Christian bookstore’s pulling of magazine a step back from women’s rights

Gospel Today Magazine was pulled off the shelves of LifeWay Christian Bookstores last week because of this month’s cover image, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Fayetteville, Ga.-published magazine featured five women pastors on its cover. The bookstore chain owners, the Southern Baptist Convention, took issue with this image.

It is disappointing that the gender bias in ministries is still raging.

Published for nearly two decades, Gospel Today is the largest and most widely-distributed urban Christian publication in the nation with a circulation of 240,000. The magazine’s publisher, Teresa Hairston, told the Journal-Constitution, “We weren’t trying to pick a fight. We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”

Nationally, the Southern Baptists have adopted statements discouraging women from being pastors, but their 42,000 U.S. churches are independent, and a few have selected women to lead their congregations. The denomination was organized in 1845 in Augusta, Ga.

Southern Baptist policy says the office of pastor is reserved for men only, according to its interpretation of the New Testament. When asked for an explanation of why LifeWay made this decision, Chris Turner, a spokesman for LifeWay resources, told the Journal-Constitution, “It is contrary to what we believe.”

In a released statement, Pastor Sheryl Brady, one of the featured pastors on this month’s cover, said, “I find it disappointing that we haven’t progressed beyond this gender bias in ministry.”

I agree.

Women have been the backbone of the church since before Christ. Why should today be any different? Women today shouldn’t be exempt from leadership roles in the church any more than Deborah was exempt from being a judge over Israel (Judges 4-5).

In the statement, Brady went on to say, “To deny Gospel Today the right to journalistic expression is a scary infringement for most Americans.” As a journalism major, I can attest to that statement. LifeWay pulling Gospel Today from its shelves is reminiscent of a similar incident that occurred in the early 1940s. William Randolph Hearst, the greatest newspaper baron in history, nearly stopped distribution of the film Citizen Kane because the title character’s life was based on his own.

Pastor Bill Sanderson, a loyal supporter of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement, “We go by Scripture and what the word of God teaches.” Sanderson added, “A man holds the position of pastor not a woman.”

“You can’t tell me I’m not a pastor,” Brady said. “I’m a shepherd of these people.”

With more than 120 stores nationwide, LifeWay’s decision to pull Gospel Today from its shelves could deliver a serious financial blow to the magazine.

Chanel Fisher is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major.