A Jefferson City church and its pastor are causing new discussion about the proper roles for men and women in the church.
First Baptist Church Jefferson City has a new female pastor. According to its website, Pastor Ellen Di Giosia started working there in August 2017.
According to the Tennessee Baptist Convention's (TBC) paper, Baptist and Reflector, the convention's Committee on Credentials met Oct. 18 and decided a woman senior pastor does not fit the definition of a "cooperating church" as defined by convention bylaws.
This ultimately means that a church with a female senior pastor cannot register her church's messengers at the convention's annual gathering, and will not be able to vote.
In a statement by Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, he said, "It is regrettable when one of our churches makes a decision that results in a broken confessional relationship with our TBC network of churches. We appreciate the efforts of all our churches to advance the gospel together. I have the utmost respect for the long held Baptist polity of the autonomy of the local church. But I also deeply respect and appreciate the clear convictions expressed by our Committee on Credentials."
This decision is based partly on principles found in The Baptist Faith and Message, which is a statement of faith adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention. It states, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
In a separate but similar issue, the Jefferson County Baptist Association no longer includes First Baptist Church Jefferson City.
Leroy Davis, an associational missionary, said "This association recognizes only those of the male gender as proper candidates for ordination."
Davis said this resolution is based on scriptures in 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, and Acts 6:1-4.
"They have the right to elect women deacons and women pastors if they so desire," Davis said, "but us being autonomous, we also have the right not to fellowship with them."
Pastor DiGiosia released a statement saying in part, "It is unfortunate that the Committee chooses to dismiss us
without conversation or consultation. We urge Tennessee Baptists to consider the picture this paints for those who have yet to hear the Gospel."
Davis said there is a theological disagreement, but the purpose of the church remains the same across the board.
"The primary goal is to tell people about Jesus and see people come to Christ," Davis said.
The annual gathering for the Tennessee Baptist Convention starts Sunday at First Baptist Church Hendersonville.