As Southern Baptists prepare for their annual meeting in June, four men are set to be nominated as candidates for President of the convention:
-Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention
-Ed Litton, Pastor of Redemption Church (Saraland, AL)
-Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)
-Mike Stone, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church (Blackshear, GA)
Among many important challenges facing Southern Baptists, recent events have raised questions about the hard-won complementarian consensus of the denomination. That consensus was settled twenty-one years ago in the SBC’s doctrinal standard, The Baptist Faith & Message.
With this in mind, CBMW has invited all four men to participate in a candidate forum in which they will answer a short list of written questions related to complementarianism and the SBC. Our hope and prayer are to provide a forum for candidates to express their views in a way that will serve and inform Southern Baptists and perhaps even wider evangelicalism.
The candidates’ answers speak only for themselves and have not been edited. The order in which we received the answers is the order in which they will be published.
1. The issue of women in ministry was one of the defining issues of the “conservative resurgence” within the SBC. Do you think it was important for the issue to occupy such a central place in the controversy? Is it right for it to occupy so much of our attention today?
It mattered then; it matters now. To us as Southern Baptists, our convictions about the Bible are tied to our understanding of gender and the roles of men and women in the church. So, in the conservative resurgence we addressed the doctrine of inerrancy, and because the Bible is God’s Word, it is perfect and authoritative. That means we should take the passages on gender to mean what they say, and His Word should always occupy our attention.
2. The Baptist Faith & Message says that God has gifted both men and women for ministry within the local church. Can you describe some of the valuable ministries that women are to have within Southern Baptist Churches?
The only ministry the Bible limits to God-called and qualified men is the office of pastor, which is rightly designated by the title of pastor and elder. In an age where this has become unpopular, we must champion God’s love for and empowerment of our sisters to his church and advance his mission. Women were an essential part of Jesus’ ministry and were present at key moments. Our inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient word of God says that God created male and female, both in his image. A church that emphasizes or only equips half the church disobeys the authority of God’s Word. If our sisters are gifted to serve the church then we ought to encourage them to use all God has given them to serve the mission of the gospel, and we should honor women and their contributions.
3. The Baptist Faith & Message also says that the office of “pastor” is limited to men as qualified by scripture. Do you think Southern Baptists were right to include this as part of their confessional identity?
Yes, I think it is rightly included in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith provides confessional boundaries for our cooperative work. The very purpose of this statement on this issue ought to free us up from endless debates on this and put our focus on the mission we’re called to.
4. Recently, there have been some publicized instances of women serving as the Sunday morning preacher in Southern Baptist churches. Do you think the Bible allows for women to serve in this role? Explain.
I think that our pulpits should be places that reflect our view of pastors. At Redemption church, we do not have women preach. However, we intentionally promote the significant ways that women can and do serve.
Let me say that I understand that some pastors have a different approach to who can speak when the church gathers for corporate worship, even if that’s not my approach, I respect their right and responsibility to lead their church as God has called them to do so.
5. Do you believe that the Bible allows for both men and women to serve in the office of “pastor”?
No, I believe that the office of pastor is limited to men as stated in scripture and the BF&M 2000.
6. Does support for female pastors suggest an erosion in the doctrine of inerrancy? Are these issues related? If so, how?
For some, sure, that is the case. My position on female pastors comes from what I believe God’s inerrant Word clearly teaches. It is not necessarily an erosion in the doctrine of inerrancy if someone differs on this, even though there is often a connection between changing view of scripture and shifting view of gender roles.
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