Formal ban on female pastors fails, but new Southern Baptist Convention president makes one thing crystal clear

Messengers met this week in Indianapolis for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, electing Clint Pressley their new president. They also took up the controversial matter of female pastors.

While the Executive Committee recently affirmed Article VI of the
Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which limits the office of pastor to men “as qualified by Scripture,” a 2023 estimate put the number of female pastors in cooperating Southern Baptist churches at over 1,840.

The disfellowship of such churches continues apace the emergence of new female pastors, but some Southern Baptists sought to simplify matters with a vote at the annual meeting.

The effort did not ultimately go their way.

Arlington Baptist Church Pastor Mike Law’s
proposed constitutional amendment to the SBC Constitution, which would have formally prohibited the affirmation, appointment, or employment of a woman “as a pastor of any kind,” failed in a close vote on Wednesday.

The amendment needed a 66.7% majority vote to pass — which messengers managed last year in New Orleans. In Indianapolis, it fell short,
capturing only 61%.

‘We are just as complementarian as we were before that vote ever came into play.’

After noting he supported the amendment, the newly elected president made abundantly clear the SBC’s view on female pastors.

“The constitutional amendment, what is known as the Law Amendment, was there to provide some clarity,” said Clint Pressley,
reported the Baptist Press. “That’s what it was given to us for, what it was voted on about. But it’s not necessary [in order] for our convention of churches to maintain a real sense of complementarianism. We are just as complementarian as we were before that vote ever came into play.”

Complementarianism maintains that men and women are equal in personhood, but that God created them for different roles.

“I was for the Law Amendment. I thought it provided really great clarity. I have brothers that are just as theologically robust as I would like to be myself that were against it,” continued Pressley. “Then we have maintained a real sense of God’s good design, not only in marriage, but how He’s given us to live as men and women.”

Pressley underscored that while messengers walk away with the amendment not passing, the SBC has “not abandoned biblical truth. At all. So, you can be confident as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, as a member of a church within the Convention that holds to the BF&M that they are doctrinally robust.”

Former SBC president J.D. Greear
said of the decision, “We made the right call on this amendment, since passing it would have too rigidly enforced uniformity in ways that are out of character with our principles of cooperation. A friend of mine compared getting the right balance on this issue to putting together a piece of furniture. The IKEA instructions always warn you, ‘Don’t overtighten the screws.'”

Those unconvinced the Law amendment would have been redundant or ruinous —
as Greear previously suggested — were not the only ones miffed over the result.

Leftists outside the SBC suggested Southern Baptists need to do more than simply kill such an amendment: They must give in to the egalitarian creep.

‘Even without a 66% vote, the Southern Baptist Church has attempted to devalue the very women who God has called to further the Gospel.’

The progressive organization Baptist Women in Ministry
said in a statement, “Baptist Women in Ministry offers appreciation to all the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who voted against the Law amendment BECAUSE of their commitment to support and affirm women serving as pastors of all kinds in the SBC.”

The group
added, “Decades ago, the SBC codified its ideological position of disregarding God’s call on women in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Therefore, the amendment considered today was not constructed on its own merit since the basis for it was already decided. Instead, women in ministry were used as props for the display of extreme conservativism [sic] in order to advance the power of a faction within the SBC.”

Molly Shoulta Tucker, the pronoun-providing pastor of the progressive
Ridgewood Baptist Church, noted in the Courier Journal, “Even without a 66% vote, the Southern Baptist Church has attempted to devalue the very women who God has called to further the Gospel. Instead of believing women, or even offering a humble ‘I don’t know,’ the Southern Baptist Church has said, ‘We know. (And it’s not you.)'”

Messengers signaled to Tucker and other progressives that despite the result, SBC is far from caving on the issue.

On Tuesday, messengers voted 6,759 to 563 to remove the First Baptist Church of Alexandria over its support for female pastors,
reported the Associated Press.

The now-disfellowshipped church is
home to a female pastor for children and women.

“We find no joy in making this recommendation, but have formed the opinion that the church’s egalitarian beliefs regarding the office of pastor do not closely identify with the convention’s adopted statement of faith,” said Jonathan Sams, chair of the SBC’s Credentials Committee.

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