Denny Burk

What Does the Failure of the Law Amendment Mean?

The Law Amendment was our chance to put an end to this debate and to give clarity about which direction the SBC is going. The failure of the Law Amendment means that we are likely to see more credentials challenges brought directly to the floor at future meetings. In other words, the failure of Law means that this debate is going to continue to bedevil our annual meetings for the foreseeable future. I think we missed an opportunity to avoid that.

Last month, pastor Willie Rice said something about the Law Amendment that was prescient. He predicted that after the SBC annual meeting, we are going to find one of two headlines. Either “Southern Baptists oppose women pastors” or “Southern Baptists keep the door open on women pastors.” He said that messengers would decide through their vote which headline we would be written.
After the Law Amendment failed to meet the necessary supermajority earlier today, Rice’s prediction proved pretty accurate. Here are some of the headlines that began to appear almost immediately after the vote:
“Southern Baptists reject ban on women pastors in historic vote.” –USA Today
“Southern Baptists Reject Tighter Ban on Women in Pastoral Posts: The denomination voted against adding language to its constitution saying that ‘only men’ could be affirmed or employed ‘as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.’” –New York Times
“The Southern Baptist Convention… rejected a constitutional amendment barring women from all pastoral positions, a move that would have affected hundreds of churches, especially minority congregations…” –Washington Post
“Southern Baptists narrowly reject ban on women pastors.” –BBC
The group Baptist Women in Ministry also released a statement saying,
“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.”
Casual readers not following all the ins and outs of SBC politics will likely conclude from such headlines that the SBC has indeed kept the door open to female pastors. But most Southern Baptists know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there is no evidence at all for such a conclusion. So if these headlines give a misleading impression, then what does the failure of the Law Amendment actually mean?
It doesn’t mean that Southern Baptists are backing away from complementarianism. The fact remains that when messengers are presented with churches that have female pastors who clearly function as pastors, messengers vote overwhelmingly to remove such churches. It happened with Saddleback and Fern Creek last year, and it happened again this year with FBC Alexandria, Virginia. In such cases, the SBC votes about 90% or more in favor of removing such churches from friendly cooperation. This isn’t a close call. It’s an overwhelming demonstration of complementarian conviction.
Indeed, even though the Law Amendment did not meet the 66% supermajority, it did win the support of 61% of the messengers who voted. In other words, a near supermajority wanted the Law Amendment to pass while only a 38% minority wanted it to fail. This is a remarkable result given the fact that the new leader of the executive committee, important pastors like J. D. Greear, and President Barber were all on the record opposing the Law Amendment. Given that formidable opposition from mainstays of the platform, it’s incredible that the Law Amendment retained a solid majority of support.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the presidential election, there were three ballots. On all three ballots, a decisive majority of messengers voted for candidates who publicly supported the Law Amendment.
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What Does 2 Timothy 3:16 Mean?

“Teaching.” Scripture tells readers positively what they must believe; it gives sound doctrine. “Reproof.” Scripture tells readers negatively what they should not believe; it disabuses readers of unsound doctrine. “Correction” means “setting right, . . . most likely with a reference to conduct.”1 Scripture tells readers negatively what not to do. “Training in righteousness” indicates “teaching” or “education” in right living. Scripture tells readers positively what they must do.

God-Breathed and Profitable
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. —2 Timothy 3:16
The term translated “Scripture” is the Greek word graphē, from which we get our English suffix -graph (as in paragraph). In general, the word denotes writing of some sort. In the NT this word is used as a technical term to refer to the Word of God written in the thirty-nine books of the OT. Paul in his statement specifies “all” Scripture, not just some; the use of “all” may indicate that Paul wishes to stress each and every individual passage of Scripture.
The phrase “breathed out by God” translates a single word from the Greek: theopneustos. This compound consists of two parts, the words for “God” (theos) and for “breathe” (pneō). Some translations render the compound as “inspired,” an acceptable translation that is nevertheless not as accurate as “God-breathed,” which emphasizes the divine authority of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The very “writings” themselves have the characteristic of “God-breathedness.” They are God’s Word.
The word translated “profitable” means that all Scripture is useful, beneficial, or advantageous (BDAG, s.v. ὠφέλιμος). Scripture is good for God’s people precisely because it is the Word of God. In fact, we might loosely render this phrase, “All Scripture is God-breathed and therefore is good for you.”
These two attributes of Scripture are often the most challenging to accept and are the two attributes of Scripture false teachers and critics regularly attack. Such critics do not want hearers to have confidence in Scripture as the Word of God. If they fail to convince that Scripture is not God’s Word, then they seek to convince that it is not good for God’s people. The faith of believers can falter on either one of those points.
Four Tasks of Scripture
Scripture is “profitable” for readers in regard to four very specific tasks.
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Do Egalitarians Need Safe Spaces?

Theology drives practice and culture, yet Viesca recommends downplaying theology in favor of pragmatic transformation. Again, she does not make a substantive case for the egalitarian position but rather assumes it to be true, while warning leaders against focusing too much on persuasion through Scripture. Rather, she argues that church leaders should focus their efforts on creating specific pathways for women to assume leadership (52). She speaks of representation as a key value for appointing leadership in the church (52), even though this is not one of the values the Bible gives us (see 1 Tim 3:1ff). In this way, her recommendations reflect the grammar of social justice ideology but not scriptural qualifications for church leadership.

The April 2024 issue of Christianity Today includes three cover stories addressing ongoing differences between complementarians and egalitarians. Titled “Division of Labor,” the cover asks whether egalitarians and complementarians are really as opposed to one another as people suppose. Inside the magazine, the editors introduce the three authors—Gordan Hugenberger, Dani Treweek, and Gaby Viesca—as “ministry leaders” who “offer better ways forward for all schools of thought on women’s roles in the church and the home” (3).
In an editorial, executive editor Joy Allmond says that their coverage offers a “third way” between egalitarianism and complementarianism—a kind of truce between the two sides (7).1 Allmond says that the magazine’s approach to egalitarianism and complementarianism is in keeping with the vision of CT’s founder Billy Graham, who “envisioned a convening point for Christians who don’t belong in progressive settings or fundamentalist contexts but who long to link arms with other sojourners somewhere in between” (7).
The editors are aiming high with this issue, but sadly the effort is long on good intentions but short on execution. Even though the aim is to be above the fray, the authors of the cover stories are primarily egalitarian, and their egalitarianism is presumed at almost every turn. Even the lone complementarian contributor—Dani Treweek—is so dissatisfied with the state of complementarianism that she wonders aloud whether she will call herself a complementarian anymore (48).2 Treweek’s reticence about her own view is in stark contrast to the two egalitarian articles, one of which makes a biblical case against there being any restrictions on women in ministry (Hugenberger)3 and another which is a kind of “how-to guide” on transforming a complementarian church into an egalitarian one (Viesca).4 The result is not above the fray but a lopsided presentation in favor of the egalitarian view.
That is why the editors of Eikon thought it would be useful for us to offer some feedback to the two egalitarian cover stories, as well as to one additional piece that claims Mary Magdalene was “The First Apostle.”5
Three Egalitarian Pitfalls
My aim in this essay is to engage critically with Gaby Viesca’s contribution, which appears under the title, “Beyond Damage Control: Churches moving toward egalitarianism should make women the priority, not public relations.” Her thesis is very simple. She wishes to warn egalitarian pastors about three pitfalls to avoid when steering a church from complementarianism to egalitarianism (51). Even people with the best of egalitarian intentions can botch the job, and Viesca wants to help egalitarian pastors not to lose their way in the face of complementarian opposition.
The first pitfall is assuming that issuing a new statement on women will lead to egalitarian outcomes in the actual ministry of the church. On the contrary, complementarianism is a system that must be deconstructed from the inside out. There must be intentional, direct action against “traditions,” “assumptions,” “value systems,” and “structures” that would prevent women from assuming leadership in a church (51-52). All of these “invisible barriers” need to be eliminated (51). For example, churches will need to consider what “maternity leave” might look like for a female senior pastor (52).
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A Brief Review of Abigail Shrier’s “Bad Therapy”

Shrier’s book is giving parents permission to rethink the therapeutic paradigms that have dominated child-rearing literature for a long time now. She gives parents permission to see their children as moral agents who need their character formed by loving parents rather than as merely victims of an array of alleged pathologies that require third-party interventions from the medical authorities.

I finished Abigail Shrier’s book Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up about two or three weeks ago. I’ve had a lot of time to ruminate on it, and I think it will be one of the most important books of the year. It really is a bit of a barn-burner. Her reporting gathers evidence against some of the sacrosanct totems of our age:
1. Trauma-informed therapy2. Gentle parenting3. Hyper-medicalization of children4. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score5. Empathy run amok
Shrier begins the book with a giant disclaimer that she’s not writing this book about kids with actual serious, debilitating trauma. She’s not writing as if real trauma doesn’t exist in the world or as if therapeutic interventions can never be helpful for people. She’s writing about an overweening therapeutic mindset that pathologizes the ordinary challenges of a child’s life. Parents who rashly thrust their child into therapy or under the influence of psychotropic drugs may be doing more harm than good. She argues that our presumption should be for our children’s resilience, not for our children’s inability to cope without medical interventions.
My sense is that Shrier has tapped into something that many parents are already beginning sense for themselves. They are starting to recognize that “gentle parenting” and a lack of skepticism about psychiatric interventions have led to a situation in which ordinary problems have been pathologized and medicalized—problems that in previous generations were dealt with through loving discipline.
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Complementarian Confessional Conflagration

The Law Amendment simply clarifies what our Constitution already calls for—close identification with the BF&M. Messengers have already proved their commitment to hold the line on the BF&M’s teaching on female pastors.

If you had told me ten years ago that female pastors would become an item of contention again in the Southern Baptist Convention, I probably would not have believed you. It was not very long ago that most of us were under the impression that the issue had been settled by the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BF&M), which says that the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. Nevertheless, here we are in 2024, and the issue is before us again.
The surprising thing this go round is that the debate appears to be an intra-complementarian conflagration as both sides at least claim to affirm the BF&M. Nevertheless, a profound difference exists among us about the propriety of cooperation with churches who have female pastors. To put it very bluntly, you have one set of complementarians who do not wish to cooperate with churches that have female pastors, and another set that do.
Enter Rob Collingsworth, who recently penned an essay for The Baptist Review arguing that Southern Baptists ought to be willing to cooperate with at least some churches that employ female pastors. For this reason, he is keen to persuade Southern Baptists to vote against the Law Amendment at our annual meeting this June in Indianapolis. If passed, the Law Amendment would clarify what the SBC Constitution already says—that cooperating churches should closely identify with the BF&M’s teaching about qualifications for pastors. Collingsworth believes that it would be bad for the Southern Baptist Convention to alienate churches who have female pastors but who would otherwise wish to contribute to our cooperative efforts. And for Collingsworth, the Law Amendment would alienate many such churches.
He gives five reasons for opposing the Law Amendment, each of which I believe to be problematic.
1. Should the SBC Cooperate with Churches that Employ Female Pastors?
First, he believes the SBC should be willing to cooperate with churches that give women the title pastor. As long as those female pastors don’t actually do the work of pastors, why should we split hairs over the title pastor? After all, the term pastor is “semantically challenged,” and we ought to recognize that some female pastors are nevertheless aligned with the “spirit” of the Bible’s teaching, if not the letter.
Collingsworth fails to recognize that the problem we are facing isn’t merely with churches that are confused about titles. I can think of two prominent examples right off the top of my head. One of the churches represented on the SBC’s Cooperation Committee employs a female executive pastor who preaches from time to time on Sunday mornings. Another church represented on the Cooperation Committee employs a variety of female pastors and has a senior pastor who publicly disagrees with the BF&M’s teaching about a male-only pastorate and who has publicly opposed the SBC’s removal of Saddleback. Neither of these situations represents mere confusion over nomenclature, but something far more substantive. Collingsworth doesn’t really explain the real scope of the problem right now in at least some cooperating churches. Voting down the Law Amendment would likely exacerbate that confusion, and yet that’s precisely what Collingsworth urges Southern Baptists to do.
2. Would the Law Amendment Exclude Churches that Subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message?
Second, Collingsworth argues that the Law Amendment would exclude churches that hold to the BF&M. For him, while egalitarian churches with female pastors should be excluded from friendly cooperation, “complementarian” churches with female pastors should not. If churches are willing to give their money to a convention that does not share their views, why should the SBC refuse to cooperate with them?
The reason is because cooperating churches send messengers to the annual meeting. Messengers at the annual meeting vote on what the policies and priorities of the convention will be. How long will the SBC affirm the Bible’s teaching about a male-only pastorate if messengers increasingly disagree with what our confession says about a male-only pastorate? Cooperation is not merely about collecting money. It’s about messengers determining what our mission and priorities will be in our efforts to reach the nations for Christ. Do we want those messengers to agree with what our confession says about qualified male pastors? I think we do, and the Law Amendment helps to clarify our intention in this regard. Voting it down would send the opposite message.
3. Is the Law Amendment Out of Step with SBC History?
Third, Collingsworth argues that the Law Amendment would be out of step with how our Convention has operated for most of its history. The SBC was formed in 1849 but did not adopt the BF&M until 1925. And even then, it did not require cooperating churches to agree with the BF&M. It only required them to send in contributions. It wasn’t until 2015 that the convention adopted a requirement that cooperating churches “closely identify” with the BF&M. Nevertheless, Collingsworth contends that “closely identifies” allows for churches to contradict what the BF&M says on any given point, including what the BF&M says about the qualifications for pastors. He says that the chair of the SBC Executive Committee that proposed the “closely identifies” language confirmed to him privately that this is the case.
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Should Christians Attend “Gay Weddings”?

In a traditional marriage ceremony, the officiant addresses the congregation with, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be wedded, let him now declare it, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” Even when those words aren’t uttered explicitly in the ceremony, they nevertheless indicate what attending a wedding means. That is why when you receive a wedding invitation, they are almost invariably an invitation to a “celebration” of some sort. Whether they realize it or not, the witnesses are not merely spectating. Unless they raise a verbal protest, the presence of witnesses implies their support of the union. Because our Lord has told us not to celebrate or approve sin, Christians must not attend “gay weddings” (Isa. 5:20; Rom. 1:32). 

I have been writing and speaking about gender and sexuality for over decade and a half. Whenever I talk about transgenderism, one of the first practical questions I hear concerns the use of pronouns. Whenever I talk about homosexuality, one of the first questions is about attending “gay weddings.” The answer to both questions is always “no.” While some Christians may have found difficulty arriving at those answers ten years ago, I have noticed that many Christians are far more prepared to give the right answer today. Bible-believing evangelicals seem to have moved toward a settled position against attending a gay wedding.
Or at least that is what I thought. Over the last couple weeks, controversy has erupted online about whether it is right for Christians to attend a so-called “gay wedding.” Two events in particular have precipitated this conversation. The first are some remarks by a prominent evangelical pastor advising a grandmother to attend what appears to be a gay wedding (and then the pastor’s subsequent doubling-down on his position). The second are some reported remarks to the same effect at the recent Mere Anglicanism conference.
I have no questions about what these teachers believe about marriage. Both of them affirm what the Bible teaches about marriage as the covenanted union of one man and one woman. Both of them also affirm that homosexuality is sinful and that “gay marriage” is therefore always wrong.
Nevertheless, both of them also seem to think that attending a “gay wedding” need not imply affirmation of homosexual immorality. They don’t offer a universal permission slip to attend “gay weddings.” Rather, they say that under certain circumstances it may be okay to attend. So long as the couple knows that you don’t approve of the “gay wedding” and so long as the wedding is not masquerading as a Christian ceremony, it could be okay to attend. Under those circumstances, attending the “wedding” could be a way to signal your love for a sinner who needs to be saved.
What are we to make of these arguments? The arguments fail because they misconstrue the public meaning of a wedding ceremony. Attending a wedding is not like attending a concert or a graduation where attendance suggests nothing about your own views on the proceedings. A wedding is a public recognition of a union at which the attendees are assembled as witnesses in order to solemnize the union. Those who attend are there to help celebrate and add their assent and witness to the union. That is the public meaning of attending a wedding ceremony no matter the intention of the one attending.
In this way, it is much like eating food sacrificed to idols and doing so in the context of a religious ritual dedicated to an idol. Yes, there may be a context in which it would be okay to eat the meat (1 Cor. 10:25-26), but Paul warns Christians that they must never eat that meat as a part of a feast dedicated to an idol (1 Cor. 8:10).
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The Film 1946 Is Wrong

The film contends that even though the second edition of the RSV dropped the word “homosexual,” the damage had already been done. Other English versions like the NIV, NASB, and the Living Bible followed the original RSV. This is the part where the film makes a wild jump. It presents the argument that because Billy Graham subsequently began recommending the Living Bible in his crusades, evangelicals began despising homosexuals based on a mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 6:9. They accuse evangelicals of weaponizing their disgust by teaming up with Republicans to wage a culture war on homosexuals. The film’s argument is specious on its face. 

When the theatrical trailer for the gay-affirming documentary 1946 first appeared over a year ago, it landed with a splash. The filmmakers claimed that their project “casts significant doubt on any biblical basis” for condemning homosexuality as sin. Even though no one had yet seen the movie, the trailer alone generated an explosion of responses from both fans and critics. Many evangelical critics took to their keyboards and social media feeds to interrogate the film, some of them including the obvious caveat that they hadn’t viewed the actual documentary yet.
Over the last year and up until the film’s premier last month, 1946 has been screened in a variety of film festivals around the country and has racked up accolades, including the audience awards at Doc NYC, the Cleveland Int’l Film Festival, and OUTfest. Parade magazine has ranked 1946 among the top films of 2023. The director, Sharon “Rocky” Roggio, has said that she wishes to gin up enough interest in the film to have it distributed on major streaming platforms and perhaps even considered for an Oscar.
That may be wishful thinking. Nevertheless, The Guardian reports that the film has garnered an “outpouring” of support from viewers. It has taken in over 1,700 donations on GoFundMe in excess of $150,000 to publicize the film. The director Roggio aims to screen the film at “churches and community centers” and to distribute a new workbook so that churchgoers can do further study on the claims of the film. Roggio tells The Guardian, “We want millions of people to be able to access this information.”
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Can’t We All Just Get Along in the SBC?

A church not in friendly cooperation with the SBC cannot seat messengers. What must a church do in order to be in “friendly cooperation” and thereby to seat messengers? Among other things, such a church must have “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.”

I just read a helpful thread by Bart Barber, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), about cooperation and non-connectionalism in Southern Baptist life. Among other things, he writes:
This local-church non-connectionalism simply says that two churches can do something together without taking on any responsibility before God for the other church…
This idea is woven into Article XIV (“Cooperation”) and Article XV (“The Christian and the Social Order”) of The Baptist Faith & Message. Those articles remind churches that it does not compromise a church’s faith to cooperate with other churches who differ theologically.
Quoting from the Baptist Faith & Message, he elaborates:
“Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people.”
“Cooperation is desirable…when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”
Thus, so long as the ACTIVITIES do not violate conscience, the mere cooperation does not do so.
Let me say, first of all, that I agree with all of this. But as I was reading it, I also thought there might be one false implication worth warning against. This is not an implication that Bart embraces in his thread. It’s just one that some readers might be tempted to draw themselves. Here it is. While it is true that Southern Baptist churches in friendly cooperation may have many theological differences among them, it does not follow that all theological differences are therefore a matter of indifference to our cooperation.
Article 4 of the SBC Constitution has something profound to say about cooperation among our churches. Here it is:
While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.
There are two parts to this, and both are crucial. Let’s take the second part first. The second part guarantees the autonomy of local churches. The SBC does not have authority over any Baptist church (or any other church for that matter). Those churches really are independent and may run themselves how ever they see fit. Hopefully, they will order their congregations under Christ’s Lordship as revealed in Holy Scripture. But even if they do not, the SBC has no authority over those churches to make them do or believe anything.
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Andy Stanley’s Version of Christianity

Stanley brushes aside what the Bible says about homosexuality as “clobber” verses, as if those texts somehow harm gay sinners. He even suggests that a change of theology is in order if churches can’t welcome gay people into their midst.

I just finished listening to Pastor Andy Stanley’s Sunday morning sermon to North Point Community Church. I have to say that it is one of the most subversively anti-Christian messages that I have ever heard. Stanley says at the outset that he is preaching the message as a response to Albert Mohler’s column in World magazine titled, “The Train Is Leaving the Station.” In that article, Mohler criticizes a North Point-hosted conference that features gay-affirming speakers.
Stanley never explicitly names Mohler in his message, but he does say at the outset that he does not hold to the same version of Christianity that Mohler holds to. The rest of Stanley’s message certainly bears that out. Indeed, the entire message is an apologia of sorts for North Point’s decision to host gay-affirming speakers and for North Point’s teaching on sexuality. Stanley writes,
“[Mohler] is actually accusing me of departing from his version of biblical Christianity. So I want to go on record and say, I have never subscribed to his version of biblical Christianity to begin with, so I’m not leaving anything. And if he were here he would say, ‘Well, Andy, I’ve never subscribed to your version of biblical Christianity.’ And that’s okay. We can agree to disagree, but this is so extraordinarily misleading. In my opinion, just my opinion, his version of biblical Christianity is the problem. His version, this version of biblical Christianity is why people are leaving Christianity unnecessarily. It’s the version that causes people to resist the Christian faith because they can’t find Jesus in the midst of all the other stuff and all the other theology and all the other complexity that gets blobbed on to the message.
Bottom line, that version of Christianity draws lines. And Jesus drew circles. He drew circles so large and included so many people in his circle that it consistently made religious leaders nervous.”
Stanley frames the message as if this imbroglio is merely a misunderstanding and that critics like Mohler just don’t get it. Stanley says that North Point didn’t host a bible or theology conference. Rather, it was a “pastoral” conference designed to restore the relationships of parents to their gay children. He further contends that North Point has not changed its teaching on sexuality. He says that North Point continues to teach that biblical marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that sex outside of marriage is not God’s best. Sounds pretty Christian, right?
Well, not really. Actually, not at all. Stanley immediately follows that affirmation by saying that some gay Christians find this teaching too hard to follow. He says gay people at North Point know what the Bible says about marriage, but they choose to enter gay marriages anyway because they don’t want to spend their lives alone. They don’t want to live without love and a family, so they marry a same-sex partner and then just add that to following Jesus. Stanley says that North Point doesn’t draw “lines” to keep those people out of the church. Rather, they draw “circles” of inclusion so that they can remain at North Point as gay “married” couples. In Stanley’s words,
“[Gay Christians] choose a same sex marriage, not because they’re convinced it’s biblical. They read the same Bible we do. They chose to marry for the same reason many of us do, love, companionship and family.
And in the end, as was the case for all of us, and this is the important thing I want you to hear me say, it’s their decision. Our decision is to decide how we respond to their decision. Our decision as a group of local churches is how are we going to respond to their decisions? And we decided 28 years ago. We draw circles, we don’t draw lines. We draw big circles. If someone desires to follow Jesus, regardless of their starting point, regardless of their past, regardless of their current circumstances, our message is come and see and come sit with me. And this is not new. This is who we are. It’s who we’ve always been. And this is why I love our church and this is why I’m so extraordinarily proud of you. We aren’t condoning sin, we are restoring relationships, and we are literally saving lives.”
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Texas Baptists Offer Lessons to Southern Baptists on Female Pastors

The proponents for female pastors by and large do not ground their arguments in scripture, but the conservatives do. This is no small point. Two of the messengers speaking against the motion took their stand on scripture. They quoted specific verses about pastoral qualifications and encouraged messengers not to question God’s word. Given the context, these two men showed great boldness and conviction. What a contrast to messengers who argued for female pastors and who made broad appeals to justice and equality. They talked about how women will be traumatized and damaged if they aren’t allowed to serve as pastors. But there was very little appeal to scripture.

Here is an interesting development in the debate over female pastors among Baptists. At last week’s annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), messengers considered a motion that calls the BGCT to…
Affirm women in all ministry and pastoral roles, and that the BGCT Executive Board be instructed to have staff create programs, resources and advocacy initiatives to assist churches in affirming appointing and employing women in ministerial and pastoral roles.
This motion is no surprise in the context of the BGCT. While the BGCT still has theologically conservative churches in its ranks, it also has a good number of progressive churches as well. It is the progressive wing of Texas Baptists that has historically opposed the SBC’s position on pastoral qualifications and that has kept the BGCT open and welcoming to churches with female pastors.
Nevertheless, the motion did not pass as submitted. After some debate, messengers approved an amended motion that removes the affirmation of women serving as “pastors.” The amended motion reads as follows:
Request the BGCT Executive Board to resource BGCT staff to continue developing more strategies, resources, and advocacy initiatives to assist churches in affirming, appointing, and employing women in ministry and leadership roles.
So what happened here? Why was a female-pastor-welcoming convention unable to pass a formal affirmation of women serving as pastors? I was able to listen to a recording of the entire debate, which lasted just over 30 minutes. You can listen to the entire debate here: Texas Baptists Debate Motion about Female Pastors: [Download Audio Here]
The bottom line is that some of the progressive messengers wished for the BGCT to go on the record affirming women serving as pastors. Conservative messengers spoke against this and argued that such a view is directly at odds with Scripture. Other messengers struck a moderate tone and argued that the BGCT shouldn’t make this a point of division and should accept both views among their cooperating churches. One of the “moderates” even suggested that the BGCT will eventually get to full affirmation, but it is too soon to do that now. Give it some time, and Texas Baptists will get there. But not right now. Progressives strongly opposed the watered-down amendment. They wanted the formal affirmation of female pastors. But in the end they lost, and the moderates carried the day.
The debate is illuminating in more ways than one. And I think there may be some lessons in it for the Southern Baptist Convention as we continue our own debate concerning female pastors.
1. The doctrinal dividing line concerns the office of pastor, and the progressives understand this. They made this very clear during the debate. Another progressive made it clear after the vote in an editorial for the Baptist Standard:
Texas Baptists’ denial of unilaterally affirming women as pastors reveals something deeply troubling about their lack of precise language… A woman’s calling by God will not change if we, Texas Baptists, choose to call her something else. However, our inability to call a woman what she is demonstrates our disregard for precise language… Why is this inaccuracy allowed to continue within Texas Baptist life?
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