DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (ABP) — Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., has been removed from membership in the Halifax Baptist Association because of the congregation's female co-pastor.
Sonja Phillips and her husband, Dave, were hired as co-pastors of the 750-member church in July.
During the associations' annual meeting Oct. 28, a motion was approved to expel the congregation. “We need to take a stand on this issue” of female pastors, said Chris Lybarger, pastor at Rima Ridge Baptist Church in Ormond Beach, who made the motion, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The ouster was confirmed by the unanimous vote of the association's executive committee Nov. 18 after some confusion arose about the association's earlier action.
Dennis Belz, director of missions for the Halifax Association, said the calling of a woman pastor is contradictory to the Bible.
Female pastors, while common in some denominations, are rare in Southern Baptist life. Three years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention revised its Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement to limit the role of pastor to men. While the statement is not binding on congregations, it often is used as a tool of acceptable doctrine by local associations.
This is the first time a church has been expelled from the 46-year-old Halifax Baptist Association for any reason, reported the Florida Baptist Witness.
Central was a charter member of the 33-church association but has been less active in recent years. It also is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which welcomes female pastors.
Sonja Phillips, 40, said her decision to become a pastor was “not about me being a woman.”
“It's about me being a child of God,” the former social worker told the News-Journal. “I'm just trying to serve God the best way I know how.”
Sonja and Dave Phillips take turns preaching for the Daytona Beach church, which has a reputation for its multiple social ministries.
Longtime church member Jim Page represented Central Baptist as a messenger to the October associational meeting but was not allowed to participate. He said the church's ouster doesn't matter nearly as much to church members as their relationship with the co-pastors. “I feel sorry for those other churches that have such restrictive thinking and policies,” he added.
Photo is available from Associated Baptist Press.