Several North Carolina churches have cut their ties with Surry Baptist Association over the group’s decision to expel a church for having a female pastor.
First Baptist Church of Mount Airy voted overwhelmingly to withdraw from the association due to the expulsion of nearby Flat Rock Baptist Church for appointing the Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson as senior pastor.
Piney Grove Baptist Church of Mount Airy also decided to leave the association, with an unanimous vote taken last week.
“In our congregation, and in several other congregations, there was strong disagreement with the action, the biblical interpretation given for the action, and the way the issue was handled,” said Roger Gilbert, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.
“The whole process was open and respectful of all. We now plan to move forward, leaving this behind us, working in partnership with those churches who want to work with us.”
The Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson, the pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church whose appointment began the controversy, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the churches leaving the association based their vote on more than the SBA’s decision to expel Flat Rock.
“Members of both churches were bothered not only by the SBA's stance against women serving as pastors, but also by the way in which the matter was handled,” said Nelson.
“There was a real lack of transparency on the part of the SBA, since churches were not given proper notice of an upcoming discussion and vote on the matter of our future membership in the association.”
Last summer, Flat Rock Baptist Church decided to appoint as senior pastor Bailey Edwards Nelson. On July 25, the Surry Baptist Association decided to expel the church for doing so.
Dr. Billy Blakley, director of missions for the SBA, told CP that this was an issue of what the Bible says regarding who can serve as a pastor.
“We believe God's Word is gender-specific when it comes to the head of the home and the pastor of His church,” maintained Blakley.
“The gender of the senior pastor is the only issue our association has addressed in our disassociation with Flat Rock. Since the Bible will not change, our 100 plus year position and our beliefs will not change either.”
However, Nelson maintained that “Flat Rock Baptist church chose to call a person, not a gender.”
“They sought someone who could serve the church well as a pastoral presence and worship guide, attending to the daily needs and practices of their community. I don't believe that the search for theological uniformity was ever their goal.”
“We are a good match, and I continue to be assured that I am doing exactly what God has called me to do.”
North Carolina Baptists are not the only Baptists struggling with the role of women in the church.
Last year, the Georgia Baptist Convention ousted Druid Hills Baptist Church of Atlanta because it had a woman serving as co-pastor.