May 18, NEW YORK (AP)--The Southern Baptists, America's largest Protestant denomination, have drawn up a proposed statement of belief declaring that women should no longer be ordained as pastors. The statement will come up for ratification at the denomination's annual meeting June 13-14 in Orlando, Fla.

The text reads: "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." A footnote cites biblical support in 1 Timothy 2:9-14 ("I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent"). The estimated 1,600 current Southern Baptist clergywomen would be allowed to continue to serve, but the text opposes future ordinations.

Passage of the text is likely, said the Rev. Molly Marshall, who was a faculty member of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., until her 1994 dismissal. She said the action "signals a long, repressive period." For the Baptists, the document is not a "creed" but a statement of generally shared principles. Though local congregations and individuals are not bound by its tenets, the text can affect hiring decisions.

Besides the male-pastors-only language, the Baptist convention platform includes changes on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and mercy killing, in line with the strong conservative shift in the denomination, which has 15.8 million members in nearly 41,000 congregations.

In 1998, the Southern Baptists declared that a wife should "submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." That was the last straw for about dozen congregations that quit the denomination. The chairman of the committee that drafted the new statement was the Rev. Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tenn., whose election as the Southern Baptists' president in 1979 began the denomination's rightward move.

The Rev. Addie Davis of North Carolina was the first known Southern Baptist woman to be ordained, in 1964, said Sarah Frances Anders, a retired sociology professor at Louisiana College. However, Davis could not obtain a Southern Baptist post and joined the American Baptist Churches. Ordinations are conducted by local congregations, and the national denomination keeps no records by gender. But Anders has documented ordinations of 1,597 women, of whom about 100 are pastors leading congregations. The rest are associate pastors, chaplains, or educators.

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