LifeWay Christian Stores reportedly pulled a Christian magazine from its racks because five smiling women on its cover are pastors.”It is contrary to what we believe,” Chris Turner, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention publishing house, which runs the nationwide chain, said in a story by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper said the September-October 2008 issue of Gospel Today, an “urban, faith-based” lifestyle magazine geared toward African-American Christians, could still be purchased in more than 100 LifeWay stores, but only from under the counter by request from a store clerk. EthicsDaily.com purchased a copy from the rack, however, at a LifeWay store in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Friday.
“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” magazine publisher and CEO Teresa Hairston told the AJC.
The cover feature, bylined by Hairston, quotes from a statement by the SBC Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee in 2000. That is the group that recommended changing the denomination’s official statement of faith to include the phrase, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
“First, we faced the fact that the Bible is clear in presenting the office of pastor as restricted to men,” the committee said. “There is no biblical precedent for a woman in the pastorate, and the Bible teaches that women should not teach in authority over men. Second, the issue of women in the pastorate demands attention in our time, when other denominations are abandoning biblical teaching and calling women to serve as pastors. Third, we spoke to the issue because Southern Baptists are united in conviction. Far less than one percent of churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention have ever called a woman as pastor. For the sake of generations to come, we should state our convictions boldly.”
The Gospel Today article continues: “However, in conflict with this position is the reality that multiple thousands are being blessed by dynamic female pastors.”
The story goes on to quote comments from “five phenomenal female senior pastors” interviewed in Atlanta.
Pastor Kimberly Ray of The Church on the Rock in Chicago said people coming to her at church “look beyond my youth or what I look like physically and they understand that I am a servant of God.”
Pastor Sheryl Brady of The River Church in Durham, N.C., said she hasn’t had any real difficulty with people who don’t think a woman should be a pastor. “Every now and then I will receive an e-mail that says, ‘You know women are supposed to be silent in church.’ And to be honest I just delete it. How can anybody tell me I’m not who I am?”
Bishop Millicent Hunter of Baptist Worship Center in Philadelphia said she didn’t let negativity upset or stop her when she first started to be a pastor. “I was sure of my calling, so I didn’t allow any opposition to discourage me.”
Pastor Claudette Copeland of New Creation Christian Fellowship Center in San Antonio, Texas, said growing up in a Pentecostal environment it was hard for her to deal with issues of submission and compliance. “I understood those spiritual principles, but I also knew that well-behaved women never make history,” she said. “So I had to work on both sides of my brain to be kind and non-combative on the one hand but at the same time be persistent and present even when they wished I would go away, disappear and shut up.”
Pastor Tamara Bennett of Pentecost Fellowship Ministries in Sacramento, Calif., said in the Church of God in Christ where she grew up there were no women pastors, but when she was in her early 30s “the power of the Holy Ghost knocked me to my knees.”
“I’m just doing what God told me to do,” she said.
Hairston told the Atlanta newspaper she was “pretty shocked” to learn the magazine had been pulled. “We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” she said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”
LifeWay spokesman Turner did not respond to an e-mail request for comment from EthicsDaily.com in time for this story, but the 2008 SBC Annual said LifeWay stores distribute products “consistent with the Christian values and doctrines set forth in the Bible using the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a doctrinal standard.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.