Griffin church mistakenly ousted by Baptist Convention for woman pastor

The nondenominational church was mistakenly caught up in an announcement about churches being dropped by the Southern Baptist Convention
At least 40 Georgia cases listed on Southern Baptist Convention’s secret sex abuser database

At least 40 Georgia cases listed on Southern Baptist Convention’s secret sex abuser database

The Southern Baptist Convention announced earlier this week that it has ousted a Griffin church from its rolls because its senior pastor is a woman.

There’s just one problem: The church, New Faith Mission Ministry, has no affiliation with the SBC.

In fact, New Faith Mission Ministry, which has about 75 members, is non-denominational.

“I was shocked,” the Rev. Gwennette B. Watson, co-founder and senior pastor, said of the SBCs oops moment.

The Griffin church was among four churches dropped from affiliation with the SBC for having women serving as pastors. The denomination prohibits women from being the senior or lead pastor in its churches. Saddleback Church in California — the denomination’s second-largest congregation — was among those dropped.

Watson and her husband bought the ministry in 2012. When Anthony died in 2018 following a lengthy illness, she assumed the role of senior pastor.

“I was already in the role of pastor, I just didn’t have the title,” she said in a telephone interview. “She said she took over because she wanted to continue her husband’s legacy.

The SBC move has her scratching her head.

“At first I thought how can you disfellowship someone because of gender?” said Watson, who believes women can lead congregations.

“While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” according to its beliefs.

In Acts 2:17, it says that “God declares that he will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh,” Watson said. “It doesn’t say just men. He said all.”

She doesn’t know how the mistake happened. But she and her husband never became part of the denomination.

An SBC spokesman said their records showed the church was an affiliate at one time, but that they had no records showing the relationship had ended when Watson and her husband took over the church.

According to a statement from the SBC Credentials Committee, several efforts are made to communicate with a church prior to a recommendation being made to drop a church from their affiliation.

In this week’s announcement, the SBC’s Executive Committee also announced it was dropping a fifth church for not resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation.

The churches have a right to appeal the decision. Being dropped from the SBC means a church will not be able to send messengers to the convention and will have no ties to the denomination.

The largest church included in this week’s news, Saddleback, is a global ministry based in Lake Forest, Calif. with multiple campuses and a weekly attendance of over 23,000. It was founded and once led by Rick Warren, a popular evangelical pastor and author of the best-selling “A Purpose Driven Life.”

After Warren retired from Saddleback in 2021, he turned the reins over to Andy Wood, who became lead pastor, and his wife Stacie Wood became the teaching pastor of the prominent megachurch. She was also allowed to preach.

The Executive Committee, though, said Stacie Wood was functioning in the role of a pastor.

Warren had raised hackles even earlier though when, in 2021, he ordained three women as pastors, according to the Associated Press.

According to the SBC, a church which has been ousted may appeal the decision by submitting a written appeal to the chair of the Credentials Committee at least 30 days prior to the convention’s annual meeting.

The issue of women as senior or lead pastors is likely to be discussed when the SBC holds its annual meeting June 11 through June 14 in New Orleans. Still, the biggest issue will likely remain sex abuse and how the convention has dealt with alleged abusers or supported survivors.

This isn’t the first time that the issue of women in lead pastoral roles has caused a stir in among some Baptists.

In 2010, the Georgia Baptist Convention decided to remove Druid Hills Baptist Church from its rolls because the Rev. Mimi Walker served as co-pastor, along with her husband, Graham Walker Jr.

Mimi Walker is currently senior pastor of the Church at Ponce & Highland. The intown church bills itself as a “multiracial, pro-LGBTQ, economically diverse church … dedicated to radical inclusivity, thoughtful spirituality, and caring community,” according to its website.

Other denominations allow women in senior pastoral roles including the Episcopal Church, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the United Methodist Church and the AME Church

The Roman Catholic Church still not does allow women to be ordained as deacons, priests, bishops or cardinals.