Female Pastors & Graceless Responses in Mayberry

After spending Thursday night in the cool-weather environs of Ruidoso, NM, nestled in the Sacramento Mountains, the heat of Alamogordo has perhaps got me in a contrary mood.  With limited time on the internet, I’m just now catching up on some of the latest news in the nation and in our Baptist world at large.

I couldn’t help but notice a piece at Associated Baptist Press written by Norman Jameson, “NC Association ousts church with woman pastor.”  As I read the article, I began to think that some Baptists simply lack that which we would all like to receive from one another and most especially from God — GRACE!

A scant two weeks after 28 year-old Bailey Edwards Nelson was called as the Pastor of Flat Rocks Baptist Church in Mt. Airy (the real-life town that was the basis of the fictionalized Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show), NC, Surry Baptist Association — a fellowship of 65 Southern Baptist churches in the area —

voted “overwhelmingly” at a regularly scheduled meeting to disfellowship the church for calling Bailey Edwards Nelson as pastor. Messengers viewed the church’s action as violating scriptural guidelines that they believe reserve the role of pastor to males.

I believe strongly in the autonomy of not only the local church, but the autonomy of the local Association, State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention itself.  Surry Baptist Association was within their rights to exercise its autonomy in this situation, but I do question the wisdom and Christian charity of autonomous organizations exercising their autonomy in a heavy-handed way with an apparent lack of Christian charity.

Now, at the risk of losing my conservative SBC credentials, let me state that I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that the office of Senior/Lead Pastor “is limited to men as qualified by Scripture” (see BF&M2000, Article VI.  The Church).    But, the Bible clearly teaches many, many theological concepts and principles, in addition to practical rules for living.  Some of the more important theological principles have been codified in the latest edition of the Baptist Faith & Message.

However, what has not been codified in the BF&M2000, but which has been on display in the summary and rather quick ouster of Flat Rock Baptist Church from the local Association, is the lack of grace that has been displayed by the majority of churches within the Surry Baptist Association.  Only a week after Pastor Nelson’s first Sunday in the pulpit — on July 10, 2011 — Flat Rock Baptist Church

received a letter from the association’s membership committee citing “concerned pastors” and asking for a meeting to discuss “possible solutions” to the issue they said threatened the fellowship of the association.

These “concerned pastors” were so worried about the grave situation of a woman preaching in one of “their” churches that they had to act within a week of the young lady assuming her pastorate.  Don’t want to let her settle in or even meet her before moving to oust the church.  If I had to guess, these pastors would probably not be as gravely concerned about obese pastors preaching in one of their churches, as long as that overweight pastor was a man, but I digress!

Billy Blakley — Surry Baptist Association’s Director of Missions was quoting as saying that:

pastors in his association wanted to withdraw fellowship from Flat Rock as “peaceably” as possible amid rumors that an angry motion would be made at the associational meeting.

Moving to disfellowship Flat Rocks Baptist Church on July 26, only 16 days after Pastor Nelson assumed her responsibilities at Flat Rocks, is sure a funny way of “peaceably” withdrawing fellowship.  Orwell would be proud.  And, by the way, why would someone make an “angry motion” at the Association’s regularly scheduled meeting?  Are there pastors or lay folks who have a problem with the sin of anger?  A few pastors in the Association who have a problem with gluttony?  Anyone who doesn’t properly observe the Sabbath?

And, therein lies the rub.  Without knowing what Pastor Nelson believes and without the opportunity to dialogue with her and Flat Rocks Baptist Church (one missed meeting does not a dialogue make), the overwhelming majority of those voting in the July 26 meeting chose to allow their adamant (and apparently emotional) opposition to female pastors to inform their decision to summarily disfellowship this church and pastor.    

May be that would have happened anyway.  Who knows.  But, in a town that was made famous as Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show, the members of the Surry Baptist Association sure could use a reminder of the BF&M codified Biblical principle that Barney, Opie, Floyd, Aunt Bea, Gomer, and even Otis experienced daily from Sherriff Andy Taylor — GRACE!

98 comments for “Female Pastors & Graceless Responses in Mayberry

  1. Tom Parker
    August 5, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Howell:

    My understanding is that 5 minutes was allocated to this “issue”, 1 person spoke for disfellowshipping and 1 spoke against and then a vote was taken by standing if you were for disfellowshipping. Nice way to now know who is for and against.

    The messengers and others were not given a heads up that this would be a part of the quarterly associational meeting–Why?

    What in the world was the big hurry?

    • August 5, 2011 at 4:48 PM

      Tom,

      Thanks for the further information. I wasn’t aware of the “5 minutes,” but I gathered from reading Jameson’s article that there was no prior notice given to anyone, including to Flat Rock or Pastor Nelson, that there would be a motion to disfellowship at the quarterly meeting. Indeed, what was the big hurry to vote on this without any advance notice or even time for folks to be made aware of the situation and to pray about it. I’m sure that Surry Baptist Association has by-laws which would specify how a church would be disfellowshipped. They may have followed their by-laws, but something tells me this rush to jugdment was more about an emotional response at the thought of a female pastor in their midst. Even if the church were ultimately disfellowshipped, this does not appear to be a gracious way to go about it. Thanks for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

      • Tom Parker
        August 5, 2011 at 4:54 PM

        Howell:

        You said:”Even if the church were ultimately disfellowshipped, this does not appear to be a gracious way to go about it. ”

        I 100% agree. It looks like this was rammed through as if there was some great emergency.

        BTW, do you think when it comes to voting on an issue like this would a secret ballot and a heads up to the messengers give a more accurate reflection of the messengers feelings on this issue.

        • August 5, 2011 at 5:11 PM

          Tom,

          There is no question that the disfellowship vote should have been announced in advance and that the final vote should have been by secret ballot. Of course, if the by-laws (if any exist) say differently, they would take precedence. Regardless, I think you are correct that having messengers stand put a tremendous amount of pressure on pastors and lay folks who may not have wanted to vote that day on the ouster of Flat Rock. I cannot fathom how this would have risen to the level of an “emergency” which needed to be resolved within 16 days of Pastor Nelson’s first Sunday in the Association. What a welcome. Whether they realize it or not, the way that this was handled will not provide the kind of witness that the majority thinks that it will. And, that is a true shame. Thanks,

          Howell

  2. August 6, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    Brother Howell,

    You do know that Earnest T. Bass still lives in those hills and knows how to get to New Mexico with his rocks, don’t you? 🙂

    Not much research I can do right now on this situation. Suffice it to say when an autonomous body decides not to attend a meeting to discuss an issue one can determine they do not want to discuss an issue. With that basic understanding it seems very uncooperative on the part of those not willing to discuss a situation. Their move clearly went against the Mission Statement of the association.

    “The Mission of the Surry Baptist Association is to glorify God through Jesus Christ by assisting and encouraging congregations in a partnership of cooperative ministries of reaching people and developing believers.”

    If a member body doesn’t desire to meet to discuss an issue, and they knew this was going to be an issue in this association, then to maintain the “partnership of cooperative ministries” the association had no choice but to take action. Especially when they found out some pastors were willing to bring it to the floor of the association.

    As to the short time between the woman being called and the vote, I will grant you that point. Two weeks does seem like a short time. It could be the DOM was in touch with the search committee during their search and expressed his concern with the committee when he found they narrowed their search to a female minister. Thus, this was not a “quick:” action. Now, I do not know this to be a fact, I am just speculating based on how I know DOM’s operate when churches within their association is looking at pastors. However, one other thing you need to remember. For this action to take place as quick as it did after Ms Nelson received the vote for a call the people in this association knew this church was looking at a female pastor. There is a huge sub-culture within the church communities. A Baptist association has one of the strongest sub-cultures of anything I have ever seen. Our DOM was at a meeting of community leaders recently and they were discussing how to inform the people of the county if something happened to wipe out county communications. My DOM responded he could give them names of 10 people and if 10 community leaders took one name and told these individuals, he could guarantee that within 30 minutes the entire county would be aware of the situation. 🙂 Now we know that is an exaggeration but the point is well taken. People within an association know what is going on in that association. Therefore the author of the article’s statement;

    Nelson said no one from Flat Rock attended the associational meeting, nor were they aware that their membership in the association was going to be discussed.

    is suspect. Notice very closely the wording concerning their membership in the association. They may not have known a vote was going to be taken, but it is hard for me to understand how they did not know the association was going to discuss this issue especially after declining to meet with the membership committee.

    Does all of this justify the “quickness” of the decision that was made. I would agree with you that it would have been better to try more than once to have a meeting with the church. Efforts of three and four times to meet would have kept this from the appearance that a rash decision was made to satisfy a bunch of mad preachers. At the same time the mission statement of the association speaks volumes. It already is hard enough for an association to partner in ministry together with the diverseness of the churches. Continuing with a church that refuses to meet to discuss differences does not speak “we desire to be a partner” to a group trying to minister in an area.

    Blessings,
    Tim

    • Tom Parker
      August 6, 2011 at 8:25 AM

      Tim Rogers:

      I would have fully suspected that you would show up here and once again show plainly how graceless someone can be about an issue. It is the old my way or highway approach that some like yourself seem to have about several issues in Baptist life. BTW, you say” Not much research I can do right now on this situation”, but then you go to conjecture about a lot of things you haven’t a single fact to support.

      You do not have the facts but you support the quick removal of this church.

      Your biased view shows plainly in your comment.

  3. August 6, 2011 at 6:23 AM

    I’ve said for years that I wouldn’t vote to kick a church out of the association solely on the basis of their calling a female pastor. That the church declined to meet with the membership committee is quite reasonable under the circumstances. That the association considers this ‘unwilling to maintain fellowship with the other churches’ is laughable.

    • Tom Parker
      August 6, 2011 at 8:31 AM

      William:

      What a breath of fresh air you are in the SB world. I know that some will label you because of your comment above . In there minds you are just not hardcore enough. What a well reasoned response full of Grace.

  4. August 6, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Howell,
    Do you agree that, gracelessness granted, the church should have been removed from the local association?

  5. August 6, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Good Morning All,

    Not a lot of time to respond to comments this morning as I am preparing for the funeral of our long-time pianist who went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday. Will have more time this afternoon to interact and dialogue. Thanks and God bless,

    Howell

    • August 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      Thanks, Howell.
      I’m sorry about the funeral, but thankful the pianist is with the Lord. I won’t be able to react much anyway as this weekend schedule is full for my anniversary.

  6. August 6, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    Mark and Tim,

    Let me try to answer some of the questions that you both raised in your comments. Mark, without more facts, I can’t say that I would have voted to disfellowship Flat Rock on the date in question. Unless the Surry Baptist Association’s By-Law’s clearly state (as the SBC’s do on homosexuality) that calling a female pastor is automatic grounds for disfellowshipping a church, I’m not sure that I would vote to disfellowship the church on those grounds alone. It has been my experience that many churches who choose to call a female pastor will have other doctrinal issues that would be at odds with having an effective “partnership of cooperative ministries” (per the mission statement that Tim quoted). Further, most Associations and State Conventions have procedures that must be followed if a Membership or Credentials Committee is going to move to disfellowship a church. If those procedures were in place AND followed, then I would argue that the perception of gracelessness still exists, but not the reality. If there were procedures in place and they were NOT followed, then I think there is a bigger problem.

    That Flat Rock refused to meet with the a delegation of the Association is not in and of itself proof that the church was not willing to cooperate. I would tend to agree with William that the meeting may have been a waste of time given the position of the Association going into the meeting. Regardless, I think when you are going to disfellowship a church, particularly at the Associational level, you need to demonstrate an abundance of grace in the matter. The perception and, perhaps the reality, is that this abundance of grace was not offered. The Surry Baptist Association may have succeeded in disfellowshipping Flat Rock, but in the process they have muddied themselves. Hopefully Earnest T. Bass will not be too mad at what I write. Sure wouldn’t want him to throw rocks at me in NM 🙂 Thanks and God bless. And, Happy Anniversary to Mark!

    Howell

  7. Bart Barber
    August 6, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Would further delay or conference be necessary:

    1. To establish beyond reasonable doubt the pastor’s gender? Doubtful.
    2. To make certain that the congregation knew what the Bible teaches about this? Also doubtful. This has been a subject of debate in Southern Baptist life for forty years. No Southern Baptist church decides to call a female pastor without having considered the matter.

    If “grace” = “delay” or “reluctance” then Peter owes an enormous apology to Ananias and Sapphira. Sometimes, there’s just no need for further research. If all of the facts are clear to everyone, why not go ahead and act?

    • August 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      Bart,

      I’m not sure that I would put this in the same category of the Apostle Peter’s interaction with Ananias and Sapphira, unless the Surry Baptist Association has current day Apostles that we were heretofore unaware of. 🙂 That being said, there are several questions that must be answered apart from your easily observable facts of Bailey Nelson’s gender. What does Surry Baptist Association’s (SBA) By-Laws say regarding the procedures for disfellowshipping a church who is no longer in friendly cooperation with the Association? What does it mean not to be in friendly cooperation? We know from the SBC By-Laws that “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” While the “among churches” could also be those churches who call female pastors, that is not specificlly stated in the SBC By-Laws. Is that prohibition set forth in the SBA’s By-Laws? Has the SBA ever had to disfellowship a church over this issue or any other issue? If so, what procedures were used?

      If one is going to relie upon the BF&M2000’s statement regarding the pastoral office being limited to men (which I agree with) as the basis for which to bring a motion to disfellowship Flat Rock, in the absence of any explicit By-Law which calls for the ouster of churches who call a female pastor, then will the SBA also use other violations of the BF&M2000 to disfellowship churches? Would Flat Rock have been disfellowshipped eventually? Probably. But, I would rather take a few extra weeks (or even days) to extend grace. If that is viewed as “delay” or “reluctance,” I can live with that. IMO, a limited delay would have been the charitable thing to do, but we may just have to agree to disagree about that. As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. God bless,

      Howell

      • Bart Barber
        August 6, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        Howell,

        It is a VERY recent phenomenon for Baptists to rely upon bylaws to enumerate reasons for which a congregation might be excluded. Historically, Baptists have not relied upon governing documents for such things. Indeed, the existence of governing documents AT ALL is not that ancient.

        As you have shown, Southern Baptist have very recently enumerated one cause for dismissal into the SBC’s governing documents: homosexuality. And yet, the SBC has been excluding congregations from its membership for well over a century and has done so the vast preponderance of times without referring to any list in the bylaws and without taking several meetings to do so.

        Rather than relying upon documents and legal strictures, Baptists have tended to rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide the churches and their messengers on a case-by-case basis. If all of the facts are clear, and in this case the pertinent facts are clear, then the assembled messengers have all that they need in order to act. Whatever the bylaws say, I promise you that they do not at all limit the body’s right to exclude any congregation whenever they believe that Christ, the Head of the Church, would have them to do so.

        And that’s a right that ought to be preserved, as well as a duty that ought to be fulfilled. I’m not opposed to our using bylaws on occasion to say some things about church exclusion, but I am opposed to taking what is a spiritual matter and treating it in the fashion that lawyers treat legal matters (no offense intended).

        • August 6, 2011 at 5:09 PM

          Bart,

          No offense taken. You will perhaps have to forgive me, but my inner lawyer comes out from time to time in such matters. 🙂 While I would wholeheartedly agree with you that By-Laws may be relatively recent within Baptist history, the By-Laws are there for a reason. To guide the churches in their cooperative effort as well as to set forth how those churches will conduct business as an Association. It should go without saying that we should “rely upon the Holy Spirit” in cases such as this, but unless we want to say that the Holy Spirit cannot work in and through the guidelines that have been established, then the By-Laws themselves become meaningless. If there was no advance notice given for the vote that was taken and the move to oust Flat Rock did not comply with the written By-Laws, I don’t see how one could make the argument that it’s okay to disregard the guidelines that have been agreed to by the churches of the Association (assuming they were disregarded) and then fall back to the position that “we can do whatever we want to do because the Head of the Church says we can do it and the By-Laws be d*****!” I’m not sure that is what you are arguing for, but I am certainly reading you that way. If I am in error, please let me know. And, I don’t think it takes a lawyer to know — spiritually speaking — when someone has not been treated fairly and with grace, even if you may not personally agree with that person’s actions. Thanks and God bless,

          Howell

      • Bart Barber
        August 6, 2011 at 5:18 PM

        Howell,

        If what the association did VIOLATES the bylaws, then they have lied and have acted illegally, and I condemn what they have done.

        If, on the other hand, they operated WITHIN the bylaws, which provide for the dismissal of churches according to the procedure followed, but they just didn’t bother to ask whether this particular cause had previously been enumerated within the bylaws, then I support their action.

        Bylaws generally have not served to say “For these and only these reasons may you exclude a congregation.” Instead, the practice that preceded the bylaws and that the bylaws generally preserve is that the assembled messengers may exclude a congregation according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit among them.

        • August 6, 2011 at 6:01 PM

          Bart,

          Perhaps I was not clear in my previous response to you. I do not believe that an Association or State Convention or the SBC must specifically enumerate all of the reasons why a church should be disfellowshipped. In the case of the SBC, churches must be in friendly cooperation and a contributor to the SBC. There is one specific case in which churches will be deemed not to be in “friendly cooperation,” and that is homosexuality. While the listing of this specific situation is helpful, churches can be deemed to not be in friendly cooperation for other reasons and therefore be disfellowshipped. I know Broadway Baptist in Ft. Worth was the last church that was disfellowshipped at the SBC level. As you are the church historian, I would be interested if you know of previous instances of churches being disfellowshipped by the SBC (national level) and the reasons.

          However, if there are guidelines — in this case By-Laws — which set forth a procedure that the Association (or other entity) must follow in order to move to disfellowship a church, then I believe that the Association should follow those By-Laws. If there are no By-Laws that govern this particular issue, then I suppose that the assembled messengers could do whatever they wanted to do “according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit among them.” But, if the Association had procedures that were not followed in this case — no matter what one may believe about female pastors — I would continue to argue that the Association was wrong in the way that they went about the ouster of Flat Rock and cannot therefore disregard their own agreed upon By-Laws. Thanks for the continued dialogue. God bless,

          Howell

      • Bart Barber
        August 6, 2011 at 6:42 PM

        I agree entirely with your latest comment.

        But at this moment it would be conjecture on our part to suggest that Surrey Association has acted contrary to their bylaws. I might also add that it would be conjecture contrary to the most likely case.

        I have never seen associational bylaws that would prevent an association from taking this kind of action in precisely the way that it was taken. Had this case come to the floor of the SBC Annual Meeting, there is nothing in the SBC’s governing documents that would prevent the SBC from taking precisely the same action. In fact, the Association appears to have a Membership Committee (just as the SBC has a Credentials Committee) whose existence, in part, is to provide for this very possibility. The Membership Committee brought a recommendation. The association discussed it and acted upon it. The procedure that they followed would have been in accordance with the bylaws and would have been proper and in-order in every association to which I have ever belonged.

        Of course, if the facts of the matter are in dispute, or if the doctrinal point in question is one that is new to the association and for which they are unsure of their position, the association can indeed choose to take a long time deliberating what to do. They can appoint study committees and engage in deep soul-searching. But if the soul-searching has already been done in the course of other conversations, and if the facts of the matter are clear, everything else is really just posturing.

        And, yes, historically Baptist associations have on several occasions excluded churches just because their pastors were hard to get along with (J. Frank Norris, Samuel Hayden, et. al.). Because they didn’t have a rip-roaring fight on the floor of the meeting, I’d say that Surry’s case was among the tamer that I’ve studied.

  8. August 6, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I am so encouraged to read about an association taking a stance that needed to be taken. Women are forbidden from scripture from serving in leadership in the church. There is no question about that crystal clear biblical truth. Therefore, when this church decided to no longer follow the Bible, they needed to be disfellowshipped. As to the quick vote, how long should they have taken? A month? A quarter? A year? When something is wrong, as this so clearly is, something needs to be done–quickly. As far as being shown little grace, from what I read, they were shown more grace than they deserved for their open defiance of scripture.

    • August 6, 2011 at 3:09 PM

      Joe,

      As to the quick vote and “how long should they have taken,” I would say first, as long the procedures (if any) in their By-Laws would call for. If they followed their own rules, then good for them. If they did not even follow their own procedures for disfellowshipping a church, then not only is the perception bad, but also the reality. As I shared with Bro. Bart, there are still unanswered questions regarding the vote to disfellowship. That, in and of itself, speaks to how this may have been (mis)handled. Of course, you and others may think that this was an appropriate action in light of “their (Flat Rock’s) open defiance of scripture.” As long as we equally apply this standard and go after the gossips and idolaters within the churches, then I’m perfectly fine with what the Surry Baptist Association did. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • Bart Barber
        August 6, 2011 at 5:02 PM

        Howell, in all fairness, you show me a church saying, “We gossip and practice idolatry, and we don’t think that the scriptures prohibit such!” and I’ll go make the motion myself.

        We have people in our congregation who struggle with homosexual temptation. They agree that homosexuality is a sin. They struggle. They have fallen before. We are gracious toward them, just as we are with our gossips.

        On the other hand, we may have someone in the congregation who is not tempted by homosexuality at all, but who denies it is a sin for men to have sex with men or for women to have sex with women. Such a person is in error, is spreading error, and is subject to church discipline. If we have a member who teaches that gossip is not a sin, that person will face the same fate.

        Grace informs the way that we interact with people who fall in their behavior, not with the deliberate spread of error in teaching. A church that calls a woman as pastor is not a church that has made a mistake and wishes that everyone would treat it with grace. The church would not even admit that it needs grace in this circumstance! It has departed from the teaching of the truth and is teaching error.

        And so, the “gossip and idolatry” thing is a red herring.

      • Tom Parker
        August 6, 2011 at 7:26 PM

        Howell:

        You said:”Of course, you and others may think that this was an appropriate action in light of “their (Flat Rock’s) open defiance of scripture.” As long as we equally apply this standard and go after the gossips and idolaters within the churches, then I’m perfectly fine with what the Surry Baptist Association did.”

        But this standard will not be equally applied.

        • August 6, 2011 at 8:20 PM

          Tom,

          I’m sure you got my sarcasm in that comment because I, too, do not believe that this standard would be applied equally. Perhaps the recent kerfuffle regarding a Georgia mega-pastor and those who trotted out Matthew 18:15 in his defense has gotten my dander up. That’s because Matthew 18:15 is not only inapplicable in these situations, but no one arguing that defense would ever use it against the premiere SBC bloggers who write scathing reviews of books or articles written by other Christians, all the while not contacting them in advance. For me, the Flat Rock/Surry Baptist Association issue would have been a non-issue but for the apparent rush to disfellowship a church two weeks after their new female pastor arrived. Regardless of what one thinks about women serving as senior pastors, the perception — and perhaps the reality — of the disfellowshipping of Flat Rock Baptist Church can be described by using many words, but grace would not be one that I would choose. Thanks and God bless,

          Howell

      • August 7, 2011 at 7:15 AM

        As long as we equally apply this standard and go after the gossips and idolaters within the churches, then I’m perfectly fine with what the Surry Baptist Association did.

        Point out churches that do that and claim it’s not a sin, because this church voted to call a woman pastor OBVIOUSLY means they don’t think it’s a sin.

        No wonder you’re so welcome over at Baptist Life. 🙂

        • August 7, 2011 at 7:42 AM

          Joe,

          With some of the boneheaded things I say and do, I’m sometimes not welcome in my own home, so it’s good to be at least welcomed somewhere! 🙂 I’m certainly not arguing that calling a female pastor does not violate Scripture. I believe it does. However, I think that disfellowshipping a sister church, even one that has so obviously fallen into sin as you put it, is a serious matter. I don’t necessarily disagree with the ultimate outcome, but I do continue to have serious concerns about the way that this was handled. I’m quite certain that my legal training and background color the way that I look at the process and procedure. Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes that’s a burden, but I can’t seem to divorce my life as a lawyer from my life as a pastor. Such is life. 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful and blessed Lord’s Day,

          Howell

  9. Bennett Willis
    August 6, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Another possible issue is that if the association waited until the next quarterly meeting, it might have become apparent that the new minister was a gift of God to the church and community. This could have made the decision more obviously inappropriate.

    • August 6, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      Bennett,

      Now, you shouldn’t be saying that Pastor Nelson was “a gift of God to the church and community” when it was clear after just two weeks that she is much more like Sapphira. 🙂 Unless there is such an emergency situation which warrants immediate action (which I do not believe was the case here, nothwithstanding Bart and Joe’s arguments), then such a hurried rush to disfellowship Flat Rock will not produce the positive results that the Association might have wanted. It is interested to note that the vote to disfellowship was “overwhelming.” When that word is used, it typically means at least 75%, but less than anywhere near unanimous. I guess there must be several churches in the Association that did not agree with the move to disfellowship or at least the way that it was done. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  10. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Bart:

    I’m not suprised at all with your position. It is graceless.

    • Bart Barber
      August 6, 2011 at 4:53 PM

      Tom,

      I have grace enough that I didn’t give my opinion of your comments, which could also have been summed up in a single word.

  11. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Bart:

    Would you have any concerns that all of the processes that are in place to disfellowship a church were followed in any situation where this is done?

    What else would you use the 2000 B&M to disfellowhip a church?

  12. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Bart:

    Please do not keep me in suspense, what would that one word would be.

    I say again you’re being graceless.

  13. K Gray
    August 6, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Pastor Nelson and Flat Rock chose to turn down an invitation to meet with associational representatives as pointless, saying there was no solution; and chose not to attend the membership meeting. Is any grace required of them?

    Also, has the linked article been revised? Seems like it reads differently today than yesterday, including the detail that the association took Flat Rock’s “refusal” to meet as evidence of breaking fellowship. Maybe I missed that before.

    • August 6, 2011 at 6:50 PM

      Karen,

      As far as I know, the article has not been revised. Flat Rock’s refusal to meet was used as evidence of “breaking fellowship” (and that was included in what I read yesterday). While you could argue that Flat Rock’s refusal to meet could be seen as lacking grace, I’m not sure that you could argue that simply missing a quarterly Association meeting is a sign of a lack of grace, in and of itself. If merely missing an Association meeting is seen as graceless, then a great many churches in all of our Associations would be likewise guilty! 🙂 Whether or not Flat Rock exhibits grace is not the question. Should it or any church? Absolutely. That the Surry Baptist Association appears not to have exhibited grace is the real issue, regardless of whether you believe that calling a female pastor is grounds for disfellowshipping a church from your Association. Those who argue that Flat Rocks was “shown more grace than they deserved,” I would simply say that grace is undeserved. That’s why it’s called grace. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • K Gray
        August 7, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        I haven’t seen that comment. But it seems there is one standard and set of assumptions for the association (graceless, rush to judgment, lack of Christian charity, apparently emotional) and another for Flat Rock (summarizing their refusal to meet, and their absence at the membership meeting, as “one missed meeting”)..

        This interests me because women who step into a lead pastor role may be the very last people who want to be treated differently, or given a lower spiritual bar, than other Christians. But I don’t know, I’m speculating.

  14. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Bart:

    You said:”Howell,

    It is a VERY recent phenomenon for Baptists to rely upon bylaws to enumerate reasons for which a congregation might be excluded. Historically, Baptists have not relied upon governing documents for such things. Indeed, the existence of governing documents AT ALL is not that ancient.”

    As you have shown, Southern Baptist have very recently enumerated one cause for dismissal into the SBC’s governing documents: homosexuality. And yet, the SBC has been excluding congregations from its membership for well over a century and has done so the vast preponderance of times without referring to any list in the bylaws and without taking several meetings to do so.

    Rather than relying upon documents and legal strictures, Baptists have tended to rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide the churches and their messengers on a case-by-case basis. If all of the facts are clear, and in this case the pertinent facts are clear, then the assembled messengers have all that they need in order to act. Whatever the bylaws say, I promise you that they do not at all limit the body’s right to exclude any congregation whenever they believe that Christ, the Head of the Church, would have them to do so.

    And that’s a right that ought to be preserved, as well as a duty that ought to be fulfilled. I’m not opposed to our using bylaws on occasion to say some things about church exclusion, but I am opposed to taking what is a spiritual matter and treating it in the fashion that lawyers treat legal matters (no offense intended).”

    Your position above is outright scary, unbiblical, and antibaptistic.

    Surely, you do not believe this way.

    If your position is held by very many other SB were going to be graceless in these types of situations, and others are surely to arise.

    Please tell us Bart, that you really do not believe we do business for the Lord in the way you lay it out in your comment above.

  15. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I want to ask again, if the following is true and I have no reason to believe it is not true, then was the process handled correctly?

    “It is worth noting, however, that this motion was made without giving any advance notice to Flat Rock Baptist …without giving any advance notice to the churches of the association…and with only 5 minutes allotted for discussion.”

  16. August 6, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    I applaud the Association for their courage to take action. This was clearly a biblically-based decision to disfellowship the church. Those who disagree, obviously then, disagree with BFM2K. That is your right to do so, but know that you are in opposition to the SBC theologically.

    As to how it was handled, that is certainly another question altogether. Unless Norman Jameson, Howell, Tom, William, and others were there, then it is doubtful that the real story is known. To judge the actions of others from afar, without eyewitness testimony, is pharasaic behavior. Perhaps we should extend a little more of that grace to the Association that Howell spoke of so eloquently.

    As for Tom Parker, he is a troll who searches for anything that doesn’t meet his liberal views. His point of view is predictable and always anti-SBC. I pay no attention to what he has to say. But that’s just me. 🙂

    Regards,

    Les

    • Bart Barber
      August 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM

      Les,

      Excellent comment at all points.

    • August 6, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      Les,

      I’m not sure how courageous it was to take the action IN THE MANNER IN WHICH IT WAS TAKEN. In most Baptist Associations, I think it would take more courage to say, “Hold on just a minute. This is not how we want to handle this issue.” And, how it was handled is the issue at hand. Most Southern Baptists, including me, believe that Scripture teaches that the pastoral office is limited to men only. That’s the easy part. Disfellowshipping a church in your local Association for actually calling a woman pastor — which is rare and therefore would probably be the first time that this has happened in this Association — is the hard part. Not hard from a theological standpoint, but from a fellowship standpoint. I’m also not sure that I would bring out the “pharasaic” gun, but that is entirely your perogative to do. As to Norman Jameson (former editor of the NC Baptist Recorder) and his reporting, if he is a shoddy reporter (which I don’t believe) and doesn’t accurately report the facts (which I also don’t believe), then don’t read or believe what he writes. But, to say that one must themselves have been an eyewitness in the room when the meeting was taking place in order to be able to report or write on the subject is an unreasonable standard to impose. I assume that Norman Jameson gathered information from those he interviewed, including some who may have been eyewitnesses themselves. That’s what reporters do. If the facts are wrong, I will gladly issue a clarification and apology. However, the perception of a graceless response still remains. Thanks for the comment. God bless,

      Howell

  17. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Les:

    You said about me:”As for Tom Parker, he is a troll who searches for anything that doesn’t meet his liberal views. His point of view is predictable and always anti-SBC. I pay no attention to what he has to say. But that’s just me. 🙂

    Regards,

    Les”

    You do not even know me and you call me a Liberal and a troll in the same sentence. How “Chrisrtian of you.”

    I will say this, what I know of your views, I will take your calling me a Liberal as a compliment as given your mindset I’m definitely Liberal and thankfully so.

    But thanks for the grace you have extended me in your comment.

    • Debbie Kaufman
      August 7, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Tom: Given Les and Bart’s views I too would gladly take the label Liberal. 🙂 Les it seems has been given to being a chamelion who changes his views with whatever side will benefit him. That would make how he presented himself when running for SBC President as a false front. So I take Les’ comments with a grain of salt too.

      • Debbie Kaufman
        August 7, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        And given Joe’s views and lack of grace, please call me a liberal.

  18. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Bart:

    Why do you and Les and others elevate the 2000 BF&M to a position it was never designed to have.

    BTW, it amazes me that you applaud Les’s comment where he said:”Those who disagree, obviously then, disagree with BFM2K. That is your right to do so, but know that you are in opposition to the SBC theologically.”

    You guys have taken this CR thing way farther than it ever needed to go. But boy that comment of Les’s sure sounds like anyone who will not sign off on every jot and tittle of a man made document the 2000 BF&M just does not belong in the SBC.

    Will the “cleansing “of the SBC ever end.

  19. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Howell:

    You said:”Those who argue that Flat Rocks was “shown more grace than they deserved,” I would simply say that grace is undeserved. That’s why it’s called grace.”

    Outstanding commment!! Sadly, grace is becoming a rarer commodity among SB if you do not 100% agree with them.

  20. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Howell:

    The major problem that I have with Les and some of the other’s view is they would scream bloody murder if their churches were to be treated this way.

    There is just no consistency and grace shown, where it should be.

    • August 6, 2011 at 8:31 PM

      Brother Tom,
      If I refuse to meet with anyone and I get voted out of an association because of it, then what happens as a result of that refusal is on me.

      Blessings,
      Tim

      • Debbie Kaufman
        August 7, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        Tim: Why in the world would they go to a meeting that would obviously be meant to humiliate them, not an attempt to restore them, and to ambush them. They were smart in not going. It is pretty obvious to me that the meeting was set up knowing Flat Rocks would not show up, so the voting could commence using the no show as an excuse(which they did) or if Flat Rocks would have shown up, there would have been no grace shown then either by the association and the vote would have still been the same. Either way it was a lose lose situation.

  21. August 6, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    Brother Howell,

    Wow!! Ya’ll boys have been busy. I comment at about the 10 comment level and now, looky here.
    Let me remind you of something that I believe Brother Bart has so graciously presented. The Association made a decision based on a recommendation from a duly elected committee. Now, whether it was done too hastily anyone is free to argue. However, if a committee brings a recommendation and the association affirms the recommendation then we have a vote affirmed by the churches of the association.
    One other thing. Am I understanding that you do not see a problem with the church leaders refusing to discuss the issue with the Membership Committee? That little move by the church certainly screams–I will do what I want and do not care what the rest of the churches believe. We have made so much about the association refusing to allow the church to remain as a member of the association but we are not saying anything about the churches refusal to cooperate with the associations request.
    Well, I know that Brother Tom may come after me again about what he perceives as my graceless position. However, it certainly is amazing that we have people refusing to talk about their position and those taking action because of that refusal are being told they act too quickly.

    Blessings,
    Tim

    • August 6, 2011 at 8:53 PM

      Bro. Tim,

      Who knew that writing a little post about female Baptist pastors in NC would get so many comments! 🙂 I can’t speak for any other Association, but I know that in my local Association, the seemingly rapid move to disfellowship a church would not fly. May be that’s because a former attorney is one of the pastors! 🙂 However, appearances or perceptions — even if they do not turn out to be true in fact — are often much more damaging. As I have stated to Bro. Bart and others, IF the Association followed their written procedures (if any) to bring a motion to disfellowship Flat Rock, then they at least did — at a minimum — what they were supposed to do. The church’s refusal to meet — even given the circumstances surrounding the meeting — may be an indication that the church did not want to respond with grace either.

      When the DOM of the Association says that they wanted this to happen “peacefully,” I would think that the Association might have at least wanted to be perceived as having done all they could to resolve the situation. Again, may be two weeks was just fine. I’m not saying wait a year or even six months. What about bringing a recommendation to disfellowship the church at one meeting and then at the next regularly scheduled meeting or a special called meeting for that purpose, vote to disfellowship? Make sure that Flat Rock is given proper notice that a motion to disfellowship will be brought on such and such a date. If they receive due notice and don’t show up, that’s on them, not the Association. Others can certainly disagree with that framework and timeframe, but I think it would have made for a more “peaceful” resolution, even if it added an extra month or two. And, it would have shown the Association was willing to give an abundance of grace in a very difficult situation. After all, can any of us receive too much grace? Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • K Gray
        August 7, 2011 at 3:34 PM

        Maybe all of us — associations, churches, conventions — should have a practice of a recommended period of prayer before taking these kinds of actions.

        Because honestly how to trustees work…the committee brings a recommendation, there’s a few minutes for discussion, call for vote, move on. Whomever says “hey, hold on, let’s give this more thought” is either holding up the meeting or second-guessing the hardworking committee. But your point is, I think, “holding on” may be the right result: having time to think and pray through serious actions, deliberating more, letting our membership know we did not do the thing in haste or without due consideration, and giving ear to our creative God who may have a result or procedure or action we never would have thought of in that 5 minute agenda item vote.

  22. Tom Parker
    August 6, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    Howell:

    It saddens me greatly to see how some in the SB world quickly call someone a troll or a liberal because he or she does not see everything their way. That tactic does not silence me. I’m old enough to remember when more Grace was shown between SB.

    I do appreciate your views on this topic and we will certainly see how this situation develops in the days ahead.

  23. Bart Barber
    August 6, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    I’m just not sure I agree that “grace” means “time elapsed before you do the same thing.” How is it more an action of “grace” to boot out the church in October rather than July? Is the outcome not the same?

    How is the biblical definition of grace at all like this? Saving grace has not meant to me that I will still be condemned after all, but only after God takes more time to converse with me and deliberate over the matter in order to make sure that He has crossed all of his t’s and dotted all of his i’s. Sanctifying grace has not meant for me that God will eventually give up on making me holy, but only after He’s really tried hard enough for long enough to feel like the failure is definitely on my part rather than on His.

    That’s just not grace. The premise of this post is flawed at its heart.

    The biblical position is that disciplinary actions ARE expressions of grace, so long as they are taken with a view toward effecting repentance and restoration. The graceless thing to do is to ignore error with a wink and a nod.

    In 1 Corinthians 5, the refusal to discipline the errant is described not as grace but as arrogance. Granted, discipline without mourning is not in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 5, either. But we have seen no evidence that this association is unwilling to meet repentance with restoration, nor do we have reason to believe that they have not mourned the departure of their sister church.

    Howell, is there a particular New Testament passage that you have in mind in which the word “grace” was employed to speak of the turning of a blind eye to error or the artificial lengthening of a disciplinary process?

    • August 6, 2011 at 10:02 PM

      Bart,

      I would say that 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, but I’m quite sure that you will not agree with my application in the present instance. Suffice it to say, we will have to agree to disagree on the way that this was handled. I’m not sure that we would disagree on the the ultimate outcome, although I will readily admit that I am not as dogmatic as I used to be regarding the disfellowshipping of a church solely for the reason that the church called a female pastor. I also don’t know how you could get that I or anyone was “turning a blind eye to error or artificially lengthening the disciplinary process” simply by wanting the process to be deliberate and thorough. If taking a bit more time before voting to disfellowship a sister church — even one that committed the grievous sin of calling a female pastor — is now seen as “ignoring error with a wink and a nod,” then I have to plead guilty as charged. I can live with that. Lastly, you may indeed be right that “the premise of the post is flawed at its heart.”May be it would have been better to write about loveless responses rather than graceless responses! Thanks for the spirited dialogue. Hope you have a blessed Lord’s Day,

      Howell

      • Bart Barber
        August 7, 2011 at 6:47 AM

        I think the post would be much stronger if it did speak of loveless responses rather than speaking about graceless responses. The fact that you have cited 1 Corinthians 13 strengthens that case, since the word “grace” does not appear anywhere in that chapter. Love and grace are not divorced from one another, but neither are they the same thing. There are two words with two meanings because they represent two concepts.

        It is certainly possible to discipline without loving, even where discipline is warranted. Where discipline is warranted, one must confront that risk, that one might act without love in one’s heart. We observe that people often fail in this regard. For the sake of discussion, we might even suppose that 90% of disciplinary actions in warranted cases are taken without the appropriate loving disposition on the part of those who discipline.

        And yet still we would face the fact that it is unloving in 100% of the cases where discipline is warranted to fail to discipline. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.

        I would like to reiterate something that I said before: It is presumption on your part to suggest that Surry Association’s process was not “deliberate and thorough.” If it was not thorough, can you tell us what they did not know but needed to know? What stone was left unturned? How was the process not deliberate? Please give specifics. We might agree if you would show me what you know that I do not know.

        Or, it may be that the softening on this question that you describe in your most recent reply is what makes the difference here. Certainly, if you wanted a different outcome, then the process was insufficient for you. Perhaps the question you ought to ask yourself is this: What if the association had followed precisely the same process but had voted NOT to disfellowship Flat Rock. Would you then be objecting to the process?

  24. Tom Parker
    August 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Loveless or graceless. What a choice?

    • Debbie Kaufman
      August 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      Bart: Love and grace are not divorced from each other. Love produces grace. That is the message. The Holy Spirit in us produces grace when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The word love is thrown around so much in SB life that it has lost its meaning. It’s a fake love trying to pass for Biblical love, but the two are so obviously opposite of each other, that it is seen for what it is. Using the word love doesn’t mean that it is Biblical love. It’s hate described as love. As in this case.

  25. Tom Parker
    August 7, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Debbie:

    I think the word chamelon applies well to Les. He was for Calvinism and now he is against it. He was leading the charge for small churches and now I do not hear a peep out of him about small churches. I think Les dreamed of being one of the big boys in the SBC when he ran for President but it did not happen.

    Doesn’t lend to much credibility, Les.

  26. Tom Parker
    August 7, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Debbie;

    You said:”And given Joe’s views and lack of grace, please call me a liberal.” I feel similarly.

    BTW, he called women pastors “chick preachers” at SBC Voices today. I wonder if anyone will call his hand on saying this–I doubt it. He seems to get a free pass in saying these outrageous things at Voices.

    Joe’s lack of grace and lack of love for others that are not like him are evident to all.

    Thankfully, he is not a SB.

  27. Debbie Kaufman
    August 7, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Oh yeah, I couldn’t stay quiet on that one. It’s ok to disagree. No problem with that. But women have been degraded in the church long enough.

  28. August 7, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Good Sunday Afternoon All,

    Just got back from church after a wonderful morning of worship as the students who went to Falls Creek shared what God had done in their lives through their week at camp. Had an extra long committee meeting right after church, so I have not been able to interact and dialogue as much today as I would have liked. Thanks to all who have commented. This topic has brought forth some pretty lively discussion. Since I have all but been called a liberal by some, you will not be surprised to know that my commenting policy is more “liberal” than some other SBC blogs. As long as you don’t start using profanity or engage in serious name calling, I’m going to let your comments stand. I believe that others are discerning enough to form their own opinions based on someone’s comments. As I have church again in a few short hours, I’ll try to answer some of the specific comments later this evening. Thanks and God bless,

    Howell

    • Bart Barber
      August 8, 2011 at 1:31 AM

      Howell,

      I don’t know whether you have me in mind as one of the “some” who have “all but” called you “a liberal.” Just to make sure that there’s no ambiguity:

      1. I think you’ve pretty clearly stated that you do not believe that God calls women as pastors.

      2. You’ve also clearly indicated that once you were “dogmatic” about disfellowshipping churches for installing women into the pastorate.

      3. Finally, you’ve clearly indicated that you are no longer “dogmatic” about disfellowshipping churches “solely” for installing women into the pastorate.

      So, when I say that you disagree with the outcome, and not just the process, I’m not suggesting that you want Flat Rock to have a woman as pastor. Rather, I’m acknowledging what I understand you to have said for yourself: That you would rather that the association either (a) not dismiss the church over this, or (b) that the association complete some sort of investigation that would identify attendant factors such that the church is dismissed over more than this one problem and not “solely” over this issue.

      That you disagree with the outcome, I think you have already told us in your comments. I’m merely suggesting—and I think it is not rude to do so—that your disagreement with the outcome may play a role in your disagreement with the process.

      I don’t think that amounts to my calling you a liberal. If this is a liberal/conservative issue, then the “I disagree with it, but let’s look the other way” position would be the “moderate” position rather than the “liberal” position. So at the most, if you wanted to take all that I’ve written the wrong way, I’ve done “all but” call you a “moderate,” not a “liberal.” But I don’t think I’ve gone anywhere nearly that far.

      When faced with real liberals, I generally refrain from saying anything at all about their position. Liberals lie about what they are, and I’ve yet to meet one in blogging who would admit to it.

      • August 8, 2011 at 4:40 AM

        Bart,

        I hope that you did not think that I was saying that you were calling me a liberal. That comment was certainly not directed at you and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. Even though we have never met, I think that you would be direct (which you have been thus far) in your approach and would have said what you wanted to say in a clear way. And, no, I do not even think that you have called me a “moderate,” although the postion that I have taken in this instance could be construed as being closer to that position. As I shared with Dave Miller on Voices, who asked me if I would vote to disfellowship a church that called a woman pastor, that I could not answer that with certainty as I had not been confronted with that issue. I am probably closer to William Thornton’s position today than I was three days ago. Just by refusing to say with specificity that I would not automatically vote to disfellowship a church who called a woman pastor is no doubt less than a conservative position to take and I fully recognize that.

        It is a sad commentary on the situation with Surry and Flat Rock that this has come to such widespread attention. If they would have handled this in what I have called a more “graceious” or loving way, then the fallout would have still been there, but I think it would have been minimized, particularly within the larger SBC community. As to the process/outcome conundrum, I’m quite sure that I would not have come down as hard as I did on Surry and would probably not have even written a post on the subject. It’s not something that has risen to a level that I have wanted to write about, even though there have been other more prominent churches that have been disfellowshipped for calling women pastors. As I write in a post today, my training and experience as a lawyer still affect how I think about issues. That can be both a blessing and a curse, but it a burden that I must bear. 🙂 I appreciate your interaction and dialogue throughout this and value and respect your opinions, even when we do not agree on the ultimate outcome of an issue. Hope you have a great week aboard the “Flag Ship” this week. God bless,

        Howell

  29. Bennett Willis
    August 7, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    After reading a couple of other blogs and the original article, I have concluded that the best thing that ever happened to the church was for the association to kick them out. And the lack of grace just made it easier to move on–if that was an issue at all.

    “Free at last!”

  30. August 7, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Shades of Sandy Creek Baptist Church and Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, the Elders, and Martha Stearns Marshall, the Eldress. Don’t they know we now must excommunicate and exclude that church and that association and all churches associated with and dreived from it…from such arch-heresy. That would include man, if not most of the churches of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, and all states in all directions. What will we do, brethren.
    We are ruined by their failure…..Or are we? Could the folks who drew up the 2000 Confession have the last word? Were they just doing a knee jerk reaction to radical feminism? After all, I remember meeting one of those dear souls in seminary, and she called me a male chauvinist pig. At that time I ws sure she just confirmed my male superiority (well – not exactly). Years later as I wrestled with the fact the fact that a Puritan (Matthew Poole) made an exception about allowing a woman to teach men (I Tim.2:12ff) as the likely source for Shubal Stearns’ openess on the issue of Eldresses, I came to realize that there are depths to the Bible that we fail to grasp due to the filters that we set up in our minds by making conclusions about certain beliefs that will not bear a closer, deeper scrutiny of biblical investigation. Even 20 years after I wrote and delivered the address, “The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses,” as chairman of the Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (1985), I am still learning things like whosoever desires the office of bishop is the neuter gender. Why didn’t Paul use the masculine term there? And why is the word elder In I tim 5:1 associated with the ministry and the word elder women (my KJV) not (it is really eldresses)? I shot my self in the foot with the moderates, when I sought to show that one could justify women in ministry from a Bible believing point of view. They ignored the address altogether. And my Bible believing friends just said they did not agree with me. It isn’t like saying, I don’t believe in verbal inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility (although our interpretations are not) which truths I do believe. What gets me about the whole process is that the ones who are supposed to believe the word of God fail to allow for the fact that even the clarity of the Bible can be a source of trouble for us due to our inability to perceive its depths. John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims, declared, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.” As an Intellectual Historian (one concerned with ideas and how they effect people and their conduct), I find the real problem with many Bible believing Christians is that they forget that this book is inspired by Omniscience, and it does indeed reflect the dept of wisdom commensurate with that inspiration. It is like my friend who looked down at a mountain stream in Virginia and judged it to be 2-3 feet deep. He said, “I could see the grains of sand rolling along the bottom. So I stepped off in it with all my fishing gear on, and I nearly drowned. It was 18-20 feet deep.” I have often thought the Bible is like that: So clear, crystal clear at times, and yet we fail to perceive its depth. Just think about the Sovereign Grace truths..and considr them to be the most intensely evangelistic truths of God’s word. Sounds impossible, but you ought to research church history for about 6 years as I have and stumble across the reality. And how do such teachings make a person balanced, flexible, creative, enduring, and magnetic? And they do, regardless of one’s education or lack ot it, if taken rightly.

  31. August 8, 2011 at 6:36 AM

    Howell:
    Since you posted this item, what has surprised you the most in the comments you have received?

  32. Norman Jameson
    August 8, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Debbie’s comments make the most sense of anything here. She should be a pastor! FYI, since the “refusal to meet” has lit the fires of indignation among some here, the simple rationale was this — the church leadership knew the only “resolution” to the “issue” that would satisfy the association was for the church to withdraw its call to their new pastor. The church certainly wasn’t going to heed the demands of men over the clear calling of God that they perceived, so there was no point in meeting with the committee. The DOM plainly said to me that was the goal of the membership committee — to beseech the church to withdraw its call to Nelson. So, we can say the church “refused” to meet; a more accurate word would be “declined.” At the same time, while I appreciate Howell’s point of questioning the rapid action, in all likelihood it was expedient and beneficial. No delay, no amount of study committees, or number of meetings would have changed either side’s minds or hearts; the result would have been the same but the level of turmoil in the community and association would have been much higher. Now it’s done. The association can consider itself free of a tumor; the church can consider itself simply free.

    • August 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      Noman,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and to share your additional insight on this matter. As to the “refusal” on the part of Flat Rock to meet, I had assumed that what you further explained was in fact the reality on the ground. Why meet when the only possible “solution” to the matter would be for the church to undue what they had just done and for which the church fully believed that they were calling who God wanted them to call? I, too, don’t believe that anyone’s heart or mind — on either side — would have been changed, but I will continue to argue that this could have been handled in a more gracious way. Your point is well taken regarding the level of turmoil being less because of the quick nature of the disfellowshipping. However, even with what I would call even slightly more grace shown, I would still contend that the Association could have saved themselves from some of the intensely negative reactions that they have received, particularly from conservative Southern Baptists like me. I can tell you that I probably would not have touched this issue at all had there not been what I perceived as a “rush to judgment.” Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  33. Tom Parker
    August 8, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Norman:

    You said:”Now it’s done. The association can consider itself free of a tumor; the church can consider itself simply free.”

    For some to look upon this church as a tumor blows my mind and yes Flat Rock is free in every since of the word.

    Maybe Genesis 50:20 is at play here:”But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

  34. Tom Parker
    August 8, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    Norman:

    You said:”the result would have been the same but the level of turmoil in the community and association would have been much higher.”

    I do not know about that. I’m not sure what the % for expelling Flatrock would have to be but I think if peole had been given a heads up the effort to expell Flatrock the % might not have been reached. We will never know now and personally I think this action will not unite the association but create an uneasiness.

  35. August 8, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Norman,

    Good to see you active once again.

    Let me go ahead and reveal that I spoke with Dr. Blakley today and went over your article with him. He said you were fair in your reporting in the article. Now you come out and say that Dr. Blakley told you that the committee was going to ask the church to withdraw the call to the Pastor. No place in your article do you speak about that. As a matter of fact, your article places the thoughts concerning the church withdrawing the call in the mouth of the pastor, not that of the DOM. Notice your article’s words;

    Nelson said Flat Rock’s leadership knew no “solution” short of withdrawing her call as pastor would satisfy the membership committee, so they declined the meeting.

    Also, I understand that Flat Rock issued a written response to the association. Why not post that response to see how their attitude was about being asked to meet with the Membership Committee?

    Now, as to your now expressing that the DOM expressed the Committee was going to “beseech the church to withdraw its call to Nelson.” During the entire time I spoke with Dr. Blakley this never was mentioned. Even with Dr. Blakley’s wife as secretary of the church Dr. Blakley never once pushed the church not to make this move, nor did he in any way, shape, or form, indicate to me that he felt the association could do any such thing. That is the most non-Baptistic innuendo that I have seen from anyone. To make certain that I understand your position please let me say it plainly. Is it your position that the Surry Baptist Association’s Membership Committee was going to “beseech” (ask, push, pressure, you give the definition of “beseech”) a church (an autonomous body) to withdraw a call?

    Also, in your report you expressed the church was doing well in their attendance. However, if you will check the Flat Rock website you will find that the Sunday before your August 4 interview with the pastor they had 167 in worship not the “consistent 200” your article reports. Thus, the embellishing of this is clearly a move to make the association look like a bunch of angry, mean Baptist preachers. You then placed the maker of the motion as the “chairman of the membership committee.” Certainly that is a true statement, but the messenger told the association that he was not making the motion as a member of the membership committee but as a messenger from Westfeild, a church in good standing in the association. Now, please express the truth of this situation without the political spin we NC Baptist have grown accustomed. You are a great reporter but please, all we want, as Seargant Joe Friday would say, “are the facts ma’am,.”

    Awaiting your reply.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  36. Ramona Hughes
    August 8, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    I don’t understand how disagreeing with a fellow church’s interpretation of scriptures necessarily leads to disfellowshipping. For example, I am troubled by Calvinists’ understanding of Bible’s teachings. Real troubled. Read Calvin in Seminary; love most of his commentary on the Bible. Don’t think his deduction of the core of the Gospel fairly represents the teachings therein. Would I opt to disfellowship or seek to disfellowship a church lead by a Calvinist? No way. Why? If I think I’m right aren’t I obligated to that course? No, because our differences do not exceed our agreements on the core tenants of the Gospel. Many of my relatives are not Southern Baptist. They are another brand of Baptist. They fight over everything and disfellowship each other (again and again). I see my own denomination becoming more and more intolerant of differences. Wow, the future I see for us is so sad; so unfortunate for an otherwise reasonable group of folks.

    • August 8, 2011 at 10:30 PM

      Ramona,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you bring up a good illustration about the Calvinist/non-Calvinist theological debates as it relates to the disfellowshipping debate surrounding Flat Rock. I’m sure that some would argue that this is not a fair analogy since both Calvinism and non-Calvinism could be interpreted to be okay per the BF&M2000 whereas women pastors could not. Regardless, will we see more Associations or even State Conventions use the Baptist Faith and Message as a tool of doctrinal accountablility or “purity” — which seems to be more credal than confessional — over issues not just limited to women pastors? That remains to be seen, but I think the future that you envision, where our differences are highlighted, will most likely be the one that comes true. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

    • Tom Parker
      August 9, 2011 at 5:30 AM

      Ramona:

      Calvinism-Non-Calvinism is quickly becoming the major issue in SB life. I personally believe this will become a disfellowshipping issue. Who knows just as the 2000 BF&M had to be rewritten to make it easier to remove certain churches maybe it will be rewritten again.

      Other than those of us that have been SB for years why would you want to be part of a Denomination where fighting is the flavor of the day.

      To those that thought the CR was to be the ultimate cure all for the Denomination just look around and look at all the fighting going on–it is not a pretty sight.

  37. Norman Jameson
    August 9, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Tim,
    Why would you think a conversation any person would have with another would be repeated verbatim with a third person?

    There were countless ad nauseum details that could have been shared but were unnecessary to the point of the story, which is that the association disfellowshipped a church because the church called a female pastor. The church had its say, the DOM had his say; both affirm they were portrayed and quoted correctly. Your claims I “embellished” facts in the story are so far fetched I’m not even going to address them.

  38. Tom Parker
    August 9, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Norman:

    Awesome response to Tim Rogers! It has been over a couple of weeks now and I’ve seen nothing from anyone claiming you “embellished” the facts. I too think the best way to deal with folks like him is to just ignore them and take the fuel away from the fire. Thanks for the article and I thought it was a fair and balanced one.

  39. August 9, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Brothers Norman and Tom,

    Just one fact. She reported that attendance was “consistently 200.” Norman allowed the quote to stand at “consistently 200.” The facts on the churches website is attendance for July 31 which was 4 days before the interview that has the church now running “consistently 200” in their worship services is 31 in the 9am Worship Service and 136 in the 11am Worship Service. I do not care how you add it up but all you can find is 167 in Sunday AM Worship. To say that we consistently run 200 in our worship is an embellishment when we can only find 167.

    But, don’t worry Norman. You don’t have to answer it.

    Tim

  40. August 9, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    My Dad had a good formula for church attendance.

    Count the cars in the parking lot and multiply by 2.5

    Maybe that will help Tim Rogers in his crusade to get a good fair and balanced average count which everyone knows is the crux of this matter.

    As for preachers as I’ve said ad nauseam and I’d say at SBC Voices if I hadn’t arbitrarily without counsel or committee with spurious charges been banned from fellowship there; as for preachers two of the best on the planet are women, Fleming Rutledge and BArbara Brown Taylor and by God’s grace I’ve heard both of them in the Flesh and been moved by the Spirit in a mighty way, like unto the sermons of Frank Harrington and One I heard outside Molena, Ga in 1983.
    All of em were about Jesus, whether delivered by Male or Female.

    Amen

    • August 9, 2011 at 9:11 PM

      Stephen,

      Perhaps Bailey Nelson has not been properly schooled in Baptist math. 🙂 As to women preachers, I would say that one of the best sermons that I have ever heard preached was by Anne Graham Lotz at a Baptist Convention of New Mexico Evangelism Conference a few years back. She can go toe to toe with any man in her preaching of the Word. Even though I believe that Scripture limits the office of pastor to men, a few male pastors would be benefitted from hearing God speak through Anne Graham Lotz. You’ve been busy reading tonight. I’ll respond to your comment on the other post momentarily. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  41. August 9, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    Brother Howell: I commend you for at least being willing to hear and speak up for a woman preaching. Just imagine Martha Stearns Marshall giving a word of rebuke to Samuel Cartledge, when he arrested her husband for preaching the Gospel back in the 1700s in Georgia. it is said that it lead to his conversion. He was later called to the ministry and served for over fifty years. I knew of a lady who gave Southern Baptists a good sized church, and she was told she would never be recognized as the founder of the church. But since she had founded it for the glory of Christ, she did not mind nor object. She was a Sovereign Grace Preacher, too. Told me how much she was enjoying Pink’s Sovereignty of God. I talked with one Sovereign Grace preacher who preached a revival in her church. I had known the lady for over 50 years. Brother S. Fox is right as you are about the fact that the ladies, if like the men, are truly called, can preach. My conclusion in my address on the subject, “The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses,” was, if we refuse to hear God’s messenger, God treats it just as if we refused to hear Him…just like He would, if some refuse to hear us, whe we have truly spoke His word with all faithfulness. Think of that!

  42. August 12, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    Howell:

    I really try not to get angry about what folks say in the christian blogging world but the continued calling of the Rev. Bailey Nelson by some particularly at SBC Voices blog titled– “Are Churches with Female Pastors Southern Baptist” is really stoking my fire. She continues to be referred to as “The Lady.”

    These folks speak of her as a non-person and as if the vitrol they fire at her does not matter because she is a Female Pastor.

    I knew the CR mentality would bring us to this point and it is a shameful treatment of another one of God’s human creations.

    May God forgive these men for the damage they are causing.

  43. Jeff Moore
    September 28, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Two weeks is more than gracious in de-fellowshipping a church in willful disobedience to God’s word. To be truthful, the church chose to expel itself when she called a she to the pulpit. God didn’t just give us His word yesterday. The Surry Baptist Association did the only Christian thing they could do. Any thing else would have been unchristian.

    • September 28, 2011 at 7:16 PM

      Jeff,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Of course, I would respectfully disagree as to the graciousness involved in this situation, at least as to the time frame and the process. However, we will have to agree to disagree on that one. I don’t necessarily disagree with the final outcome in this case, but I believe that process is often times just as important as the end result. How the Surry Baptist Association responded can be either a positive witness or a negative witness. If this was a rushed process without notice given and the due process afforded this church (which up to this point appears to have been far from a “troubled” church), then I think that does not speak well of how this was handled. One can believe that the church should ultimately be disfellowshipped because they called a female pastor and at the same time want to make sure that things are done according to the rules and with grace shown. I’m not sure how giving not only Flat Rock notice, but also the churches of the Association notice — especially during the summer when many are on vacation — that a special called business meeting to recommend the ouster of the church would be held at a date certain (two weeks or perhaps a month later) would have been inappropriate. Just because Flat Rock may have acted in a way that the Association deemed inappropriate does not mean that the Association should act inappropriately. At least that’s my take on it. Thanks again and God bless,

      Howell

  44. Baptist Christian
    October 14, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Ok I’m sorry who I offend on here but let me start by saying I’m not in anyway part form or fashion in with or part of any church in the SBC; I go to an independent baptist church. With that being said I’ve probably already lost some readers, but anyway. As christians no matter what denomination or church affiliation we are all in agreement that God’s word, the KJV not some other libral standard revised trash(lost a few more there), is the final authority. The bible is God’s fianl word and not just suggestions with that said “This is a true saying, if a MAN desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach 1 Timothy 3:1-2” God’s word is not a suggestion. I do not totally agree with the all the SBC does but I do agree with their decession on the so called church in Flat Rock. If churchs today would put more emphasis on what God says instead of what some commitee says then our churchs would be much better off and we would see more people saved.

    • October 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      Baptist Christian,

      No offense taken. While the KJV is a good translation from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts (we obviously do not have the original manuscripts), I’m not sure that everyone would agree that God’s Word = KJV only. I would wholeheartedly agree that the Bible is inerrant and is the final authority for our faith and practice. In relation to the Flat Rock situation, I would agree that pastors/bishops/overseers are to be the husband of one wife, which means that the office is limited to men only. However, one of the other requirements of pastors is that we conduct ourselves in a “blameless” manner. I would say that this should include grace extended, even to our “enemies.” I do not believe that an “ends justifies the means” mentality should be the way that Christians — particularly Christian pastors — should be operating. God is not the author of confusion. I believe we can operate within Scriptural guidelines while at the same not treating others in a graceless way. I think that Biblical principle would be evident in whatever version of the Bible one were reading 🙂 Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. God bless,

      Howell

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