Mary Lambert, aged 81 has taught at the Watertown First Baptist Church for 54 years. That ended on Aug 9th when she was sent a letter telling her that the Diaconate Board of the church was unanimously dismissing her from her 11 year post teaching the adult bible study class because she was a woman. The letter explained her termination as spiritual reasons, specifically quoting 1 Timothy 2:11 -14, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
As this story continues its bouncing round the internet, aided by being circulated by the Associated Press, obviously a lot of women (and men) are irritated, angry and confused. What is the Pastor Timothy Labouf and the church board doing? Is this some Christian fifth column trying to convince more people to become agnostic? No, there is actually a larger and more squalid story.
First, the letter sent to Mary Lambert was signed and authorized by Kendra LaBouf, the Pastor’s wife in her role as the clerk. She among others are part of the “new members” which have stepped up to fill board roles as part of Tim Labouf’s reforms when he took over the church a few years ago. Essentially we have a church disagreement between the old church members and the new pastor and his followers. Rev. Tim Labouf, released a statement letting everyone know that the problems with Mary Lambert went far beyond the spiritual and that the spiritual was only a “small aspect” of her termination. Indeed the decision goes back to a disagreement a few months earlier where this new board “passed a resolution on May 21st 2006 reprimanding those individuals and their actions” and that “the Board has been aware that several of those individuals continued to engage in activities the Board viewed as detrimental to the church family.” Though in his statement Rev. Tim Labouf has promised “I am now prepared to be transparent with you about this issue”, we never find out exactly what actions or ideas this 81 year old woman has that is so “detrimental.” We do find out why was she never told about the majority of reasons she was removed from her position of responsibility? “the board had originally intended to include all reasons for Lambert's dismissal in the letter sent to her. But after legal review it was decided to stick with "spiritual issues..."; "it was recommended that we refrain from including issues that could be construed as slander and stick with “spiritual issues” that govern a church, which the courts have historically stayed out of." Yeah, harder to sue someone when they hide behind God.
This is what as known as assassination by scripture, an event I have experienced first hand and witnessed many times in my Christian career. It goes like this: a) Person disagrees or does something the church leadership disagrees with and is told to shut up. b) Person does not shut up or stop actions (like being openly gay for example) c) Scripture is found to strip the person of all public positions and/or throw them out of the church (for example, when they couldn’t find anything else for me they decided that I wasn't “humble before the Lord”). Statement is made about how this is for the persons benefit and that it is for the good of the “church family” and that they are praying for the person to grow (this is church lingo for: “if you do what you are told and toe the line and we may let you back”)
After this excessively long public statement where Tim Labouf implies all sorts of things about Mary Lambert (the BAD 81 year old), he tells us; “"Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her." Sort of in the same way he was doing her a favor by telling her God wanted her out of her job instead of that she was a pain in the butt getting some good old fashion church retribution.
Tim’s overwhelming concern for Mary is evident as he gives assurance to reporters that this won’t be affecting his decisions as a member of the City Council, and states in his formal public explanation of his decision as church pastor that he is a good Council Member, one who has served for many years, and made many good decisions for the benefit of the town. Indeed he starts off his statement defending his church actions with a long rambling campaign appeal about his council work including, “I believe that together we have accomplished some great things and I firmly believe that our best days still lie ahead.” Yes, the words, “snake” or “slithery” may be crossing your mind (they are mine). He then goes on to tell us, in all earnestness, that he doesn’t hate women, indeed, he knows women, some are friends: “I have a number of female acquaintances and friends that work in our business community” Recognize that statement? I do; for instance when my brother told me, “I don’t have a problem with gay people, I know several gay people.” That was until I came out, and suddenly I was going to hell. But then, I guess like Tim Labouf, he knows how to separate his religious and his political viewpoints. Tim doesn’t hate women; I guess in the same way a church viewpoint with white supremacy wouldn’t hate blacks – they are just called (almost against their will, honest!) in judgment before God to use God’s word to smite down those rebellious blacks...I mean gays...I mean 81 year old women.
In true form he tells us: “I will remain prayerful that the various discussions will lead to spiritual growth for many.” Though this may look like another call to agnosticism, in church lingo it means “may God give you a lobotomy so you understand that I am right in all things.” Pastor Tim concludes by saying this has been a learning experience for him. Which I think is very accurate, in the way that Nixon said Watergate was a learning experience too (like “learn not to get revealed to the press”).
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