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Southern Baptists are poised to ban churches with women pastors. Some are urging them to reconsider
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From its towering white steeple and red-brick facade to its Sunday services filled with rousing gospel hymns and evangelistic sermons, First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia, bears many of the classic hallmarks of a Southern Baptist church.
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On a recent Sunday, its pastor for women and children, Kim Eskridge, urged members to invite friends and neighbors to an upcoming vacation Bible school — a perennial Baptist activity — to help “reach families in the community with the gospel.”

But because that pastor is a woman, First Baptist’s days in the Southern Baptist Convention may be numbered.

At the SBC’s annual meeting June 11-12 in Indianapolis, representatives will vote on whether to amend the denomination’s constitution to essentially ban churches with any women pastors — and not just in the top job. That measure received overwhelming approval in a preliminary vote last year.

Leaders of First Baptist – which has given millions of dollars to Southern Baptist causes and has been involved with the convention since its 19th century founding — are bracing for a possible expulsion.

“We are grieved at the direction the SBC has taken,” the church said in a statement.
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And in a Baptist tradition that prizes local church autonomy, critics say the convention shouldn’t enshrine a constitutional rule based on one interpretation of its non-binding doctrinal statement.

By some estimates, women are working in pastoral roles in hundreds of SBC-linked churches, a fraction of the nearly 47,000 across the denomination.

But critics say the amendment would amount to a further narrowing in numbers and mindset for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which has moved steadily rightward in recent decades.

They also wonder if the SBC has better things to do.

It has struggled to respond to sexual abuse cases in its churches. A former professor at a Southern Baptist seminary in Texas was indicted in May on a charge of falsifying a record about alleged sexual abuse by a student in order to obstruct a federal investigation into sexual misconduct in the convention.