Alexandria church expelled from Southern Baptist Convention over female pastor

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A prominent Virginia Baptist church was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention because it has a female pastor.

The SBC — the nation’s largest Protestant denomination — voted out First Baptist Church of Alexandria at a national conference Tuesday.

The SBC cited a statement of faith adopted in 2000 that says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church … the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

First Baptist Pastor of Women and Children Kim Eskridge has worked as a pastor for 20 years.

First Baptist Senior Pastor Robert Stephens made an impassioned plea to allow Eskridge to continue, saying in part, “For 44 years we have continued our partnership with this Convention, engaging in Kingdom work while having females as pastor. Our presence clearly demonstrates our shared commitment to prioritizing cooperation for the work of the Kingdom and the glory of God, which has been successful.” 

Rev. Robin Anderson, who was one the first female Baptist pastors in Virginia when she was ordained in 2001, serves as co-pastor of Commonwealth Baptist Church in Alexandria, which is not part of the SBC, and believes the SBC’s decision violates a fundamental premise of the Baptist faith. 

“One of our founding principles of the Baptist church is autonomy. We believe the Holy Spirit can work through anyone,” she said. “We also believe in church autonomy.”

The SBC vote saddens her in part because of the message it sends to girls.

“Think about all of the girls that are growing up in those churches, that will grow up in those churches, and will never see someone that looks like them leading — will be told if they feel that they are called to ministry that they are mishearing God,” she said. 

Anderson sent a message of support to Eskridge at First Baptist.

Anderson said she has encountered disapproval and pushback in her career. 

“I’ve gotten my own share of hate mail over the years,” she said. “I still have people that’ll call the church and they’ll hang up when they ask who is the pastor and I say, ‘This is she.’ They’ll hang up.” 

News4 sought comment from First Baptist and was told Eskridge would release a video statement sometime Wednesday.

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