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The Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed that only men should serve as pastors

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The Southern Baptist Convention is reaffirming what church leader decided more than two decades ago - that only men should serve as pastors. Earlier this year, the Protestant denomination kicked out one of its biggest congregations, Saddleback Church in California, along with Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky, because they had women pastors. And yesterday at a meeting in New Orleans, appeals from those churches were rejected. Daniel Darling teaches at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Daniel, why can't women be pastors?

DANIEL DARLING: Well, this is a long-standing belief among Southern Baptists, really throughout the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists believe that men and women are equal, and women have full, you know, participation in the life and ministry of churches. But there's a particular role of pastor that we believe the Scripture has restricted to men. You'll notice that we not only affirmed the decision with Saddleback and Fern Creek, but also released a resolution - Resolution Five - which really affirmed the role of women in the life of the church. Many of our Southern Baptist leaders and Southern Baptist heroes throughout our history - Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and others - are women. So I think it's - this is a distinctive - one of the distinctives of Southern Baptist conventions. You know, some Christians disagree with this, that - in other denominations. But this action really was just in keeping with the long-standing position of Southern Baptists.

MARTÍNEZ: And, Daniel, out of curiosity, is there one particular biblical verse that the SBC points to to restrict women from being pastors?

DARLING: Well, I think one verse would be 1 Timothy 2:2, where it says, I do not give women the authority to teach over men. Baptists take it from that passage, but also in the qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy and in Titus and really in the sort of patterns of - in Scripture of those who are preaching and proclaiming have really been restricted to men.

MARTÍNEZ: So if a church has no men available or willing to be pastors, the SBC would rather lose a congregation than let a woman lead.

DARLING: Well, I think the SBC would rather we raise up young men and - to fill those positions.

MARTÍNEZ: But in the absence of that. That's the question - in the absence of that.

DARLING: Well, the SBC has believed this for all of its history. And so this is kind of in accordance with what the Southern Baptists have always believed, that women do have participation in the life of the church, that women and men are equal, but they have different and distinct roles.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if the SBC enshrines its prohibition on women pastors in its constitution, the church could exclude, through disfellowshipping, thousands of congregations. How wide is this rift going to get, Daniel?

DARLING: I don't think the rift is going to get very wide, and I don't think the practice is very widespread. And you'll notice this was not the only issue that the SBC addressed. Even when it comes to disfellowshipping, the SBC also disfellowshipped a church that handled sexual abuse wrong, that continued to hire a pastor who was accused of sexual abuse misconduct and so disfellowshipped from that church.

And the SBC also addressed a number of other issues. There was a resolution on immigration - urging immigration reform in Congress. It reaffirmed its commitment to robust sexual abuse reform, reauthorizing the task force to help churches really get this right, and also to create a database and a website that lists those who have committed sexual abuse. And so I think this is one of our distinctives, but it's not the only thing we're characterized by. We're characterized by missions, and we have the third-largest disaster relief operation. And, really, we've planted 10,000 churches since 2010. So this was one of many issues that our family of churches addressed.

MARTÍNEZ: Daniel Darling is a director at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of the book "Agents Of Grace." Daniel, thanks.

DARLING: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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