ATLANTA -- A director of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board collapsed and died of a heart attack Wednesday after asking the board to withdraw a statement that Baptists oppose women ministers.
Beth McGhee, 61, of Tucson, urged the board to withdraw what she called "a very divisive statement," which said most Southern Baptist churches oppose women as ministers.
When she finished, another director began to reply. McGhee sat down and then went into convulsions. She was pronounced dead at Crawford Long Hospital.
Friends said McGhee came from Arizona specifically to try to influence the board's statement on women pastors.
"She had very strong convictions about things, and she felt with those convictions she had to state them," said Lula Walker, a director from Beaverton, Ore. "She was a person who believed that the Lord died for women, too."
The Atlanta-based Home Mission Board, which administers the largest missionary force in the United States, voted a year ago to stop future aid to small churches that hire women as ministers. The board cited a narrowly passed 1984 Southern Baptist Convention resolution that stated that women should not hold authority over men in churches.
The Home Mission Board's statement Wednesday concluded by saying most Baptist churches were against women pastors. McGhee asked the board if a poll had been taken to determine if that were true.
Board President Larry L. Lewis replied that it was "just a matter of general intuitive thought that most Southern Baptist churches would not employ as a pastor a woman."
After McGhee collapsed, the board voted to postpone until its meeting in March any vote on the statement concerning women ministers.