by Todd Starnes
The one thing you can't accuse Southern Baptists of doing is coming up with something new about the Bible," Michael Whitehead, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's interim president, said in joining an array of Southern Baptists reflecting on the recommendations from the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee.
"The committee's report does not announce any new beliefs," Whitehead noted, "it just clarifies what most Baptists have always believed the Bible teaches. It is the culture that has changed, not the Bible, and not most Baptists."
Included in the 2000 edition is an addition to Article VI: The Church, which the committee said speaks "clearly [the convention's] conviction that while both men and women are gifted and called for ministry, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
"It is a clarification of what we have always believed," Whitehead said. "For most Southern Baptists, the committee's report is not news that God has assigned roles in the home and in the church....This principle is not a cultural relic but the divine order. Most Baptists are pretty squeamish about tinkering with the words of God."
Whitehead stressed that the new edition does not diminish the role of women in ministry. Midwestern Seminary, based in Kansas City, Mo., "believes that women are gifted and called to all sorts of ministry, with these limits on office.
"They serve in all sorts of ministries, at home and abroad," he added. "There are no second-class Christians in the church."
Jane Ann Welch, a music minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kan., told the Kansas City Star that women do not have a senior-pastor role. "[Women] have a wonderful opportunity to be used in their gift areas on staff," she said. "But I do think the Bible does refer to men in that pastoral position."
Amy Giles, who directs the children's ministry at Mulberry Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., agreed. "I think it's pretty clear in the Bible that ministers and leaders of ministry should be men," Giles told the Charlotte Observer. "Personally, I think women should take a more submissive role, although I have to say that in my job my views are respected."
SBC President Paige Patterson, who also is presid ent of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., told the Raleigh News & Observer that the convention had a responsibility to speak out on the issue.
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Religion News Service people who disagree with the role of women in the church, as described in the Baptist Faith and Message, disagree with the Bible. "Their disagreement is with the Apostle Paul, not with us," Land said.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., agreed. "It is those who ordain and call women as pastors who have to explain why they would move in a direction opposed to Scripture," Mohler told the New York Times.