In days gone by, the affairs of the church were headline news in the secular press. In more recent years, church news has often been viewed as irrelevant by the world.
But in the current controversy in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) over women preaching, the watching world is once more paying attention to the Body of Christ. And that fact has been underscored by a page one story on Sunday, February 13, 2000, in the leading newspaper in upstate South Carolina.
The headline story in the Greenville (S. C.) News proclaimed, "Presbyterians Clash Over Whether Women Should Preach." The article notes that two PCA ministers "with Greenville ties are at the center of a denominational clash over women should be allowed to address a congregation from the pulpit."
The two antagonists are the Rev. John Wood, who used to pastor Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville, and the Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, who has been of the major figures who has brought charges against Mr. Wood for his adherence to female preaching. Miss Cara Bonnett, who authored the article, referred Dr. Pipa as saying that "allowing a woman to preach before a congregation 'is a serious departure from what we believe the Bible teaches.' . . . 'As denominations have changed their stance [on women preaching and female ordination], they also begin to take a different approach to sexuality and marriage and things like that.'"
Quoted in the article is Merle Dunson, who has been at Mitchell Road Church for sixteen years. According to the story, she "said that including different perspectives is important to a church's growth and success. When Wood was pastor at Mitchell Road, she said, church membership doubled, from 600 to about 1,200.
"'Larger churches are reaching a lot more people, and it must be because they're changing their methods,' she said."
The church at the center of the controversy is Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, the PCA's fourth largest. Dr. Jim Lockett, Clerk of Session at Cedar Springs, was quoted in the article. Miss Bonnett's piece ends with this paragraph: "'Some denominations look at what's going on in our denomination and chuckle,' said Lockett, the lay leader in the Knoxville church. 'We are not trying to make other churches see and interpret scripture like we do. We're trying to do what the Lord's leading us to do, where we can be most effective in reaching our community.'"