Nestled in a volcano crater 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of Rome is a beautiful and placid lake called Nemi. Surrounded by a forest of trees, Lake Nemi was known by the ancient Romans as Diana's Mirror. When the moon is full, the shimmering surface of Nemi reflects brightly and beautifully the full moon. Diana, according to the ancient Romans (8th century BC) was the goddess of the Moon, wild beasts, and of the woods.
The Romans believed Diana inhabited the forests around Nemi. They built the sacred Temple of Diana, called Diana Nemorensis, or Diana in Nemi's Woods, on the northern shore of Lake Nemi.
Ruins of that Temple at Lake Nemi can still be seen today, but few people make the trip to see it, and fewer still understand the significance of what they see.
Some of the most fascinating and colorful stories of ancient Rome occur in and around Lake Nemi. That's right, in Lake Nemi. Visiting Lake Nemi should be on your bucket list. If you ever travel to tour Rome, take a day trip to visit Lake Nemi, or better yet, stay at the city you see perched on the top of the hill in the above photo. That city, the modern city of Nemi, is only a quick train ride from Rome. Events that have occurred over the past three millennia around the lake and in the lake are stunning in scope.
Before I show you the importance of Lake Nemi, let me give you some context.
The Senate of Rome crowned Octavianus Caesar as Augustus (e.g, "Supreme Emperor") of Rome in 27 BC. That event marks the official beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesar Augustus reigned as the first Emperor of Rome until his death in AD 14. The name "Caesar" was Octavianus' adopted surname. Augustus was Caesar's title. Thus, Caesar (the) Augustus is the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2 at the birth of Jesus:
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth... Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem in order to register along with Mary. While they were there in Bethlehem...she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger." (Luke 2:1-7)
The reason Jesus grew up speaking Hebrew and Greek and not Hebrew and Latin is that the Roman world in which Jesus lived kept the culture of the Greek Empire (the language, the arts, the religion, etc.). Keeping Greek customs in a Roman-ruled world is called Hellenization. It's no wonder that the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis are often conflated.
However, the worship of the Roman goddess Diana and the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis had origins that extend to a much earlier time than the days of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.
This 6th century BC Roman Temple of Diana stood until the barbarians destroyed the city in the 4th century AD and subsequent Roman Christian emperors tore down the pagan temples. Today, if you visit Rome, there is a short street named the Via del Tempio di Diana which commemorates the site of the ancient Temple of Diana. Part of the Temple's original wall is located within one of the halls of the Apuleius Restaurant (it's worth a lunch visit).
But here is the key point you need to remember:
Before the Temple of Artemis was built by King Croesus in Ephesus (550 BC) and before the Temple of Diana was built by King Servius on Aventine Hill in Rome (est. 545 BC), there existed a Temple of Diana in the sacred grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. It was called Diana Nemorensis.
Diana Nemorensis, which means, "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" was a small, secluded, and sacred shrine. It predates the Temples the Romans built, evidenced by the fact "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" refers to a sacred grove of trees. Ancient worship of the gods took place in forests and groves, called a Lucus in Latin.
When in Rome, do as the Romans. Go to Lake Nemi, or otherwise known as Lucus Nemi.
The History of Lake Nemi and Diana Nemorensis
Aeneas Discovering the Sacred Bough
For over eight centuries, from the founding of Rome (753 BC) to the days of Empeoror Caligula, bizarre rituals occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. Romans would make their way to the sacred grove to appeal to Dianna for conquests in combat, harvests in the hunt, and fertility in the fields.
The Roman poet Virgil (b. 70 BC) writes about Aeneas discovering the golden bough in the lucus of Nemi. Aeneas breaks off the golden branch from the sacred tree, giving to him access to, and power over, the underworld (Hades). In a merging of Roman mythology and history, Aeneas' discovery of the sacred tree is the reason for Diana Nemorensis being deemed a sacred place of worship shortly after the founding of Rome (753 BC).
When King Servius built the Temple of Diana in the city of Rome (est. 545), Romans had already been worshiping Diana in the forests around Lake Nemi for nearly 200 hundred years.
The rituals the Romans performed at Lake Nemi involved fertility rites in the woods, requesting fertility in their fields, animal sacrifices to Diana from hunters who seeking blessings on their hunts, and a host of other religious rituals for the purpose of invoking blessings on the people of Rome.
But of all the rituals involved with worship at the Temple Diana Nemorensis, the most famous of them all involved the King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis).
A statue of Diana over Lake Nemi today
The King of the Woods served as the High Priest of the Temple of Diana. He was the only male among many females associated with Diana worship at Diana Nemorensis.
In the center of the grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi stood that large, sacred tree that contained the golden branches to the underworld. It was absolutely forbidden for anyone to break off a branch or bough (pronounced bow) of the tree. For once a branch was broken, he who broke it had declared his intention to fight the King of the Woods to death to become the next King of the Woods and the next High Priest of Temple Diana Nemorensis.
Some men wanted that job because of the fertility rituals which they involved themselves in with the priestesses of Diana's Temple and the power it gave them over the underworld.
The King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis) was mystically married to the goddess Diana. The rituals he partook in at Temple Nemorensis with the priestesses of Diana were sexual, symbolic, and sacred. The King had the power to restrain the underworld and invoke the blessings of the gods.
But the King never died of old age. He would die a violent death, to only be resurrected to new life in the form of another deified King (the one who defeated the previous King) and continue the sacred rites in Diana's Temple.
19th-century painting of Lake Nemi
The violent death ritual of the King on the northern shore of Lake Nemi is mentioned in ancient literature by Strabo (b. 63 BC), where Strabo calls it "sacred to antique religion." Strabo adds that the King of the Woods "holds his reign by strong hands and fleet feet, and dies according to the example he set himself" (Strabo, Geographia V, 3, 12).
It was said by the ancient Romans that worshipers of Diana entering the sacred grove at Nemi would often see the King of the Woods, sword drawn, protecting the boughs of the sacred tree from any interlopers. The King, having himself once crossed the sacred line and broken the golden bough, was constantly vigilant for the one who would come to break the branch and seek to slay him. Legend says the King of the Woods of Nemi often appeared wild-eyed, frantic, and restless, knowing that by death he entered his position as King, and by death, he would exit it.
The King of the Woods ritual was put to verse by British historian Thomas Macaulay.
The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.
One of Caligula's pleasure boats on Lake Nemi
Even during the time of the Roman Emperor Caligula (12 AD - 41 AD), the ritual slaying of the King of the Woods in the Sacred Grove at Nemi was in effect. Caligula himself sent a slave into the woods to "break the bough" and fight the High Priest of Diana, a battle which Caligula's slave won.
Caligula's barges on Nemi were deliberately sunk after his assassination in 44 BC. For centuries there were rumors of huge structures at the bottom of Lake Nemi. Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, fashioned himself a new Emporer of Rome. Mussolini drained Lake Nemi and had Caligula's barges brought to the surface and the ancient artifacts cleaned and displayed in a museum. During World War II, the museum at Nemi was destroyed, but one of the mosaics that decorated of Caligula's Pleasure Boats eventually wound up serving as a coffee table in New York City.
Sir Frazer based the thesis of his book on the rituals that occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi at Diana Nemorensis. Sir Frazer traces the common elements of the worlds religions, including fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat, and many other symbols and practices whose influences have extended to modern day to Lake Nemi. Frazer's thesis is that ancient religions were basic fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king (the King of the Woods at the Temple of Diana). Frazer believes that mankind evolves from rudimentary animism or belief in magic, to a belief in personified deities of religion, and finally to modern scientific thought.
In other words, to Sir Frazer, the rituals of the Temple of Diana at Lake Nemi are a glimpse into the evolution of man by examining an ancient ritual that endured even into the classical age of western civilization. The barbaric King of the Woods ritual at Lake Nemi and other ancient sacred rituals continued at Lake Nemi long into civilized times (the Roman Empire) because Lake Nemi was especially secluded and especially sacred. The Temple of Diana at Nemi, for the sake of illustration, would be like your great-grandmother's China. Don't touch it. Be careful with it. Don't give it away.
The Romans treated Lake Nemi in the same manner. It was a sacred place for them.
At Lake Nemi, according to Sir Frazer, we see the basis for belief in
Sadly, many of my male evangelical friends who are pastors will either privately or publicly denigrate this day as another cultural sign that society is going "liberal" and the church will soon follow.
That's just not so.
Society is just now beginning to reflect what God's Word has always taught as truth.
Better the balance, better the world is God's way of doing things. God created males and females with the equality of value, and God created males and females with the equality of vocation based upon His image bearers divine giftedness.
In other words, the world is a better place when we understand intrinsic worth is a settled truth and that integrated work is a superior tactic.
Let me prove this biblically and then anecdotally.
At the time of Creation, the Bible says:
So God created man (Hebrew: Adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Adam is the Hebrew word translated "man" in English.
Notice something very important. Adam is created in God's image. Adam is not just the half-portion of the human race called "male." The Hebrew word Adam encompasses the "female" half of the human race as well. "Male and Female" compose the biblical definition of "man" and together reflect the "image of our Creator" (Imago Dei). Nobody should be offended by using the word "man" to refer to both males and females. The Bible does it. Man is both male and female. The way I put it is simply this:
"You will never see and appreciate the full-orbed image of God until you view both males and females relating and working with one another in equality."
I've written multiple articles on God intending, creating, and sustaining male and female equality (go to the top left of my blog and type the word "women" in the Google search bar). I'm a conservative, Bible-believing Christ-follower who believes that homosexual behaviorin the bedroom is sinful but that gender equality in the boardroom is sacred.
I realize that my friends who identify as homosexual will be offended at the first part of the previous sentence just as many of my conservative evangelical pastor friends will be offended at the last part of the previous sentence.
I don't' consider those who disagree with me an enemy. I'm just telling my homosexual friends and my pastor friends my mind can be changed. It will require your ability to show me in God's Word where I'm wrong. As it stands now, none of you have convinced me.
I believe the Bible makes a massive distinction between sexual identity and sexual behavior. If God intended sexual behavior between males to be the creative norm, then males would be able to give birth to babies. Likewise, if God intended sexual behavior between females to be the creative norm, then God would have created females with the ability to generate babies without males.
But God did intend males and females to be co-regents, co-workers, and co-heirs of the Universe.
It may be that those who struggle with sexual identity have never come to an understanding of the worth, dignity, and value of both males and females because a cursed world attempts to exalt one gender above the other.
God's way is better the balance, better the world.
I have been the pastor of the church I lead for over 27 years. When I came to Emmanuel in 1992, it was a traditional, patriarchal church where males only were in roles of leadership and females only were in roles of service. Leadership at the church was based on position and authority rather than service and humility. Only males could be in "a position of authority."
Gifted females were restricted in their roles. They couldn't teach (with other males present), serve in leadership roles (if other males were present), or provide direction to God's people unless "in submission" to the male leaders present in the room.
I've often scratched my head how followers of Jesus speak so boldly against homosexual behavior in the bedroom but then practice homosexual behavior in the boardroom. Both, according to God's way, are sinful behaviors.
Today, after years of change, Spirit-gifted females at our church now provide leadership, publicly teach from the Scriptures, and give direction to others without even caring whether or not males are in the room. The Chairman of our Leadership Team is female. Half of our trustees and standing committee chairmen are females. Women teach men and women, men teach and women. Women lead males and females, and men lead males and females. We appreciate giftings regardless of the gender of the gifted. We've noticed that God gives the same gifts to both males and females. That gifts of the Spirit are given to both males and females is proved by the Bible, our experience, and the logic of a world balanced by the genders.
Our church is much better off today than it was a quarter-century ago. We are more balanced. We've been prevented from many mistakes because of the full-orbed image of God (males and females) at Emmanuel. It's a settled truth among us that men and women possess equal worth and perform integrated work.
Why? Are we following the society? No. We follow the Scriptures. Better the balance, better the world is God's Way
A friend of mine in Washington D.C. said he had lunch with a well-known pastor who said to my friend: "Word is Wade Burleson is promoting women pastors. That's the word on the street."
When I was told that, I laughed.
"No. Wade Burleson is tearing down any philosophy or practice in the church or society where males dominate females by position or Divine authority as well as any philosophy or practice in the church or society where females dominate males by a hierarchal position or any alleged spiritual authority."
The local newspaper printed the state report cards for Oklahoma state public secondary education schools. Many people outside of Oklahoma may be unaware that Enid is the hub for northwestern Oklahoma, and that there are multiple public school systems in what bigger cities would call "suburbs" of Enid.
For example, there is the excellent Chisholm School District in North Enid, Pioneer School district in southwest Enid, Waukomis School District five miles south on Highway 81, and a handful of other school districts just outside the city limits of Enid, including Drummond, Garber, and Cimarron. There are also some stellar private Christian schools, including Oklahoma Bible Academy and Emmanuel Christian School, two of the finest Christian schools not just in our state, but in this region of the United States.
Enid is definitely not a one school district city.
That said, I want to praise Enid Public Schools. Schools, like churches, will always have their detractors. I'm not one of them.
There are few public school districts in the entire state of Oklahoma that experience the challenges that the Enid Public Schools system faces.
Nearly 5,000 Pacific Islanders live in Garfield County, over 3,000 of them Marshallese from the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Enid is the county seat of government for Garfield County. The city of Enid, Oklahoma has the highest percentage of Pacific Island people, per capita, than any other city in the United States. Emmanuel Enid even has a Pastor to Pacific Islanders (Yohanes Arwakon) who is in Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to learn the language, make contacts with government officials, and get as much knowledge as he can on how we can help our Pacific Island friends acclimate to American culture and help those who live in Garfield County develop their community standard of living.
In what can only be considered "government atonement" for the devastation caused in the Pacific, the United States government allows the Marshallese, Chuukese, and other indigenous Pacific Island people groups affected by U.S. nuclear testing to freely move from their homes in the Pacific to the United States without a visa. They can also work in America, join the American military, and be considered permanent residents of America without all the official U.S. government approvals required by every other immigrant who desires to come to America. The Marshallese and Chuukese have chosen three places in the United States to live: Portland, Oregon; Springdale, Arkansas, and Enid, Oklahoma.
Once again, Enid has the highest percentage of Pacific Islanders per capita of any city in the United States.
Though the Marshallese, Chuukese, and other Pacific Island cultures are given free access to enter America and work, they are barred from benefits, including medical insurance, welfare, and other government subsidies that even some illegal immigrants obtain.
It's a catch-22. America says, "Come and enjoy our country. Pay your taxes. Fight for our military. Oh, by the way, no benefits for you."
The Pacific Islander families in Enid can't afford private education. Many of them can't afford nice homes in the suburbs of Enid. Though there are some Marshallese in all school districts in and around End, the vast majority of the 5000 Pacific Islanders in Garfield County are affiliated with Enid Public Schools.
When one looks at the "State Grade" for Enid High School, one will see that EHS received an overall grade of "C."
That's a miracle.
Drill down a little further and you'll see why that grade wasn't the "A" or "B" the school deserves.
GRADUATION - "D" ENGLISH PROFICIENCY - "D" CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM - "F" I know enough about school grades that if a student gets two "D's" and one "F" out of a possible six grades, the student would be ecstatic over a "C" grade.
Listen carefully. I don't blame our Pacific Island friends for the "C" grade of the Enid Public School System. Not at all.
I'm saying that a final grade never tells the entire story.
I'm thrilled with the progress of Enid Public Schools and challenge every Enid citizen to "step up to the plate" and help.
Volunteer Tutoring of Pacific Island Children
The Pacific Island Culture is different than American culture. Nobody wears a watch. It's called "Island Time." Meetings start two hours late and it's considered proper. In America, that's called "Chronic Absenteeism." It takes seven years to become fluent in the American language because English is a very difficult language to learn. "Proficiency" takes time - well into college-age years, so Pacific Islanders will never be as English proficient as American kids of privilege. In addition, Pacific Islanders have low expectations regarding jobs. There's no need to "graduate" and go to "college" if one needs to make money to help pay the family bills through manual labor.
Kudos to Dr. Darrel Floyd, Superintendent of Enid Public Schools, the administrators, the teachers, and all who help make Enid Public Schools a great school system.
Have you driven around Enid lately and seen the progress in infrastructure to our Enid Public schools? I've been in Enid for nearly three decades, and we have been making unbelievable strides in upgrading and expanding our educational facilities these last five years.
Building the Pacific Island Ministry Center, Enid, Oklahoma
The church I pastor is also doing our part to help our Pacific Island friends. In addition to supporting a pastor and his family who minister directly to Pacific Islanders, we're building a Pacific Island Community Center in partnership with Forgotten Ministries. We are teaching those from the Pacific Islands English every week through a ministry called "English as a Second Language" (led by Monda Lowen). We also pull in all the Pacific Island children we can to tutor them every Monday, helping them with their homework. Many of us are talking to the state government officials to possibly get Pacific Islanders including in state medical insurance programs which will help our local hospitals. We are working with local colleges and universities to increase graduation rates of Pacific Island high school by offering scholarship incentives for a college education. When we get our Pacific Island Ministry Center finished, we'll be offering job training and career days to allow local businesses to help Pacific Islanders in career advancement.
It's the least we can do for our Pacific Island friends to help them acclimate to American cultural expectations.
The point of this post is to encourage you to realize that what is happening at Enid Public Schools is extraordinary.
In 1840, five years before the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptists from across America met in New York City and listened to an Address to Southern Baptists by Elon Galusha, a lawyer by education and a Baptist minister by vocation.
It's obvious Southern Baptists didn't accept what Mr. Galusha said in his address by their reaction to it. Here are the highlights of Galusha's appeal given to Southern Baptists on Saturday, April 18, 1840, at the McDougal Street Baptist House of Worship in New York City:
"It is our firm conviction that the whole system of American slavery, in theory and practice, is a violation of the instincts of nature, -- a perversion of the first principles of justice,--and a positive transgression of the revealed will of God."
"We believe that God only has the right to take away the health, the wife, the children, or the life of men guilty of no social crime. When man, single or associated, uses his power for such ends through slavery of another, he appears to us to arrogate to himself the prerogative of the Almighty, and to assume a responsibility under which an archangel would stagger."
"We behold, in all Scriptures a virtual and total condemnation of American slavery."
"American Calvinistic Baptists have been hitherto regarded by the Christian world as responsible for the sins of Baptist Slaveholders, and the sufferings of one hundred thousand slaves."
"And if we fail, as many do, to testify our abhorrence of a system that allows a fellow-Christian to sell his brother, or his brother's wife or child, or to dissolve the marriage tie at pleasure, we see not how to escape the merited contempt of mankind, the reproaches of conscience, or the displeasure of God."
"Finally, --if you should, (which Heaven avert!) remain deaf to the voice of warning and entreaty, --If you still cling to the power-maintained privilege of living on punpaid toil, and of claiming as property the image of God, which Jesus bought with His precious blood,--we solemnly declare, as we fear the Lord, that we cannot and we dare not recognize you as consistent brethren in Christ.
"We deplore your condition; we pray for your deliverance."
America fought a Civil War from 1861-1865. The North and the South fought, often brother against brother, for the future of the Union called the United States of America.
After the South lost, Northern Baptists sought to reconcile with their Southern Baptist brothers. In May of 1888, 23 years after the end of the Civil War, the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Richmond, Virginia. A few days later, Northern Baptists chose to meet in Washington, D.C., just outside Richmond, in order to "perfect a more perfect union" with the "brethren from the South." In other words, Northern Baptists wanted to reunite with Southern Baptists.
The union attempt utterly failed, with great satisfaction of leading ministers of the Southern Baptist Convention. Six months later, in November 1888, the Baptist Congress met at Richmond, Virginia to take another step toward reconciliation of all Baptists in America. Even though it was the Southern Baptists who broke from Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery, the Northern Baptists continually sought reconciliation "like our Lord did, the aggrieved going to the offender."
This final attempt at Baptist union was met with "stern rebuff at the hands of Southern brethren." What was the cause of the rebuff? According to the Richmond Herold, the newspaper which reported on the Baptist Congress, the Southern Baptist rebuff of Baptist reunification"could be traced to its source. Far behind all the trivial and petty differences will be found the insurmountable --- the Negro." Fast forward one hundred years.
In 1988, I was a young Southern Baptist pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Southern Baptist Associational Missionary who supervised Southern Baptist Churches was known for a statement he would make for the "standards" he expected in the Tulsa County churches he led. I quote:
"No slacks, no tracs, no blacks."
The Tulsa Baptist Associational Southern Baptist Missionary believed that women should wear dresses, music in churches should be live, not recorded; and attendees in Southern Baptist churches should not be African-American. It was my observation that SBC had not changed much in 100 years.
"It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time."
The foundation of the SBC was built on the corrupt soil of authoritarian racist theology.
I've been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention my entire life. I've served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (2002-04). I've been a pastor of the same SBC affiliated church for the last 27 years. Southern Baptists have done, are doing, and will some great things.
But we cannot hide from our past, nor should we excuse our present. The SBC was built on a fractured foundation. We will not stand the test of time. We'll collapse.
Unless we remove the foundation of authoritarianism, racism, and patronism.
Its time for some corporate repentance in the SBC.
Similar to Southern Baptists in 1840 who separated from the Northern Baptists who were advocating for the cessation of slavery among Southern Baptists, the 2019 Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention distanced itself from the SBC President who advocated for transformational change in how Southern Baptists deal with predatory sexual abuse.
What's similar between Southern Baptists in 1840 and 2019?
The answer is found in Mr. Galusha's phrase from 1840. Southern Baptist leaders then - and today - cling to "power-maintained privilege."
SBC leaders, which include pastors, denominational employees, institutional presidents, Executive Committee members, board trustees, and a host of other Southern Baptist people in positions of leadership must boldly and unequivocally distance themselves three unbiblical and corrupt practices:
Patronism, which is defined as a practice or a culture in business and society that is based on personal relations for advancements in position, income, and exposure. Under a system of patronism, prominent or powerful people determine or influence decisions based on their own criteria or interests.
Racism, which is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.
Authoritarianism, which is defined as a form of radical, totalitarian leadership, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and the strong regimentation of followers.
Abuse thrives and abusers hide in organizations built on the cracked foundation of patronism, racism, and authoritarianism.
It's time the Southern Baptist Convention repent of our unbiblical and harmful views of racial superiority, gender inferiority, and spiritual authority in the church, the home, and society.
This patronism, racism, and authoritarianism of the past SBC form the systemic problems we face today.
The Southern Baptist foundation of power-maintained privilege must be changed.
Guest Post by Lee Enochs, Alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Adam Greenway
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).
As an alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and as a Southern Baptist, I am grateful to God that Dr. Adam Greenway will be the next President of my beloved seminary Alma Mater.
I learned many great things while I was a student preacher at Southwestern Seminary and my heart rejoices in Jesus Christ our savior that the trustees of that venerable Fort Worth institution will entrust Dr. Greenway with this solemn stewardship and that “Seminary Hill” will be placed in good hands moving forward.
Though my journey after graduating from Southwestern Seminary has taken me far from the good people and those country roads of North Texas, I will always be a “Southwesterner.”
While a graduate student at Princeton, I often thought of all my professors and classmates at Southwestern and prayed that one day I could come back to my beloved seminary home. Southwestern Seminary will always be a part of me.
For in the immortal words of the incomparable poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
“I am a part of all that I have met. To much is taken, much abides. That which we are, we are --One equal temper of heroic hearts Strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
Without a doubt, the task set before Dr. Greenway in restoring Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to its former prestigious and elevated academic and ministerial heights is monumental and fraught with peril. However, I believe Dr. Greenway is up to the challenge and he can rebuild what has been torn asunder.
Under Adam Greenway, Southwestern can begin again. I believe God has raised Dr. Greenway up to be God’s man in this time.
For such a time as this, the good Lord of the good Book has called Dr. Greenway to restore Southwestern so it can once again be a light to the nations.
While it is true that Southwestern Seminary has fallen on hard times of late, it can once again become the training ground for Southern Baptist ministers envisioned by B. H. Carroll and it’s founder.
For the Gospel Work must go on. The Word of God is true. The Southern Baptist Convention and all its churches and Seminaries will endure, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s church.
I and many Southern Baptists across the country are now praying for Adam Greenway, God’s man for Southwestern Seminary and for this hour.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Lee Enochs is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary and writes regularly for newspapers and magazines across the country.
In the New Covenant Kingdom of Christ, leaders are servants who've been gifted by the Spirit to guide others and are qualified for this service to the church by their humility, character, and personal relationships.
Is authoritarianism as big of a problem as sexual abuse in evangelical churches? Absolutely. It's even bigger.
Abuse is the predatory practice of crossing appropriate boundaries through inappropriate behavior by the powerful against the powerless.
You take away the concept of spiritual power or authority over someone, and you begin to get a handle on dealing with predatory abuse in religious settings.
Southern Baptists, we have a problem with ordination.
The practice of ordination in local evangelical churches is not an exact reproduction of any New Testament or early church practice. The New Testament gives no comprehensive instructions for ordination, nor is the concept of ordination (as practiced today) even presented in the New Testament. The doctrine and practices of ordination have evolved over the centuries, resulting in a variety of forms with a multiplicity of meanings among denominations.
If Southern Baptists are indeed "people of the Book" and if we truly believe in "local church autonomy," then we should drastically change the practice of ordination.
Ordination - The Attempt to Obtain Order
The word "ordination" is not found in Scripture. It comes from the Latin ordo which means to "set in order" and the Latin nasci which means "a large group of people with something in common." We get our English word nation from that second Latin word.
In the early beginnings of the Roman Catholic Church, church and government became one in Western Civilization. The Roman Catholic Church was the authority over European nations and the peoples' faith. In an effort "to get in order the large group of people" under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, ordination in the church was born.
The ancient Roman government practiced "setting in order by rank" (ordination) in the government setting, but the Roman Catholic Church brought the custom into its ranks. "Church ordination became "the investiture of clergy” or “the act of granting pastoral authority or sacerdotal power.”
People of a common faith or nation (Roman Catholic or the Holy Roman Empire) were made accountable to priests ordained with "authority over" people by the Roman Catholic Church. In turn, priests were accountable to bishops ordained for such a position of authority over priests, and bishops were accountable to ordained archbishops with authority, and archbishops were accountable to the Pope.
Ordination, then, turned into a system of order for power over people in terms of nations and the Church.
How does the American government recognize someone with "authority" in a local church?
The answer isn't as easy as one might imagine. The United States government eventually determined that there must be "sincerity of religious belief" (U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944). By the mid-1960s, the United States government departed from its longheld belief that a "church" must be defined by Judeo-Christian standards. The U.S. government now recognizes that any sincere belief is defined as "religion" if that belief exhibits religious practice in time and over time and those practices are in obedience to a deity and work for the common good of a community of adherents
Don't be. Just remember this one point: In America, the United States government declares whether or not your faith practice qualifies as a "religion." That's why any "religious institution" in the United States with legal standing must be incorporated by the state and declared a "501-C3 religious entity" by the government to receive charitable donations. No matter the deity, no matter the religious practices, no matter the sacred texts followed, any institutional religion of legal merit in the United States must be incorporated and its leaders licensed.
Licensing Ministers Is the U.S. Government's Practice
The word "license" means "formal permission from a governmental or constituted authority to do something, as to carry on some business or profession."
The state licenses plumbers, electricians, doctors, accountants, and every other occupation one can imagine... including religious ministers.
If a "religious minister" wishes to receive recognition from state government in the United States of America, he or she must obtain "a license" or "ordination certificate" from his or her religious institution. A license gives the "religious minister" the right to officiate weddings, lead "religious services," and claim exemptions in America's tax code, just like the "ordination certificate" grants those same privileges.
The United States government makes little distinction between ordaining and licensing. You can receive both as an individual religious minister, but only one is needed by the state.
Unfortunately, licenses and ordination certificates for ministers can be obtained over the Internet by non-profit organizations who "license or ordain ministers" as part of their virtual faith reality. Fraudulent ministerial licenses are as rampant as mail order educational degrees.
Southern Baptist churches often "license" young, prospective ministers, and then in a "formal ceremony of ordination," they set those young ministers aside as "gospel ministers." Southern Baptists wrongly think that the ordination is something broader, more important, and far more comprehensive than "licensing."
The government doesn't make that distinction.
The problem of ordination in Southern Baptist churches is three-fold:
1. Southern Baptist churches don't understand that a license or ordination is for the state, not the church, and will keep a minister in complience with state statues and tax laws.
2. Southern Baptist churches assume that the Bible mandates "ordination" for pastoral ministry, defining ordination as "spiritual authority over others." The Bible teaches just the opposite. The leaders of the church should be servants of humility who persuade others to follow by their character, personal fidelity, and gracious spirits.
3. Southern Baptist churches wrongly believe that a "license" or "ordination" should travel with the minister from one church ministry to the next church ministry.
As a result of these wrong beliefs and practices, ministers "fired" from one church for sexual impropriety (inappropriate behavior of the minister never reported by the church) to another church. Because that pastor is "ordained" or "licensed" to ministry, the new church just assumes that pastor is a man of God, capable of leading a religious institution.
This must change.
A Solution to the Problem of SBC Ordination
In some coming blog posts, I will offer what I believe to be a biblical solution for the rampant problems associated with ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention.
My solution will be different than what you will hear from other leaders in the Convention. Rather than going into detail now, I will give you a brief overview:
1. Give up the unbiblical notion that "ordination" invests spiritual authority over anybody, which may also include giving up ordination ceremonies.
2. Local Southern Baptist congregations "set aside" by the biblical "laying on of hands" gifted men and women for specific areas of service in the local congregation (teaching, serving, administration, etc...) after an exhaustive investigation of character, giftedness, and current and past personal relationships. This examination should include multiple background checks using existing databases.
3. Those "set aside" for specific areas of service in the local congregation are never given a "lifetime" certificate of ordination that passes from one local congregation to another. Each autonomous congregation must be responsible for investigating the person called to a particular area of service or employment. To be "set aside" for service in a local, autonomoous church is a process that is repeated when service moves from one church to another.
4. To satisfy requirements of state statutes, a church Leadership Team - composed of mature men and women set aside for admistrative service in the local congregation and held legally liable by the state for the church's actions - is elected by the church congregation to oversee the licensing of the employed "religious ministers." Licensed local church ministers officiate weddings, qualify as "religious ministers" under the United States tax code, and are deemed by the government "religious ministers." The insitutitional church sees itself as a 501-C3 government non-profit and never synonymous with the Kingdom of Christ. Independent non-profits (institutional churches) are established for cooperative causes of God's people in local settings. Licensed ministers must pass the rigorous examination of life and character by the local congregation (see Step 3), and they are given temporary licenses by the legal authority of the church (the Leadership Team). In the Southern Baptist Convention, the word "pastor" or "minister" should always be considered "a verb of service" to a local congration, not a "noun of status" in a national denomination.
5. Once a licensed religious minister leaves the employment of the local church, the state license is revoked, and a new license must be obtained when a "religious minister" moves to another religious non-profit, undergoing (once again), a rigorous examination of life, character, and relationships (with exhaustive background checks).
I'm sure this overview raises many questions. I hope to answer some of them in upcoming blog posts.
The answer to the "ordination" problem is not investing more "spiritual power and authority" in religious leaders. The answer is in taking it all away.
In 2014, I wrote a lengthy article about the extreme authoritarianism of James MacDonald, an unchecked power that is based on MacDonald's unbiblical theology that he has been invested by God with "spiritual authority" over people.
1:08:25 – James MacDonald discussed his desire to put "kiddie porn" on Harold Smith’s computer. (Harold Smith is President and CEO of Christianity Today).
1:09:03 – James MacDonald speaks of“frickin’ Julie Roys "riding around on a tricycle with a midget on her shoulders," a statement designed to show how Roys is certifiably crazy. (Julie Roys deserves a medal for her tireless efforts to confront and correct the abusive behavior of James McDonald).
1:19:12 – James MacDonald makes an additional vulgar reference to Harold Smith
1:20:25 – James MacDonald makes up a fabricated story (according to Julie, its fabricated, and I believe her) that Julie Roys is approaching the houses of people who were victims in an official investigation into McDonald's alleged misconduct.
1:21:45 – James MacDonald calls Mark Galli by another vulgar name.
1:29:30 – There is a classic megalomaniac statement by MacDonald about Christianity Today (this statement alone is worth listening to the audio).
The root problem in the Southern Baptist Convention is a proliferation of pastors, church leaders, and denominational leaders who believe in their inherent spiritual authority. Males have a false belief that they have power over females, and pastors falsely believe they have divine "spiritual authority" over church members because of their "ordination."
Abuse of any kind, whether it is sexual, physical, emotional, or mental, begins when the powerful intentional cross boundaries of the powerless for personal gratification and gain.
The problem in the Southern Baptist Convention is the problem of power.
In an article titled "Abuse of Faith," three investigative reporters uncovered over 700 documented cases of sexually predatory behavior by SBC pastors and leaders.
I'm a Southern Baptist pastor. Though the word "Baptist" is not in the title of the church I pastor, we affiliate with other Southern Baptist churches for the purpose of global missions, disaster relief worldwide (the SBC has the best disaster relief ministry in the world), and a host of other reasons that all revolve around evangelical cooperation and the concept "we get more done together than separate."
I've spoken with Robert Downen and John Tedesco, two of the three investigative reporters for the Houston Chronicle, on multiple occasions during the past year. I've found them to be intelligent, thorough, and extremely fair.
Nobody can blame the media. This isn't "fake news."
It's maddingly, and sadly, all too real.
But I would like to offer some hope.
Don't give up on the SBC.
Keep staying involved. I know from experience that transformative change is slow. It requires patience. And, you can't be concerned with your personal reputation.
Think only of His Kingdom.
In 2005, the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board passed two doctrinal policies that exceeded the BFM 2000 and violated the Convention's constitution and spirit of cooperation.
In 2005, IMB leadership sought to remove me from the IMB trustee board because of my principled and respectful opposition to the board's leadership and their unwise decision to implement the new doctrinal requirements that exceeded the BFM 2000.
In 2006, the IMB leadership reversed their recommendation to remove me from the board when they realized that the entire Convention would have to vote on their recommendation and that I would be given the opportunity to speak to the Convention before the vote.
In 2007, SBC leadership rejected my proposal at the Southern Baptist Convention to implement a database to track sexual predators in the Southern Baptist Convention, a database that would be designed to prevent predators moving from one church to the next without being identified as sexual predators. After the motion was denied, I continued to write about the importance of any effort to hold accountable criminals in our midst and those who wish to cover for them.
In 2015, the (new) trustees of the SBC International Mission Board reversed the 2005 doctrinal policies.
In 2018, Southern Baptist Convention leadership received (again) my proposal to establish - or facilitate the establishment of - a database to track sexual predators in the SBC. This time, SBC leadership funded an investigation committee (a committee that is still working).
Building a Women's Shelter and Community Center in Enid
"Imagine," wrote John Lennon,"no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man."
What a world that would be.
Unfortunately, Lennon wrote in the first verse of his hit song, "Imagine...no religion, too."
Sorry, John. You can't have it both ways.
It's either God or government; His people or a nation's politics; voluntary charity or mandated socialism. The only way your imaginative dream turns into inspirational reality is through God's plan or the government's plan.
What's the difference between the two?
God empowers His people internally to voluntarily and sacrificially give of our resources to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of people around us, impacting the cities and communities where we live.
"I was once young but now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).
On the other hand, the government demands outwardly that its people forcibly and personally pay taxes to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of all citizens, impacting cities and community where citizens live.
The government is indeed needed for the common good of all citizens (building roads and bridges, the nation's defense, etc...), for as Abraham Lincoln once wrote:
"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities."
However, the dream of "no greed or hunger" pertains to an individual and his or her social needs (food, shelter, income).
In God's plan, God's people are at the forefront of providing for the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, and assisting people to work, providing a minimum standard of living.
Unfortunately, institutional churches who profess to have members that have been captivated by the love of God have abdicated our missional purpose.
American churches have turned to the government to meet the needs of broken individuals.
The rise of social government in America parallels the level of self-absorption in the churches of America.
When we who lead churches are more interested in pot-luck dinners to feed ourselves than we are shelters to feed the homeless, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who are members of institutional churches care more about musical performances that we do unwed mothers, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who cite membership in a local church aren't actively involved in building, staffing, and funding shelters for the abused and abandoned; when we aren't pursuing improvements in the societal conditions of the overlooked and underprivileged; and when we aren't visiting those in prison and providing jobs for them when they get out; we are abdicating our God-given missional purpose.
Members of conservative evangelical churches have no right to complain about the spread of socialism in our government unless we're doing something about the social needs in our country.
The problem with politics is that liberals want the government to do what their churches are supposed to be doing and conservatives don't want the government to do what their churches refuse to be doing.
So, what's the solution?
I suggest that there's coming a day, sooner rather than later, when churches will have to separate from the government. There will be no "incorporation" status. There will be tax deductions for donors to churches. The government will be unable to dictate what churches believe, and churches will have not any tax advantages typically enjoyed by non-profit organizations certified by the state.
Then we'll see churches motivated by the love of God to go about the business of their Master, refusing to play politics or complain about the government. It seems to me churches are confused about who really rules them. Jesus said:
"I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
And they said, "When did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You seck or in prison and visit you?
And the King replied, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did for Me." (Matthew 25:31-35)
Jesus is King.
He's sent us on a mission independent of any government.
I recently heard from a country where our church is heavily involved in all kinds of missional work, including drilling for water, establishing hospitals, providing education for the impoverished, farming clinics for the men, as well as shelters for the disabled and poor, etc... It was said to me by church members who have gone to work in that foreign field that "mosques are being built all over the country, especially in those places where our church is making an impact. The government funding the construction. But the government mosques aren't seeing converts. People are coming to faith in Christ all over the country because they Christian people caring for the sick, educating the underprivileged, providing career opportunities (small business and career training) for the citizens, and drilling for water to quench the thirst of entire villages. Mosques not on mission mean nothing."
Christian churches not on a mission also mean nothing.
What are you as a follower of Jesus Christ doing for your city, in cooperation with other Christians (that's the definition of 'The Church') to feed the hungry, house the homeless, providing instruction and training for the impoverished, and visiting prisoners in their time of need?
If we spent more time on our missional purpose as Christian people we'd have less time to complain about the government that we created by the abdication of those responsibilities that our King gave to us.
Several weeks ago, I received in the mail a signed copy of Quiet Roar from bestselling author Randall Authur.
I've never met Randall, nor had I ever read any other book by Mr. Arthur, including the well-reviewed Wisdom Hunter. I assumed the author sent me a copy of Quiet Roar to consider writing something about it on my blog.
I set the book aside. However, on Christmas Day, I picked it up Quiet Roar and began reading it.
I didn't put it down until I finished.
Then I gave it to Rachelle and said, "Here, read this. I want your opinion when you're done. I'm thinking about writing a review on my blog."
I took my wife to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion for her birthday and she read Quiet Roar on the way there and on the return trip.
After Rachelle read it (she too couldn't put it down), my wife looked at me and said, "Wade, the author has done Christianity a service. He has taken what you write about in theological terms and put it in a gripping narrative that makes one understand how silly it is to frame ministry around gender rather than giftings."
My wife is correct. Randall Arthur has hit a home run.
With keen insight into multi-faceted issues this modern world faces, from genitalia mutilation among Muslim tribes in Africa to Islamic terrorism around the world; from southern Baptist traditions of human origin rather than based on biblical principles; to subtle prejudices in Christian churches that need confronting, Randall Arthur has done a huge service for Christianity.
He has the unique ability to heal wounds through a quiet roar.
Especially those wounds in the hearts and minds of gifted women in Christ's Kingdom.
Ladies, don't miss out on reading this book for encouragement.
Men, especially evangelical pastors, you ought to read this book for some biblical, practical, personal correction on your views about women.