Missionaries rejected by International Missions Board over their pastor's sex
Don and Esther Gardner, members of Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Alabama, were rejected as short-term missionaries by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board because their church's new pastor is a woman.

"They have to be consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message statement," IMB president Jerry Rankin told The Birmingham News. "They made it very clear that they supported women pastors. It was discussed with them, and they did endorse their pastor and there was disagreement."

"It sort of hurt," Esther Gardner told the paper. "We've been Southern Baptist all of our lives. It just hurt down deep in our gut . …They have the best missions organization in the world. I just disagree with their stand on the role of women."

But that view of women is enshrined in the denomination's revised Baptist Faith and Message, adopted in 2000. Earlier this year, some Baptist missionaries were outraged at Rankin's request that all IMB missionaries affirm the statement of faith. The Gardners told the News that he signed it—with lengthy addenda about what they disagreed with. Still, they said, they were willing to abide by the whole thing. "Every employer has the right to say, 'These are the guidelines, work within that,'" Don Gardner said. "If they want to force their theology on their people that work for them, I can live with that. I just stated that was not my personal belief."

The Gardners, retirees who have gone on several volunteer missions to Africa, will return to Swaziland anyway—albeit without the financial benefits of going with IMB.

"The people starving in Swaziland don't care that they have a woman pastor," says Sarah Shelton, who preached ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.