While official teaching of the Southern Baptist Convention is that women ought not lead churches as senior pastors, at least one seminary president says his preference would be that youth ministries also be male-led.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, offered 17 “iconoclastic principles of youth ministry” Tuesday in Baptist Press, a follow-up to a similar column on church planting.

Among them: “Call a man as your minister to youth or your pastor in charge of youth ministry. If possible, have an associate who is a woman. If money is in short supply, have the youth minister find a woman who will volunteer to serve in this capacity.”

Patterson said it is “imperative that the youth minister be both a minister and a man’s man whom the young men will respect.”

Also vital, he said, is “that the associate be a woman who is godly, pure of heart and a model of what biblical womanhood is all about.”

Patterson, an architect of the so-called “conservative resurgence” that set the denomination’s course for a generation, was the SBC president who in 1999 appointed a study committee to revise the Baptist Faith & Message, a faith statement first approved in 1925 and rewritten in 1963.

The group came back with a new prohibition on women leading churches in pastoral roles. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” according to the 2000 version of the faith statement.

While a member of the study committee said at the time said the intent was to deal only with the office of senior pastor, others have interpreted the prohibition more broadly, excluding women from any ministry requiring ordination, such as chaplains, or in non-ordained roles where they hold authority over men.

A study by Baptist Women in Ministry in 1997 counted 1,225 ordained women in the SBC and said roughly 200 of those were pastors and associate pastors. Leaders of the SBC disputed those numbers as being too high, saying that fewer than one 10th of 1 percent of Southern Baptist churches had called a woman as pastor.

Southern Baptists do not keep an official count of women ministers, but the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. reported 1,069 women serving in ministry positions in 2003. About one in five, 22 percent, were ministers to youth.

While Southern Baptist seminaries continue to enroll large numbers of women, nowadays they typically steer them toward traditional roles, such as pastor’s wives or to minister to other women. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was the first Southern Baptist school to offer formal, specialized theological education in the area of women’s ministry.

Beginning in 1997, according to the seminary Web site: “This innovative program has increased in student enrollment and degree options. Its success is the result of growing interest in women’s ministry, the need for pragmatic training in women’s work and increased leadership roles for women in the local church. God is preparing hundreds of women to minister to other women through their local churches.”

Other recommendations by Patterson, whose article appeared also in Southwestern News magazine, include:

“Make men out of the boys and women out of the girls. You may protest here that this goal is the natural end. Unfortunately, our society today is bent on trying to feminize boys and create as many masculine traits as possible in girls. This distortion leads not only to serious misinformation about gender but also to other disasters. Teaching boys the responsibilities that men must assume and teaching girls that true beauty before God is the ‘attitude of a gentle and quiet spirit’ will immeasurably bless their lives, their homes and their churches.”

Patterson said youth ministers should lead young people to ask about and follow God’s will for their lives.

“If the youth minister and the pastor of the church are positive examples of godly men, the young people will respond quickly, and many of them affirmatively, to the possibility that God may want some of them to serve as pastors, missionaries or other Christian vocational leaders,” he wrote.

Patterson also called for teaching young people what the Bible says about sex, which is “a great deal more about sexual intimacy than merely prohibitions.”

If youth “are taught the promised blessings of God derived from living life God’s way and reminded of the disasters that befall those who live life another way,” Patterson counseled, “they will be more likely to choose the right way.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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