Tuckaseigee pastors take issue with woman co-pastor
March 14 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Tuckaseigee pastors take issue with woman co-pastor | Friday, March 15, 2002

Friday, March 15, 2002

Tuckaseigee pastors take issue with woman co-pastor

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A church in the Tuckaseigee Association is facing criticism for calling a woman as co-pastor.

Leaders of the association's Pastors' Conference sent a letter to the association's credentials committee urging its members to "take immediate action" regarding Cullowhee Baptist Church in Cullowhee. The pastors said they have concluded "that there are matters of doctrine and practice within Cullowhee Baptist Church that do not conform to the clear teachings of the New Testament."

Jeffrey and Tonya Vickery became co-pastors of the church in January. Jeffrey Vickery said he believes it is the first time a woman has become pastor of a church in the association. The church defends its right to call a woman as co-pastor.

Matt Ledbetter, the president of the Pastors' Conference, said the pastors are not trying to kick the church out of the association. He said the group turned the matter over to the credentials committee.

Ledbetter said the association's bylaws call for the credentials committee to counsel churches that are out of harmony with the association.

"They have called a woman pastor - her and her husband are co-pastors," Ledbetter said. "We feel that is a major doctrinal error according to scripture."

The letter cites the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, which limits the office of pastor to men.

Ledbetter said association bylaws also state that churches must be in cooperating fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention and follow the teachings of the New Testament.

"We feel they have violated both of these," he said.

The church is not contributing to the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions or the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, Ledbetter said.

"They have in themselves distanced themselves from the association," he said.

The letter from the Pastors' Conference identifies Ledbetter as vice president and Terry Wehunt as president. Ledbetter said Wehunt is no longer in the association.

Cullowhee's pastors and deacons wrote a letter to the credentials committee responding to the letter from the Pastors' Conference.

"It appears as though the Pastors' Conference without any official action by the association has placed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as the doctrinal definition of a church in fellowship with the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association," the letter said. "As the Pastors' Conference has no authority in the bylaws to make this decision without the consent of the churches, we find no cause for this committee to consider us out of fellowship."

The letter said that if the association later takes up the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message "as a creedal statement" then the issue of the church's fellowship "can and should be re-opened."

Tonya Vickery said the church financially supports the association and the Baptist State Convention but sends no money to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Vickerys said they are dealing with the situation, having faced similar criticism when they were at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1990s.

"We've been disliked by nicer people before," Jeffrey Vickery said. "We don't see it as personal."

He said the church was one of the founding churches of the association more than 180 years ago.

"I hate it for the people here because they have more invested (in the association) than I," Tonya Vickery said.

Claude Conard, interim director of missions for the association, said the credentials committee has met once since it received the letter from the Pastors' Conference but has not acted on the request. The matter is "in limbo," he said.

"I hope we might be able to settle it peacefully and spiritually," he said.

Conard would not say how he feels about the issue.

"I'm somewhat neutral because I'm pastor of all the churches," he said.

The issue comes more than two years after the association adopted a report that affirmed the value of local church autonomy and the reality of differing views relative to scripture, deacons and the King James Version of the Bible, while acknowledging that such approval did not imply agreement with all practices.

The report culminated two years of discussions after former director of missions John Reid came under fire for participating in a deacon ordination service that included women.

Conard said the association's bylaws take precedence over the report.

The church's letter asks the association to stand behind the statement "in regards to church autonomy on this and any other matter."

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3/14/2002 11:00:00 PM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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