The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, voted Wednesday to finalize the expulsion of two member churches because they have women pastors, something they’re quite sure Jesus would not approve of. The Prince of Peace hasn’t even once shown up to disagree with anything else Southern Baptist leaders have done since the denomination was founded in 1845, when the SBC broke with other Baptists so it could advocate slavery without any backtalk.
The SBC had actually expelled the two churches in February, along with three others that didn’t appeal the decision. At the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans, delegates — called “messengers” because it’s more Bible-y — refused to reinstate California’s Saddleback Church, the megachurch led by rightwing evangelist Rick Warren, who didn’t even get a pass for hating gays and abortion or even for calling Barack Obama an enemy of Christianity years ago, even though he’d been inexplicably invited to pray at the first Muslim president’s inauguration.
But Saddleback has some lady pastors, so it couldn’t be reinstated, and neither could the smaller Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky. Lord knows you wouldn’t want to risk a lady pastor leaning over the pulpit and accidentally brushing against the Holy Bible with her dirtypillows.
The SBC’s “statement of faith” holds that only men can be pastors, because of some Bible verse that is as indisputable as the fact that Earth was created out of nothing about 6,000 years ago (to the great surprise of the Sumerians, who had already figured out agriculture, math, and writing at the time). So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the votes were overwhelming; 9,437 to 1,212 to reject Saddleback’s appeal, and 9,700 to 806 to refuse readmission for Fern Creek.
“I knew they would uphold the expulsion. However, I guess I am a bit naive. I did not think it would be that drastic a result. I thought there were more people left in the Southern Baptist Convention who support the autonomy of the local church, if not women in ministry,” said the Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, Fern Creek’s pastor.
She said some messengers came up to her to say while they disagree with her, they “appreciate our passion for the Gospel.”
She’s from Kentucky, so she should certainly know that the messengers couldn’t be taken literally when they said “well bless your heart.”
Before the vote, Warren appealed to the good sense and Christian forbearance of the messengers, apparently forgetting for a moment that he is himself a Southern Baptist:
“We should remove churches for all kinds of sexual sin, racial sin, financial sin and leadership sin – sins that harm the testimony of our convention,” Warren told the convention. But churches with “women on pastoral staff have not sinned,” he said. “If doctrinal disagreements between Baptists are considered sin, we all get kicked out.”
Well sure, and Jesus never said anything about gay people or abortion, but here you are. Or aren’t anymore.
The Associated Press helpfully clarifies that since all Baptist churches are independent, the convention can’t boss them around, but it can expel them, or in the official parlance, can declare they are “not in friendly cooperation,” or in severe cases of doctrinal disagreement, “not in friendly cooperation, motherfucker.” The AP also notes this appears to be the first time any churches have been booted for having women pastors.
The AP also notes that posting a big NO GURLS ALLOWED sign on Southern Baptist pulpits, the messengers also did some less dickish things like
upholding the expulsion of Freedom Baptist Church in Florida over its alleged mishandling of a sexual misconduct allegation.
They also voted to give a task force in charge of implementing abuse reforms more time to work. The task force launched last year.
The task force has also set up a website that includes a database of “pastors and church workers credibly accused of sex abuse,” so thank Crom those particular groomers aren’t being covered up. Any more.
The messengers also returned to terrible form by passing a resolution condemning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, who, the resolution said, are pursuing “a futile quest to change one’s sex and as a direct assault on God’s created order.”
You could say the same of automobiles, modern medicine, and Michael Bay movies too.
Just to make sure affiliated churches don’t go getting any funny ideas about women being allowed to have authority over men, the messengers voted to amend the denomination’s constitution to make absolutely clear that Southern Baptist churches are to
“affirm, appoint or employ only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” To go into effect, it needs to be approved at the next annual meeting.
Sarah Clatworthy, member of Lifepoint Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, advocated for the amendment, urging the SBC “to shut the door to feminism and liberalism.”
“In a culture that is unclear about the role of men and women, we have to be crystal clear,” she said. “We should leave no room for our daughters or granddaughters to have confusion on where the SBC stands.”
We will simply observe that no matter what Ms. Clatworthy says about doctrine, there’s no guarantee that Baptists’ daughters or granddaughters will buy into it going forward — as, indeed, they aren’t doing now, what with 2022’s decline in membership being the single greatest drop-off in a 16-year-trend of shrinking attendance. Also, we aren’t quite sure what one would need to do to be worthy of clat in the first place.
After being declared unfriendly and uncooperative, Warren issued a statement calling for Christians to party like it’s AD 99:
“There are people who want to take the SBC back to the 1950s when white men ruled supreme and when the woman’s place was in the home. There are others who want to take it back 500 years to the time of the Reformation,” he said. “I say we need to take the church back to the first century. The church at its birth was the church at its best.”
That would be pretty sweet, what with speaking Aramaic like Jesus, the Romans keeping the streets clean, Paul’s letters being fresh in your email inbox (including presumably the ones he didn’t write, because who’d fact-check ’em even then), and of course the opportunity to really be martyred instead of pretending that martyrdom consists of Target having a Pride display, the end.
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