First female pastor in Tennessee church speaks out after being banned from Baptist convention

The first female pastor of a church in Jefferson City has spoken out after the Tennessee Baptist Convention banned their congregation because it hired her, saying there were a lot of women in the Bible who took up leadership roles.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Andrew Jameson)Shiloh Baptist Church, Chattanooga TN. 17 April 2010.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention had barred the First Baptist Church in Jefferson City from voting on their issues, as Southern Baptists generally believe that the pastoral office was exclusive to a man. After the church hired Ellen Di Giosia as its first female senior pastor, its 140-year-old relationship with the convention ended, Local 8 detailed.

A Tennessee Baptist Convention committee said that because the Jefferson church's senior pastor was a woman, it could no longer be considered a "cooperating church." The church said its decision to no longer affiliate itself with the convention was based on that belief, USA Today reported.

Pastor Di Giosia said they valued their ties with the convention, but the recent developments still would not keep her from advocating for women in the ministry. If anything, it drove her to stand for what her congregation believes in.

"The bible is full of examples of women who are filled with the spirit," Pastor Di Giosia said.

"This is an opportunity for [the convention] to be clear about who they are, and so we have made it an opportunity for us to be clear about who we are as a congregation," the female pastor added.

Chair of Deacons John McGraw said Di Giosia preached just as well as any man. He said they had hired her after more than a year of choosing from potential candidates and did not mind that she was a woman.

Pastor Di Giosia admitted that the decision was sad, but she was encouraged by the support that people in Tennessee and other parts of the U.S. were giving her church. She said though they were undergoing some changes in terms of their affiliations, their congregation remained the same and would continue to worship and pray together.