Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Remarks on the Expulsion of Druid Hills Baptist Church from the Georgia Baptist Convention

As reported in this Associated Baptist Press article, messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) today voted to to accept an Executive Committee recommendation to declare that the Druid Hills Baptist Church of Atlanta is "not in cooperation" with the GBC because they have a woman serving as co-pastor of the church. That woman is Mimi Walker; the other co-pastor is her husband Graham Walker.

As the article also notes, I spoke against the recommendation. It quotes me accurately, but I thought it might be helpful if I provided the text of my full remarks. (I ran out of time--they only allow you three minutes and as my good church knows, I can't say "Good morning" in three minutes--so my third point was summarized in my spoken remarks.)

Here's the text of my remarks:

My name is Michael Ruffin; I am the pastor of and a messenger from the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald.

I am grateful to the GBC for providing this opportunity for me to voice my opposition to the breaking of fellowship with the Druid Hills Baptist Church. In voicing that opposition I am aware of certain things.

I am aware that most of us agree that Druid Hills or any other church has the right to call anyone they wish to call as pastor.

I am aware that we all agree that the GBC has the right to associate or not to associate with any church.

I am aware that the GBC leadership and perhaps the majority of messengers at this convention believe that they are doing the right thing in deeming Druid Hills or any other church that calls a woman as pastor to be a non-cooperating church.

I am aware that people of good conscience and Christian character can disagree over whether women should serve as pastors; while I am convinced that the tenor and trajectory of Scripture points toward a “yes” answer to that question, I am aware that I am likely in a minority among Georgia Baptists in that conviction.

I am aware that nothing I can say here today is likely to change the action that the convention is about to take against Druid Hills.

Given all of which I am aware, you might reasonably ask why I bother to stand to voice my opposition to this action.

First, I voice my opposition because I have known Graham and Mimi Walker since we were students together at Southern Seminary some 30 years ago; I choose to stand here with my friends.

Second, I voice my opposition because I am saddened and burdened by the very selective creedal application of the Baptist Faith & Message Statement that is being exercised by the GBC. I believe that it needs to be pointed out and pondered very carefully by GBC leadership and by GBC churches that we are applying, so far as I can tell, no other provision of or line in the BFM in the way that the line about the office of pastor being reserved for men is being applied. If an autonomous Georgia Baptist church calls a woman as pastor or co-pastor, they will now automatically, as soon as a vote can be taken, be deemed a non-cooperating church. There are many, many, many more provisions in the BFM. While I do not want the GBC to become even more creedal in its application of the BFM than it has on this one score, we really should consider the arbitrariness of such application. Let’s also consider the probability that if we get as serious about holding every GBC church accountable to every line in the BFM, we will very soon have no churches left.

Third and finally, I voice my opposition because I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous gifts that women are bringing to bear in pastoral roles in non-Southern Baptist churches throughout our land; while I cannot tell the future, I anticipate a time not too many decades hence when the pastoral glass ceiling will be broken in Georgia Baptist life and, when that time comes, I regret that we—or at least the members of future generations—will have to look back and regret all the years that we denied ourselves the free and open and gracious exercise of such gifts.

For those reasons I oppose the portion of the Executive Committee report deeming the Druid Hills Baptist Church a non-cooperating church and excluding them from GBC life.

Thank you.


Trey said...

Way to take a stand Mike! If a woman loves God and can lead a soul to the right place with love and wisdom, then I have no problem calling her Pastor!!

Anonymous said...

Well said and gracious. Indeed regret will be coming. Sadly it will be very, very late.

Gary Snowden said...

Thank you, Michael, for taking a principled stand in a battle that you clearly recognized ahead of time would not be won. My wife and I were appointed at the same time as Graham and Mimi if memory serves me correctly and if the neurons are firing correctly, I also think we went through missionary orientation together at Rockville.

Your argument about the selective use of the BF&M is certainly apropos. I concur as well that one day (hopefully not in the too distant future), Southern Baptists will ruefully look back on their failure to recognize women as fully qualified to serve as pastors with the same embarrassment with which they eventually acknowledged having taken the wrong side of the argument in the matter of slavery.