SBC messengers to vote on proposed amendment solidifying ban on women pastors in denomination

SBC/Eric Brown
SBC/Eric Brown

Messengers attending the Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting this week will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that would prevent a woman from serving as a “pastor of any kind” within the denomination, the SBC Executive Committee decided Monday.

The measure, spearheaded by Virginia Pastor Mike Law, is a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution. If approved, it would establish a condition for churches to affiliate with the SBC: specifically, no women within the church would be permitted to hold the title of pastor.

Currently, the denomination’s Baptist Faith & Message 2000 states that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” In a statement last year, Chuck Kelley, Al Mohler and Richard Land, who wrote the study guide for the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message Confession, explained that "pastor" means "one who fulfills the pastoral office and carries out the pastor's functions." 

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"[I]t is important to understand that the word pastor was chosen precisely because of its clarity among Southern Baptists. The statement carefully affirms that both men and women are gifted for service in the church, but the role of pastor is biblically defined and is to be held only by men as qualified by Scripture," they said.

Law's proposed amendment is one of many that the over 12,000 Southern Baptist voting delegates, called messengers, will vote on during the SBC’s annual two-day meeting commencing on Tuesday in New Orleans.

During one of its customary meetings on Monday, the SBC Executive Committee, consisting of an 86-member board of elected representatives from various states, voted to endorse the recommendation to present the amendment banning women pastors to the full convention for a vote. However, the committee explicitly recommended that the messengers vote against the amendment.

The EC said that while it affirms Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” it “deems that our beliefs are most appropriately stated in our adopted statement of faith rather than in our constitution and therefore opposes a suggested amendment to SBC Constitution.”

“While the messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting entrusted the Executive Committee with this motion, we recognize the significance of the matter, at this given time, and therefore believe it is prudent to place the referred motion before the entire body of messengers, while also expressing our opposition to the suggested amendment,” it said.

Law's campaign has garnered support from conservative leaders in the SBC, and a number of pastors have signed a letter supporting the amendment. 

“We are fully persuaded that it is ‘good when brothers live together in harmony’ (Ps. 133:1),” reads the letter, in part. “Unity comes from God, and we are called to keep it with the help of God (Eph. 4:3). Often that means forbearing with others who see things differently than we do. That’s the beauty of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is home to countless churches with different views on many things. At other times, however, we must follow Jude 3 and contend for the faith by reaffirming our stated convictions and doctrinal commitments. This is one of those times.”

Advocates of the amendment argue that it aligns with the SBC's longstanding commitment to complementarian theology, while critics have warned that such a measure could marginalize women in the SBC.

The debate surrounding the role of women in the church has taken center stage within the SBC in recent months. 

Other decisions to be made at this year's meeting include whether or not to uphold the ouster of two churches with women pastors in lead or senior pastor roles, California megachurch Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. 

On Tuesday, Saddleback founding Pastor Rick Warren and Fern Creek Pastor Linda Barnes Popham are expected to appeal decisions to disfellowship their churches.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Warren said he doesn’t “expect to win” the appeal in New Orleans, nor does he expect to “change the mind of any angry fundamentalist.”

“They are responsible to God, not to me. I’m doing this as an act of obedience to the Holy Spirit,” he wrote. 

“Regardless of attacks and the vote result, I want a clear conscience before my Master ... that I repented, and that this sinner did what he asked me to do. With that, I am completely content to let Him be the judge and evaluator of my life and ministry. We must live for an Audience of One.”

In an op-ed, Scott Aniol, executive vice president and editor-in-chief of G3 Ministries, hit back at Warren's newfound beliefs and contended that "there is nothing in the text of Scripture ... that would naturally lead to any conclusion other than that God through Paul forbade women from serving in the pastoral teaching office, and that this applies today with just as much authority as it did when he wrote it."

"It requires imposing upon the text egalitarian presuppositions derived from post-feminist secular philosophy to interpret the text any differently," he wrote. 

"If we are willing to subject the text of Scripture to secular presuppositions, then where will we stop? What’s to stop us from subjecting the gospel to ideologies that will harm it? To affirm women pastors undermines confidence in Scripture, weakens God-ordained male leadership, and bows to the spirit of the age. And that harms our mission."

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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