US Southern Baptist Church considers ban on women pastors


First Baptist Church of Alexandria Faces Possible Expulsion from Southern Baptist Convention

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

From its towering white steeple and red-brick facade to its Sunday services filled with rousing gospel hymns and evangelistic sermons, First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, exemplifies a classic Southern Baptist church. On a recent Sunday, its pastor for women and children, Kim Eskridge, encouraged members to invite friends and neighbors to an upcoming vacation Bible school, a traditional Baptist activity, to help “reach families in the community with the gospel.”

However, because Eskridge is a woman, First Baptist’s membership in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) may soon end. At the SBC’s annual meeting on June 11-12 in Indianapolis, representatives will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban churches with any women pastors, not just in the senior pastor role. This measure received overwhelming approval in a preliminary vote last year.

Leaders of First Baptist, which has contributed millions to Southern Baptist causes and has been part of the convention since its 19th-century founding, are preparing for possible expulsion. “We are grieved at the direction the SBC has taken,” the church said in a statement.

This proposed ban could affect hundreds of congregations, particularly impacting predominantly Black churches. The controversy began two years ago when a Virginia pastor reported that First Baptist and four nearby churches were “out of step” with the denomination’s doctrine, which states that only men can be pastors. The SBC Credentials Committee initiated a formal inquiry in April.

Southern Baptists are divided on which ministry roles this doctrine applies to. Some believe it pertains only to senior pastors, while others think it includes anyone who preaches and exercises spiritual authority. Critics argue that the convention shouldn’t impose a constitutional rule based on one interpretation of its non-binding doctrinal statement, given the Baptist tradition of local church autonomy.

While women in pastoral roles are present in hundreds of SBC-linked churches, this represents a fraction of the nearly 47,000 churches in the denomination. Critics warn that the amendment would further narrow the denomination, which has become increasingly conservative over the years.

The SBC has also struggled with sexual abuse cases. Recently, a former professor at a Southern Baptist seminary in Texas was indicted for falsifying a record related to alleged sexual abuse. SBC membership has declined below 13 million, a nearly half-century low, and baptismal rates are in long-term decline.

If passed, the amendment would not prompt an immediate purge but would require significant effort from denominational leaders to investigate and oust churches. Many predominantly Black churches have male senior pastors but assign pastor titles to women in other areas, such as worship and children’s ministries.

Pastor Gregory Perkins, president of the SBC’s National African American Fellowship, criticized the proposed amendment, stating that it “dishonors the spirit of cooperation and the guiding tenets of our denomination.”

Proponents argue that the SBC needs to reinforce its doctrinal statement, the Baptist Faith and Message, which restricts the office of pastor to men. Mike Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Virginia, emphasized the importance of standing firm on this issue.

Despite Baptist churches being independent, the convention can decide which churches to include or exclude. The Executive Committee has already started removing churches with women pastors, including Saddleback Church of California. The proposed amendment would formalize and strengthen such actions.

Some churches with women pastors have already left the SBC, including Elevation Church in North Carolina and First Baptist of Richmond, Virginia. Law suggested that the issue of women pastors is a warning sign for liberal denominations, which often move towards ordaining LGBTQ+ individuals.

However, other denominations with women pastors remain theologically conservative. Some SBC churches interpret the 2000 faith statement as applying only to senior pastors, allowing women to serve in other pastoral roles. These churches may leave if SBC leaders interfere with their autonomy.

First Baptist of Alexandria, whose senior pastor is male, recognizes “God’s calling to ordain any qualified individual, male or female, for pastoral ministry.” The church plans to send representatives to the SBC annual meeting but has been warned that a motion may be made to deny them voting privileges.

The SBC’s top administrative body opposes the amendment, arguing that investigating churches’ compliance would be unsustainable. Baptist Women in Ministry, which supports women in Baptist ministry, plans to release a documentary highlighting trailblazers for women in ministry on the eve of the SBC meeting.

“As they are saying women have less value to God than men in the church, we want to make sure that women know they do have equal value and that there are no limits to how they follow Christ in the work of the church,” said the Rev. Meredith Stone, the group’s executive director.

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

Share post:



More like this

Stanbic IBTC Insurance Launches Education Endowment Plan for Children

June 21, 2024. Azonuchechi Chukwu. Stanbic IBTC Insurance has launched its...

Nigeria gets AfDB’s $15 Million loan address Infrastructure Financing 

June 21, 2024. Azonuchechi Chukwu. The African Development Bank (AfDB) and...

South Africa Reshapes its Democracy, Shows Readiness for Economic Transformation

June 21, 2024. Azonuchechi Chukwu. By Professor Maurice Okoli South Africa's historic...

Naira Depreciates Further to N1,485.36/$1 at Official Market

June 21, 2024. Azonuchechi Chukwu. The Naira continued its fall against...
× How can I help you?