The Tennessee Baptist Convention decided not to permit representatives from First Baptist Church of Jefferson City to vote at its annual meeting because the church's senior pastor is a woman.
The statewide church body voted not to seat messengers from the East Tennessee church for the yearly business meeting on Tuesday morning, the third day of the gathering. The event is being held at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.
The church replied Tuesday, saying the decision was based on a resolution from the convention stating "a church whose office of pastor is held by a woman is not a cooperating church." The church said it is no longer affiliating with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
First Baptist Church of Jefferson City hired the Rev. Ellen Di Giosia as its senior pastor this fall. As a result, a Tennessee Baptist Convention committee said the church is no longer a "cooperating church." That decision was affirmed Tuesday by the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
"It wasn't a surprising decision. It's sad," Di Giosia said. "It's sad because we believe that cooperation is a hallmark of Baptist life..."
Di Giosia said she was heartened to see the support her church has received from people across Tennessee and the country.
"Although one of our Baptist affiliations has changed, FBC Jefferson City is the same
congregation we were yesterday. We will still gather to worship, study, and pray," Di Giosia said.
Traditionally, Southern Baptist churches believe that only men can serve as the pastor of a congregation. They also believe in that each church is autonomous and therefore can make its own decisions.