Southern Religion

Burleson’s call for Southern Baptist church autonomy in setting the role of women

Intransigence over permitting women to serve as pastors and deacons is among the principal forces grinding the Southern Baptist Convention down.

Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson this week takes a clear stand for further discussion and an end to the denomination-destroying disfellowships over the issue. The outspoken former member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board writes:

Let me be clear though. I am not advocating that a church should call a woman as pastor. Nor am I advocating that a church should always and only call a male pastor. I am simply open to the arguments on both sides. I see my brothers and sisters in Christ on the opposite spectrum of this issue being both Bible-believing followers of Christ who have simply reached different conclusions on this issue.

Without blinking, he forecasts an eventual conclusion for that dialog:

More pointedly, I would like to make a prediction. History will one day look back on this issue of “women” pastors in the SBC as we now look back on slavery within our Convention.

Meanwhile, the inquisitorial process of refusing to accept donations from or give aid to churches that do choose to, for example, call women as senior pastors, should end. He has demonstrated in previous blog entries that the process is at best only denying the church ministerial talent it desperately needs — a view which has abundant support elsewhere.

In this case, however, Burleson finds theological and other support among inerrantists who are otherwise in theological step with the SBC’s conservative leadership. Specifically, “John Zens (Are the Sisters Free to Function), theologian Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian (Beyond Sex Roles), and the ongoing ministry of Christians for Biblical Equality.

Absent an end to the current, ongoing intolerance, he foresees unreversed decline. He writes:

Bottom line, Southern Baptists too often pronounce judgment and condemnation before we dialogue, reflect and consider the consequences of our anathemas. I am simply asking for dialogue, patience and Christian grace. Let’s cooperate, not separate. We unite because of Christ and the glorious gospel, and we fund our kingdom work through the Cooperative Program. If we keep moving down the line toward of disfellowshipping from churches that interpret the Bible different than we do, then we ought to change the Cooperative Program’s name to the Conformity Program. If we don’t stop the nonsense of narrower and narrower parameters of fellowship and cooperation, then pretty soon the SBC will be the size of a mega church and not the largest Protestant denomination in the western world.

January 29, 2009 - Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , ,


  1. I’m sorry, but why is this even a conversation? Is there a single logical reason that women should not be pastors? The Bible was written a very long time ago, and while I believe the Word is meant to be enduring, I am sure that God meant for our interpretations to evolve. Just my thoughts,



    Comment by billieflynn | January 29, 2009

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  3. Certainly, Billie, this is a debate among the fundamentalists of the Southern Baptist Convention.
    I was reared a Methodist (a denomination which ordains women and accepts them as senior pastors) and am a Presbyterian (PCUSA, where women are ordained as ministers, elders and deacons).
    The theological contradictions between either denomination and the Southern Baptist Convention are considerable. Almost as large as between you and the SBC.
    With the conservative takeover, the SBC moved to “subjugate” women while at the same time promising that the fundamentalist “renewal” would be blessed with membership growth and so on.
    That “subjugation” is being debated now not because its sponsors have changed their theological minds but because the SBC as a denomination is shrinking (not growing) and SBC women are beginning rebel.
    For the most part, I agree with you.
    I assume an SBC fundamentalist will eventually let us both know where he or she believes we err theologically.

    Comment by gwfrink3 | January 29, 2009

  4. Thanks for the well thought out comment. Isn’t it unfortunate that people don’t generally change because it’s right that they should, but because they have no choice. I will await the tongue lashing. Billie

    Comment by billieflynn | January 29, 2009

  5. Applause, not tongue-lashing. It is unfortunate. I think even Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson may agree with you that all of this was avoidable, given somewhat more thought and generosity of heart.

    Comment by baptistplanet | January 29, 2009

  6. Tongue-lashing? From me? Never. Lovely comment.

    Comment by gwfrink3 | January 30, 2009

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