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(USA Today) — After a more than 140-year relationship, First Baptist Church of Jefferson City and the Tennessee Baptist Convention are breaking up over the church’s decision to hire the first woman to be its senior pastor.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention, made up of representatives from Southern Baptist congregations across the state, opted Tuesday morning not to allow members of the East Tennessee church to vote at the convention’s annual business meeting since the Rev. Ellen Di Giosia now leads the congregation.
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The decision effectively means First Baptist is no longer a part of the convention, said Di Giosia, who was hired by the church earlier this fall.
“It’s sad for us because we believe that cooperation is a hallmark of Baptist life,” Di Giosia said. “Anytime that cooperation is broken or fellowship is broken, it’s a grievous thing.”
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Giosia was one of the seven representatives, or messengers, from First Baptist who tried to be seated as voting members at the annual meeting. The yearly gathering is where messengers vote on church matters like finances, committee reports and resolutions, and it is being held this week at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville.
Southern Baptists highly value the autonomy of the local church to make its own decisions, but they also believe the Bible dictates who can preach from the pulpit. Earlier this fall, the convention’s credentials committee declared that First Baptist is “not a cooperating church” because their senior pastor is female.
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The messengers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday morning to affirm the committee’s decision by declining to seat the representatives from First Baptist. The vote was not to remove the church from the convention; there is no formal process to do so.
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, hopes Tuesday’s vote shows that the convention is committed to Scripture. While they respect the...
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