Magazine article The Christian Century

'Female Pastors' Story Rattles SBC Nerves

Magazine article The Christian Century

'Female Pastors' Story Rattles SBC Nerves

Article excerpt

When Lutherans recently celebrated 50 years of ordaining women as pastors in Sweden, they invited Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, to speak at festive events in Uppsala and Stockholm.

In Nashville, 60 women pastors who lead United Methodist churches with 1,000 or more members discussed in mid-September how to convince more large congregations that female clergy are talented leaders, too. The UMC has ordained women for 52 years, but only 5 percent of them head sizable churches.

A recent issue of a moderate-oriented Cooperative Baptist Fellowship magazine has a cover story on female pastors, reflecting the fact that the CBF now has 100 women ministers, including some serving at churches dually aligned with the CBF and the Southern Baptist Convention. The editor received only a half-dozen complaints.

But a sharp reminder that most Southern Baptist churches and institutions are staunch opponents of women clergy arose when the nondenominational magazine Gospel Today published its September-October issue. It features five successful women pastors--who pose, smiling, on the cover. Bookstores affiliated with the SBC removed the magazine from their shelves.

Founder-editor Teresa Hairston said she learned before Labor Day that LifeWay Christian Bookstores--"one of our largest outlets," she said--had opted not to display the issue in more than 100 stores. An anonymous e-mailer first informed her of the situation, complaining that the stores had treated it "like it was pornography."

Hairston said in a telephone interview on September 24 that she had had no response from LifeWay officials after she left voice mail messages weeks earlier seeking an explanation.

"We've had overwhelming support from people who are appalled that this has happened," she said. "We totally respect those churches who feel they must oppose women clergy, but we wanted to have a story that told of the great work with churches and families" done by the featured pastors, she said.

The five "powerful" female pastors pictured are Tamara Bennett of This Is Pentecost Ministries in Sacramento, Claudette Copeland of New Creation Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Bishop Millicent Hunter of the Baptist Worship Center in Philadelphia, Kimberly Ray of Church on the Rock in Matteson, Illinois, and Sheryl Brady of The River in Durham, North Carolina.


The LifeWay action drew caustic comments from Southern Baptist pastor and blogger Wade Burleson, who cited an Associated Press article on the controversy. …

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