Tennessee church votes to leave SBC over female pastor ban

Monte Vista Baptist Church of Maryville, Tennessee.
Monte Vista Baptist Church of Maryville, Tennessee. | Courtesy Monte Vista Baptist Church

A congregation in Tennessee has voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention due to disagreements over theological issues, specifically the SBC’s reaffirmation of its ban on women serving as pastors.

Monte Vista Baptist Church of Maryville, which has a regular weekly in-person attendance of about 150 churchgoers, voted last week to end its affiliation with the SBC and the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

The congregation had been affiliated with the SBC for nearly 70 years, while also holding an official partnership with the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) since the 1990s.

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Monte Vista Senior Pastor Jerry Mantooth told The Christian Post in an interview Tuesday that the decision to leave involved a unanimous voice vote from more than 120 members.

Mantooth explained that “over the years, we have felt like that the SBC has gotten more narrow in its interpretation of Scripture,” citing a vote at the SBC's Annual Meeting earlier this year to amend the SBC constitution to bar women from serving as a "pastor of any kind" in churches.

The proposed amendment passed in June with about 80% of the messenger vote but must be passed at next year’s SBC Annual Meeting to be permanently added to the Convention’s bylaws. 

“This is a main value for us: equality in ministry,” said Mantooth. “We have ordained women for a number of years, and that is just a part of our DNA. And we felt like they were making a move to push us out.”

“So, we just made the decision. Let’s just go ahead and make the decision ourselves.”

Mantooth told CP that they had “question-and-answer times with the church prior to the decision so that we could discuss it,” noting that “we have written letters explaining this to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Tennessee Baptist Convention.”

Monte Vista intends to continue its affiliation with the CBF, with Mantooth explaining that “we felt like they were more in-line with the historic Baptist principles that have guided us over the years.”

CP reached out to the Tennessee Baptist Convention, with a spokesperson saying they had not yet received any official notice from the congregation about their disaffiliation vote.

Nevertheless, the TBC spokesperson explained that because Monte Vista is “an autonomous local church,” it is “free to associate with whomever it wishes” and to “pull away from the [TBC and] SBC.”

In June, messengers at the SBC's Annual Meeting upheld the removal of the California-based Saddleback Church due to the megachurch’s allowing a woman to serve in the office of teaching pastor.

According to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, which the SBC subscribes to, while both men and women are called to spread the Gospel, the office of pastor “is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

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