Druid Hills Baptist pastor gains higher post

In fact, she’s not only moved on, but up. At the time the GBC announced it was removing fellowship from Druid Hills, Walker was the co-pastor of the historic intown church, along with her husband, Graham.

Last year, she was named senior pastor at Druid Hills. Her husband is a professor at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

“I think it’s sad that they felt like that was the direction to go,” Walker said. “I feel it’s important to allow everyone to be used by God as God calls them, and that includes women.”

This is not the first time the GBC has taken such steps.

In 2009, the organization also ended its 148-year relationship with First Baptist Church of Decatur after the congregation voted to hire the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell as senior pastor.

Once a church is removed from the rolls, the GBC no longer accepts money from the church for missions and programs and the church cannot send delegates — called messengers — to annual meetings of the convention. The GBC has said that while it isn’t opposed to women serving in ministry positions, it opposes them serving as pastor.

The GBC is an affiliate of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention.

“I’m not sure what the value is of trying to go back in time when women were held in subservience,” Walker, a 54-year-old former missionary in the Philippines, had earlier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Walker said the church on Ponce de Leon Avenue has formed an affiliation with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which is made up of “like-minded” churches. She said the organization’s members pool their resources to help local communities and do mission work overseas.

Membership hasn’t suffered since the church was removed from the GBC fellowship, she said, adding she thinks people in the community “felt affirmed in the church’s choice and not discouraged” that it hired a woman.

She said the church, which has about 100 active members, is focusing on issues in the community, such as homelessness and unemployment, and is working to strengthen Druid Hills’ social mission. It also has worked collaboratively with other intown churches, nonprofits and businesses.

Walker also plans to open the church’s vast space to the community. Already, the church rents some of its space to local artists, theater companies and a school.

Walker, who will join other Baptists in Washington in March to visit the White House, said there are also plans to add the church to a historic preservation registry.

Longtime member Chuck Warren said the Georgia Baptist Convention’s action against the church had no effect his membership at Druid Hills. “I’m pretty liberal and try to live in a loving way,” he said. “The net effect is they will no longer take money from us and that’s about it.”

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