The religious magazine "Gospel Today" featuring five attractive and smiling (but fully-clothed) women on its cover would hardly be the one you’d expect you’d have to ask the clerk for – from under the counter – after it was banned from being displayed with other religious magazines on the racks of Lifeway Christian Bookstore.


But the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reports that’s where the Southern Baptist Convention, owner and operator of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the country, has ordered the magazine be kept.

And the reason for the magazine’s banishment to the realm reserved for the risqué?

The five smiling women on the cover simply happen to be pastors.  And Southern Baptist Convention holds that that’s a role reserved solely for men.


Teresa Hairston, owner of Fayetteville-published "Gospel Today" said,

It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church.  I was pretty shocked.

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Southern Baptist Convention owned Lifeway Resources Bookstores simply commented, "It is contrary to what we believe."

And although not allowing women to preach is the Southern Baptist Convention’s adopted policy, each church is permitted to make an independent decision.  And there are a few Baptist churches that have selected women, such as Decatur First Baptist, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell preaches.

Even though women now make up more than 50 percent of students in all divinity schools, only 3 percent will finally end up leading a large congregation (greater than 350 attendance) according to a survey from Duke University.

Conflicting interpretations of the Bible underlie debates over women’s authority and ordination. Opponents of their ordination cite St. Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:12, in which he says, "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent." But proponents point to St. Paul again in Galatians 3:28, which says, "There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Ordination of women began in the 1800s with the Quakers and what is now called the United Church of Christ.  And the precursor to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) first ordained women in 1956, the same year as did the United Methodist Church.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America first ordained women in 1970, and the Episcopal Church officially ordained them in 1976.

But despite having women elected in 2006 to lead the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church, that success has not yet made its way down to the congregational level.

In fact a 1998 survey of 107 Anglican women priests found about 75% said they had been bullied by clergy and as well as congregant members.  One was accused of being a lesbian, another was quizzed about her sexual habits and others were called witch or abomination.  And in a much larger study by Dr. Helen Thorne of England's Bristol University nearly half the women priests reported difficulties with male clergy with a quarter stating they had experienced sexual harassment or abuse while working for the church.

Looks like for evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal churches, that stained-glass ceiling doesn’t even have one crack in it ... let alone 18 million.

Originally posted to dmhlt 66 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 09:00 AM PDT.


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