Ga. Baptist Convention Cuts Ties with Second Church with Woman Pastor

Delegates at the annual Georgia Baptist Convention voted Tuesday to oust one of its historic member churches for having a woman as a co-pastor.

The majority of the messengers at this year's GBC annual session approved a recommendation made in March by the convention's executive committee declaring Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta "not a cooperating church" based on the denomination's articles of faith.

According to the Southern Baptist Convention's 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, women can hold teaching or ministry positions but not that of a pastor.

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The document states 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."

"The GBC has never been opposed to women serving in ministry positions other than pastor," J. Robert White, GBC Executive Director, said in a statement Tuesday. "Women are serving as gifted leaders in churches all across our state."

This the second year in a row that GBC voted to "de-fellowship" a church over the issue of women serving as pastors.

Last year, at the 188th meeting, GBC delegates decided to sever ties with First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., over the congregation's decision to hire Julie Pennington-Russell as senior pastor.

The Rev. Mimi Walker, co-pastor of Druid Hills with her husband, the Rev. Graham Walker, was ordained in 2003. Up until the 2000 revision of the denomination's articles of faith, women were able to serve as pastors.

On Wednesday, Walker told The Christian Post that she hopes her church's stand can "encourage more churches to bring this issue up" and one day reverse the rule.

"The principle that we live by is that God cares for everyone equally and uses everyone equally," said Walker. "There are other churches that are against this movement to keep women subordinate."

She said that the main disagreement between her church and the convention was over scriptural interpretation. While some Bible passages lean toward men in domination in the ministry, she noted, there is no scripture that says women can't be pastors.

The 52-year-old pastor defended her church's position, citing Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

This year's GBC was held Nov. 15-16 at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

Before the convention vote, messengers were allowed time to speak for and against the motion. Carey Charles, a deacon at Druid Hills, represented the church's viewpoint at the gathering.

This year's meeting, however, is the last time Druid Hills will messengers to the annual GBC. The decision to exclude the church also means GBC will no longer accept funds from the church for its missions and ministries.

Walker said her church is presently connected with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and will be supporting missions efforts there.

A former missionary in the Philippines with her husband, Walker lamented that the recent "hierarchical" structure of the denomination is moving it away from its original purpose.

"We continue to feel like it's sad for all the churches that are still there, to see it moving in that direction of being more creedal of telling what churches can and can't do when they are supposed to be about missions," she said.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is among more than 40 state conventions and fellowships that are affiliated with the national Southern Baptist Convention. State conventions are autonomous and independent from the SBC.

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