SBC Life Articles

Mainline Sidelined

PBS's Battle for the Minds, which aired on Sat. June 14, was nothing more than a desperate cry to try to shame Southern Baptists into accepting women as pastors, elders, and deacons. Though it did have several good quotes and played out like "high drama," it failed to ask one major question: What happens to denominations which promote women to positions of authority? If refusing, for theological reasons, to let women be pastors, elders, and deacons is so terrible, why is it that the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination and still growing?

The sad truth of the matter is that every "mainline" (some call these denominations "sideline" due to their dwindling numbers) which has allowed women to become pastors has gone down the road of increasing irrelevance. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has recently been losing about 43,000 members a year and now its members average sixty-five years old. The United Methodists have lost over two million members in the last thirty years.

The World Almanac 1994 shows the numbers quickly falling from 1980 to 1990: American Baptists down 2.5 percent; Evangelical Lutherans down 2.8 percent; United Methodists down 4 percent; UCC down 4.9 percent; Presbyterian Church (USA) down 11.5 percent; and the Episcopal Church down 13 percent.

Of course this is an argument from pragmatism, and one should not stop there. The real reason for these dwindling numbers is that these denominations have rejected the Bible as the authority of the church and have substituted what they think people want to hear. They have reduced the Bible to a guide rather than a rule, and they are paying the price in losing membership.

After thirty years of experimenting in liberalism and liberal interpretation of the Bible, it is quite obvious that liberalism does not work even when it tries to push an agenda which it thinks is popular with the culture. By grandstanding on the issue of women pastors, however, the "mainline churches" have lost their ability to be salt and light to a culture which is spiritually adrift. In trying to reach American culture, they have instead become it.

One could go into a large and lengthy argument as to why the Bible says that women are not to be pastors and leaders of the church. However, for all those Baptist churches which are on the fence thinking that women in ministry will solve problems, just do the math and look at the numbers. On this issue, the practical advice and the theological advice add up.

    About the Author

  • Tom Knight