JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) – A church in Jefferson City is in a showdown of sorts after naming a woman as a pastor. It’s a Baptist church and the Southern Baptist convention limits the office of pastor to men only. First Baptist Church of Jefferson City called Reverend Ellen Di Giosia to lead as senior pastor earlier this year.
The state Baptist organization says this is the only church to have a woman leading a congregation and so now the state convention faces a decision at its meeting next week. Allow representatives from the Jefferson City church to be seated at that meeting or declare it a non-cooperating church.
On Thursday we reached out to Pastor Di Giosia and while she thanked us for the opportunity for an interview, she did not want to do one. We also reached out to some in the congregation who followed suit.
Students from Carson-Newman walk by First Baptist Church of Jefferson City nearly every day. “I’ve had women youth leaders. What’s the difference in having a woman as a youth leader or a minister? I don’t see a difference,” said Freshman Amelia Anderson.
Because a woman leads the congregation at First Baptist, it is creating issues on whether their leaders and members can participate at this year’s Baptist convention.
“It doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t see how a woman could affect how someone could go to something,” said Carson-Newman Freshman Mary Beth Green.
Tennessee Baptist Convention takes place every year and it’s where churches vote on all kinds of matters, from ministry to business. The organization has guidelines which do not allow women to be senior pastors. If Tennessee Baptist Convention leaders decide not to allow First Baptist credentials, members can still participate as guests but would not be able to vote.
“The Bible says that men should be leaders in religious environments but I also think that now a days women are stepping in and taking roles men have dominated in the past and we should start to accept and get used to that,” added Carson-Newman Freshman Casey Charles.
“I think it’s a great opportunity. Whether it’s a man or a woman, they should be able to preach the word of God,” said Carson-Newman Junior Daniel Thompson.
Locally, First Baptist leadership is creating issues with the Jefferson County Baptist Association. That organization adopted new policies in October 2016.
“This association recognizes only those of the male gender as proper candidates for ordination based upon the principles found in 1Timothy 3:2 and 12, and Acts 6:1-4,” said Associational Missionary Leroy Davis.
If area churches do not follow, they cannot be in fellowship. Davis says First Baptist is no longer a part of the county’s organization, “You know we’re not trying to say women can’t do this and can’t do that. But as we understand the word of God, they are not to be ordained in the ministry.”
First Baptist Church of Jefferson City said in a statement:
“We are saddened by the decision of the Credentials Committee not to seat the messengers of First Baptist Church…We have been partners in mission for more than 140 years, and the severance of such a connection is painful. The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has the right to choose its partners, just as our congregation has the right to affiliate with whomever we choose. Baptist principles require it, and may it ever be so. But the number of things on which we agree is vast, and the list of things on which we disagree is very small.”