Georgia Baptist Convention Rejects Fund From Church Who Has Woman As Senior Pastor

November 19, 2008

The Georgia Baptist Convention recently changed its policy on receiving
monetary gifts to allow it to refuse funds from churches that were “not
in cooperation and harmony” with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Leaders of the Georgia Baptist Convention have thus far rejected the
funds of one member church, First Baptist Church of Decatur, which
appointed a woman as senior pastor last year.

In a report from the administrative committee recommending the
change, it said the proposal was “a result of questions raised
regarding First Baptist Church of Decatur, who has a woman as senior
pastor,” according to the Associated Baptist Press.

FBC appointed Julie Pennington-Russell, who had previously
served at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, for nearly 10 years,
after a “slow communal process of discernment” for months in 2007,
according to Dr. David Gushee, a member of the congregation in a column
posted on ABP.

Pennington-Russell, in her reflection on the new policy at the
convention, said, “I kept waiting for someone from the Georgia Baptist
Convention to call us or come visit with me and other leaders of our
church to inform us that these matters were being discussed,” according
to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an e-mail.

She was out of town at the time and did not attend the convention.

“I assumed that a 146-year relationship was worth, at very least, a personal conversation,” she added.

First Baptist Church has been connected with the Georgia Baptist
Convention for 146 years. It is also affiliated with the Cooperative
Baptist Fellowship, a moderate breakaway group.

“To me, the saddest ripple effect will be that some members of
our church who have faithfully supported Southern Baptist ministries
and missionaries through the years, often with money given from their
monthly Social Security checks, will have to be told that the
[convention] doesn’t welcome their support any longer.”

The state convention will here on check sources to see if
churches adhere to the 2000 Baptist Faith & Messages, which is the
Southern Baptist Convention’s confessional document.

A statement in this document reads, “While both men and women
are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited
to men as qualified by Scripture.”

GBC executive director Robert White told the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution that the new financial policy does not apply to
churches with women deacons or female members that serve in ministerial
positions other than pastor. But the convention would refuse gifts from
questionable sources, such as alcohol distributors.

“It is more than a little insulting for other Georgia
Baptists, and the GBC itself, to decide that this autonomous
congregation made such a bad decision that our missions money is now
tainted,” wrote Gushee, who is a professor of Christian ethics at
Mercer University in Atlanta, in his column.

“This puts FBC Decatur in company with … other ‘gifts from
questionable sources, such as alcohol distributors,'” he added,
referencing the Journal-Constitution article.

According to the 2007 Annual Church Profile by LifeWay
Christian Resources, First Baptist Church of Decatur has a primary
worship attendance of 483, received a total of $1,207,765 last year,
and gave $10,444 to the Cooperative Program.

In total, it has a reported membership of 2,700.

During its annual meeting Nov. 9-11, the Georgia Baptist
Convention reported a deficit of some $3 million in its 2008
Cooperative Program budget.

Source: Christian Post

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