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Charles Stanley says he ‘absolutely’ backs faith statement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In his first interview since a much-read story appeared in a Texas newspaper, Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley told Baptist Press Oct. 24 he is “absolutely” supportive of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and its stances on the role of women, although he believes one amendment should have been clarified and another not included at all.

The interview came nearly a week after a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram stated that Stanley “disagrees” with the BF&M and its stances on two issues: the role of pastor being reserved by Scripture for men and the submission of wives to the leadership of their husbands.

Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, a popular radio and television preacher and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, told Baptist Press that the interview with the Texas newspaper was scheduled to focus on a new book, and not the Southern Baptist Convention. He said the reporter, Jim Jones, did not include his comments in context and omitted other significant ones.

“It seems to me that his purpose was not the same as mine, and I don’t usually give interviews for this very same reason,” Stanley said.

Stanley told Baptist Press he is “absolutely supportive” of the 2000 BF&M, and added that he cannot think of a “single theological issue” which he and other SBC presidents have disagreed.

Jones, in an e-mailed statement to Baptist Press, said, “I respect Dr. Stanley very much and think he has a valuable ministry. We had a congenial interview on subjects ranging from his books, the state of the church and what he thought about the family amendments that have been added to the faith statement.

“I’m sorry he thinks I was deceptive,” Jones said. “I simply took an opportunity given to me to interview him about his new book and I mentioned the book, but I also talked to him about a lot of other matters. I have no recollection of him saying he did not want to be quoted on Southern Baptist issues.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., a member of the 2000 BF&M study committee, said in light of the Star-Telegram story he is pleased to learn of Stanley’s support for the document.

“All Southern Baptists will welcome Dr. Stanley’s clarification and support of the Baptist Faith and Message,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a statement to Baptist Press. “His clear statement of agreement with our confession of faith is greatly appreciated.”

Stanley told BP that, as stated in the BF&M, he believes Scripture reserves the role of pastor for men.

“First of all, I have not disagreed with the denomination’s faith statement barring women pastors,” Stanley told BP. “He asked me specifically, which he did not include in his article, ‘Would you vote for a lady to be the pastor of a church, a woman?’ I said, ‘No, I would not.’ I said, ‘That’s my personal opinion, and I certainly respect other people’s opinions, but I would not vote for a woman to be the pastor of a church.’ But he never put that in the article.”

But Stanley said he believes the language about female pastors would have been best left out of the BF&M. He said he believes the change has created controversy with people misinterpreting what Southern Baptists mean.

“That’s my personal conviction, that’s my personal opinion, and everybody has a right to their own opinion,” Stanley said. “… In other words, if we are having a major problem in the Southern Baptist Convention with a lot of women wanting to be pastors, that’s one thing. But I’ve not heard that.”

Jones told BP he has “no recollection of me asking him if he would vote for a woman pastor of the church and that he said he would not vote for a woman pastor. If he said that [and] I failed to quote him on that in a story like this, that would be a gross omission.”

In telephone comments to Baptist Press, Jones added, “I wish I had asked it. It might have cleared up any misconceptions.”

Mohler said it is a “fair observation” that few Southern Baptist churches “have ever even conceived of such a possibility” of hiring a female pastor.

“That is not the only concern, however,” Mohler said. “The Baptist Faith and Message serves as a teaching and accountability document for seminary professors, denominational workers, missionaries and those who write curriculum for use in our churches. The 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message will anchor Southern Baptists to the Scripture on this important issue.”

Stanley was saved under the preaching of a female evangelist. He makes a distinction between “pastor” and “preacher,” saying that the latter can be a woman. People sometimes confuse the two terms and thus misunderstand his position, he said.

Three years ago a story in The Charlotte Observer quoted Stanley as saying he disagreed with the BF&M’s amendment on female pastors, but in a follow-up interview with BP Stanley noted the pastor-preacher difference.

“There are a number of women who are preachers who are preaching the Gospel today, teaching the Gospel today, and they are being very successful at it and they are meeting people’s needs,” Stanley said. “You can’t tell a woman who is called by God to teach that she cannot teach the Word of God. … So I think the distinction is that there’s a difference between the authority of a pastor and a Bible teacher.”

Stanley said he has no problem with the BF&M’s family amendment stating that husbands and wives “are of equal worth before God” and that wives are to “submit” themselves “graciously to the servant leadership” of their husbands. But he does believe that the amendment should have included additional language from Ephesians where Paul tells Christians to submit “to one another.”

“I believe that is absolutely a biblical principle,” Stanley said of the subject of wives submitting to husbands. “I’ve never questioned that. I’ve simply said that to balance that out as far as people who are not Baptists — who hear us talking about that — we need to also emphasize the fact that Paul said we should be honoring and submissive to one another. You have to balance that out or the people who are not Christians and the people who are not Baptists don’t understand our viewpoint.”

Mohler said the issues of male and female roles in the church and the home “continue to be areas of great confusion and controversy in some denominations.” He said that Southern Baptists “have spoken decisively to these vital issues through the Baptist Faith and Message, and this will serve us well.”

One portion of the Star-Telegram that received a lot of attention quoted Stanley as saying, “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 told Baptist Press the quote was misunderstood.

“I simply said that the Bible teaches that a woman is to be submissive to her husband, and a woman is not going to be submissive to her husband simply because the Southern Baptist Convention votes in a certain way — that ‘that’s’ ridiculous,” he told BP. “That’s what ‘that’s’ all about.”

Stanley said when he was first asked about the BF&M vote at the 2000 annual meeting, he said, “I wasn’t there so I don’t even know what happened.”

“Why would a reporter who has requested to give an interview about a book get off on something and only mention one statement in the whole article about the book?” he asked “… It appeared to me to be deceptive.”

Jones, in his e-mailed statement, said Stanley gave him “a strong impression that he disagreed with both of the family amendments in question. He specifically said women are becoming ‘pastors’ in Japan and India and that we should not hold them back.”

In his telephone comments, Jones added, “Also, I don’t recall him specifically saying to me that wives submitting to their husbands is biblical. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”

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  • Michael Foust