More than 10,000 Southern Baptists gather for church-stopping meeting with women pastors

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — More than 10,000 voting delegates gathered Tuesday for the two-day opening ceremony of the Southern Baptist Convention. Annual meetingThere should be a rethink on whether to ban churches with female pastors and how to respond to sexual abuse within churches.

About 10,553 ambassadors, known as delegates, meet in Indianapolis.

On Wednesday, they are expected to debate whether to amend their constitution to ban churches Women pastors – From lead to supporting roles. The move was given preliminary approval last year.

Early Tuesday morning, a small group of women stood outside the Indiana Convention Center in a low-key demonstration in support of women in ministry.

“I hope people know that women have equal value and can be pastors,” said Rev. Meredith Stone said, but it now works with women in various Baptist denominations.

Attendees said reactions ranged from sneers to subtle thumbs-up signs to a few shouts of loud “thank you” as hundreds of ambassadors filed in.

Along with them, Krista Brown, a long-time advocate for survivors of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches and critic of the religion’s resistance to reform, has recorded in a new memoir, “Baptistland.”

She said there is a direct correlation between abuse and women’s equality in ministry.

“If you crush some, it crushes many more,” he said.

While the SBC’s statement of faith states that both women and men are “gifted for service” in the church, the office of pastor is reserved for men. Some interpret it as referring only to senior pastors, but the amendment applies to women in associate roles, even if the senior pastor is male.

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The SBC cannot tell its independent churches what to do, but it can decide whether they are in or out. As of 2023, it has expelled some churches that have women in pastoral positions Saddleback ChurchA California megachurch.

Politics is also a factor in marginal events. On Monday, Ex President Donald Trump The video appeared in a recorded message to attendees of an anti-abortion conservative group that gathered Monday next to the convention center. Trump urged attendees to vote.

Later Tuesday, former Vice President Mike Pence told an audience at a side event that he would “never” vote for President Joe Biden, criticizing him on the border, abortion and other policies. But Pence stopped short of endorsing his estranged one-time running mate, former President Donald Trump.

Pence has repeatedly called on GOP leadership to return to an agenda defined under former President Ronald Reagan, which he described in broad brushes as protecting prosperity, freedom, international leadership, anti-abortion and religious freedom.

Pence delivered a strong religious theme during a question-and-answer session with Brent Leatherwood, chairman of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the SBC’s public policy agency. About 500 people attended the luncheon and gave Pence a standing ovation.

Without criticizing Trump by name, Pence criticized those who leave the issue of abortion to the states, saying that when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, it actually turned the issue over to the states and “the American people.” Officials at every level of government were called to “advance the sanctity of life.” He compared the “states off” argument to those who sought to keep slavery a states’ rights issue in the 19th century.

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Trump has repeatedly taken credit for repealing the federally guaranteed right to abortion — Roe v. Wade recommended three judges who overturned — but He opposed supporting a national abortion ban And he says he wants to leave the matter to the states.

Pence said he was proud to be part of an administration that helped put Roe “on the ash heap of history.”

He made self-deprecating jokes about “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” while hosting a mild-mannered radio show, and how Trump teased him because Pence followed the “Billy Graham rule” of not dining alone with a woman. His wife. “After what they said about me, they were attacking Mike Pence for being faithful to his wife,” Trump recalled.

On January 6, 2021, Pence said he was convinced he did the right thing in fulfilling his role in certifying Biden’s election in the face of unrest. Pence said there is nothing more un-American than the idea that one person as vice president can override the will of the electorate.

“By the grace of God we did our duty on that sad day,” he said.

Bart Barber, the Texas pastor who ended his two-year term as SBC president, told delegates Tuesday that their churches must provide a “safe place” to worship and gather.

The Abuse Reform Enforcement Task Force recently completed its work. Although it offered a curriculum to train churches on how to prevent and respond to abuse, it fell short. Order Annual meetings prior to establishing a database of offenders will help churches avoid hiring them.

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Abuse survivor and advocate Megan Lively told the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission Tuesday morning that she will raise awareness about abuse and provide resources to prevent and respond to it. He is a representative of Peace Church in Wilson, North Carolina.

Although some have advocated for reforms over the past two decades, since a 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, the conference has struggled to respond to sexual abuse in its churches. It said about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct over the past two decades.

The group commissioned a report from a consultancy firm, Guidepost Solutions. It decided that the Presidents of the Executive Committee of the Conference Intimidated and mistreated Survivors seeking help. This Committee handles the day-to-day operations of the Conference.

Jeff Iorg, the new chairman of the executive committee, told its members at a meeting on Monday that the committee was facing a “funding crisis” as it indemnified the guideline settlements from any legal consequences of the study. The conference is paying for legal defense against two defamation lawsuits filed by two people named in the report.

“We’ve spent more than $2 million on that compensation so far, and there’s no end in sight,” Iorg said.

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Associated Press religion coverage is supported by AP together with With Conversation US, funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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