The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has sparked another national controversy by adopting strict interpretations of Scripture—including barring women from pastorates—in a move to counter liberal culture.No stranger to controversy, the SBC has been heavily criticized in recent years for praying for the conversion of Muslims, Hindus, and Jews; for planning to send summer evangelism teams to Chicago; and for revising the Baptist Faith and Message (the group's statement of beliefs) in 1998, exhorting wives to "submit graciously" to their husbands.Now the SBC is feeling the heat for its stance that women should not serve as pastors.At the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla., in June voting messengers approved a new Baptist Faith and Message statement that while "both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."Conservative SBC leaders consider its conservative biblical interpretation a countercultural move."(A)s the culture moves steadily away from a biblical morality, our 16 million members and 41,000 churches are applying the brakes," writes R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a New York Times op-ed article.While many Christians from other denominations interpret Scripture differently, the majority of Southern Baptists affirm that biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent" NRSV) clearly limit the pastoral office to men alone."God has built an order of authority into every institution on earth," James Merritt, the newly elected president of the SBC, tells CT. "We follow his order of authority and submit to his structure ...

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