Last week I received a call from a reporter with a middle Tennessee newspaper asking for comment on President Carter's convening of a group to call for a meeting of progressive Baptists in 2008. Of course, she said almost immediately, "I have not been writing religious news very long. Can you explain to me what's happened to Southern Baptists and how your group differs from them?" This led to questions about inerrancy and the "official position" of Fellowship Baptists on women in ministry.
Those of you who have found yourself in this position know how frustrating this can be. How can you explain 400 years of Baptist history in general and 25 years of Baptist history in the South specifically in a 5 minute discussion?
Although I did spend some time explaining my personal understanding of the role of women in church leadership and some examples of Fellowship missions, I tried to make several points.
First, if you want to know how Fellowship Baptists differ from Southern Baptists, you will have to make the comparison. I can tell you want we are doing, but I don't pay a lot of attention to the SBC anymore.
Second, Fellowship Baptists are not a monolithic group, but neither are Southern Baptists. I pointed out that pastor Rick Warren, who identifies himself as a Southern Baptist, seems to find himself on a different track from his brethern, especially when it comes to things like the BWA, ministry with HIV/AIDS victims, and working with both Republicans and Democrats.
Third, Fellowship Baptists are Bible people. We have a high regard for scripture, so much so that we support over a dozen theological institutions to prepare women and men for the ministry of the Word.
Fourth, if you want to know what we believe about women in ministry, look at what we do. All the statements and good intentions in the world are no good if you are not committed to diversity in leadership and openness in service. Is our record perfect? No, it is not, but we are trying.
In short, we've got our plates full trying to be the people of God on mission. Take a look at what we are doing and make your own evaluation.
By the way, I did tell her that I thought President Carter is on the right track. Baptists need to find new ways to work together in the 21st century. "The old has passed away; new things have come."