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Southern Baptist Convention set to vote on whether to ban female pastors


The largest Protestant organization in the United States votes today on whether to finalize a ban on women as pastors. The Southern Baptist Convention first passed that amendment to its constitution last year, and they have to approve it for a second straight year for it to take effect. Several hundred women are Southern Baptist pastors and have been for many years. And one of them is the Reverend Kristen Muse, executive pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. who is on the line. Reverend Muse, good morning.

KRISTEN MUSE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How long have you been a pastor?

MUSE: Well, I've been at Hayes Barton now for 21 years and then served as a pastor of children's ministry for about five, so close to 30 years.

INSKEEP: Goodness. Well, I appreciate you telling me how long that this has been common practice in the Southern Baptist Convention. What have you thought about in recent years, as many in your church have said this is not biblical?

MUSE: You know, I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. And although we didn't have women pastors, I continue to hear time again that, you know, God can call anybody, male or female. And so, you know, I think that has been a practice in many churches, Southern Baptist as well. And so when you hear that call from those deep roots, then it's hard to imagine what we're facing now.

INSKEEP: Your critics here, or critics of women as pastors, have said the Bible is on their side. What is the biblical argument against what you're doing, and how do you answer it?

MUSE: Well, I think the biblical element is throughout scripture. You see that God called women from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And the text that is often used to discredit women and their call to be pastors is like lifting one verse, two verses out of the Bible. And there's other verses that we can lift as well that says in Christ there is no male or female. There is equality. And this kind of goes against that whole principle of God trying to bring us together - now this amendment is divisive.

INSKEEP: What happens if it passes today to you and to your church?

MUSE: Well, for our church, it would mean that we would be in unfriendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. And so we would be disfellowshipped because the church that I serve in does recognize for over 40 years the call of women, both as pastors and deacons. And so this would, I think, create grief because our church was founded in relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention, and so some of that would be grieving for our congregation, our historic roots. But we would recognize even more the call of women.

INSKEEP: Is there any part of your church, any part of your congregation who have said, well, actually, maybe we should just follow this order?

MUSE: I think maybe more secretively, but not out in the open because I think they've seen how God uses women throughout the years. And even currently, we have an associate pastor of children and communications, and they see how God uses her to speak the word, and they've affirmed my calling as well.

INSKEEP: I'm curious, in the moment that we have left, if there have been occasions when your sex, your gender has been in any way a barrier to your work, and if it's been in any way an advantage in your work.

MUSE: It has been a barrier. There are certain churches that - and people - that would discredit my calling. And so I think that limits the opportunity to share the love of Christ and to really go boldly into many places. But I also think that my gender has proved advantageous. I think sometimes women are a little more pastoral and caring. I mean, there are many men that are that way as well, but...


MUSE: ...My gender allows me to connect maybe with other females or even men who are going through grief and allows me just to be the presence of Christ as well.

INSKEEP: Reverend Muse, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

MUSE: Thank you, Steve. I appreciate it as well.

INSKEEP: Reverend Kristen Muse is executive pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and she speaks with us on this day when the Southern Baptist Convention votes on whether to finalize a ban on women pastors. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.