Southern Baptists and porno mags

lifeway christian resources tj1iWhat is it about the traditional Christian view of a male priesthood that causes mainstream journalists to just lose their minds? Normally I write about this topic when we're analyzing the outsized and generally inaccurate coverage of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wanted to get into the act with a story on Southern Baptist opposition to female clergy. Here's how reporter Christopher Quinn charitably began his story about how a Southern Baptist bookstore is handling sales of merchandise with doctrine it opposes:

Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk.

That's not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it's one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.

Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores' owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth -- church pastors.

Southern Baptist polity says that's a role reserved for men.

Now, maybe Quinn is used to buying his magazines from underneath the counter but this just strikes me as a patently unfair lede. I mean, this is a Christian bookstore that presumably regulates content all the time. If Southern Baptists join the vast majority of the rest of Christendom in reserving the role of pastor or priest for some men, this is not really that shocking. I mean, outside of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newsroom, that is. That they are still selling a magazine that conflicts with their doctrine -- even if only by request -- is newsworthy but certainly more open-minded than many niche bookstores.

What's worse, the article never uses this incident as a hook to explore how Lifeway determines what it will or won't sell or to look at Southern Baptist teaching about the office of ministry. This is the sum total of what we learn about Southern Baptist teaching on the matter:

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, "It is contrary to what we believe."

It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.

Wow, you don't say. Thank you for that amazing investigative journalism, there, Quinn. He does mention a bit about the independence of Southern Baptist churches, which is good. But mostly the article just has a bunch of stand-alone quotes from people who have no problem with female pastors or are female pastors. There is no historical perspective, no theological discussion. I'm sure the reporter is glad he got to use his porno-mag lede. Too bad the entire story was a mess.

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