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.