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Topics: Complementarianism, Eikon

On the State of Complementarianism in the SBC (Bart Barber)

June 3, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a multi-denominational forum on the state of complementarianism and appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Q: What do you believe the Bible teaches about God’s design for men and women, particularly in the home and the church? How do you view the relationship between the Bible’s teaching on the proper order of the home and the proper order of the church?

A: It was God’s good pleasure to fill the earth with dioecious plants and gonochoric animals. Maleness and femaleness are woven into creation and bring forth beauty, love, and life into the universe. The commonalities between both sexes of any species and the separate experiences of being male or female within a species are both extensive, and the expanding horizons of human knowledge have yet to discover the full extent of either. Uniquely among the creation, human beings—both men and women—are created in the image of God. Being a man and being a woman are biologically fixed realities determined at conception. Human beings are redeemed, adopted into the family of God, brought into the churches, filled with the Holy Spirit, gifted spiritually, and inducted into the universal priesthood to serve Christ spiritually without regard to sex. The experience of being a Christian is one that men and women share in common. The experience of being a son, being a husband, and of being a father uniquely pertain to men. The experience of being a daughter, being a wife, and of being a mother uniquely pertain to women. It is God’s design for the home that husbands should lead the home. The New Testament churches are to be governed by their regenerate congregations of men and women, to whom Christ has promised his presence and the binding/loosing authority of Heaven. God has instructed the churches to set apart men who meet the qualifications given in the New Testament to serve in the two church offices of pastor (also called elder or overseer) and deacon. In the respective ministries of the word and of the table, those who occupy these two offices give leadership to the churches.

Q: What limits, if any, do you believe the Bible places on women serving in the church?

A: I believe that the offices of pastor and deacon are limited to men who meet the scriptural qualifications for those offices. I also believe that the New Testament places certain functions related to governance and proclamation uniquely within the role of Christian men. 

Q: How would you evaluate the fidelity of your denomination as a whole and its member churches individually regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: The Southern Baptist Convention is not, strictly speaking, a denomination. Baptists have a mixed record on this matter. The Baptist churches cooperating through the Southern Baptist Convention have led the Convention to adopt a statement of faith (The Baptist Faith & Message) that articulates what I believe is a view of the roles of men and women that is consistent with biblical teaching. Recent votes in the Convention have demonstrated that our churches are overwhelmingly in agreement with our statement of faith, as far as it goes. Article XIII of The Baptist Faith & Message states that all Christians, without regard to sex, “are under obligation to serve [God] with their time, talent, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others.” I believe that our statement of faith does a masterful job of calling all believers to active Christian service while maintaining biblical roles for men and women.

Q: What direction would you like to see your denomination head regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: As Western culture increasingly moves toward a position from which it cannot even define consistently what a man or a woman is, I would like to see Baptists around the world maintain (or in some cases recover) a robustly biblical understanding of the nature and roles of men and women. 

Bart Barber is pastor of First Baptist Farmersville, Texas (SBC) and currently serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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