NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Following is a partial transcript of an interview Baptist Press conducted with Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley Oct. 24.
The interview focuses on a story the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published Oct. 18, in which it was said that Stanley “disagrees” with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. The story said that Stanley was particularly critical of the BF&M’s stances on the role of women.
Stanley is pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, a popular radio and television preacher and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Baptist Press: Are the comments that were reported accurate?
Charles Stanley: Absolutely not. First of all, I have not disagreed with the denomination’s faith statement barring women pastors. 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.
BP: When did the interview take place?
Stanley: The interview took place — and this is a significant thing — the interview was about a book signing in Dallas, and that was the purpose — that’s the only reason I consented to having the interview. It had nothing to do with the Southern Baptist Convention. We talked about the book and then he just asked me about the vote [adopting the BF&M at the SBC annual meeting in 2000]. I said, ‘Well, I was not even at the convention, number one, so I can’t talk intelligently about that. I said, ‘Personally, I would not disagree with the vote.’ And then I simply said that there are places in the world where when men do not step up, or there are no men to be pastors and women begin to have maybe a small flock around them, [they] end up being a pastor of a church — and there are some large churches in the world out there where women have become the pastors. And I said there are situations like that that you can’t say to a woman, ‘You can’t do that.’ That’s between them and God. So he just distorted all of this.
And then he mentioned the fact that this woman was preaching when I was saved was a pastor — she was not a pastor. … This was in 1944. She was an evangelist who came to my church and preached for a week and I got saved.
BP: What’s your stance on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000? Are you supportive of it?
Stanley: Absolutely supportive of that. And it’s never been a question in my mind about that. And he made a statement about the fact of what I said about women. And my whole emphasis was that the fact that the issue came up [in the BF&M] creates often times a lot of misunderstanding among people who are not Baptists. In our ministries worldwide we get all kind of questions and people think that because I’ve been the president of the convention that I know all about what’s going on, which I do not. So we have to answer a lot of questions and I think it probably stirred up a lot of questions that sometimes the way people interpret them make us look like are maybe a little too heavy on one side. I think you understand what I’m saying.
BP: What are your beliefs regarding wives submitting to husbands? That’s addressed [in the BF&M].
Stanley: Absolutely — I believe that is absolutely a biblical principle. 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.
BP: So while you support the statement — the Baptist Faith and Message statement — you would like to have seen maybe just a little more language referring to mutual submission?
Stanley: Yes, in other words — of mutual respect and submission, which Paul states very clearly, and I think that [change would not be] for Baptists so much as people who are not Baptists who hear this and then they become oftentimes critical in their attitude about us. Anything we can eliminate in that light I think is always helpful.
BP: One word that … he quotes you as saying is the word “ridiculous.” Do you remember the context of that, if you said anything was ridiculous?
Stanley: … He did not quote me accurately, and I noticed he sort of rearranged a few things. I think the fact that he was [asking if] I disagreed with the Baptist Faith and Message statement or with my fellow pastors. So I said, ‘That is ridiculous, I don’t disagree with them. In fact, I can’t remember a single theological issue in which we have ever disagreed.’
[Stanley said he could not remember the context of the question, but later in the interview answered this question by saying:
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. That’s what that’s all about.]
BP: You mean you and what would be called conservative pastors?
Stanley: Yes, absolutely — especially the presidents, we’ve all talked together many times.
BP: Tell me again the difference in your mind between pastors and preachers. I know this happened two or three years ago, when a newspaper in Charlotte published some comments.
Stanley: 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. You can’t tell a woman who is called by God to teach that she cannot teach the Word of God. Now if men want to attend, you can’t tell people they can’t attend when a woman is speaking. And I think that we have to be very clear about that or we leave an impression that all these people who are out preaching and teaching the Gospel and people’s lives are being changed — we had 20,000 women here in Atlanta a few weeks ago at one of those conferences, and there were a few men there. So I think the distinction is that there’s a difference between the authority of a pastor and a Bible teacher. And I think that’s the distinction. The thing that I said was the very fact that this issue comes up often times creates much more difficulty for the simple reason that people outside of Baptists — and many people who are Baptists who were not there, who don’t get the full story — they misinterpret what we mean.
BP: Do you think it would have been best not to deal with it at all?
Stanley: That’s my personal conviction, that’s my personal opinion, and everybody has a right to their own opinion. That’s just my opinion. 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.
BP: I just want to make sure I understand what you’re saying, Dr. Stanley. You agree with the statement but you do believe that it would have been best not to deal with the issue of female pastors.
Stanley: Unless it is a major issue in the convention, where it was becoming a problem, the … it seems to me that it created a lot of questions and unrest that would probably would not have happened — a misunderstanding among people outside of Baptists. I think that’s the major issue with me.
BP: What about the previous issue we were discussing — wives submitting to husbands. Do you think the same….
Stanley: I think when you say that, which is absolutely biblical, I absolutely agree with it, but when it’s explained it needs to be explained in a way that does not discredit or devalue the woman. And I think that’s just a matter of making a wise explanation. And often times people outside — they don’t hear that.
BP: So regarding that issue as well, do you believe it would have been best not to deal with it, or perhaps just explain it further?
Stanley: Explain it further. Absolutely.