Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Support for MBI in the Face of Criticism

As many of you know, I am a proud Moody Bible Institute (MBI) graduate. I never intended to go there; in fact back in high school ministry was the farthest thing from my mind. But it is so typical that when we are not looking at our lives the way God does, He radically changes our direction so we see His goal and plan for us. Moody profoundly impacted my life, as it has some many others, and has done great things for the kingdom, so it shocked me when I read this blog decrying Moody's stance on a certain issue: Women in ministry, specifically pastoral ministry.

The above blog has generated a lot of comments, with many of them crying out against MBI's complementarian (Men and Women having different roles within the church) attitude, and attacking its current conservative stance. My purpose in this writing is not to bad-mouth the author of said blog, nor to spawn harsh criticisms, but merely to offer a differing view of MBI through my own experience and the observations I saw during my tenure there.

During my time at MBI I realized I didn't agree with everything that Moody outlined in their rules and regulations. For instance we couldn't watch movies in the dorms, go dancing, drink even if you were over the age of twenty-one, you had a curfew until you were twenty-one, and there were quiet hours. For a college student who had just turned twenty-one I felt extremely restricted and I became very upset with the administration of MBI. My friends and I would spend hours lamenting and lambasting the ultra-conservative and backwards thinking leadership and the donors who, because of their willingness to give, held sway over the leadership and therefore the rules of Moody.

And because of this I (and a few others) rebelled and broke the rules.  I readily admit that I watched movies and T.V. shows, I went dancing a couple times (although what I do should hardly be called dancing), and stayed out after curfew. My attitude was "who are these people that they believe they can control my life just because I attend their school?" Looking back now I realize how childish, naive, and flat out rebellious I was. I felt entitled and wanted to be treated as such. I failed to see that these rules were put in place to protect, guide, and prepare for my future and were not designed to hurt me as I believed. I looked like and sounded like a spoiled child.

But I have digressed from what I originally decided to speak about which is addressing the topic from the aforementioned blog: the seemingly over-bearing, ultra conservative, women subduing nature of the current administration of MBI.

That in and of itself is the nature of that blog post. It is crying afoul that Moody has stripped itself from its original moorings, which were progressive in the nature of women's rights, and then proceeds to critique the conservative stance Moody has taken. Now these are two very large topics to handle so strap yourself in folks, because it could be one long posting.

First let me address the author's tone and the tone of those commenting on the blog. In looking at their responses it is clear that they are upset that Moody is not doing what they want. They believe that Moody should be run differently because they believe differently. Well first of all that sounds a lot like the entitled attitude I used to have. Moody didn't hide anything from those who decided to go there. You had to fill out the application packet, sign the forms, agree to their doctrinal statement, and follow the rules and regulations governing student life. This was a choice that those who attended MBI agreed to abide by. That isn't Moody's fault. They chose to go there. Even if you found it to have been very different from what you thought it to be, than you could have transferred. So by staying there you agreed to submit to the rules. You may not like them, but stop complaining about them. There a literally hundreds of other liberal arts Bible colleges we could have gone to that would have been better suited to your needs if you felt so strongly about MBI.

Second the nature of women in the pastoral role has become a heated topic throughout the last century. And the reason for this is that liberalism has crept into our churches and has caused them to sway from the Gospel. Turn on the television or radio and listen to the garbage people are proclaiming as truth. They say there are multiple paths to heaven, that works account for more than the atonement, that Christ wasn't fully man or God but a man empowered by God, that Christ didn't die to save but rather to appease the Deceiver himself. That is the reason Moody has taken such a conservative stance. They have decided to stand upon the Gospel, not the teachings of men. They have decided to proclaim truth, instead of whimsical feelings. They have decided to be like Christ and as such counter the "norms" of our society.

However, I will say this: Moody is very complementarian. It's a fact. But complementarian does not mean that Moody believes in ridiculing, belittling, ostracizing, or displacing women. It does mean that in accordance with the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-16, Ephesians 5:22-33) that men and women serve differently in roles in the church. Yes there are those women in the Bible who serve in a variety of capacities in the church, but from the Greek translations of the text it would appear that all positions of overseer/shepherd/pastor are all oriented towards men.

This is not a slight by God on the women of the world, nor is it an attack by Moody against women's rights. If you look in the Bible God outlines roles and headship for a reason. Not to be overbearing and hurtful but to provide loving leadership, guidance, and support. I would encourage everyone to look to this book (Our counseling book). It is a book about pre-marital issues but it talks in depth about the roles in the household, church, and our lives with God and helps to serve the point here. Moody is not gender biased, nor do they believe in suppressing women in the church, but yes they do submit to the Biblical model of headship and having men only serve as pastors.

Now are all professors, students, faculty, and staff going to treat this subject with the proper vestiges of love, compassion, forgiveness, and tact? No, they won't. I observed like many of the comments stated in the blog that some people, students and staff alike, would approach this subject with ridicule and a condescending tone. This is first and foremost a sin as it isn't Christ-like. We are called to model Christ in all we do, say, and think and that attitude is none of those. Also, how does that come across to the women who are questioning their role in a church? If I were in their shoes I would feel angry, hurt, disillusioned, and like a lesser human being.

But please hear me out! That is not the majority of MBI. You will run into those who are critical, mean, hurtful, ignorant, and self-absorbed wherever you may go. No that doesn't justify it, but please do not allow the hurtful and childish actions of the minority to corrupt your view of the entire institution. I will not pretend to know everything that transpired at MBI because I don't, but as I stated that is my experience. Please do not allow the mistakes of a few to count against the many. The majority at MBI practice what the Bible says, and look to live as Christ intended.

As for women in the Pastoral Studies program, I will speak on that from direct experience. I loved my major, the department, and the godly men and women who served in that department. It is ironic to me that the author of the blog decries Moody not allowing women in ministry because Women's Ministries are located within the Pastoral Department. Moody obviously believes that women have roles and positions in the church that they can serve in. They are not trying to brush them under the rug in a vain attempt to appear equal. They allow women in all classes. I for one can recall numerous classes, both preaching and pastoral in general, where women would attend, contribute, and dare I say it...preach?! Gasp! So where the author of the blog draws his conclusions from I do not know, because my observations within the department were quite different.

Lastly I would like to touch on the subject of conservatism that has now become the norm at Moody. This runs hand in hand with the last topic of women in ministry because that is where the idea formulates. Moody takes a literal interpretation of Scripture and as such has refused to allow for modern distortions of theology and doctrine to take hold of its mantra and instead has stood the solid ground of staying true to the Word of God. I am not decrying anyone who may be liberal, but I would decry a liberal interpretation of the Gospel.

To take a liberal approach on the interpretation of God's holy word and subject it to the whims and fantasies of men will give us the same heresies the church father's fought so hard to prove false. Liberal theology has allowed for other methods of salvation, heresy that Jesus wasn't God, the establishment of Universalism, the corruption of leadership, and the allowance of blatant habitual sin within our churches. That is why Moody has chosen to take a stand on Biblical conservatism. Not to bind any one person or group, but instead to protect its core values and the very nature of the Word of God, and in so doing the people of God as well.

The author of the blog also points out that Moody was progressive back when it was founded. Moody indeed challenged the thoughts and common practices of the culture, but all with the confines of the Biblical mandate as set forth through the Bible that God Himself gave to mankind. So if that is what makes MBI progressive then they are still progressive today as they stand in the face of society that tells them to conform and yet they choose to stand apart as God has called all believers to do. Being progressive does not mean turning a blind eye to something we are not comfortable with but rather addressing it in love, civility, and understanding.

Please hear me out. I am not looking to condemn, to cause arguments, or to attack. I am attempting to engage in dialogue, spur discussion, defend my Alma Mater, and ultimately help one another grow in our understanding of the Word of God. Should you wish to comment on this posting, please keep it civil, and remember to comment out of love not anger or hurt. I would love to talk more and to share my heart and thoughts with any who would like to hear.