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CBF affiliated group urges women to leave the SBC

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Frustration with the newly revised Baptist Faith and Message characterized the annual meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry, an organization of female ministers that advocates the ordination of women to the pastorate.

In an issue of the organization’s Folio magazine distributed to participants at the worship service held at College Park Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., Rev. Raye Nell Dyer, president of BWIM, took issue with the SBC’s assertion that God calls to the pastorate only men as qualified by Scripture.

“This kind of exclusion is why many of us are no longer Southern Baptist,” the statement read.

An accompanying article by Linda McKinnish Bridges, professor of New Testament at Baptist Theological Seminary, was even more direct. She urged women in the SBC to leave the denomination and “travel on, sister.”

“Now, my dear sister, please know that you can leave the family farm,” Bridges contends. “Leave home. You will be fine. There are other places waiting for your leadership.”

Held in conjunction with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, the worship service represented irritation with their Southern Baptist heritage and, at times, with the apostle Paul.

The worship service featured a sermon by Carolyn Gordon, Director of Ministries for Higher Education for the DC Baptist Convention, on the sufficiency of God’s grace. Gordon encouraged the women to “soar” in keeping with God’s promises, remembering that “Her grace” is enough for them. The crowd roared when Gordon joked about her choice of a Pauline epistle as her text for the morning.

“I’m reluctant to use Paul,” she said. “He has not been our friend lately.”

One BWIM member told Baptist Press that the service was especially important as Cooperative Baptist women seek to respond to the SBC’s new confessional statement.

“We are taking Jesus’ view of women over Paul’s,” said Rev. Kristina Yeatts, associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Clayton, N.C. “Adrian Rogers and Al Mohler are focusing way too much on the apostle Paul’s letter rather than Jesus … . We’re talking about the Son of God vs. a biblical writer.”

Yeatts said that conservative appeals to biblical texts which restrict the pastorate to men fail to take into account the fact that the Bible contains the cultural biases of its context and human authorship.

“Biblical scholars wrote the Bible and anytime there is a human involved there are going to be some biases,” she said. “The Bible is God’s holy word, but we should interpret in light of tradition and the particular circumstances going on. We should never put the Bible on a pedestal.”

Yeatts also expressed disappointment with the Baptist Faith and Message’s condemnation of legalized abortion.

“Abortion is a tough subject, but women should have the right to choose,” she said. “We should be careful when we take the life of a child, but the decision is the woman’s.”

BWIM board members told Baptist Press that the SBC’s new confessional statement “has nothing to do with us.”

“We charge ahead with preaching and the sacraments,” said Karen Massey, BWIM board member and professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. “What is sad for me is the generation coming after us.”

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  • Russell D. Moore