Note: In all likelihood, this page will receive additional updates. In the days ahead, more questions may be addressed, or existing questions will be addressed more precisely.
Q. What is a pastor?
A. We as Southern Baptists know what a pastor is and who should be a pastor. A pastor/elder/overseer/bishop is a man called by God and a local church to shepherd the flock. Among other things, men holding the office preach, pray, provide oversight, and exercise authority in the church (see Acts 20:17-38; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus, 1:5-9, Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Southern Baptists have always agreed on this.
As an example of this natural understanding, at the 2022 Convention, “Recommendation 2” was passed, which included a “process for maintaining a record of pastors…who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse.” When that recommendation was discussed and decided upon, we (the SBC) did not need to describe or define who and what a pastor is because we knew. And we knew that we weren’t just talking about a Senior Pastor, but a pastor “of any kind.”
We’ve been clear in the past, and we need to be clear in the present, so that Southern Baptists remain clear in the future. The Constitutional Amendment is a necessary step toward accomplishing that goal of clarity, and thus maintaining our unity in the truth.
Q. Isn’t this Amendment just about power?
A. This Amendment is not about power, it is about Biblical fidelity in our Convention. Christ gave the responsibility to His church to be faithful in its doctrine and practice (Matthew 16:19; Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9). The world around us is confused and unclear about this issue, but the SBC’s doctrine is not. As the Preamble to the BF&M 2000 says, “faced with a culture hostile to the very notion of truth” it was meant to answer “cultural confusion with the clear teachings of Scripture.”
Our practice must match our doctrine, lest the SBC itself become confused before the world. Those who reduce a desire to faithfully pursue this Biblical responsibility down to a lust for power evidence the world’s confusion. The SBC must confront this confusion with a bold commitment to practice our doctrine without embarrassment, in full confidence that God’s order for His church is the best way to serve His Gospel, holding fast to our doctrinal commitments as a Convention, and thus “keep[ing] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians. 4:3, CSB).
Q. Was an amendment to bar women pastors tried in 1993?
A. In 1993 a Messenger to that year’s convention made a motion requesting an update to the Constitution’s article III.1.1, which would declare “churches which have ordained women” not to be in cooperation with the Convention (pgs. 89-90, item 88). This proposed amendment was referred to the Executive Committee (EC). At the following year’s Convention, the EC reported back that “it declines to recommend amending Article III of the SBC Constitution to exclude churches that have ordained women” (pg. 136, item 8).
First, the language of “ordained” (ordination) was insufficient. Though the act of ordination is commonly done when appointing pastors to a church, such a ceremony is not required or mentioned in any iteration of the BFM. (The word “ordained” is only used in reference to God’s ordaining of government and the family, and “ordinances” referring to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Furthermore, since all iterations of the BFM are silent on the practice of ordination for church officers, such ceremonies are often performed for other forms of work, such as Deacons, Missionaries, etc. Therefore, merely to have been “ordained” to any particular office or work is incidental to the whether or not someone is Scriptural qualified for that office or work.
Second, the Scriptures do clearly limit the role of pastor to qualified men only. If the 1993 motion had sought to amend the Constitution to exclude churches ordaining, affirming, employing, or appointing women as pastors of any kind, then it would have been right for the EC to recommend this amendment, regardless of the language of the BFM at that time. Between 1992 and 1993, the SBC approved an amendment to article III.1 to exclude churches affirming homosexual behavior. This was done on a purely Biblical basis as there was no corresponding language in the BFM. It would have been consistent then if the Convention had, on the same Biblical basis, made a further updating excluding churches with women as pastors.
Third, the Convention updated its confessional standard, the Baptist Faith and Message, in 2000 to better reflect the Biblical teaching on both of these issues. With a confessional standard in place, it is even more appropriate to enable the Convention and its entities (in particular the Credentials Committee) to be faithful with respect to the office of pastor by including this amendment 6 to the Constitution III.1.
Q. Did the Executive Committee interact with the supporting materials sent?
A. A few of the Executive Committee members have interacted with the submitted materials, which included:
- A document containing churches with a total of over 170 female pastors in Southern Baptist Churches, as found on the SBC Churches website (Available here).
- A document addressing key Issues related to the proposed constitutional amendment from humble members of Arlington Baptist Church (Available here). Note: Updated mostly to fix some typos.
- Pastor Mike’s letter to the Executive Committee, signed by more than 2000 pastors (Available here).
- Pastor Mike’s email to Dr. McLaurin on Tue, Nov 22, 2022. Note, a nearly identical email was sent to each member of the Executive Committee (Available here).
In addition, the Executive Committee staff was to provide their own supporting materials related to the amendment to Executive Committee members, but what that document contained was not disclosed. At the meeting itself, only a 5 minute statement, including interaction, with the subcommittee was allowed (Available here). There was a period of discussion by the subcommittee for some 10-20 minutes. Pastor Mike was in the room, but he was not permitted to engage the Committee members comments or concerns during that time. Pastor Mike has offered to be available for any questions members of the subcommittee may have.
Q. Where is this coming from and why?
A. From Mike Law, Arlington Baptist Church, and from some friends.
From me (Mike Law). As I wrote to the members of the Executive Committee, my goal is to secure our unity as Southern Baptists. I wanted to make a clear, collegial, and biblically convictional appeal for the Executive Committee to allow the Constitutional Amendment to come before the messengers in New Orleans. I wanted to make a loving request as a churchman that cares deeply about our Convention.
I want to see our Convention stand united in the truth, because I love the SBC. My parents took me to hear the gospel in a Southern Baptist church within weeks of my birth. I was born again in a Southern Baptist church (Marshall Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville, AR). I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church (Foothill Baptist Church in Los Altos, CA). My parents were Southern Baptist missionaries in Central Asia with the International Mission Board. I was married in a Southern Baptist church. I began my formal theological education in a Southern Baptist seminary. I have served Southern Baptists on the Nominations Committee. I received my pastoral training in a Southern Baptist church (Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC). I planted a Southern Baptist church (Grace Baptist Church of Arlington), and I brought together two Southern Baptist churches in a merger (Grace Baptist Church of Arlington and Arlington Baptist Church).
I wrote, because I see this issue as a pressing challenge to our future unity and faithfulness as a Convention. For a long time, contrary to our Convention’s statement of faith, women have served as pastors in our Convention. For example, before my coming to Arlington Baptist Church in 2014, the church had a history of women serving in the pastorate. From November 2006 to March 2008, a woman served as the Sr. Pastor of Arlington Baptist Church. And then, a sister in Christ took over as the Interim Pastor and preached until the church could find a new and permanent pastor. Thankfully, the saints at Arlington Baptist have returned to faithfulness on this issue, and unity with Southern Baptists.
The problem is clear. The Bible is clear. Our Confession is clear. Now it is time for our Constitution to be clear, which will help secure our unity in the truth as a Convention.
This also comes from Arlington Baptist Church (ABC). ABC is an average Southern Baptist church. We have around 100 members and average 4-5 baptisms per year. ABC has been part of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1928, regularly contributes to Lottie Moon, and sends Messengers to the Convention. Additionally, ABC supports 5 missionaries, other ministries, and members active in local evangelism.
Finally, this effort comes from friends. Contributors to this effort have been limited to me (Mike), my congregation (ABC), and a few other pastors/friends that have been sounding boards and offered some feedback, or practical help along the way. There’s been no money exchanging hands, friends have simply contributed and covered costs when the needs arose. There’s been no parachurch ministry direction, or organized outside team, etc. It is just a group of concerned Southern Baptist friends who care about the Convention’s future.