Christians who insist God cannot call women to pastoral ministry are “wrong,” according to an open letter drafted by Baptist Women in Ministry and so far signed by 540 women who are pastors and almost 2,000 others.
Unlike a letter drafted by a male Southern Baptist pastor arguing against women serving as pastors — to which only male pastors, elders and seminary professors are invited to sign — the BWIM letter is open to “anyone made in God’s image.”
“For centuries, people have told women they are not as valuable to God’s work in the world as men are,” the BWIM letter begins. “Even today, men are taking actions against women who are ministering, leading and pastoring to spread the love and grace of Jesus Christ. They are wrong.”
The new letter comes in response to a tempest within the Southern Baptist Convention, where the most conservative segment is pushing for a constitutional amendment to bar churches that ordain women or give women job titles including the word “pastor.” The SBC made international headlines in February when it expelled the denomination’s largest and most well-known church, Saddleback Church, because the Southern California congregation has a female teaching pastor and last year ordained three women.
Virginia SBC pastor Mike Law elicited outrage when he recently published an online list of 700 churches in Virginia and Texas he says violate the SBC’s doctrinal statement. The list includes names, addresses and photos of the ministers and their churches.
“God invites (women) to participate in God’s purposes as much as men.”
Today’s SBC — like other parts of the nondenominational world and especially Reformed churches — is dominated by a theology known as complementarianism, which teaches male headship and disallows females leading in churches.
To counter this, the BWIM letter gives more than 15 Scripture references to illustrate its view that “God invites (women) to participate in God’s purposes as much as men.”
The letter moves from Genesis to the New Testament Gospels with examples of women in leadership and the words of Jesus.
“Throughout the Bible, women lead God’s people,” the letter states. It adds, “Jesus did not place any limits on women’s roles.”
Further, “Jesus did not make a mistake by calling the women present at the resurrection to preach the gospel, and he has not made a mistake in calling women to pastor, minister and lead today,” the letter continues. “When anyone treats you as if you are not worthy to do God’s work, they are challenging Jesus’ own actions.”
Women are “worthy of God’s calling,” the letter asserts. “You are valued by God equally to the way God values men. You have the right to be seen as made in God’s image, not as a secondary afterthought God designed to always be under the authority of men. When men say you must be limited for there to be unity in the church, they are not seeking true unity that brings all people, men and women, together in Christ. They are only protecting their own power.”
Theologies like those currently dominating the SBC are harmful, the letter concludes. “The perpetuation of male authoritarianism has led to far too much abuse, pain, hurt and sorrow for women.”
A BWIM news release said the idea to draft the letter came from a group of 25 women on Law’s list who met to discuss the proposed SBC amendments and the online list of female pastors.
“This letter is an essential response because it reminds people the loudest voices in Baptist life are not the only voices,” said Jennifer Brown, pastor of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss.
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