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 4: The Sources (Authors)
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 fourth (of four) reason(s) why:
The Sources (the authors) of the BF&M 2000 address the pastoral office, not the Senior Pastoral office.
Drs. Mohler, Kelley, and Land were on the committee that brought the BF&M forward in 2000. In 2007, Lifeway produced an official commentary and Bible Study edited by Drs. Mohler, Kelley, and Land in which they approved the following understanding of the BF&M 2000:
“The New Testament words that Baptists identify with the pastoral office include terms translated as bishop, elder, and pastor. Each term adds to our understanding of the pastoral office and the pastor’s responsibility. Bishop means overseer – someone who oversees the work of others. Jews used the word elder to designate someone who possessed dignity and wisdom. In the Christian church elder was used for someone who presided over assemblies and served as a counselor. The term pastor describes a shepherd who loves and cares for the believers who make up the congregation (see Acts 20:28)…Above all else, the pastor must preach and teach the Word of God. We also affirm that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. This assertion has become controversial only in recent years. Until recently, all Christians affirmed that the pastoral office is limited to men recognized as fully qualified by biblical definitions. The Bible clearly reveals a complementary relationship between men and women. Both are equally created in the image of God (see Gen. 1:27; Gal. 3:28). Both are gifted for service in the church. But the New Testament defines a pastor as a man who is ‘the husband of one wife’ (1 Tim. 3:2) and a man who is gifted by God to fulfill the pastoral role. God’s instruction is for men to assume and fulfill the preaching ministry. Many other ministries and responsibilities are available in the church for both men and women.” [Mohler, Kelley, Land, eds., Baptist Faith and Message (Lifeway, official commentary and Bible Study on BF&M 2000), pg. 90 (emphasis mine)]
Nowhere does the word “Senior” appear in the commentary. Again, We cannot read into the text an idea, let alone a word, that is not present in the text. The absence of an idea, cannot indicate its presence.
Then, late in the summer of 2022, when the big kerfuffle was breaking out about whether or not the BF&M was referring to the “Lead” or “Senior” Pastor, Drs. Mohler, Kelley, and Land once again issued a clarifying statement in which they said:
In light of recent questions about Article VI: The Church, we hope to help Southern Baptists to understand the confession’s statement concerning ministry. Speaking of the church, that statement reads: “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
As background, it is important to know that the committee sought to identify the one word about the pastoral role that Southern Baptists would best understand. As Dr. Rogers stated and the committee concurred, the one word that virtually all Southern Baptists understand is the word pastor.
The language means that a pastor is one who fulfills the pastoral office and carries out the pastor’s functions. Thus, the statement means simply what it states, that the office of pastor is to be held only by men as qualified by Scripture. In the Baptist understanding, office and function are inseparable. As we wrote in the commentary on the BF&M, “Central to the pastor’s role is the responsibility to preach and teach.” Pastors also provide spiritual leadership and oversight for the congregation. [FIRST-PERSON: A statement regarding the Baptist Faith & Message and the word ‘pastor’ | Baptist Press]
Let’s say it together this time: Nowhere does the word “Senior” appear in the statement. Again, We cannot read into the text an idea, let alone a word, that is not present in the text. The absence of an idea, cannot indicate its presence.
But if we’re going to put as fine a point on it as possible, in these last few weeks Dr. Mohler was directly quoted in an article on this very issue saying:
“This convention’s membership is defined by limiting the role of pastor to men…You’ll notice [the BF&M] does not put ‘senior’ or any other modifier in front of the word. So it’s not the convention that is unclear in this case.”
The Summary of the Series
If neither the Scriptures, nor the SBC’s historical teaching, nor the Statement of Faith, nor the BF&M sources themselves, limit the office of pastor to “Senior” pastor, then we shouldn’t either. As such, the Constitutional Amendment before the Executive Committee is commensurate with the Scriptures, the history, the Statement of Faith, and the Sources who presented the BF&M 2000 to the Convention.
Once more, our Convention should adopt the Constitutional Amendment in order to bring clarity to the current confusion, as well as “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3, CSB).