And, Anyway, is “Disfellowship” a Real Word?

And, Anyway, is “Disfellowship” a Real Word? June 21, 2008

I’ve had several inquiries from folks wondering what I think about the motion referred to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board the second week of June to modify the SBC’s constitution to automatically disfellowship churches who have women as their Senior Pastors.  Well . . . let me share the history. In 2000, you might recall, the Baptist Faith and Message (closest thing to a statement of belief Southern Baptists have) was amended to include the words: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Thus, as you might imagine, this recent move to disfellowship churches with women pastors is not the most shocking news I’ve heard anytime lately. Really, it seems like the next step in a long saga of behavior by the Southern Baptist Convention violating the Baptist distinctive of autonomy of the local church (that’s a fancy way of saying that each church must respond to the call of God as God’s Spirit leads).

Calvary, to the surprise of many, is still officially affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Sure enough, there was a time in history when both the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the ABC were members of Calvary, and when this congregation and both those denominational bodies worked in conjunction and cooperation with each other. It was a wonderful time of Baptist unity and shared identity.

But . . . since then, Southern Baptists have taken a road of practice and polity that leads far away from that historical commitment to Baptist principles. It has been some time since Calvary has sent any significant money to the SBC, sent messengers to any SBC meetings or had any contact at all with leaders of the SBC. In fact, since Calvary is technically still an SBC member, many SBC churches find Calvary on the SBC website, contact us for help with mission work, and then feel strongly that they have been misled-we’re nothing like any Southern Baptist church they’ve ever seen.

And, really . . . they are correct.

So, to make what could be a very short answer even longer, I will finally say that no . . . I’m not surprised. What has been curious for me, instead, is the timing of this Southern Baptist proposal as it applies to our own community here at Calvary.

Our Mission Board has been working on facilitating conversation about our denominational affiliations. The thought is that it may be valuable for us to take a closer look at the organizations we say we’re affiliated with and what our affiliation looks like.

For example, if we say we are affiliated with an organization but don’t support them financially, is that appropriate?

What about maintaining affiliation with an organization whose basic principles stand in conflict with our vision statement? Is that truthful?

I think it will be helpful to ask these questions and dialog with each other.

But . . .we might just get our own decision making power pulled out from under us if Southern Baptists do, indeed, decide to disfellowship churches with women as their pastors.

And, in my mind, this turn of events is really unfortunate.

Honestly, I’d prefer that we take a decisive stand about what we believe God has called us to be and do, rather than getting kicked out for some genetically pre-determined reason. What about Southern Baptist statements condemning homosexuals? Or proclaiming biblical inerrancy? Or boycotting Disney? Or declaring that Jews are going to hell?

Are these the public stances by which we want to be known?

Sure, we have a woman pastor here at Calvary. But what about the radical beliefs that define our congregation? Aren’t those the things that set us apart from Southern Baptists even more? “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God? Love God, love each other? We are an ecumenical, multi-racial, multi-ethnic Christian body that reaches out to the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ . . . to that end we strive to be welcoming, responsive, trusting and prayerful in everything we do??!?!?”

It seems to me that it would be a shame for us to be summarily disfellowshipped for the ridiculous reason that I am a woman.

I’d prefer to get kicked out instead for radically following Jesus . . . that’s much more offensive anyway.

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