Over 100 Christian bookstores run by the Southern Baptist Convention have pulled from their shelves this month's issue of Gospel Today Magazine, which features a cover story about female pastors.
Customers to Lifeway Christian Bookstores, located mostly in the Bible Belt with a handful of locations along the West Coast, will now have to request to buy the Sept./Oct. issue of Gospel Today Magazine, which have been placed behind the stores' counters.
The front cover of the latest issue of Gospel Today, an urban publication with a circulation of nearly a quarter of a million, features five smiling female pastors and was titled "Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Female Pastors." In the cover story, the five preachers talk about their roles and responsibilities, struggles and successes.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second largest Christian denomination, officially opposes females serving as pastors. In 2000, the denomination overwhelmingly adopted a revised statement of faith that said the pastoral role should be restricted to men.
"We have removed the September/October issue of Gospel Today from our shelves because the cover story, featuring female pastors, clearly advocates a position contrary to our denomination's statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message," Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, told The Christian Post.
The Baptist Faith and Message declares that "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
Teresa Hairston, the magazine's publisher, could not be reached for comment. But according to reports by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press, Hairston said she was just reporting on an emerging trend in churches, and not trying to promote women pastors.
"They basically treated it like pornography and put it behind the counter," said Hairston, according to AP. "Unless a person goes into the store and asks for it, they won't see it displayed."
Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also weighed in the topic of women serving in leadership roles in his recent commentary on women and the election.
He rejected misunderstandings that the denomination wants women to be "subservient" to men, citing the SBC's confession of faith that states woman and man are "equal worth before God."
But he drew from teachings in the New Testament to support the Southern Baptist position on women pastors. In 1 Timothy 2:12, "the Apostle Paul instructs that 'a woman is not to usurp authority over the man,'" explained Land.
"Most Southern Baptists have understood this to mean that women are not to be pastors of local churches, since the pastoral office is a position of authority," he said.
Although the denomination doesn't agree with women serving as pastors, said Land, it does not oppose women serving in leadership roles in public service, such as the vice presidency.
"For Baptists, who make a strict distinction between the local church congregation and other denominational or parachurch ministries, such a statement would not preclude women 'gifted for service' from serving in leadership positions in the denomination as opposed to the local church."
Southern Baptists aren't the only denomination which believes women should not be pastors. The Catholic Church, also holds a similar view. Among charismatic and non-charismatic Protestant churches, nine percent of churches are led by a female senior pastor, according to a 2008 Barna Group study.
Pastor Tamara Bennett California of This Is Pentecost Ministries in Sacramento, Calif., is one of the female preachers featured in the magazine. In her opinion, gender is irrelevant when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission.
"God's assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved," Bennett told AJC. "Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period."
Also featured on the cover of Gospel Today this month are Pastor Sheryl Brady of The River in Durham, N.C.; Bishop Millicent Hunter of The Baptist Worship Center in Philadelphia, Pa.; Pastor Claudette Copeland of New Creation Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas; and Pastor Kimberly Ray of Church on the Rock in Matteson, Ill.
On the Web: The Sept./Oct. issue of Gospel Today Magazine at gospeltoday.com