Former Southern Baptist Convention president Charles Stanley disagrees with the denomination’s faith statement barring women pastors, according to a newspaper report.
Saturday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram carried comments by Stanley, an Atlanta pastor and TV preacher, in Texas promoting a book.
According to the article, Stanley said recent changes to the Baptist Faith & Message limiting pastoral roles to men and urging wives to submit to their husbands stirred up anger against Baptists and are counterproductive to spreading the gospel.
“Let me put it this way,” Stanley said. “I was saved by a woman preaching, I was saved at 12 years of age, and I’m still saved.”
Stanley’s comments echo quotes attributed to him by a Charlotte newspaper in 2000, after he told the story of his conversion under the preaching of a woman Pentecostal preacher at his hometown of Danville, Va.
Afterward, Stanley accused a reporter of twisting and distorting his words and said he supported the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.
According to Baptist Press, Stanley said three years ago he would not be a member of a church with a woman pastor, and that his church doesn’t allow women to be deacons. “There are some godly women our there … I would never say that a woman could not preach,” BP quoted him as saying, but he added that there is a difference between being a preacher and a pastor.
In his recent comments quoted in the Star-Telegram, however, Stanley said in many countries, men are not taking responsibility for leading churches, and women are filling the void.
“You can go to India, Japan and other countries and find women are preaching the gospel; people are being saved. Lives are being changed. Big churches are growing up,” he said. “Are we going to tell these women, ‘You can’t do that’?”
Stanley also criticized a 1998 family amendment to the Baptist Faith & Message–which says a wife should “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s “servant leadership”–as a misreading of Scripture that shouldn’t be dealt with in general statement of Baptist doctrines.
“You know what, if a woman is going to be submissive, she’s not going to be submissive because of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s just ridiculous,” Stanley reportedly said.
Stanley said the statement gives the impression that women are to be “doormats” for their husbands, even though his fellow conservatives say that isn’t what it means.
“The message that is sent is that man is way up here and woman is way down there,” he said. “That’s the message that’s sent, no matter what they believe. They should never have discussed the issue.”
Stanley implied his reading of Ephesians is closer to that of moderates opposed to the family amendment, who say the Bible teaches “mutual submission” between husbands and wives.
“Jesus said we are to honor one another,” he said. “Submission means you should submit yourself one to another.”
His comments also seem to put him out of step with most current SBC leadership. The convention’s International Mission Board, for example, fired 13 missionaries in May for refusing to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message.
The Fort Worth paper said Stanley also disagreed when fellow SBC presidents counseled him to resign from his church after he was divorced. After prayer, Stanley said, God told him to continue preaching.
“I’m glad I didn’t quit,” he said. “The last 10 years have been the most productive of my life.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.