Southern Religion

Another Southern Baptist church calls a woman pastor & debate ensues

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.

Mark R. Krieger of Easley, citing the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) and 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1, writes:

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.

Yet it is the ax of inquisitional disfellowshipping that typically falls next, with enforcement of the BF&M 2000 as a creed.

After much Batholicism, some local Southern Baptist association, state convention and/or the SBC is one vigorously innovative church less than it was before.

Is that Savonarola burning I smell, or merely the Southern Baptist Convention, smoldering?


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.


March 19, 2010 - Posted by | SBC | , , , , ,


  1. “The Prince of Peace with an axe?” Spoken like someone without a full understanding of the full nature of God.

    Comment by Clark Bates | March 19, 2010

    • You add an “e” to “ax” and make it into a saxophone. How lyrical. Play on.

      Comment by baptistplanet | March 20, 2010

  2. Maybe when the SBC gets done with removing churches from fellowship for the sake of doctrinal purity there will finally remain one last doctrinally pure individual left in the SBC. Thankfully the rest of Christianity will be richer from the benefit of having churches following the power of God in their lives. The SBC claims only to follow Scripture; however, it seems that they want people to only follow THEIR interpretation of scripture. When did the Baptists elect a Pope? Maybe these churches are not being kicked out. Maybe they are leaving behind the tyranny of the imagined authority of the SBC.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 19, 2010

  3. Ray Elder’s “ax to grind” is grating and flippant. He is writing about a Southern Baptist point of pride for the conservatives who “took over.” Pride. One of the seven deadly sins. Can there be a sin lurking out of sight beneath all of that scriptural exegesis, like an alligator in a black water swamp hole? Is that why the SBC is shrinking?

    Comment by Anonymous | March 19, 2010

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