This IS Who We Are–Take It or Leave It

I try to read, keep up with the times and the trends of what is happening in the church world. Then, I read articles like this one about Bailey Edwards Nelson and what happened when she became pastor of a church in Mt. Airy, NC:  http://www.abpnews.com/ministry/people/item/8271-female-baptist-minister-resigns#.UTf9cxykr0c

And I think to myself:  Time to stop reading. Okay, I won’t do that, but sometimes it seems like the logical choice.

Now, perhaps the resignation of a female Baptist pastor in the original Mayberry shouldn’t raise the hair on the back of my neck. Maybe it’s inevitable that folks in Surry County would want it to be like Mayberry.

There's only one way to deal with women preachers--NIP IT IN THE BUD!

There’s only one way to deal with women preachers–NIP IT IN THE BUD!

But read the article links next to the story. If those don’t cause your hair to stand on end, then you have a problem.

Oh, I get it. Baptists–particularly those who label themselves as the “Southern” variety–have opposed women in the pulpit for years. One would think that this might change over time, but the opposition to women in ministry has actually grown rather than declined (http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/hotissues/dildayfm2000.htm)

But really, that’s not the problem here. The problem is that an entire association of Baptist churches said, “We won’t work with you” to the people who hired this woman. They deemed this issue to be so central to their beliefs that they wouldn’t even allow them a seat at their table.

While it’s not my right to try and force this on anyone, it does disturb me to no end that churches won’t ordain women. But even more disturbing is disqualifying a church from breaking bread or making a contribution or sharing in a mission project with other congregations because they do ordain women.

If you have 10 Baptists in a room, it’s guarenteed that you have more differences of opinion than belly buttons. If the intent is to disengage with everyone who disagrees, then every Baptist church on the planet should disperse as soon as possible. But that’s not what this was. This was about the efforts of the majority to look “Biblical” in bullying another church into submission to an archaic tradition.

Fortunately, Flat Rock Baptist took their best punches and stood firm. Unfortunately, their pastor still didn’t last very long.

I don’t know Reverend Bailey Edwards Nelson at all. I have no idea if she is a skilled pastor or bumbling amateur. I believe it is more the first of those (after all, she went to FURMAN, right?). I tend to think that her departure is a loss for both the church and the association, whether they acknowledge it or not.

I also have no idea if the controversy in the Surry Baptist Association caused her departure. However, I’m pretty sure it didn’t help. I’m also VERY sure that cutting off everyone who disagrees with you is about as mature as a bunch of kids playing kickball. If you take your ball and go home every time something doesn’t go your way, you won’t have a very long game.

I firmly disagree with and do not understand churches that forbid women as deacons or ministers. I just don’t get it. Quote all the cherry-picked, out-of-context scripture that you want. I just don’t think that whether or not someone uses a urinal is the first consideration of God when calling someone to ministry.

But I am also not going to tell another church that I won’t have anything to do with them because they forbid women in ministry. It’s their right and responsibility as a church to follow their belief about scripture and their convictions. I think that we need to be who we are and seek points of cooperation and agreement where we can.

With that in mind, I want to be clear about who we are at Augusta Heights. Not saying that everyone in the church agrees. This is exactly where we stand as a collective Body of Christ on these issues:

-We believe that men and women are God’s creation and equally important.

-We believe that God can and does call women as deacons, and we ordain women as deacons.

-We believe that God can and does call women as ministers.

-We believe that God can and does gift/equip/call women to be pastors.

-We believe this strongly enough that we will ordain a woman as a minsiter this year; and have an 84-year old woman as our chair of deacons.

-We believe that these convictions Christ-centered, Spirit-driven, and Biblically-based.

-We will not try to force you to agree with these stances (even if we debate with you about them).

-We will NOT stop talking to you, stick our tongue out at you, or take our ball and go home if you disagree with us on this. In fact, if we have the chance, we’ll build a Habitat house with you. Or collect canned goods for a food pantry with you. Or even sit around the table and eat with you.

After all, Jesus and the Pharisees couldn’t agree on what color green beans were. But they engaged, discussed, visited and ate together. At Augusta Heights, we think that it’s time the CHURCH ordained by Jesus Christ lived up to that.

It’s time to grow up, people. Be who you are and act as you feel led. But if we can’t look past our differences in order to share Jesus and help ALL of God’s creation, then we’ve got issues that go way beyond which restroom the pastor uses.

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