Southern Baptists expel Virginia church for believing girls can function pastors


Even as they put together to vote on a proper ban on church buildings with girls pastors, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention annual assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday as well one such church from its ranks.


FILE – An Attendee holds up a poll throughout the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual assembly in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Thousands will collect in Indianapolis, June 11-12, 2024, for the annual assembly of the Southern Baptist Convention. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)(AP/Jae C. Hong)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Even as they put together to vote on a proper ban on church buildings with girls pastors, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention annual assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday as well one such church from its ranks.

Messengers, as voting representatives are recognized, voted 6,759 to 563 to oust First Baptist Church of Alexandria, a historic Virginia congregation that affirms girls can serve in any pastoral function, together with as senior pastor. An identical state of affairs performed out eventually 12 months’s assembly. Two congregations, together with a well known California megachurch, have been ejected from the conference. Ninety-two p.c of messengers authorized the ouster.

The Virginia congregation has been concerned within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination since its nineteenth century founding and has contributed hundreds of thousands towards denominational causes. But it got here beneath scrutiny after the pastor of a neighboring church reported it to denominational authorities over its having a girl as pastor for ladies and kids.

The vote got here after the denomination’s credentials committee beneficial earlier Tuesday that the denomination deem the church to be not in “pleasant cooperation,” the formulation for expulsion, on the grounds that it conflicts with the Baptist Faith and Message. That assertion of Southern Baptist doctrine declares solely males are certified for the function of pastor. Some interpret that solely to use to affiliate pastors so long as the senior pastor is male.

“We discover no pleasure in making this suggestion, however have shaped the opinion that the church’s egalitarian beliefs concerning the workplace of pastor don’t intently determine with the conference’s adopted assertion of religion,” mentioned Jonathan Sams, chair of the credentials committee.

The Alexandria church is at the moment led by a person, Robert Stephens, however the church has made clear it believes girls can function senior pastors, too. Stephens mentioned his church has had girls in ministry for greater than 44 years and needs to proceed cooperating with Southern Baptists who disagreed on this subject.

“First Alexandria stands earlier than you at present as a testomony that we will keep a fruitful partnership with church buildings that take a distinct stance on girls in ministry,” he mentioned. “We at First Baptist are advancing the gospel, and we hope that we’ll proceed to work alongside you all.”

The determination was made earlier than the delegates had an opportunity to think about enshrining a ban on church buildings with any girls pastors within the conference’s structure. The proposed modification acquired preliminary approval final 12 months, and the ultimate vote remains to be to come back as Southern Baptists collect in Indianapolis for his or her two-day annual assembly. As of Tuesday afternoon, some 10,864 messengers have been registered to participate.

Early Tuesday, a small group of ladies stood exterior the Indiana Convention Center in a low-key demonstration in assist of ladies in ministry.

“I hope that individuals know girls have equal worth and will be pastors,” mentioned the Rev. Meredith Stone, govt director of Baptist Women in Ministry, a corporation that originated throughout the SBC within the Nineteen Eighties, nevertheless it now works with girls in a wide range of Baptist denominations.

Participants mentioned that of the tons of of messengers submitting by, reactions ranged from sneers to refined thumbs-up indicators to a couple voicing “thanks” out loud.

Joining them was Christa Brown, who has lengthy advocated for fellow survivors of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist church buildings and criticized the denomination’s resistance to reforms, an effort she has chronicled in a brand new memoir, “Baptistland.” The Southern Baptists ongoing struggles with sexual abuse reforms can also be on this 12 months’s calendar.

She mentioned there’s a direct connection between problems with abuse and the equality of ladies in ministry.

“When you squash some individuals, it units up much more individuals to be squashed,” she mentioned.

Politics can also be a think about sideline occasions. On Monday, former President Donald Trump appeared in a videotaped message to attendees of a staunchly anti-abortion conservative group that met subsequent door to the conference heart. Trump appealed to the attendees for his or her votes.

Later Tuesday, former Vice President Mike Pence informed an viewers of about 500 that he would “by no means” vote for President Joe Biden, criticizing him on border, abortion and different insurance policies. But Pence stopped wanting endorsing Trump, his estranged onetime working mate.

Without invoking Trump by title, Pence criticized those that would depart the abortion subject to the states. Trump has repeatedly taken credit score for the overturning of a federally assured proper to abortion — having nominated three of the justices who overturned Roe — however has resisted supporting a nationwide abortion ban and says he desires to go away the difficulty to the states.

Pence mentioned he was proud to be a part of the administration whose appointments helped put Roe v. Wade “onto the ash heap of historical past.” He additionally stays satisfied he did the best factor on Jan. 6, 2021, in fulfilling his function in certifying Biden’s election within the face of a riot and President Trump’s insistence that Pence might do in any other case.

Bart Barber, a Texas pastor concluding his two-year tenure as SBC president, informed messengers Tuesday that their church buildings want to supply a “protected place” to worship and collect.

An SBC Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force not too long ago concluded its work. While it has supplied a curriculum for coaching church buildings on stopping and responding to abuse, it has not achieved the mandate of earlier annual conferences to determine a “Ministry Check” database of offenders, which might assist church buildings keep away from hiring them.

Abuse survivor and advocate Megan Lively on Tuesday morning made a movement to have the conference activity the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission with elevating consciousness about abuse and offering sources on stopping and responding to it. She is a delegate from Peace Church in Wilson, North Carolina.

Though some have advocated for reforms for the previous 20 years, the conference has significantly struggled to reply to sexual abuse in its church buildings since a 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. It mentioned that roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers confronted allegations of sexual misconduct within the earlier 20 years.

The denomination subsequently commissioned a report from a consulting agency, Guidepost Solutions. It concluded that leaders of the conference’s Executive Committee intimidated and mistreated survivors who sought assist. The committee handles day-to-day enterprise of the conference.

Jeff Iorg, the brand new president of the Executive Committee, informed its members in a gathering Monday that the committee is dealing with a “monetary disaster” as a result of it indemnified Guidepost Solutions from any authorized repercussions from the research. The conference is paying for the authorized protection towards two defamation lawsuits filed by two males named within the report.

“We have spent greater than $2 million to date on that indemnification, and there’s no finish in sight,” Iorg mentioned.

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