The Georgia Baptist Convention very soon will disfellowship another church for the terrible "sin" of calling a woman pastor. This time it's Druid Hills Baptist Church (DHBC) in Atlanta, as they recently voted to appoint the pastor's wife, Mimi Walker, to the position of co-pastor along side her husband, Graham Walker (both at left). The ABP reports that a GBC meeting will occur in Albany, Georgia this fall to vote to give GBC the right boot of (dis)fellowship.
Last year the GBC disfellowshipped the First Baptist Church of Decatur for hiring Julie Pennington-Russell as their pastor.
Most of the banter on the Internet over the Decator and Druid Hills matters has been about church autonomy - that is, whether a state baptist organization should be involved in disfellowshipping a church for exercising their right to hire a female pastor. Certainly some believe hiring a female pastor to be contrary to scripture, but it is not a primary doctrinal matter. Neither Pennington nor Walker are in "sin", they are exercising their God-given gifts to minister as appointed by their church congregations. If their churches want to call women pastors, so be it. Plenty of SBC churches ordain women deacons, while many conservative churches would never do that. And the scripture quoted above could be used for this justification - its pretty clear - women should be quiet in church, not speak, and should ask their husbands if they have a question...or do I need to understand the Greek to interpret that?
It is clear: neither Druid Hills Baptist Church, or the most conservative SBC church abides by the very clear scripture that women should keep their mouths shut and direct all questions to their hubbies. Women speak in church. They hold leadership positions. They teach Sunday School classes. They are "directors" on staff. How can this be, given that very clear scripture? Because, obviously, they all interpret that scripture to mean something different than how it actually reads.
I'm not arguing either side on women pastors. I'm saying that there is no uniform agreement amongst SBC churches as to what scripture means on the role of women in the church. Some ordain women deacons, some do not. Some allow women to teach co-ed Sunday School classes, some do not. Some churches hire full time staffers that give them supervisory responsibility over paid male staffers and lay persons, while some churches do not.
And Druid Hills Baptist Church believes they are within the bounds of their interpretation of scripture to hire a female co-pastor. Before the typical cast of (male) characters comes here and blasts this as an "antimoniam" blog, I would ask them if in their churches they are abiding by 1 Tim 1:11-12 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. No, they are not, and their wives wouldn't stand for it, nor would any women in their churches, and they have interpreted those scriptures to mean something other than what the scripture says. I'm ok with that, until they start calling for the disfellowshipping of a church that inteprets that scripture different from THEIR interpretation.
But what sickens me even more than that this intolerance over tertiary doctrinal matters, is the hypocrisy in disfellowshipping a church whose congregation calls a co pastor, while other churches who have defacto female "co pastors" go untouched. I maintain that Druid Hills has done what many baptist churches have already done, in hiring and paying the pastor's wife as a "co pastor".
Two examples: Mac and Debbie Brunson at First Baptist of Jacksonville, and Ed and Lisa Young at Fellowship Church in Fort Worth.
First, Debbie Brunson: It can be argued that Debbie Brunson is a co-pastor of FBC Jacksonville with her husband, Mac Brunson. Sure, she is not called a "co pastor", but she occupies office space in the pastor's lavish pastor suite. She is not a secretary, as the Brunson's have a pastoral secretary in the pastor's suite with them. If she is NOT the co-pastor, whatever position she DOES hold is not clear as her position has not been posted anywhere on the website. This is not meant as a criticism of Mac and Debbie - I'm merely pointing out that they minister together, she was hired by Mac, and it can be argued that she serves as a de facto female co pastor. Also: Debbie Brunson has recorded several TV commercials - one with Mac and one with the women's ministry director at FBC Jax - so both she and Mac are the face of FBC Jax in the community, further evidence of her role as co-pastor. I'm told she participates in staff meetings, and is very involved as a leader at the church in staffing decisions. I'm also told her salary is very generous, more than the average SBC pastor even. Mac himself admits that women are "more sensitive to the Holy Spirit" than men, and to his credit Mac understands the value of his wife assisting him in ministry.
In my opinion, Debbie Brunson is a de facto co-pastor with her husband.
But the difference is Druid Hills dared to make their co-pastor official. They dared to vote on it OFFICIALLY and announce that they have a female co-pastor. They dared to allow the church to VOTE on hiring her. For some reason, FBC Jax doesn't officially tell anyone what Deb Brunson's position is in the church.
I believe Lisa Young is the de facto co-pastor at Fellowship Church with her husband.
The arguments against this will be that neither Debbie Brunson nor Lisa Young preach in the church services, while Mimi Walker does. True. However, again, the scripture I've quoted above seems to be pretty clear - women should not speak, and its obvious they should not have leadership over men. If you don't think the male staffers at FBC Jax and Fellowship Church answer to Debbie Brunson's and Lisa Young's de facto leadership, you're crazy. They are there, they are visible, and their presence is felt.
Also, I know of churches that allow women to teach men in co-ed Sunday School classes - yet these churches are not disfellowshipped.
So what's my point? My point is that why not let these churches decide for themselves who to call as pastor or co-pastor, who to ordain as deacons, and who to teach Sunday School? Its called church autonomy. How many times have critics of this blog told me to butt out of their business? Those at Dallas will likely say the same when we discuss their proposed "Crystal Campus" starting next week. And spare me the argument that female pastors are a slippery slope to ordaining homosexual pastors. Homosexuality is a sin, and last time I checked being a female is not a sin, so these two issues are not related except in the minds of men who really don't want to see women teaching in a pulpit because, well, they don't like it.
Those in SBC leadership today should hope that a group more conservative than they doesn't gain control some day, and disfellowship them for allowing women to walk around church with their heads uncovered, speaking and daring to look men in the eye and ask them questions.
I hope the Walkers at DHBC stand strong, and present a strong defense in the meeting this fall prior to the vote, and that other churches and pastors in Georgia will come to their defense.