The story can and should be read here--- http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/21/menonly.sundayschool.ap/index.html Watch the videos attached as well.
This story is disturbing on many levels and it reflects clearly enough the growing fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Church in general. Here we have a woman who had nurtured and served her church faithfully, using her gifts of teaching for fifty-four years at the same church, when the young recently appointed Pastor Lebouf, also on the city council of his town, has this faithful servant sacked.
In the letter of explanation thereafter the pastor cites 1 Tim. 2.8-15, which of course says nothing whatsoever about Sunday school since such a church activity did not exist in the first century A.D.
Remarkably, in the TV interview he granted, he said "women can pursue excellence in any other field they like, outside the church". But of course this is self-contradictory because the pastor's real problem seems clearly enough to be women having any kind of teaching authority over Christian men. So would it be alright for her to teaching male children who are Christians in a public school? If the man was consistent the answer would be no.
The pastor seems to think that the church is a world unto itself, and what one does in the church has no implications for life in general for a Christian person! This sort of schizophrenia is disturbing on many levels. And what is even more disturbing is that it appears that Mary Lambert was sacked actually because she disagreed with the pastor on several issues over a period of time, doubtless one of them being about women teaching men! If this is the case, then it is not an argument about principle at all, its just politics, with 1 Tim. 2.8-15 being used as a blunt instrument to sort out personal differences on issues that genuine Christians should be able to discuss and agree to disagree on. And I will say once more-- the problem in Evangelical churches is not strong women. Its weak men who are so insecure that they feel threatened by strong women and can't handle them doing various things the Bible allows them to do.
I must tell you that this sort of reactionary approach eventually will backfire. The Bible says nothing about anyone teaching Sunday school. It does certainly refer to Priscilla and her husband teaching Aquila in Acts 18. It does certainly refer to women praying and prophecying, a form of preaching, in the Corinthian worship service in 1 Cor. 11.
And of course most Southern Baptists have never interpreted 1 Tim. 2.8-15 as a ban of women from teaching in all church venues. For a very long time in the twentieth century and before the Southern Baptist Mission Board had women preaching and teaching all over the mission field. They also taught at home in their churches as well just not from the pulpit (another form of inconsistency).
And yes there were even some Southern Baptist churches in America where women were preachers (and p.s. there still are some, bucking the tide). In other words, this action in Watertown N.Y. not only breaks with what the Bible says, it breaks with Southern Baptist tradition and actual historocal practice.
Even more fundamentally it is a clear violation of historic Southern Baptist Church polity for some of the Southern Baptist Convention's leaders to try to bully local churches into compliance on this 'women' issue. Why? Because the essence of Baptist polity is the autonomy of each local Southern Baptist Church! Each local church is supposed to discern and pursue what they see as God's will for that body of believers.
My grandfather was a deacon in the Southern Baptist Church in Wilmington N.C. and he is certainly rolling over in his grave about now. The Baptist's have become in many quarters something they could never have imagined being in times past--- an authoritarian, top down, hierarchial, androcentric, non-democratic denomination! This change has not only led to the fundamentalist take over of some historic Southern Baptist seminaries, its tearing up local churches as well. And all over atrocious and anchronistic misinterpretations of what the Bible says about women teaching!
Sometimes, even though I am not a southern Baptist, I am ashamed to be an Evangelical when this sort of nonsense happens. Father forgive us for we sure enough don't know what we are doing!