A controversy over whether a woman ought to be allowed to be a Baptist pastor is brewing at an association in northern Georgia.
The executive board of Floyd County Baptist Association in Rome, Ga., voted Monday to recommend that the association adopt the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message as its official statement of faith at the annual meeting in September.
That’s significant for North Broad Baptist Church, a member congregation which last year for the first time employed a husband-and-wife team as co-pastors.
One difference between the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message and earlier versions is an added article discouraging women from serving as pastors. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” an article on “The Church” proscribes.
Supporters of the recommendation, which previously passed the association’s administrative committee, didn’t say the agenda was ridding the association of a female pastor, according to people who attended the meeting.
But North Broad co-pastor Tony Brooks said a group of ministers in an earlier meeting told him and his wife, Katrina, that their church could not remain in the association because it has a woman in the role of pastor.
Katrina Brooks was studying nursing at Samford University when she first felt God was calling her to do something different with her life. Since Tony was a minister, she originally thought she was answering God’s call as a minister’s wife.
After years of yearning, however, she discerned that God wanted her to return to seminary. Despite having two small children at home, she commuted two hours to the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Va., where she graduated in 1998 and worked as associate pastor at their previous church.
At North Broad, where the Brookses started their new ministry last Nov. 10, they share responsibilities for preaching, leading worship and pastoral care. The first year he is responsible for administration and outreach, and she for missions and education. They share responsibilities for Wednesday and Sunday nights.
Tony Brooks said people who spoke in support of the motion at the executive board Monday night said the rationale was to bring the association in line with the Georgia and Southern Baptist conventions. They said the faith statement would not be used as a creed, but voted down an alternative motion to allow a committee to study the impact adopting the new statement would have on churches and employees before moving ahead.
Brooks said in a letter to church members that he believes the true intent of the recommendation is to place the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in the association’s constitution so it can be used against North Broad at a later date.
He accused fundamentalist clergy of hiding their true agenda from laypeople attending the meeting.
“We certainly are no longer welcome if the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message is passed,” he said. While he said he and his wife are ready to “shake the dust off our feet,” as Jesus advised to do in such situations, “we know that the church must decide what to do. We will respect that decision.”
Floyd County’s director of missions did not respond to e-mails from EthicsDaily.com requesting information on the executive board meeting.
While Baptist churches are free to select their own pastoral leadership without approval from regional, state or national conventions, those bodies are also free to determine their own criteria for membership. That means associations are autonomous to remove churches over theological grounds.
While few women serve as pastors of Baptist congregations, the issue has gained attention recently as various Baptist groups debate whether to adopt the new faith statement opposing female clergy.
In a similar dispute, the executive council of an association in Missouri decided in February not to take action against a member church that ordained a woman minister to single adults to the gospel ministry.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.