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One man’s opinion on banning women from Baptist pulpits

One man’s opinion on banning women from Baptist pulpits
By Dick Yarbrough
One man’s opinion on banning women from Baptist pulpits
By Dick Yarbrough

Hear this, a Baptist’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord this promise to keep. If I should die before I wake, don’t let girls in the pulpit, for goodness sake.”

Southern Baptist — the largest Protestant denomination in the United States — have just finished their annual convention in New Orleans and have voted that while women can be CEOs of major corporations, U.S. Senators, cabinet officers, Supreme Court justices, governors, entrepreneurs and financiers, they had better not try to step into a Baptist pulpit and preach the Word of God. It ain’t gonna happen.

A two-thirds majority at the convention approved an amendment to its constitution that will more broadly prohibit member churches from having women hold any pastoral title.

As a card-carrying un-United Methodist, I have been blessed to have known and to have been ministered to by some extraordinary women pastors in my lifetime. Like their male counterparts, they have done their best to save this sorry soul, and their work clearly is not over. I remain a work in progress. But it is worth noting that at no time were we ever struck by lightning or turned into pillars of salt.

I will admit that the recently-departed Methodist bishop of the North Georgia Conference, who made a pluperfect mess of things before being shipped out, was indeed female. But I attribute that not to her gender but to the fact that in her prior life she was a litigating attorney. Litigating attorneys tend to be bovines in an establishment full of ceramic objects and should not become bishops, male or female.

Southern Baptists also kicked out two member churches that had the temerity to employ female preachers: Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky (Where Rev. Linda Barnes Popham has served as pastor for the past 20 years) and Saddleback Church (average weekly attendance, 30,000) in Lake Forest, California. If the latter sounds familiar, its founder is Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” and one of the most respected evangelical figures in the country. Both now are Southern Baptist toast.

James Carroll, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said that based on the understanding of certain passages of scripture, “We believe that only qualified men are called by God to serve in that role.” And what are those passages? They include: 1 Corinthians 11:3-12, 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and Titus 1, 2.

By the way, these are not the words of Christ, but rather the opinions of the Apostle Paul and include such passages as: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says,” and “The head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is man,” and “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is the same as having her head shaved,” and, finally, he says women are to be “self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” I can’t wait for the females in my family to read this.

It is interesting to note that the Apostle Paul never married. Had he, I suspect these particular passages might read a tad differently today. Ms. Apostle Paul would have seen to that.

As for Jesus’ attitude toward women, Luke 8: 1-3 talks about Christ going from town to village proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. He had with him the twelve disciples and three women – Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, “who ministered to them out of their own resources.” Women ministers? Sounds like it. (Hey, if you can cherry-pick passages out of the Bible to make a point, so can I!)

To my Southern Baptist friends — assuming I have any left — if excluding women from the pulpit floats your theological boat just like my fellow un-United Methodist squabble over their own vision of how to worship, be my guest.

But write this down from a certified non-theologian: It doesn’t matter one whit to me what you or other denominations claim as the correct interpretation of the Scriptures. Not one whit. It’s just your opinion.

To me, worship is a very personal thing. It is a private matter between my God and me. Period. All the rest of this stuff is just so much man-made noise. Can I get an amen?

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at or at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.

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