Since the 1880s, Southern Baptists have argued over the role of women

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — In May of 1877, Myra Graves made history.Widow of the first president of Baylor University, Graves was the first woman seated as a delegate to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. She returned again in 1882, according to the Journal of Southern Religion.
No one seemed to notice.
The same could not be said a few years later, when two women from Arkansas showed up as delegates. A pastor from Virginia stood up, saying women had no right to be at the meeting. That led to a hasty gathering of a five-member committee to decide the issue. The committee did not want the women there but ruled that nothing in the denomination’s constitution barred their presence.
The committee’s ruling did not sit well with delegates like a certain Dr. Hawthorne of Georgia.
“I love the ladies, but I dread them worse,” he told delegates, according to the May 16, 1885, edition of the Tennessee Baptist newspaper. “If my wife was here knocking at the door of this Convention I’d never vote against her coming in.”
Delegates to that meeting eventually voted to bar the Arkansas women. Then they changed the SBC’s constitution to make it plain …

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