On November 11, 2009 the Georgia Baptist Convention adopted a policy that ended its 148 year relationship with First Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia. According to the Associated Baptist News,
Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell read a letter at the end of both worship services Nov. 15 from Robert White, executive director of the 1.3 million-member state convention. It informed her that messengers to the group’s recent annual meeting took action to declare them “not a cooperating church,” because “a woman is serving as senior pastor.”
The policy that declared the First Baptist Church in Decatur as officially disfellowshipped, resulted from a strict enforcement of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BFM 2000) which made the issues of women pastors as a cause for dividing the church. No longer is there room for personal conscience as far as women leaders in the church. Wade Burleson writes that it is dangerous thinking to make the Baptist Faith & Message tier 1 primary doctrine so that “if a Southern Baptist expresses any disagreement with any portion of the BFM 2000, he is not a true Southern Baptist and is not worthy of leadership in the SBC. ”
Burleson goes on to explain why this thinking is so dangerous.
It is more ‘cultic’ than it is Baptist. If a Southern Baptist cannot point out where he/she believes the BFM 2000 is in contradiction with Scripture we are in trouble. In fact, if a Southern Baptist voices a disagreement with some of the interpretations of tertiary doctrines found within the BFM 2000, and we then begin to ‘question’ that Southern Baptist’s conservative credentials, we have prostituted our heritage as Baptists. Why? We will have placed ourselves in the very bizarre place of having people in the SBC being called ‘liberal’ when they champion their belief of the authority of the Bible over a man-made confession. Think about it — in 2007 it is possible for Southern Baptists to call ‘a liberal’ someone within the convention whose conscience is bound to the Word of God, and not the BFM 2000!
Burleson warned that the BFM 2000 used as a tool to force creedal interpretations of secondary doctrines beyond the intention of the BFM 2000 could tear about the Southern Baptist Convention. Burleson writes:
Even worse, we now have people in the SBC who are attempting to move the entire convention to an acceptance of interpretations of tertiary doctrines that go far BEYOND those contained in the BFM 2000. Those who are demanding conformity to policies and guidelines that are based upon specific interpretations of tertiary doctrines, without giving room for disagreement, will ultimately destroy our cooperating convention.
The ABP reports Julie Pennington-Russell’s reaction to the disfellowshipping of her church.
“Obviously the severing of relationship after so many years is unfortunate and gives the world-at-large another reason to conclude that Baptists care more about putting people out than gathering them in,” Pennington-Russell said in an e-mail Nov. 16. “At the same time, I don’t think this came as a surprise to many in our congregation and to be honest, having a Southern Baptist affiliation has not been especially helpful when it comes to connecting with our largely unchurched community.”
The Southern Baptist Convention amended their doctrinal statement in 2000 to include the following statement about women pastors:
While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Some who have taken this statement as a means to break fellowship with fellow Christians and sister Churches have also seen fit to remove women from teaching in Bible Colleges. Apparently women’s gifts are not welcome in the area of Biblical languages either as the policy of restricting women’s gifts spreads to the seminaries and beyond. Dr. Sheri Klouda found out that her credentials in Hebrew and her exemplary work as a teacher were not enough to stop her from being removed from Southwestern Theological Seminary for being a woman teacher. In a turn-about after Paige Patterson became president of Southwestern, the issue of women teachers was made a doctrinal issue even though the BFM 2000 did not forbid women from teaching nor was Southwestern Seminary considered a Church.
Paige Patterson apparently is one who believes that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is far too weak to be effective on the issue of women in ministry. Recently he adopted a new policy at Southwestern Theological Seminary making the Danver’s statement mandatory in the hiring and evaluation processes of the seminary. It appears that women need no longer apply for teaching jobs at Southwestern unless they are willing to teach cooking, cleaning, sewing or dining etiquette.
Is the Holy Spirit no longer allowed to do His work in churches, seminaries, homes and marriages? Apparently there is a groundswell movement to restrict women to certain “roles” and there is even a teaching that unless women stay in their God-ordained “roles” as wives and mothers and refrain from teaching men, God will remove His hand of protection from them and allow them to be deceived by satan.
Did God really create a threat that He will open women up to deception if they don’t accept that there is a God-ordained office in the church that can make pope-like decisions on what a woman is or isn’t allowed to do that will qualify as staying within her “role”? CBMW has made a black, white and grey list of things that may or may not be restricted to woman. It appeared necessary to them since no such list could be found in the Bible. The one thing that we do find in the Scriptures in regard to spiritual gifts and the authorized use of these gifts is found in 1 Peter 4:10, 11.
1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Holy Spirit who gifts us as members of the church also authorizes our use of the gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. What God has authorized and gifted let no man call unnecessary or restricted from common use (1 Cor. 12:21).
It is time to wake up and see what is happening to the body of Christ. When men interpret the Scriptures out of its context in order to restrict God’s Holy Spirit when He is working within women, it is time to speak up. It is not necessary to divide over this issue or to disfellowship Christians and churches for allowing the Holy Spirit to use godly Christian women in the gifts and authority to use those gifts that He has given them. If we fight against our sisters in Christ, we are fighting the Holy Spirit and grieving Him. We are not restricting our sisters in Christ half as much as we are restricting the Holy Spirit who desires to work in and through these women.