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NEWS: Southern Baptist Convention holds the line on Scripture and confessional agreement

July 5, 2023

Last month marked the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans. The meeting — with more than 12,000 messengers from Southern Baptist churches in attendance — was the scene for important actions on a number of issues directly related to complementarianism. 

Each of the issues concerns the definition of a pastor. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states that, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” In recent years, some within the convention have claimed that the statement of faith was written with the senior pastor role in mind, thus limiting that position to men, but not other pastoral roles. Others claimed that SBC churches with female pastors can still be deemed to be “in friendly cooperation” with the convention.

In response to these claims, Pastor Mike Law proposed an amendment to the SBC constitution that would make explicit that friendly cooperation requires that a church “not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.” The amendment passed with almost 80% of the messengers voting in favor. In order for the amendment to become finalized, it will require another two-thirds vote at next year’s convention.

Denny Burk, president of CBMW, spoke from the convention floor in support of the amendment:

In addition to the passing of the amendment, the messengers voted to uphold the removal of Saddleback Church from the convention, with 88% of the messengers voting to uphold the ruling. The church, formerly led by Rick Warren, was deemed not to be in friendly cooperation last year due to the church having a female pastor on staff. The discussion before the vote featured an exchange between Warren and CBMW council member R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Messengers also voted to amend the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The amendment is to article Article 6, quoted above, which defines the “office of pastor” to qualified men. The article now says that “the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The addition of the two words “elder” and “overseer” makes clear that the office is the same regardless of which title a church may use. 

Lastly, the messengers adopted a resolution opposing “gender-affirming care.” The resolution was written by Burk and Eikon editor Andrew T. Walker and can be read here.

CBMW executive director Colin Smothers, who also serves in a Southern Baptist church, left New Orleans encouraged: “I think this convention signals a clear conservative direction for the SBC. As egalitarian pressures grow, we see many churches and denominations changing the church’s 2000-year-old teaching on women in ministry. But this year, the SBC showed once again why Baptists are know as Bible people.”

To keep up with CBMW news, events, and articles, you can follow on Twitter @cbmworg, and sign up here to receive a monthly newsletter in your inbox.

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