In another deliberate and continuous move toward isolation and irrelevancy, the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) approved a policy yesterday that gives leadership the right to reject cooperation with congregations deemed to be out of line with Southern Baptists’ ever-narrowing doctrine.

Though broadly defined, the policy has a single purpose: to appease the fundamentalist brothers who want to take a slap at the First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., for daring to call a female pastor last year.

Baptist congregations in Georgia can call an idiot, a bigot or even a crook — apparently — as long as the pastor is male. But a competent and called female pastor — like Julie Pennington-Russell — is considered an offense.

“What about local church autonomy?,” you ask. Well conventions are autonomous too.

And the GBC’s most recent use of its freedom is consistent with the irrational, far-right fundamentalism that captured the state association of churches several years ago.

In reality, they did the Decatur congregation a big favor. The tragedy is that many other congregations that see this (and other GBC actions) as nonsense will continue to support such heavy-handedness in the name of “missions.”

Southern Baptists apologized for their defense and advancement of slavery a mere 150 years after abolition. Perhaps Georgia Baptists will want to pencil in 2158 on the denominational calendar as a good time to apologize to women — and people of all gender who think. That is, if they are still in business.

[Photo: GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, a former proponent of women in ministry, who now does the bidding for the fundamentalist big-boys running the convention]

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