Mark Wingfield of Baptist New Global writes that 540 members of the Baptist Women in Ministry have signed an open letter defending the right of women to hold church leadership positions. The letter comes in response to a recent expulsion of five churches from the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue.
Current Southern Baptist policy holds that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Such a position has proven extremely controversial, and the letter states that “Jesus did not place any limits on women’s roles.”
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.
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.”