A Southern Baptist church in Missouri is under scrutiny by its local association for replacing a pastor who resigned for health reasons with his daughter.
Melody Pryor, pastor of First Baptist Church of Stanton, Mo., said she first had a notion of being a pastor while in the second grade but “blew it off” as something a girl couldn’t do. It resurfaced after she lost her son to cancer in 1997 and was taking classes at Oklahoma Baptist University. A professor told her he saw “a pastor in you” and introduced her to Baptist Women in Ministry, a national support organization.
Knowing that Southern Baptists as a denomination do not accept women as pastors, “I thought I would have to change denominations,” the retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant said. “But I’m loyal to Baptists, and I was torn between whether to do it. I thought I might start a church, but then I thought I might be fortunate enough to find a church that would hire me.”
When her father, Harry Pryor, pastor of First Baptist Church since 1978, was sidelined by illness in June, the church didn’t have enough time to call someone immediately to fill in. Melody had led January Bible studies at First Baptist, and her father had allowed her to preach a couple times. So she filled in, believing he would be back in the pulpit in a few weeks.
But under his doctor’s advice, Harry Pryor resigned as pastor Aug. 8. The congregation elected a search committee and asked her to continue to fill in until a new minister was hired.
Remembering that her father had been opposed to women pastors, she recalled: “I met with Dad but I was ready to fight. I told him that I think women could be pastors if God calls them. Dad told me his feeling had changed. Mom and Dad have been supportive.”
Still, she hesitated to submit her resume to the search committee, because “I didn’t want them to think that they were stuck because of Dad.”
She also knew the church might face difficulties for calling a woman as pastor. Committee members pursued her, asking her parents and siblings why Melody had not applied for the position. “At that point, I talked with them and tried to help them realize that there would be problems,” she said.
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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press