Chris Lange, FISM News
The Southern Baptist Convention moved one step closer to enshrining a ban on female pastors this week.
Roughly 80% of the more than 12,000 messengers present at Wednesday’s SBC annual meeting in New Orleans voted to advance a proposed amendment to the SBC Constitution that would prohibit women from holding the office of pastor in the denomination.
The language of the amendment, which was spearheaded by Virginia Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church, states that affiliate churches must “not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”
“We are not ashamed of 1 Timothy 2:12 or afraid of what the Bible teaches. We are not ashamed of our God and His Word,” Law said from the floor Wednesday.
The SBC Executive Committee endorsed the presentation of the amendment for a vote but expressed disapproval of the alteration to the Constitution. The EC affirmed its support of Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” but added that “our beliefs are most appropriately stated in our adopted statement of faith rather than in our constitution and therefore opposes a suggested amendment to SBC Constitution.”
The amendment will come up for final approval at next year’s annual meeting.
Ahead of the procedural vote, the SBC upheld the expulsions of California’s Saddleback Church, led by Rick Warren, and Fern Creek Baptist of Louisville, Kentucky, for allowing women to serve as pastors, rejecting appeals from both.
The announcement was met with relative silence in the packed convention hall as messengers appeared to take heed of SBC President Bart Barber’s prior call for restraint.
“I know sometimes there are churches where people wind up in biblical divorce,” he said. “But we don’t throw divorce parties at church. And whatever these results are, I’m asking you, behave like Christians.”
Ahead of the vote, Warren argued that Saddleback’s ouster boiled down to one word – “men” – and that the SBC was essentially forcing a dispute where one should not exist.
“We should remove churches for all kinds of sexual sins, racial sin, financial sin, leadership sin, sins that harm the testimony of our convention. But the 1,129 churches with women on pastoral staff have not sinned,” Warren said.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, responded with an admonition that Warren’s assertions posed a threat to SBC unity.
“It’s not just a matter of church polity; it’s not just a matter of hermeneutics,” Mohler stressed. “It’s a matter of biblical commitment, a commitment to the Scripture that unequivocally we believe limits the office of pastor to men.”
Mohler continued, “Here we face the unusual situation in which Dr. Warren himself has made repeated statements, and the church has taken repeated actions that make very clear it rejects the confessional understanding of the Southern Baptist Convention on this issue.”
Following the vote, Fern Creek Baptist Pastor Linda Barnes Popham said the results show that the SBC does not “value” women, which she cited as one of the reasons that more than 1 million members have left the Convention in recent years.
“We will continue to be a church and continue to lift the name of Jesus high,” Popham declared, according to the Associated Press. “We want the world to know Jesus and we don’t know why somebody like that wouldn’t want to partner with us.”
She went on to say that, with the vote, the SBC was essentially telling women, “’We do not value you. God cannot call you. Only Southern Baptist men can decide who is to make the call,” adding, “But I tell you, it is God who called me and God who has called so many other women pastors that I know.”
The controversy surrounding the vote underscores growing divisions within the church at a time when Christians are increasingly pressured to reevaluate biblical truths against modern secular values.
The mass exodus from the United Methodist Church over LGBTQ ideology has been widely reported. Religion News noted on Wednesday that, since 2019, more than 5,550 of UMC’s 30,000 churches in the U.S. have disaffiliated from the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination.
Just this week, a Catholic church in Washington D.C. recently came under fire for holding a “Pride mass,” a public proclamation that the biblical definitions of gender and human sexuality are incorrect.
Lifestyle of Peace founder and Christian Post contributor Justin Steckbauer sagely warned in 2018 that these divisions go beyond internal theological squabbles to the very heart of how society views the authority and inerrancy of God’s word.
“That is what we need to stand against in the West today because once the Bible is lowered and removed from a position of authority in our lives, anything goes,” he wrote. Everything suddenly becomes up for revision, creation, moral teachings, life and liberty, even the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything goes on the chopping block, maybe not all at once, but the door is opened to that possibility.”