Put a woman in the pulpit and the ax of Southern Baptist discipline falls. The Georgia Baptist Convention is preparing to disfellowship Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta because the Reverend Mimi Walker is a co-pastor there. While critics write the South Carolina Baptist Courier to abjure Eau Claire Baptist Church for calling Kelly Dickerson Strum to be co-pastor, one suggesting that church discipline is in order.
Yet amid the recurrent revelations of Southern Baptist pastoral sexual abuse, again documented by Christa Brown, no equivalent scripture-laced outpourings about applying the force of denominational discipline to the protection of the young from sexual wolves in Baptist clerical cloth. Or disfellowship of churches which ship predators of the cloth along to other congregations without a word of warning.
Oh no. Policy is clear: Women in the pulpit are a danger to the entire denomination. As are homosexuals welcomed into the pews. For the proliferation of predators, however, Southern Baptist Churches are autonomous. No denominational consequence for negligence.
Debated has erupted in the South Carolina Baptist Courier, over the decision of Columbia’s Eau Claire Baptist Church to call Kelly Dickerson Strum to be co-pastor.
Unlike Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., with which the Georgia Baptist Convention is set to cut ties over Mimi Walker’s role as pastor, this appointment has apparently not invoked formal exception.
The debate in the letters section of the South Carolina’s Southern Baptist state newspaper has taken what has become an almost classical form, however, beginning with an objection to the announced calling.
After my study, I found there is no biblical support for women to be ordained as a pastor of a New Testament church. As our Baptist Faith and Message puts it, men and women have gifts for service in the church, but pastor is not one of those women are gifted for.
Richard E. Moore of Columbia, a member of Eau Claire Baptist, responds with both an appeal to church autonomy and a personal example:
In addition to the Scripture referenced by Mr. Krieger, I would like to share some other verses: Proverbs 3:6, Philippians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Matthew 28:19-20 and, probably most on point, Galatians 3:28 and Acts 2:17. Having two small granddaughters of my own, it saddens me to think of young women being taught that these verses might apply only to males. Throughout the history of Christianity there are examples of how the Bible has been used to justify discrimination of one kind or another against our fellow human beings. We all know that all human beings are made in God’s image and that, as Christians, we all become children of God, but maybe Fred Craddock was correct when he wrote that “learning what we already know is painfully difficult.”
Ray Elder of Ridgeland then comes with an ax:
The autonomy of the local church has become a “trump card,” allowing any given congregation to do as it pleases with little or no accountability to the Scripture. The New Testament concept of autonomy is summed up in The Baptist Faith and Message as it states:
“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers ‘governed by His laws ‘” (Article VI).
Autonomy in the local church never trumps accountability to the Scriptures!
Although associations had no official authority over the church in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, local churches were held accountable to the Scriptures by the associations through censorship from participation. (See Mark Dever, “Polity,” Nine Marks Ministries, 2001). Where there is a clear violation of Scripture, associations and conventions are responsible to hold churches accountable to the Scriptures to protect the integrity of the body, which was the New Testament pattern. The head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, might well have an ax to grind with the church today concerning the autonomy of the local church versus accountability to the Scriptures.
The Prince of Peace with an ax? The scripture doesn’t lead Southern Baptists like Wade Burleson to that conclusion.
After much Batholicism, some local Southern Baptist association, state convention and/or the SBC is one vigorously innovative church less than it was before.
Cody Sanders, a doctoral student at Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, writes:
Our ever-narrowing confessions of faith, enforcement of theological homogeneity and proliferation of churches expelled from denominational and associational bodies seem to suggest that the commitments that have historically set us apart as Baptists don’t really matter to us anyway.