Last week, Associated Baptist Press reported that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri announced that it was offering cash to churches searching for a pastor that are willing to consider (?) a female candidate.
CBF-Missouri is promising to pay the travel expenses incurred by search committees willing to “include a woman candidate in the process…treating her as a top candidate even if she isn’t actually one of the top candidates.”
Jeff Langford, Associate Coordinator of CBF-MO, added: “If nothing else, this program would give women pastor candidates some valuable interview experiences.”
However, Kathy Pickett – the moderator-elect of CBF-MO – objected to the initiative. According to ABP, Pickett “voiced concern that female candidates – particularly young women – ‘are not hurt and damaged’ in the process.” Pickett worried that the female candidates would be used as a “guinea pig.”
After reading this article in ABP, I posted the following on Twitter (9/28):
Several CBF ministers have raised similar questions on Twitter. One pastor (@thedaveone) tweeted, “I have a problem with encouraging churches to include women in top tier of candidates even if the woman is not one of the top choices.”
Jennifer Harris Dault, a student at CBF-affiliated Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas and resides in Saint Louis, Missouri, added: “I’m glad CBFMO is doing SOMETHING, just not sure this is the most productive.” Elizabeth Lott, Associate Pastor of Westover Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, tweeted: “Agreed. I wouldn’t want that job.”
Over on Facebook, I posted a link to the ABP article and pointed out that this initiative of CBF-MO raises ethical red flags. Two young pastors – male and female – responded calling the initiative “patronizing” and “ridiculously offensive.”
A top elected officer of the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship commented: “I agree – it’s condescending and I would hope churches are not told to do this on the basis that it’s dishonest and demeaning.”
Today, Albert Mohler – president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, weighed in with a blog post titled “Will the CBF really pay churches to consider a woman as pastor?”
I actually thought Mohler was quite nice to CBF-Missouri. He did not question the sincerity of CBF’s support for women-in-ministry. Mohler stated that the policy “does seem clumsy, at best.” He continued:
Paying search committees to consider women as top candidates? That is awkward enough. But, paying them to treat a woman “as a top candidate even if she isn’t actually one of the top candidates”? That seems absolutely desperate, and one can only wonder if women seeking pastorates would consider this a step forward.
I’m sure CBFers will be tempted to attack the messenger in this instance. Mohler certainly has no love for anything to do with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. But the messenger here has a couple of good points. To describe this initiative of CBF-Missouri as “clumsy” is indeed charitable.
This is a bad policy for so many reasons. The policy is already beginning to receive nation attention and has been mentioned on Twitter by USA Today.
CBF leaders need to speak to this initiative – especially those leaders in Missouri. This policy is in desperate need of tweaking. Paying a church to treat a woman in search of a pastorate as a “top candidate even if she isn’t actually one of the top candidates” is just wrong. No way to spin that.
UPDATE: This blog post was cited (and I was quoted) in an article titled “Cash for interviewing women pastor candidates?” by religion writer Peter Smith of Louisville’s The Courier-Journal. Check it out.