permanent this-worldly arrangement or about something else?

These are honest questions. What did the Apostles mean? How was this teaching understood by the original readers? What is the timeless teaching of the Apostles for us today?

We understand why Valarie Hobbs would not bother to read the the Nashville statement. She is a feminist scholar. But we would like more than what evangelical-reformed women object to about Nashville. What do they think in the Scriptures is binding regarding marriage and procreation, men and women in church, husbands and wives in marriage?

If Tim Bayly were to visit my home and ask me questions, he would conclude that I am in rebellion against God because of what he would judge to be the egalitarian nature of my marriage. If he took the time to learn about my denomination, he would find that women serve on vestries, as delegates to our synods, and as deputies to our General Council. He would find my views and practice quite "liberal." Moreover, I have not and don't plan to sign the Nashville statement.

But that leaves me with the question. What are the specific disagreements of evangelical-reformed women with the actual language of the Nashville statement? And how do they understand the Scriptures?