Part 1: The Scriptures address the pastoral office, not just/only a Senior Pastoral office.
Part 2: The Substantial (historic) teaching of prominent SBC leaders addresses the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 3: The Statement of Faith (BF&M 2000) addresses the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 4: The Sources (authors) of the BF&M 2000 address the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 2: The Substantial (Historic) Teaching
You may have heard it said that the BF&M 2000 only limits the office of “Senior Pastor” to men as qualified by Scripture, but that is not at all true. Here is the second (of four) reason(s) why:
The Substantial (historic) teaching of prominent SBC leaders and SBC teaching materials addresses the general pastoral office, not just/only a Senior Pastoral office.
It has been argued that until recently, the issue of using the title “pastor” was easy because most churches had only one pastor, or at most two. That certainly has been true in practice, but SBC teaching has long recognized a church can have multiple pastors, just as it can have multiple deacons.
From the SBC’s First President (1846)
Just consider the writings of the very first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, W.B. Johnson. In his work, The Gospel Developed (1846) he writes:
In a review of these scriptures, we have these points clearly made out:–1.That over each church of Christ in the apostolic age, a plurality of rulers was ordained, who were designated by the terms elder, bishop, overseer, pastor, with authority in the government of the flock.W.B. Johnson, “The Gospel Developed,” originally published in 1846, cited in Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life, p. 190, edited by Mark Dever, Center for Church Reform: Washington, D.C.
When W.B. Johnson speaks of the most “senior” leader of any local church, he speaks of Jesus. Just as Article VI of the BF&M declares that “each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ”, Johnson likewise said that:
The spiritual overseer governs the church, not by the laws which he or the members pass, but by those, which the chief Shepherd and Bishop establishes.(W.B. Johnson, “The Gospel Developed,” p. 190)
Between Christ the Chief Shepherd, and the elders of a local church, there is no intervening “super”-pastor. By whatever title, the elders/overseers/pastors of a church are all equal under Christ. As Johnson observes:
It is worthy of particular attention, that each church had a plurality of elders, and that although there was a difference in their respective department of service, there was a perfect equality of rank among them.W.B. Johnson, “The Gospel Developed,” p. 192
From an SBC Sunday School Book (1951)
An SBC Sunday School book (The New Testament Doctrine of the Church, 1951), pointed out that in Scripture “Every time the name [elders] is mentioned in connection with the churches, it is always in the plural.” It continues:
There seems to have been a plurality of pastors in New Testament churches. Four times in the fifteenth of Acts Luke refers to ‘the apostles and elders’ in the church at Jerusalem (verses 2, 4, 6, 23). Concerning the churches which Paul and Barnabas established on their first missionary journey, it is said, ‘And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed’ (Acts 14:23). Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17). James said, ‘Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church’ (James 5:14). Every time the name is mentioned in connection with the churches, it is always in the plural. Just how many elders a church had, or whether different churches had different numbers, we are not told.J. Clyde Turner, The New Testament Doctrine of the Church, Broadman Press, Nashville TN, 1951, p. 54-55.
From an SBTS Professor and SBC President (1905)
Likewise, the long-time SBTS professor and SBC President (1911-13) E.C. Dargan pointed out (Ecclesiology, 1905) that “It appears well-nigh certain that in the apostolic churches generally there was a plurality of elders. They are commonly mentioned in the plural.” Dr. Dargan also says:
From a comparative study of some of these passages it is evident that the same officer is described in the three terms [elder, bishop, pastor]…It appears well-nigh certain that in the apostolic churches generally there was a plurality of elders. They are commonly mentioned in the plural…We cannot say positively, therefore, that there was in all the churches a plurality of elders, but it is more than likely that this was the fact.E. C. Dargan (SBTS professor, SBC President), Ecclesiology: A Study of the Churches, Louisville, 1905, p. 87, 89-90.
From a 1934 Sunday School Board commentary on the N. H. Confession (basis of BF&M 1925)
Also, SBC teaching has considered all holders of the office of pastor, by whatever title, to be equal holders of that office. The SBC has consistently denied a hierarchy within the pastorate, as O.C.S. Wallace, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Baltimore, affirmed:
Pastors may be called bishops, the difference in name being due to the different aspects of their work which may be under consideration. When the pastor is thought of not so much as a shepherd of the flock as an overseer of the affairs and interests of the flock, he may be called a bishop or overseer. But whatever the name, the duties are the same. A bishop is not a pastor of a particular kind or rank: every pastor is a bishop, as every bishop is a pastor.O.C.S. Wallace, What Baptists Believe, Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, TN, pg. 146-147
From the Past to the Present
Finally, those arguing now that the office of “Senior” Pastor/Elder is reserved for one set of Scriptural qualifications (limited to men only), alongside another set of “pastors” with a different set of qualifications (open to women), are flirting with a very serious corruption of the Baptist understanding of the office of pastor. The first president of our Convention and the current president of our Convention have both warned against this “bifurcation” of the office of pastor. Our Convention’s first president, W.B. Johnson wrote concerning pastors:
That these rulers were all equal in rank and authority, no one having a preeminence over the rest. This satisfactorily appears from the fact, that the same qualifications were required in all, so that though some labored in word and doctrine, and others did not, the distinction between them was not in rank, but in the character of their service.W.B. Johnson, “The Gospel Developed,” p. 191
And our current SBC president, Bart Barber, has also recently affirmed:
More what I had in mind—what I was writing about— was that the cleavage of the biblical office of pastor into a “senior pastor” and lesser ‘pastors’ does violence to the office.
For more historical background on this issue, see the paper previously submitted to the Executive Committee, especially pages 3-8.
In the end, it cannot be denied – the Substantial (historic) teaching of prominent SBC leaders addresses the general pastoral office, not just/only a Senior Pastoral office.