Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Baptist Church Dismisses Female Sunday School Teacher, Citing 1 Timothy

First Baptist Church in Watertown, NY has created a public relations nightmare for itself in the firing of an 81 year-old female Sunday School teacher. The teacher, Mary Lambert, has been a member at the church for about 60 years, and had taught Sunday School for 11. She received notice of her dismissal in a letter from the church's diaconate board. The letter included the following reference to 1 Timothy:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became sinner. (1 Tim 2:11-14)
The news media immediately seized upon this as a case of a church firing a woman simply because she was a woman and therefore inferior, ignoring Ms. Lambert's own suspicions that the real reasons for her ouster were somewhat more complicated and political.

In a disarmingly conversational public letter, the pastor of First Baptist, Timothy LaBouf addressed this situation, noting that "
scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision. Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her." He also assured people that his "belief is that the qualifications for both men and women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting end at the church door, period." This is an important point, since he serves on the Watertown City Council with a female city manager.

The board's public letter, also available here, make the story all the more intriguing, as the board notes: "
Currently 55% of the Diaconate Board members of First Baptist Church are women. Additionally, by September, 87% of all Sunday School teaching positions will be filled by female educators." Clearly, since most Sunday School teachers are female, Ms. Lambert's status as a female has nothing to do with her dismissal. 1 Timothy was simply an attempt to seek a scriptural justification for church politics.

I can't comment on the inner-church politics in First Baptist, Watertown, NY. But I can say that it was absolutely inane to quote 1 Timothy in her dismissal letter. Thank goodness they stopped at 1 Timothy 2:14, and didn't include 2:15, which would have informed Ms. Lambert that she could still be saved by childbearing.


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