Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Expelling churches with women pastors: Unstated reasons

I grant that the Surry Baptist Association expelled their member church because they believe that having a woman as pastor is biblically prohibited and harmful to their wonderful unity.

No one else will say it but there are other reasons why we expel churches with women pastors. I often write humor pieces. This isn't one.

1. A church that has called a female pastor is an easy target.

As was said elsewhere, "What do you need to know besides the gender?" Right-O. I take it that the brothers in Surry Association knew enough, once the gender was known, not to believe that much else was necessary.

We Southern Baptist pastors like easy targets and simple decisions. No fuss, no muss, no bother. And it doesn't get any easier and simpler than this.

2. We savor the ability to be selective in our discipline.

And there is no safer selective decision than this one. After all, we're men, right? No one can do this to us because we have gender immunity.

I humbly acknowledge the basis for such decisions, our Baptist Faith and Message Statement, which says,
While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Not much wiggle room there. Commenters have put it succinctly that those who believe in women pastors and those who don't cannot both be right. I can't argue with that.

Perhaps we could check the sentence that precedes the one quoted above:
[The church's] scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.
Many SBC churches now have the office of Elder. This is a direct violation of the BFM. That manner of church organization is defined as unbiblical.

What shall we do with those? Expel them? Alas, Plodder isn't hearing the clamor for the same from where he sits and types. Perhaps elsewhere in the SBC hinterlands such sins are rooted out and churches dispatched for such things.

Surry Association waited less than a week to initiate discipline against Flat Rock Baptist Church. Where are those with a burning, unquenchable zeal for purity who will lead the associations in excising the sinful, unbiblical practice of Elder rule?

Lest we forget, both the BFM and Surry Association point to 1 Timothy 3 in regard to scriptural qualifications. That passage says in part that an overseer must be:
the husband of one wife...sensible...respectable...not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not who manages his own household competently...a good reputation among outsiders...

"Not a bully"? I know quite a few pastors who are bullies. Where is the zeal against those? I know pastors who are quarrelsome, who are greedy, who are appallingly poor managers of their households, and some who have disastrously poor reputations in the community. Where is the zeal against those?

To understand Surry Association's action you need only know one thing: They know how to spot a woman in a pulpit. The scripture about what overseers "must" be is, manifestly, just words on a page fit to be ignored.

3. Pastors know how to manage a career in this business.

I know a few pastors. I've got friends who are pastors. I hear a lot about pastors and it is the rare pastor who is not looking ahead to (a) a larger church, (b) an appointment to some committee or board, and/or (c) a future paycheck from some denominational entity. In fact, an ambitious pastor can make his bones in situations like this one. Conversely, if a pastor is on the 'wrong' side of a question like this, it can follow him forever. There is (Gasp!) ambition among us pastors. And pastors know what greases the skids for their future. They also know how to avoid the potholes.

No, I certainly do not know the state-of-mind of the brethren in Surry Association, but no pastor can say with a straight face that motives are pure for all who are involved in this.

I still would not vote to expel a church from my association if they called a female pastor. We all make our decisions. Mine is not particularly courageous, as some have labeled it. I merely see it as both reasonable and Christian.

I just wish that if we are as Southern Baptists going to follow this pattern in our associations, state conventions, and SBC, we would be honest about it.


Tom Parker said...


Once again an excellent post!! Many who do not know me would never realize just how much I love the Baptist way. I bleed Southern Baptist but as you have said SB just do not use these scriptures in a fair way.

To be truthful it blows my mind and repells me from people of this mindset.

They think they are doing such a great thing when it is the exact opposite.

I thank you once again for giving me hope that not every Pastor in the SB has what I would call the hardcore CR mindset because other than Howell Scott very few seem to be willing to even recognize Ms. Nelson as a human being.

Howell Scott said...


I guess you won't be running for office in the Convention anytime soon, either! The logic and reasonableness with which you laid out your argument is beautifully crafted. I might think that you were a lawyer at one point, but I won't lay that burden on you as well. :-) I will be curious to see the responses, but I'm not sure how one could refute what you say, at least not in a reasonable and coherent way. Thanks again and have a great day,


Joe Blackmon said...

not to believe that much else was necessary.

Nothing else was necessary. They violated scripture.

"Not a bully"? I know [SNIP SNIP] against those?

Ah, please, enlighten your readers the names of churches and associations that say it's ok to have a bully, etc, in the pulpit. Please. Surely you can name one that says it's ok?

Yeah, I didn't think you could.

Thanks for proving why any conservatives in the CR got WAY better than they deserved.

Word verification: olfndy Ol' fundy? I can live with that.

Tom Parker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Parker said...


Following up on what William said about running for office, sadly you are probably finished not only nationally, state or local offices.

You're just much to reasoned for these folks.

I say sadly you will experience personally what the CR has been doing to folks for years.

Howell Scott said...


As to national offices within the SBC, I doubt I'll be nominated to serve as a Trustee of any of the entities any time soon. Thankfully, as regards the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and the Mountain Valley Baptist Association (where our DOM and his wife are members of our church), I'm not at all concerned. I have discovered in my four years in the desert SW that NM Baptists are not exactly like Southern Baptists in the South. Doctrinally conservative, but more laid back than in the South. In some ways, very refreshing. Thanks and God bless,


Joe Blackmon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Parker said...


You said:"I'm not at all concerned. I have discovered in my four years in the desert SW that NM Baptists are not exactly like Southern Baptists in the South. Doctrinally conservative, but more laid back than in the South. In some ways, very refreshing. Thanks and God bless,"

That is refreshing to me to know that that there are some conservative SB that are laid back instead of those that are constantly in attack mode.

William Thornton said...

Joe and Tom either or both may email me. There's no point in discussions about commenters here.

Joe, pick any association if you want names of ones who have never disciplined churches for bullying pastors. The closest associaiton to you will qualify.

And, Joe, I don't mind being told I'm wrong or being criticized by commenters who identify themselves. Feel free to do either or both of those. If you can't leave off the vitriol, don't comment. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Personally I could not care less if a Baptist church calls a woman pastor. Since we believe in autonomy then we shouldn't get all worked up. I believe in elders and Baptist churches don't seem to want those either. But then, they aren't members of my church and don't get to make that decision.

I do however like your blog post. I think you did a great job. Maybe we should put you in charge of policing Baptist churches around the country.

David Montoya said...


In many ways it is a liberating thing to know you will never be "picked" to serve on a committee or have to worry about a career.

I have people on both side of the old Baptist wars who hate me. I have do not have a "career". It is so refreshing to know that if I ever leave the church I now serve it will be because of God. It builds one's faith to know you have only the Lord to depend upon.

David Montoya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Parker said...


Do you think SBA will disfellowship any other associational church for any issue other than having a woman pastor.

It would be interesting to know how many churches the SBA has disfellowshiped over the years and the reasons.

Matt Richard said...

Great Post.

William Thornton said...

There's not a lot of mystery about this business of exoulsion. It would be very difficult to manage any attempt to expand it. Women pastors, charismatics...that's about it.

Quarrelsome pastors or other unbiblical practices, associations consider to be an internal local church matter.

Perhaps we would be better off treating women pastors as a local church matter as well.

foxofbama said...

I think the blog inflections of Chuck Warnock on Lottie Moon--best review of Regina Sullivan's book to date with our friend W. Thornton's offerings here deserving several honorable mentions--is instructive for Local Church expulsion matters.
Not to stray too far afield, but the NPR fresh air discussion yesterday on WWI, the first World War and conscientious objectors and how they became isolated from Society is seems to have considerable legitimate resonance for where David Montoya finds himself in Baptist life.
I think something else may be going on in my friend Montoya's case, but there is enough analogy I think it worth a google for him.
And if our friend William continues to blog in his latest vein, he may find himself doing the Lord's Supper with Montoya and me someday, though of course I'm sure there is worse company.
Marilynne Robinson is right, There is a sense in which all of us are an aesthetic unto oneself.
At same time my Grandfather's sweet fellowship in his local Baptist Church remains a community to yearn for.