Apparently, the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC)--the state convention of the SBC in Georgia--approved a policy this week, which gives them the ability to refuse funds from Georgia Baptist churches who have women for pastors. While the policy is broadly written, it is clearly aimed at the one and only church which falls under its guidelines--First Baptist Decatur, a church that has given the GBC millions of dollars since 1862.
"I kept waiting for someone from the Georgia Baptist Convention to call us or come visit with me and other leaders of our church to inform us that these matter were being discussed," said FBD's pastor, Julie Pennington-Russell, who was not present when the policy was been discussed. "I assumed that a 146-year relationship was worth, at very least, a personal conversation."
I haven't totally made up my mind on women in ministry, and I know many sound theologians on both sides of the issue. But regardless of whether women should be pastors or not, this is disturbing. When the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, the founders issued the following statement: "We have constructed for our basis no new creed; acting in this manner upon a Baptist aversion for all creeds, but the Bible." In other words, what historically binds Southern Baptists is not specifically-outlined doctrines, but rather a commitment to the word of God.
Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics--they are all, to varying degrees, bound by theological doctrine. But Baptists have never been. That is what makes being a Baptist so great, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic echelons in our denomination seem to swell daily and the list of requirements to actively participate seems to get longer and longer. The message we send is, "either step in line or get out!" When Southern Baptists make non-essentials a prerequisite for participation, we promote unnecessary division and actually cease to be Baptist.
If anyone is taking a count, chalk this one up as reason #47 that the SBC is shrinking: Making non-essentials a prerequisite for denominational participation.
Dare I ask ... Anyone disagree with me on this?