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Baptists to Cut Ties with Ga. Church Over Female Pastor

( [email protected] ) Apr 04, 2010 10:16 AM EDT

A more than 95-year-old church in Atlanta may be ousted from the Southern Baptist Convention over a woman pastor.

The Rev. Mimi Walker has been serving as co-pastor at Druid Hills Baptist Church with her husband, the Rev. Graham Walker, since 2003. But earlier this month, leaders of the Georgia Baptist Convention recommended cutting ties with the local congregation.

"It seems sad that they decided to go backwards in time," Mimi Walker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm not sure what the value is of trying to go back in time when women were held in subservience."

According to the Southern Baptist Convention's 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, the office of pastor is "limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

In keeping with the confession statement, the state convention voted on March 16 to declare Druid Hills "not a cooperating church."

It added, "The GBC has never been opposed to women serving in ministry positions other than pastor," according to Associated Baptist Press.

This is the second time the Georgia Baptist Convention has moved toward severing ties with a local church over a female pastor. Last year, the convention voted to end its relationship with First Baptist Church in Decatur over the congregation's decision to bring a woman to the pulpit. Julie Pennington-Russell became senior pastor of First Baptist in 2007.

"I’ve seen women in the ministry and worked with women in Presbyterian and Methodist churches," Walker told AJC. "They are moving forward in the process of keeping women involved in the ministry and moving toward equality.

"Our disagreement is related to how you interpret Scripture."

Amid ongoing conflicts over female pastors, some Southern Baptist leaders have made clarifications to what they believe.

Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Baptist Faith and Message does not state that "women are to be subservient to men." They are of equal worth before God, he stated earlier.

And though women are gifted for service in the church, Land says the New Testament teaches that "a woman is not to usurp authority over the man" and thus women are not to serve as pastors.

The Georgia Baptist Convention, which has roughly 3,600 churches and is one of 41 state conventions throughout the country, will vote in November on the recommendation to sever ties.