And, Anyway, is “Disfellowship” a Real Word?

I’ve had several inquiries from folks wondering what I think about the motion referred to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board the second week of June to modify the SBC’s constitution to automatically disfellowship churches who have women as their Senior Pastors.  Well . . . let me share the history. In 2000, you might recall, the Baptist Faith and Message (closest thing to a statement of belief Southern Baptists have) was amended to include the words: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Thus, as you might imagine, this recent move to disfellowship churches with women pastors is not the most shocking news I’ve heard anytime lately. Really, it seems like the next step in a long saga of behavior by the Southern Baptist Convention violating the Baptist distinctive of autonomy of the local church (that’s a fancy way of saying that each church must respond to the call of God as God’s Spirit leads).

Calvary, to the surprise of many, is still officially affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Sure enough, there was a time in history when both the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the ABC were members of Calvary, and when this congregation and both those denominational bodies worked in conjunction and cooperation with each other. It was a wonderful time of Baptist unity and shared identity.

But . . . since then, Southern Baptists have taken a road of practice and polity that leads far away from that historical commitment to Baptist principles. It has been some time since Calvary has sent any significant money to the SBC, sent messengers to any SBC meetings or had any contact at all with leaders of the SBC. In fact, since Calvary is technically still an SBC member, many SBC churches find Calvary on the SBC website, contact us for help with mission work, and then feel strongly that they have been misled-we’re nothing like any Southern Baptist church they’ve ever seen.

And, really . . . they are correct.

So, to make what could be a very short answer even longer, I will finally say that no . . . I’m not surprised. What has been curious for me, instead, is the timing of this Southern Baptist proposal as it applies to our own community here at Calvary.

Our Mission Board has been working on facilitating conversation about our denominational affiliations. The thought is that it may be valuable for us to take a closer look at the organizations we say we’re affiliated with and what our affiliation looks like.

For example, if we say we are affiliated with an organization but don’t support them financially, is that appropriate?

What about maintaining affiliation with an organization whose basic principles stand in conflict with our vision statement? Is that truthful?

I think it will be helpful to ask these questions and dialog with each other.

But . . .we might just get our own decision making power pulled out from under us if Southern Baptists do, indeed, decide to disfellowship churches with women as their pastors.

And, in my mind, this turn of events is really unfortunate.

Honestly, I’d prefer that we take a decisive stand about what we believe God has called us to be and do, rather than getting kicked out for some genetically pre-determined reason. What about Southern Baptist statements condemning homosexuals? Or proclaiming biblical inerrancy? Or boycotting Disney? Or declaring that Jews are going to hell?

Are these the public stances by which we want to be known?

Sure, we have a woman pastor here at Calvary. But what about the radical beliefs that define our congregation? Aren’t those the things that set us apart from Southern Baptists even more? “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God? Love God, love each other? We are an ecumenical, multi-racial, multi-ethnic Christian body that reaches out to the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ . . . to that end we strive to be welcoming, responsive, trusting and prayerful in everything we do??!?!?”

It seems to me that it would be a shame for us to be summarily disfellowshipped for the ridiculous reason that I am a woman.

I’d prefer to get kicked out instead for radically following Jesus . . . that’s much more offensive anyway.

11 Comments on “And, Anyway, is “Disfellowship” a Real Word?

  1. SBC????

    Hi Every body

    Yes it is. Wish it cound be like the American Baptist. But what I hear that if there any change is only thing is… All the women teacher, staff and more stop do the help in the church. Let see what changes will be made in the SBC.

    Well I don’t beleave there statment about women. But I got to go to a Southern Baptist Church like FBC of Richmond. Alot of people. Mouth openning moment. WoW! I gone to Captial Hill Baptist Church DC alot of people on there evening service. Alot of people but not my cup of tea. Podcasting with Tabernacle Baptist Church‎ Richmond every Sunday afternoon.

    Sometime it like a tag team at my past church and now church. I wish we as a fellowship be more fellowship. Take some of the time pass and bring it in today. Or are we a church on ower own. Sometime it just… can what something it can never happen. Round ?? let do it again and play the old tune that hear so well but not hear so well.

    Have a good week everyone.
    Will Short

  2. Hey Amy – Awesome post… I’m with you, it ought to be our decision, not decided for us, but if they’re gonna kick us out, let’s get kicked out for what we willfully do as followers of Jesus, not for how God chose to make us.

    I will be interested to see how discussions proceed as Calvary tries to communally discern what denominational affiliations say about us as an individual church – and what they *ought* to say.


  3. Well said, Amy. How important it is, I think, for members and participants at Calvary to determine their own affiliations and the course of their ministry. That you and your congregation are in conversation about these things is a sign of maturity and balance.

    Last week at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly meeting in Memphis, Chuck Poole (Northmister Baptist, Jackson, Miss.) gave several short interpretations of the theme. In one, he spoke of his own journey in faith and understanding. He expressed the value of women in ministry in this way (paraphrasing, but only very slightly): “If Baptists are not going to ordain women, they need to stop baptizing girls.”

    I wonder what SBC would do with a transgendered ordained person? Perhaps along with “once saved, always saved” there would be “once male, always male” or “once female, always female.”

  4. Amy, I’m sorry you even have to write an entry on this!! Disfellowhip is not a word and gender is not a reason to prevent someone from serving Christ or the church.

  5. Amy, we’ve not met, though I think we have some mutual friends. But I am pastor of a Baptist in the centre of London, and love reading your blog. And now I want to assure you of love,prayers and support as you all work your way through this. God calls us to his service, in all sorts of ways, and God will honour those who serve in love and faithfulness. Bless you!

  6. As with the ending of other kinds of relationships, it may not be all that productive to try to figure out who broke up with whom. Whether the SBC is breaking up with us or we’re breaking up with them, either way the relationship should be OVER, and soon. Enjoy the rest of your vacation, and don’t lose any sleep over being disfellowshipped.

  7. There is a move toward dictatorial hierarchy xthat is inevitable in fundamentalist denominations. We are going through some of the same gyrations in the Episcopal Church ( as I am sure you are all too aware of) over our decision to validate the humanity of Gay people- went through this debate years ago over women’s ordination.
    your essay is written with great wisdom, eloquence and grace. How could anyone doubt your calling based on your biological reality (female gender)? The Baptists lost me years ago to the Episcopal Church but I admire your faithfulness to historically Baptist faith- I think if you were to officially break ties with the SBC you would probably see your numbers soar even more.

    What a bunch of blind, miserable zealots some of them are becoming. I pray that they can some day have the courage to see the truth- that women are an equal part of God’s kingdom.

    Nicely put, Amy. BTW you are my new regular blog because Fr. Jake shut down his blog !



  8. hello

    I am Ruth’s husband Ians cousin and would like to make contact on behalf of myself and my mother Shirley Gouldbourne with regard to Ian’s mother. We know at the time of my dads death last August Auntie Jean was unwell.

    We would be greatful if you could relay this to Ruth and hope that we can make contact.

    My home number is 01684 275350 after 7.00

    Kind regards


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