- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2000

Southern Baptists, citing the words of the Apostle Paul, Thursday proposed revising their statement of faith to declare that women should not be ordained to serve as pastors in the denomination's 41,000 churches.

"While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture," the proposed revision to the Baptist Faith and Message says.

The nation's largest non-Catholic denomination will vote on the statement June 13-14 when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) holds its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Southern Baptists are not alone in prohibiting or discouraging the ordination of women. Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches have no female priests, nor does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called Mormons, ordain female ministers.

The Rev. Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tenn., chairman of the committee that drafted the revision of the 16 million-member denomination's statement, emphasized Scripture as the basis for the proposed changes.

Baptists "stand upon the solid rock of biblical authority," he said.

"We are a people of the Book, who recognize no other authority for faith and practice but God's Word," Mr. Rogers told the Baptist Press. "The Bible is the source of our authority, not merely a support for our historic doctrines."

The revised sixth article of the Baptist statement cites as its scriptural source 1 Timothy 2, in the 12th verse of which Paul declares, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

Southern Baptists have traditionally rejected ordination of women. The first known Southern Baptist clergywoman was the Rev. Addie Davis, ordained in 1964.

She was unable to find a post within the denomination and joined the American Baptist Churches, which has ordained women since the 19th century.

The Baptist Faith and Message was first adopted by the SBC in 1925 and revised in 1963.

In 1998, Southern Baptists added to the statement a new article on the family, which angered feminists with its declaration also derived from the epistles of Paul that a wife should "submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband."

In the proposed revision released Thursday, Baptists declare that "Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."

The proposed changes also include a new passage emphasizing Baptist belief that there "is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord," which Mr. Rogers called a "clarification" made necessary by "the pervasive influence of a postmodern culture."

The statement against female ordination "signals a long, repressive period," said the Rev. Molly Marshall, who was dismissed from the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1994. She said she expects the SBC to approve the revisions next month.

The trend toward female clergy was led by so-called "mainline" Protestant churches. Methodists approved ordination of women in 1956 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church followed in 1960. Episcopalians, Presbyterians and other Protestant denominations also ordain women.

The proposed revision of the 18-article Baptist Faith and Message reiterates the SBC's 1984 resolution that declares, "The Scriptures teach that women are not in public worship to assume a role of authority over men."

In proposing the revision, Mr. Rogers warned of the dangers of "rampant relativism and the denial of absolute truth" facing Baptists in the world today.

"A pervasive secularism has infected our society and its corrosive effects are evident throughout the life of the nation," said Mr. Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, which enrolls 20,000 members in suburban Memphis. "Moral decay and assaults upon cherished truths dominate the arena in which we must now minister, and to which we must now proclaim the Gospel."

In a nine-point summary of the revised articles, Mr. Rogers wrote, "Our Baptist ancestors of a mere generation ago could not have imagined the need to address the issues of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and all manner of deviant and pagan sexuality. We answer with a clear word of biblical correction."

• Researcher John J. Sopko contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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