Beth Moore has once again created waves in the SBC, perhaps for the last time. In a phone interview on March 5, she told the Religion News Service, “I am no longer a Southern Baptist.”
While the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) may view her departure as insignificant, they are deeply misguided.
It is impossible to overestimate the impact of Beth Moore. Intensely private, deeply prayerful, and passionately biblical, she is clearly called to uplift women. For decades, Beth Moore has remained a part of the SBC and has taught women how much Jesus loves them and what he can do in their lives.
Hilariously real, Beth’s books and Bible teachings have shown us how to laugh at ourselves, how to cry over disappointments, how to confront our fears, and how to hold tightly to Jesus whatever happens. In this way, she has guided millions of women through the wilderness of life. Like Moses who led the people of Israel through the desert, Beth has helped women navigate difficult, even ferocious challenges, including a brutal misogyny she herself has faced. She can and does represent women with their backs against the wall.
Beth has fiercely defended women’s dignity and agency in her work. As hundreds of cases of sexual abuse, hidden by the SBC, were made public, Beth Moore bravely disclosed her own harassment and abuse. In doing so, Beth validated women’s experiences in a patriarchal world.
At the same time, Beth also called her denomination to account. In an October 9, 2016 tweet she wrote: “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power.” A powerful leader, Beth understood that her response to demeaning and abuse spoke volumes to countless women she served worldwide and over whom she has enormous influence.
But rather than address their abuse of power, Southern Baptist leaders shifted the blame onto Beth. They demeaned her as “liberal,” pointing to her tweets that called out Christians who condoned immoral, un-Christian leadership in our government. Little did they know that teaching from the pulpit and exposing abuse in her denomination and their collusion with harassers makes her a prophet not a heretic!
Later, in 2019, when Beth was bullied by John MacArthur and told to “go home,” she didn’t; she continued teaching the Bible to whoever would listen. She showed the power of following Jesus over critics like MacArthur. By staying put, she made clear that she had no intention of abandoning her ministry. It was an act of resistance that reclaimed church as home for women—a place to use one’s God-given gifts. Beth’s holy boldness exposed the fleeting influence of bullies whose actions disqualify them as leaders.
Last week, she did it again, but instead of showing resilience through staying, she did it by leaving. Gracious as ever, Beth said she loves Southern Baptist people but cannot “identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.” Was this a loving rebuke to a denomination blinded by a legacy of power and patriarchy? It’s not yet clear.
What is clear is that, as she has been outspoken about abuse in church and harassers in the nation’s highest office, her exit should speak loudly to women who know the abuses she challenges and those her departure may likely prevent. Polite but firm, her “shaking off the dust” of male-dominance models a zero-tolerance policy for abuse—a practice the SBC should have adopted decades ago.
Beth’s decision to leave is undoubtedly the result of ardent engagement with Christ. Known for her uncompromising commitment to prayer, Beth appears to realize that the character that guides our choices comes through faithful attentiveness to God. Bold and righteous as a lion, the power of holy leadership is gained not by dominance but through submission to Christ where character is formed—the fruit of God’s Spirit. He is the vine. We are the branches. It is this posture that guides the pivotal decisions of godly leaders.
When she announced her withdrawal and said that “there comes a time when you have to say, this is not who I am,” I am sure countless women identified with her words and were again emboldened by her example. The failures of the SBC over many decades should represent a deep betrayal and a non-negotiable for other women like Beth among Southern Baptists.
While the SBC may not consider her exit of much consequence, given her influence within and beyond the SBC, Beth’s departure should be seen as a direct challenge to the systemic patriarchy and abuse in those churches undeserving of Christ’s name.
My hope is that many will follow her out of the wilderness of toxic patriarchy. If they follow her, like the people of Israel followed Moses, Beth may indeed lead them to higher ground.