Why? For its views on women. My first thought, after ‘Good for him!’, was ‘why now?’ And the answer seems to be not a change in the church but Carter’s own involvement in a declaration regarding the importance of challenging sexism.
Former President Jimmy Carter issued a statement Sunday announcing he is leaving the Southern Baptist Church due to their treatment of women. Carter has been a devout Southern Baptist for more than sixty years, but differs ideologically on points where the religion justifies the subordination of women. His announcement comes after the Elders, a group of world leaders with which Carter is affiliated, released a statement on the issue of discrimination against women and girls by religion. In his statement, Carter calls “on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women.”
I’m pretty sure Carter already thought the church was wrong before that statement was issued, but it seems as though issuing that statement and staying in the Church was just too much cognitive dissonance. I think it’s quite important to think about what can make people really take action for their principles, and this is an interesting example. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)
Update: Reader rs has corrected the story form Ms that I cited above:
Actually, Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention some time ago, in 2000 (http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/21/us/carter-sadly-turns-back-on-national-baptist-body.html). He did cite the church’s views on women then as one of his reasons for leaving, and this was not long after the church’s leaders had revised the “Baptist Faith and Message” in 1998 to say that wives should submit to their husbands, and in 2000 to state explicitly that women could not be pastors. Ugh.
This week’s statement goes into more detail than he did then on discrimination and the rights of women and girls.