By Bob Allen
An association of Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky recently removed two churches from its membership roll for non-conformity with the Baptist Faith and Message ban on female pastors.
The 45-church Nelson Baptist Association, based in Bardstown, Ky., voted Sept. 13 to withdraw fellowship from Trinity Baptist Church in Bloomfield, Ky.
Union Band Baptist Church in Howardstown, Ky., withdrew from membership voluntarily at the association’s request.
The association’s credentials committee and Director of Missions Stan Lowery previously communicated with both churches about non-adherence to the Baptist Faith and Message and lack of active involvement in the association.
Lisa Zahalka, pastor of both Trinity Baptist Church and Big Spring Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, said while communication from the association did not say so specifically, her understanding was the action was prompted by the fact that she is a woman.
Zahalka said Trinity Baptist Church began decades ago when a small number of liberal-minded members withdrew from their Southern Baptist congregation. For a time they worshipped in the basement of Big Spring Bloomfield Presbyterian Church until the small Presbyterian congregation invited the Baptists to join them upstairs.
For years the two churches have worshipped together, blending both Baptist and Presbyterian traditions. In May 2014 they voted together to call Zahalka, a former church member who had been preaching there for several months, as pastor.
Zahalka, recently commissioned by the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and planning to be ordained by Baptists in the coming year, said one of her first priorities was to make her presence known in the community. She joined the Nelson County Ministerial Association and reached out to other churches, including leaders of an SBC congregation who told her they were not aware of her church until recently.
Zahalka said she first heard from Nelson Baptist Association in an email asking if she was pastor of both churches. Unaware that the Southern Baptist Convention had become even more firmly opposed to women in non-traditional ministry roles in the years since they separated, the Baptist members responded to the association’s request that they withdraw, “Let them kick us out.”
At the annual meeting of the Kentucky Council of Churches in Bardstown, Zahalka met Rhonda Abbott Blevins, executive coordinator of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, and the two started talking about ways to work together.
Shirley Carter, pastor of Union Band Baptist Church, observed her one-year anniversary in October. Established in 1856, the small congregation worships in a building completed in 1924 with double entry doors, reflecting a time when males and females each had their own entrance and sat in worship segregated by gender.
Former pastors of Union Band Baptist Church include Sam Rainer, the oldest son of LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer, who described visiting the church on Easter Sunday in a Christian Post column in 2006.
The Baptist Faith and Message, as amended by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, declares, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
It also prescribes “complementary” roles for men in women in marriage, where the husband has “God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family,” and the wife is “to submit herself graciously” to his headship.