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?