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?
Issues often rise in importance as a consequence of changes in culture and/or church practice. As our nation changes, churches face mounting pressure to accommodate changing culture or resist it. For this reason, it was appropriate that the issue of women in ministry was more clearly defined during the “conservative resurgence,” and it is appropriate and needful to continue the discussion and debate today.
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 churches in which I have ministered were well-served by many spiritually-gifted women, and this continues. Some of the areas in which women minister in our churches are through teaching God’s Word to our children and youth, sometimes serving as mentors to older girls. Women took the lead in much of our ministry to the poor by providing clothing and food. Women led our children’s choir ministry and girls mission programs. On Sunday morning women sang in choirs, ensembles and solos, and sometimes shared testimonies of God’s work in their lives. Many, if not most, of the prayer warriors I had as a pastor were women.
We have done many overseas mission projects in which women were heavily involved. Women took the lead in promoting our mission’s offerings. The wives of our deacons often served with their husband in ministering to widows and shut-ins. In one church we had a ministry to wives and children of prison inmates, which was led and served mostly by women. Women serve in areas of hospitality. These are just some of the ways I have personally seen women serving in our churches.
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?
I do think we were right to include this. Both the explicit teaching of the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:8-15, 1 Cor. 14:33-36), and the fact that every pastor mentioned in the New Testament was male, support the position taken in the Baptist Faith & Message.
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 personally do not believe the Scriptures support having a woman serve as the “preacher” in church. As a pastor for 19 years, and in my role as a State Convention Executive Director, I have never invited a woman to preach. That said, there are conservative SBC leaders, including those who served as president during the “conservative resurgence” era, who believe that a woman can preach “under the authority of the pastor,” but that a woman cannot serve as pastor. I point this out to note that not every conservative Southern Baptist leader has arrived at the exact same conclusion regarding this matter. The question then becomes one of “fellowship.” Can we fellowship together, and served together in the SBC, if we have a difference at this point? I believe we can.
5. Do you believe that the Bible allows for both men and women to serve in the office of “pastor”?
I believe the teaching of Scripture, including the examples of pastors in the New Testament, are that pastors must be God-called, qualified men.
6. Does support for female pastors suggest an erosion in the doctrine of inerrancy? Are these issues related? If so, how?
It could represent an erosion in the doctrine of inerrancy, particularly if Scriptural teaching is ignored, or discounted, as one develops his argument. The doctrine of inerrancy is eroded any time our theology and practice is derived in a manner that places culture, preference, or any other thing, above Scripture. That is different than disagreement on matters of interpretation. Those who adhere to biblical inerrancy arrive at different conclusions on matters as important as soteriology, church governance, eschatology, and spiritual gifting. I believe it is wrong to question one’s commitment to Scripture without understanding how they arrive at their position.
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