This cover article in Gospel Today magazine provoked a strong reaction in the Southern Baptist Convention. Lifeway Stores, a Christian bookstore owned by the SBC, pulled the magazine from the shelves of one hundred of its stores, because it considered the article on women leading fundamentalist churches to be too incendiary.
The Southern Baptist Convention, as you probably know, has long barred women from the pastorate, reitterating their position in 1998 when they revised their "Baptist Faith and Message" statement. The message puts it clearly:
"While Scripture teaches that a woman's role is not identical to that of men in every respect, and that pastoral leadership is assigned to men, it also teaches that women are equal in value to men."
The updated statement clarifies a woman's "equal value" thusly:
"A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
To support these positions, the SBC refers to several passages in scripture (nearly all--I know it's shocking--in the Pauline epistles). The one most frequently cited is 1 Timothy 2:12, which attributes the following to the Apostle: "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man."
In a related story, prominent officials within the Southern Baptist Convention have lauded the candidacy of John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin. SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land thinks it is peachy to have the governor of Alaska--wife and mother of five--assume the role of vice president. He has no problem with her becoming president, should that be necessary. Land sees no conflict between stated SBC positions on the place of women in public and private life and its support of Palin. "There's no disconnect or inconsistency whatsoever," he recently told The Washington Post. "We don't go beyond where the New Testament goes. Public office is neither a church nor a marriage."
So apparently the authority that the president would have over men (say, um, the entire armed forces--or at least the male majority within them) isn't a problem.
The Post article offers this helpful clarification: "Land said the Southern Baptists' position allows for a wife to work outside the home, so long as her husband agrees -- and Todd Palin has long backed his wife's career in public service."
So here's a question: What if Todd Palin tells his wife it is okay for her to be a pastor?