The Debate: Should Women Be Allowed to Preach?

The Debate: Should Women Be Allowed to Preach?

I am glad to announce the availability online of the debate that Pastor Dwight McKissic and I held in Birmingham on June 10, 2019, the day before the Southern Baptist Convention convened in its annual meeting. The question we debated is “Should women be allowed to preach in our Lord’s Day worship services?” It was a very cordial event and from the feedback that both he and I received it seems like the Lord answered our prayers that the debate would be clarifying and beneficial to many people.

For those who may be unaware let me provide a little background which may put the debate and its aftermath in a helpful context. In the May 6, 2019 episode of The Sword and the Trowel podcast, Jared Longshore and I discussed women preaching. Our conversation was provoked by a tweet by Beth Moore that announced her plans to preach at her church on Mother’s Day. In that episode, I mentioned that Dwight McKissic had jumped into the twitter conversation mentioning that he also supports women preaching.

Dwight listened to that podcast and tweeted this at me the next day:

I assume since u would name be as a supporter of women preachers(not pastors), which is true..u wld b willing to share 1/2 rental cost in B’ham to host a debate/dialogue on 1Timothy 2:12, & other pertinent texts(I Corinthians 11:5, Acts 2:17) so that we can dialogue face to face? (sic)

To which I replied:

Good morning, brother. I did try to represent you accurately, so I am grateful to see we don’t disagree on that. Let’s talk about your idea for B’ham. I am happy to sit down with you anytime to look at the Bible together. Give me a call.

The next day, after I commended an article by Owen Strachan on women preaching, Dwight once again asked me to debate him:

Tom, would u be willing to have a debate/dialogue over this issue in a rented room, we go half & half as close to the convention site, as we can find?

To which I once again replied:

I am happy to sit down with you anytime to look at the Bible & discuss our agreements & disagreements. Give me a call.

When we did talk I explained to Dwight my preference simply to have an open dialogue about the issue to which we could invite people. I am pastor, not a debater, and that kind of informal format seemed more appropriate to me for the issue under consideration. Dwight insisted that we should hold a formal debate and I finally acquiesced. I contacted a friend who has moderated dozens of debates and he agreed to help us out free of charge.

I declined the initial offer of a formal contract because I did not think it was necessary between Christian brothers. Dwight did not disagree that, as brothers, we had every reason to expect things to go smoothly, but he nevertheless insisted on a contract. A standard contract was drawn up and submitted to us both. By this time Dwight had enlisted a representative to negotiate for him. His representative insisted that some of the language of the contract be changed. It was, though what remained unchanged was the granting of rights to both Dwight and me to use recordings of the debate in whatever ways either of us may choose. Both Dwight and I signed the contract and all was well, until about May 25. I was in Cuba teaching and was able to gain brief access to the Internet that day only to discover a message from Dwight wanting to change the terms of the contract to include a “co-moderator.” Communication was limited but he made it clear he had already arranged for a co-moderator, despite the specific terms of the signed contract.

Once I arrived back in the United States and spoke at length with Dwight’s negotiator and the contracted moderator, I finally acquiesced to allow for a limited role of a “co-moderator.” Despite those hiccups along the way (and I haven’t even mentioned the travel fiascos that both Dwight and I faced getting to Birmingham), the debate came off very well due in large part to the good spirit displayed by my opponent, Pastor McKissic, and the professional way the event was organized and administered by the contracted moderator.

While it has been available on Facebook since it was live streamed, now it is available to view in an easier, more accessible format. I hope it will be useful.

Although I was originally not in favor of the debate or of various logistics along the day, I am grateful that it all came together the way that it did. I want to thank Pastor McKissic for his persistence in suggesting the debate as well as for insisting on the format and the terms of the contract.

To watch the debate, go to this link.

The Founders Cinedoc, By What Standard, will address some of the issues written about in this article. For more information and to learn how you can support this effort, visit the By What Standard page.

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Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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