Does God call women to preach? Should women preach and have ministerial responsibilities in the Primitive Baptist Church? Are Primitive Baptist churches that allow women to preach violating a law of the Primitive Baptist Church?
These questions and many others have entered the dialogue of the National Primitive Baptist Convention at various times over the last twenty years. In the mid nineties a resolution was proposed by the Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church of Charlotte North Carolina to permit women to preach and receive ordination. Although the resolution was roundly rejected there was much debate and emotional outburst in that session.
Every year the Committee on Public Policy and Resolution has entered the official position of the National Primitive Baptist Convention that the Primitive Baptist Church does not condone the licensing or ordaining of women to the ministry. At various times Pastors have challenged this official policy.
But this year has offered a different presentation to this particular law. Elder Ernest Mathis, the pastor of the Friendship Primitive Baptist Church of Los Angeles, was selected to preach the introductory message for the official opening of the Convention. Instead of preaching a message Mathis took the opportunity to publicly challenge and address a letter written and distributed by Elder Ernest Ferrell. Mathis said that the former president, Elder Doctor Ernest Ferrell of Tallahassee Florida who served for six years, never addressed the matter of women preaching during his tenure and why would he address it now?
The letter that Mathis addressed in his remarks is a letter that was sent to the members of the Convention in March of this year. The letter stated that the convention had become unstable because of administrative measures carried out by the present administration. It defended the presidency of Ferrell and the Convention Planner during Ferrell's administration Elder Lee Harris of Jacksonville Florida.
Ferrell also addressed the issue of women preaching and documented the discussion/debate offered during the Winter Board meeting in February in Nashville Tennessee. Mathis's daughter who pastored a Primitive Baptist Church in San Bernardino California was named in the letter in reference to a question offered by the moderator of the West Alabama Elder John Dees is it right to allow a church to register in the National Primitive Baptist Convention that is pastored by a woman?
Mathis offered his opinions on the matter of women in ministry, citing the daughters of Zelophedad in Numbers 27 as a biblical reference. Mathis named several other Pastors in his remarks who were also named in Ferrell's letter.
Although there was a deafening silence among the convention, for those who stayed; many walked out, there was outbursts of affirmation and applause directed to Mathis's words.
Anger and different emotions were on the faces of many delegates as they departed from the ballroom after the service was over. The emotions of the introductory worship spilled over into the first business session that convened that afternoon.
In the business session a resolution was offered by the St Mary Primitive Baptist Church of Tallahassee Florida that levied charges against pastors in leadership in the National Convention. No names were offered in the resolution but some of the charges were, "Drastic actions must be taken against many of our pastors who are in leadership positions in the Primitive Baptist Convention and other pastors in some local churches who are disregarding our Primitive Baptist Discipline...The Discipline of the Primitive Baptist Church, established more than one hundred years clearly documents the biblical position on women preachers. Year after year the convention has reaffirmed its position on licensing and ordaining women as preachers...Throughout the United States of America many of our Primitive Baptist Pastors are circumventing the law by standing on the grounds that they have not licensed or ordained women preachers. the fact of the matter is if women are preaching in Primitive Baptist Churches, the discipline is being violated because without a license no one should be allowed to preach in the pulpit of Primitive Baptist churches."
The discussion that followed the reading of this resolution, after it was ruled out of order by the Parliamentarian, Elder Edward Hayes of Pensacola Florida, was acrimonious, contentious and combative.
The final speaker in the debate was Elder Yates, the President. He asked for a conversation on this matter stating that the Word of God is the only record that can't be revised and must be followed above the law of the Discipline. He also said that every document is open to revision but the Word of God. Yates defended Mathis saying that he was a father defending his daughter. Lastly Yates said that the convention should have a meaningful dialogue after prayer and fasting.
With the discussion ended the floor was open for nominations for President. The Vice President Elder Kenneth Duke of Miami Florida nominated Yates to serve a second three year term. Because there were no other nominations offered for President the floor voted to elect Yates. Bernard C. Yates was elected for a second term as the thirteenth president of the National Primitive Baptist Convention.