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Former SBC President Warns Amendment on Female Pastors Could Cause ‘Collateral Damage’
Posted by Temmy
Mon, June 10, 2024 6:18pm

A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention is warning churches that the passage of an amendment on female pastors at the annual meeting this week could lead to “collateral damage” and a loss of minority-led congregations.

The proposal, known as the Law Amendment for its chief sponsor, would amend the SBC Constitution and declare a church is in friendly cooperation only if it “affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

The denomination’s statement of faith- the Baptist Faith & Message- already includes similar language and says, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” That language was added in 2000.

Proponents of the Law Amendment argue that a constitutional amendment would have more binding authority on churches than the Baptist Faith & Message. Supporters say some 1,000 churches within the SBC employ female pastors.

The amendment passed last year and must pass again by a two-thirds majority to become part of the SBC Constitution.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., says in a new blog on his website that he opposes the Law Amendment even though his church is complementarian and employs only male pastors. He served as SBC president from 2018 to 2021.

“My objection is that it rewrites the rules of our cooperation and attempts to fix, with a sledgehammer, something that isn’t really broken,” Greear wrote. “It assumes that what we have in place now -- that is, the BFM and our principles for defining cooperation -- are insufficient in dealing with doctrinal deterioration among our churches. … Furthermore, egalitarianism is not seeping into our institutions. All of our agencies and state conventions embrace and practice complementarianism. And no significant contingent in the SBC has mounted a challenge to our clear and uncompromising affirmation of complementarianism in the BFM.”

Last year, SBC messengers voted to disfellowship Saddleback Church and another congregation for hiring female pastors in violation of language in the Baptist Faith & Message. Rick Warren founded Saddleback.

“This ‘fix’ will yield A LOT of collateral damage,” Greear wrote. “There are churches who genuinely embrace complementarianism even as they differ in some of its applications. Several of our minority leaders (like the National African American Fellowship and California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Director Pete Ramirez) have told us as much.”

Ramirez “wants us to maintain the freedom to discern if Hispanic Baptist churches are calling ladies in leadership ‘pastora’ because they serve in the office of elder/overseer (and some may indeed fall into that category), or if they call her that (as in the case with his wife) through linguistic tradition,” Greear wrote.

“For the former, we may recommend an end to cooperation,” Greear wrote. “For the latter, we likely will not. Enabling that discernment seems wise. This amendment’s phrasing takes it away from us. And those who say we won’t have to abide by the Constitution (i.e., the Credentials Committee can choose not to enforce it on churches they deem to be in process) are not considering how our Constitution works. Legally, we have bound ourselves to honor our governing documents. If a church violates the Constitution, legally all agencies and committees of the Convention have to honor it.”

The Law Amendment has divided the convention, including its most prominent leaders. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, supports the proposal. He says the amendment has practical application.

“Some churches are, quite honestly, straightforwardly telling us that they are basically out of sync with the Southern Baptist Convention on the issue of women preaching and women holding a pastoral office,” Mohler said in an Instagram video. “And this is where honestly, I think the only way for the Southern Baptist Convention to deal with this is to do so by some mechanisms -- such as the bylaw amendment that was adopted last year and approved and now comes before messengers again. I really believe that this bylaw is very important.”

Mohler added, “The church that disagrees with us is free to go associate with churches with whom they are in full agreement. The Southern Baptist Convention also has the equal right and the responsibility to set the parameters of our own cooperation.”

Messengers are expected to vote on the Law Amendment on Tuesday.


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