JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WATE) – The First Baptist Church in Jefferson City was voted out of the Tennessee Baptist Convention on Tuesday morning because they have a female pastor.
A statement from the church said the convention determined that “a church whose office of pastor is held by a woman is not a cooperating church.”
Although some in the convention opposed removing the church, a majority voted to remove it. The convention said this is the only church in the state to have a woman leading a congregation.
Reverend Ellen Di Giosia was called to lead as the church’s senior pastor earlier this year.
While the outcome saddens us, it’s fair to say that we are not surprised,” wrote church leaders in the statement. “Our congregation’s long-held conviction that God calls all people into service regardless of gender has not always been received well, even by some brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“We have tried to view this as an opportunity to be clear about who we are and to be gracious in our response. We know that not everyone agrees with us. This is a matter of biblical interpretation. Not everybody is going to agree and that’s okay. The question for us is, which matters of biblical interpretation are necessary for partnership?” said Di Giosia.
Convention leaders say it was simply a theological difference.
“I hope that the message it sends is that we’re going to be committed to scripture. In spite of the way others may interpret this action, it is very important that we have some anchors and some a belief system that is tied to the scripture,” said Dr. Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“We have been heartened, however, by a tremendous outpouring of support we have received from Christians, both Baptist and non-Baptist, from Tennessee and around the country in recent weeks,” church leaders said.
Tennessee Baptist Convention takes place every year during which churches vote on all kinds of matters, from ministry to business. The Jefferson City church was not allowed to vote on any of them.
Di Giosia says nothing will change for her congregation. They’ll continue to worship, study and pray, because that’s what matters.
“Ultimately the question is does my ministry bear fruit? To be defensive, to try and prove to people that God has called me, isn’t a good use of my time. It’s not a good use of their time. I would rather do what God has called me to do,” Di Giosia said.
There’s no formal mechanism to remove a church from the convention’s network, so hypothetically if guidelines are followed next year, they could come back and vote.