SBC disfellowships 4 more churches, including 2 that support women pastors

Katie McKown was hired as senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., in February 2023.
Katie McKown was hired as senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., in February 2023. | YouTube/Kyle Lake Center

The Southern Baptist Convention has disfellowshiped four more churches deemed not to be in friendly cooperation with the denomination's regulations, including one for having a female senior pastor and another that allows women in church leadership.

The two other churches were ousted for issues related to sexual abuse and the retention of a "biblically disqualified" pastor.

Acting on the recommendations of the SBC Credentials Committee, the Executive Committee of the nation's largest Protestant denomination voted in Nashville on Tuesday to remove Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, from fellowship, reports the SBC's official news service Baptist Press.

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The church, which hired Rev. Katie McKown as its senior pastor in 2023, was deemed to have a "faith and practice that does not closely identify with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith, as demonstrated by the church having a female lead pastor functioning in the office of pastor."

New Hope Baptist Church in Gastonia, North Carolina, was formally disfellowshipped over a "lack of reported financial participation for at least the last five (5) years and its lack of intent to cooperate to resolve a question of faith and practice." 

Although the church doesn't list any females as part of its pastoral staff, New Hope's website states, "We believe in equality in ministry and we do not discriminate between genders."

"There are more than 250 Baptist churches in Gaston County and New Hope Baptist Church is one of four churches that ordain women into ministry as deacons and pastors," the church website explains. "We believe in equality in ministry, and we do not discriminate between genders. We want our children growing up knowing that there is neither 'Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:28)."

Grove Road Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and West Hendersonville Baptist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina, were both disfellowshipped in connection with concerns related to sexual abuse. 

The SBC EC said in a statement that Grove Road Baptist followed "a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving a concern regarding the pastor's mishandling of an allegation of sexual abuse." According to BP, Grove Road Baptist is a congregation of about 20 people, which averaged 12 people in Sunday worship in 2021. The church is led by Pastor Terry Greene. 

West Hendersonville Baptist Church is accused of acting "inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse" by retaining Pastor Jerry Mullinax, who the Credentials Committee contends has been "biblically disqualified." He was hired in 2020 on a part-time basis, BP notes, adding that his teaching license was revoked in 2004 for sending "improper emails" to a student.  

Reacting to the SBC's decision Tuesday, Immanuel Baptist Church defended its decision to call McKown as senior pastor.

"Today we learned the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) removed Immanuel Baptist Church (Immanuel) from membership because we called Reverend Katie McKown in February 2023 to serve as Immanuel's Senior Minister," the church said in a statement on Facebook.

"The life of Immanuel is informed by the Baptist tenets of the autonomy of the church and the priesthood of all believers. We share our affirmation and support of the decision to call Rev. Katie McKown to serve with and among us," the statement continued. "We pray the SBC may be blessed with wisdom and discernment as it moves forward."

Brandon McKoy, New Hope Baptist Church's senior pastor, told BP that he believed the church had already been disfellowshipped long before the Credentials Committee sent his team an inquiry letter.

"We haven't considered ourselves Southern Baptist since really Southern Baptists started removing women from the pulpit," McKoy said. "We haven't been Southern Baptist for a long, long time."

Since the revamping of the SBC Credentials Committee in June 2019, a total of 18 churches have been disfellowshipped, according to The Tennessean

A year ago, the denomination expelled Saddleback Church, one of America's largest churches previously led by popular Pastor Rick Warren, and four others. Saddleback had hired Stacie Wood to serve as the congregation's teaching pastor

During SBC's 2023 Annual Meeting, messengers advanced a resolution that would prevent women from serving as a "pastor of any kind" as the denomination was brought one step closer to solidifying the rule as a constitutional amendment.

About 80% of the 12,000 messengers approved the resolution to establish a condition for churches to affiliate with SBC that no woman may be permitted to hold the title of pastor. To enshrine the resolution into the SBC constitution, the measure must pass at the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting. 

After Saddleback Church ordained three women pastors in 2021, Chuck Kelley, Al Mohler and Richard Land, theologians who wrote the study guide for the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message Confession, published a statement clarifying the definition of the word "pastor," which they say means "one who fulfills the pastoral office and carries out the pastor's functions." They wrote that Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states that the office of pastor is "limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes hiring women as pastors violates Scripture.

"This is no longer a point of tension and debate. These moves represent an attempt to redefine and reformulate the convictional foundation of Southern Baptist faith and cooperative ministry," Mohler said. "The theological issues have not changed since the year 2000 when Southern Baptists spoke clearly and precisely in the Baptist Faith & Message. More importantly, the Holy Scriptures have not changed and cannot change."

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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