First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, TN, Selects Woman Pastor, May Lose Voting Rights in State Convention

Dr. Ellen di Giosa (Photo: First Baptist Church of Jefferson City)
Dr. Ellen di Giosa (Photo: First Baptist Church of Jefferson City)

First Baptist Church of Jefferson City hired a woman as its lead pastor this fall and now may lose voting rights at next week’s Tennessee Baptist Convention.

A TBC committee last month deemed First Baptist — which traces its start to the 1830s — is “not a cooperating church” because the Rev. Ellen Di Giosia is its senior pastor.

Though the committee action speaks to a single church, it also goes to the heart of Southern Baptists’ affirmation that only men can pastor a congregation. It also points to the Baptist belief that each church is autonomous and can make decisions without a hierarchy of denominational authority.

“It is regrettable when one of our churches makes a decision that results in a broken confessional relationship with our TBC network of churches,” Tennessee Baptist Mission Board President and Executive Director Randy C. Davis said.

“We appreciate the efforts of all our churches to advance the Gospel together. I have the utmost respect for the long-held Baptist polity of the autonomy of the local church. But I also deeply respect and appreciate the clear convictions expressed by our Committee on Credentials,” Davis said in a statement.

Di Giosia, previously associate pastor with San Antonio’s Woodland Baptist Church, is First Baptist’s 32nd pastor. She’s also the only female pastor leading a church affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Other women lead Tennessee Baptist churches, but those congregations aren’t part of the TBC.

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SOURCE: Amy McRary / The Tennessean