Ga. Baptist policy impacts female pastors

JONESBORO, Ga. (BP)--Messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a policy Nov. 11 that will allow convention officials to refuse donations from individuals and churches -- a new policy that apparently will apply to the First Baptist Church of Decatur, which is led by a female pastor.

The new policy -- which covers a wide range of categories -- allows the GBC executive director and the administration committee to make the decision about the refusal of gifts from individuals and churches. John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Statesboro and member of the administration committee, said occasionally a person with good intentions might give the GBC a gift that is impractical, such as an old bus, a van or even a warehouse where the cost of maintenance would exceed its value.

But Waters said the policy also would apply to churches and to FBC Decatur, where Julie Pennington-Russell is pastor. She became pastor of the church in 2007 after having pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, for nearly 10 years.

The text of the new policy says it applies to "a church, organization or donor not in cooperation and harmony with the approved work and purpose of the Convention" In such a situation, the executive director and the administration committee "shall review the matter and they shall have authority on behalf of the Convention to determine whether or not to accept or retain such funds or property."

The calling of Pennington-Russell to FBC Decatur, Waters said, did not resonate well with the beliefs of most Georgia Baptists and was not in keeping with the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, which states that "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 church is aligned with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The 2007 Annual Church Profile by LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC shows the church reported a primary worship attendance of 483, zero baptisms, total receipts of $1,207,765 and Cooperative Program giving of $10,444.

In other matters, messengers, meeting at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro for their 187th session:

-- voted to change the name of Shorter College to Shorter University. The change will become effective on June 1, 2010, and will mark a milestone in the development of the 135-year-old institution.

-- voted unanimously to enter into a partnership with the New York Baptist Convention that will focus on the five boroughs of New York City: The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White and New York Baptist Convention Executive Director Terry Robertson signed an agreement to seal the partnership.

-- received 85 new churches and missions into the GBC fold.

-- approved a proposed budget of $49,600,000. The 2009 budget represents a decrease over the current budget of $52,000,000.

-- heard a report from Fred Evers, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton. He reported on behalf of a special task force and said that all of the Georgia Baptist Convention institutions had complied fully with the recommendations regarding sole membership.

--- re-elected Bucky Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, as president. He was unopposed. Also elected were Billy Godwin, pastor of Ephesus Baptist Church in Winston, as first vice president; Chris Humphries, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Austell, as second vice president; Danny Cochran, pastor of Holly Creek Baptist Church in Chatsworth, as third vice president; and Ken Cloud, associational missionary at the Bowen Association, as fourth vice president.

Next year's convention will be held Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church of Woodstock.

Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press. Based on reporting by Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index.

Download Story