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The SBC: Girls In The Pulpit

News Division

It’s not a click-bait headline. It’s not veiled metaphorical rhetoric. It’s a bonafide story … and it’s not funny. It is, rather, further evidence of a denomination in the throes of a downgrade because of its disregard for Scripture. A Southern Baptist church is lauding a girl preaching from the pulpit.

At the outset, please be reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet.  1 Timothy 2:12

Baptist News Global linked the report Freedom and fear: Preaching as a young woman. The preface to the curated story says:

“What does it mean to affirm women’s leadership in church in 2016? A conversation between high schooler Jillian Mitchell, who preached her first sermon recently, and the pastor, John Jay Alvaro, of her Oklahoma City congregation.”

The hyperlinked story takes you to Alvaro’s blogsite where the story continues. “This year,” he writes, “we were fortunate to have Jillian Mitchell, a high school student and life-long member of Spring Creek share a sermon.” Alvaro, according to his church’s website, is the pastor who has a background in art and architecture, and trained for ministry at Duke Divinity School.”  (Hmm, somebody may need to send a copy of the Pauline epistles to Duke, perhaps.)

According to the Southern Baptist Convention’s ChurchSearch website, Spring Creek Baptist Church is an active, cooperating church of the SBC, founded in 1984. From the church’s “Our Beliefs” page of their website, you’ll find these claims:

“Spring Creek holds to traditional Baptist beliefs and we take great pride in our Baptist heritage.”

We believe and practice core Baptist values such as the autonomy of the local church, the priesthood of all believers, believer’s baptism, separation of church and state, and the authority of Scripture.”

(Emphases added)

The site goes on to affirm not only the church’s partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, but also with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the Baptist World Alliance. They assert to do this because “the Baptist stream is but one tributary flowing into the great river of God.”

Here are the salient observations:

“Traditional Baptist beliefs” have affirmed complementarian views of God-ordained, gender-specific roles within the Church.  The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, article XVIII encapsulates our Scripture-centric understanding of gender roles.  Alvaro’s church, however, subscribes to the 1963 BF&M, a statement lacking the subsequent 1998 addition of “The Family” statements.

Nevertheless, to claim to hold to traditional Baptist beliefs while allowing women in the pulpit is patently ludicrous.  It’s why we have such an utter lack of sermons by the likes of, say, Susannah Spurgeon.

“The authority of Scripture.” Clearly, it’s easier for Spring Creek to say “we believe and practice” than it is to actually do it.. (A condition with which the SBC proper is equally, clearly afflicted.) If Paul’s instructions to Timothy, cited above, aren’t actually Holy Spirit-inspired, by all means, then ignore them. But if they are … (Insert, maybe, “woes” – akin to those to the Pharisees?)

“The Baptist stream” and the “great river of God” may hearken back to a great sermon of Jonathon Edwards, but obviously, for this church, they do not hearken back to the same stalwart doctrinal stands that he took. But then, as an average pew-sitter, I wasn’t aware that a church’s doctrinal convictions could be selected buffet style from a smorgasbord of serve-yourself theology offerings. I always thought you stood on, and defended, what the Word actually teaches. (Oh,goofy me, I guess.)

We’ve got an annual meeting of the SBC coming up. Awaken America. You may have heard about it. Rev. Alvaro’s little story here about a girl in his pulpit highlights the EXACT reason we should worry less about Awakening America and instead pray for a reformation within our ranks.  The SBC needs to return to actual obedience to the authority of Scripture, rather than giving mere lip service to it.

At what point in your denial of Scripturally-prescribed ecclesiastic mandates do you no longer qualify as a “church?” In my estimation, Spring Creek has passed that threshold. If it cannot hold to a fundamental truth, perspicuous in Scripture, that forbids women in the pulpit, how then can the convention allow it within their ranks?

As Spurgeon – Charles, not Susannah – once quipped, “Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin.” A denial of an apostolic instruction as to the woman’s role in ecclesiastic endeavors, it seems, more than qualifies as “known and vital error.”

The texted dialogue from Alvaro’s article indicates the pastor’s belief that Mitchell’s testimony was actually her “first sermon.” Such a testimony is not being challenged.  The problem is not with this young lady’s testimony. The problem is that this pastor would knowingly, in direct contradiction to Scripture, allow her to stand in the pulpit and preach.

I applaud her faith. I encourage her enthusiasm. I praise God that, in a culture of youth who seek no knowledge of truth, this young lady has been saved by Him and is eager to share her faith. I know – and you probably do too – deacons with decades-long membership in the SBC who couldn’t explain either the Gospel or their testimony with perhaps any degree of passion this young lady has.  May God bless and use her.

Still, her place is not in a pulpit. Not because I say so. Not because the SBC says so. Not because the collective opinions of devout men and women say so. But because God’s Word says so.

Alvaro and his church, failing to repent of this error, should be removed from the fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s time we stand for God’s Word and start ejecting error from of our midst.

The downgrade must be thwarted.