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baptist watch

Well, it was just a matter of time before SBC-ers started weighing in on Julie Pennington-Russsell's call to the senior pastorate at First Baptist Decatur. While I was over either the U.S. or the Atlantic, Al Mohler posted his comments on the situation. That's all I've really seen, but then again, I've been busy. (I am ignoring the fact that the fine folks at Free Republic tagged a story about Julie P-R with the words "apostasy," "feminazis," and "heresy." Classy.)

Big Daddy Weave points out an important criticism: that Mohler is apparently unaware that Pennington-Russell has been a leader in moderate Baptist life for quite some time.

Here's the part of Mohler's post that bothers me most:

The issue of conviction is central to understanding this issue. A look at Julie Pennington-Russell's education, experience, and related qualifications would appear to qualify her for a major pulpit . . . except for the fact that she is a woman. On that point both sides in the controversy over women in ministry should agree. Those opposed to the service of women in the pastorate are not arguing that women are less articulate, less bright, less winsome, less caring, or less educated. Gender is the issue.

For those who support and celebrate women as pastors, this singular concern is irrational. For those who believe that the Bible is clear that only men should be pastors, this singular concern is non-negotiable.

He's right in identifying the key issue in the split between moderates and conservatives over the role of women in ministry. But what infuriates me time and time again in these debates is something that Mohler and many other conservatives tend to ignore: the issue of calling. "Education, experience, and related qualifications" are of course important, but the key to understanding why someone becomes a pastor (both in the general sense, and in terms of serving at a particular church) is God's call. I've never seen a satisfactory answer from any conservative, Mohler included, to the question at the heart of the issue: what happens when a woman feels certain that God has called her to pastor, and when that call is confirmed by her mentors and church community? I'd imagine that Mohler would argue that God simply doesn't call women to be pastors.

But what if God does? This is what frustrates me about conservative Southern Baptists: the determination that there are limits to what God can and will do, and that we know those limits based on our understanding of the Bible. How can you build a fence around God? Doesn't the Bible show us that God is continually ripping apart our codes of holiness and correct conduct (what The Preacher referred to as "purity codes" in a sermon a couple of weeks back.) to draw us into deeper waters?

The other question is whether the SBC will continue to accept Cooperative Program dollars from FBC Decatur. Approximately 20% of members allocate their missions giving to the CP. I would hope that the SBC would be wise enough not to reject funding for missions in the name of taking a stand on this issue. I hope it will be a non-issue. But the convention is this week, and you never know what someone will try.

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Blogger Angela said...

Oh, I could say so much here; but I will hold my tongue, except to agree that the person/deity whose opinion counts is God. If someone feels called, who am I to say they aren't? Or who is Al Mohler, for that matter? That's between them and God. Period. We are each called to faithfully use the gifts we have been given to serve God and his Kingdom in the way he deems appropriate.

Thursday, June 07, 2007 10:32:00 AM

Blogger Sam Davidson said...

Really good thoughts here. Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, June 07, 2007 10:38:00 AM

Blogger Coleman Fannin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, June 07, 2007 2:14:00 PM

Anonymous rp said...

Coleman is right on target regarding the role of the community in discernment. The irony of course is that we baptists have been so focused on the inidividual and her/his relationship to God that one would think this just MIGHT apply when one hears a call on their life regarding ministry. And of course, hasn't it always been the oddest of things that women can be called by God to EVERYTHING else but to preach; as if God's call is so crystal clear that one could write down the audible words, "You should be a children's minister! Got that! NOT A PREACHER!! I said a CHILDREN'S MINISTER!!"...I mean, its a Louis Black comedy routine waiting to happen!

Thursday, June 07, 2007 5:16:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

There are inerrantists who believe the New Testament permits women to be pastors. The issue is one of calling, yes, and one of biblical interpretation--but Mohler & Co. make it sound like any disagreement with them is a denial of biblical authority. No, what is denied is MOHLER'S authority.

I admit to being biased at this point: my pastor (Cindy Weber) is a woman and I am married to another Baptist minister (Kate Westmoreland-White), who, because of the shortage of pulpits open to women has only ever been an interim pastor (along with children's minister, minister to the homeless, associate pastor, etc.) and now works for the City of Louisville, instead.

Friday, June 08, 2007 7:53:00 AM

Anonymous rp said...

Michael, when you and I read it, its "interpretation"...when Al reads it, it's "the truth"...And "the truth" that he knows cannot be allowed to be confused or altered by any of this "interpretation" stuff....He just "knows what he knows"which is that God would not call a woman to be pastor...And what I think they mean by "pastor" is not the shepherding aspects of the calling but a)preaching and b)leader of a church....so, its probably okay for God to call a woman to do everything else but those two...

Friday, June 08, 2007 8:39:00 AM


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