Virginia church ‘saddened’ after SBC cuts ties over its stance on women pastors

A June 2024 worship service at First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia.
A June 2024 worship service at First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia. | Screengrab: YouTube/First Baptist Church of Alexandria

A large congregation in Northern Virginia is disappointed by the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention to sever ties with the church over its support for women pastors.

During the SBC Annual Meeting this week in Indianapolis, Indiana, messengers voted to declare First Baptist Church of Alexandria, a Washington, D.C.-area congregation with approximately 1,700 members, no longer in friendly cooperation with the convention.

FBCA Senior Pastor Robert Stephens said in a brief statement emailed to The Christian Post that he is "saddened by the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

"For nearly 180 years we have maintained a fruitful partnership," stated Stephens. "Our mission for the Gospel has not changed and we are pressing on towards the future that the Lord has for us."

In April, FBCA received an inquiry from the SBC Credentials Committee related to the employment of a female pastor for women and children, according to Baptist Press.

The SBC adheres to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement, which states that "while both men and women are gifted and called for ministry, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

At the annual meeting earlier this week, Credentials Committee chairman Jonathan Sams claimed that FBCA rejected that part of the Baptist Faith and Message.

As a result, Sams asked the SBC to "discontinue its cooperative relationship" with FBCA due to its stance on women in ministry and label the Virginia church "no longer in friendly cooperation with the Convention."

"We asked if the church might consider calling a woman as their lead senior pastor," Sams continued, as quoted by BP, "[t]he church responded affirmatively, saying yes, they would because they do not 'believe that the Bible limits the fulfillment of this office exclusively to men.'"

Although FBCA was deemed not to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC, messengers at the SBC annual meeting narrowly rejected an amendment to the SBC constitution that would have permanently banned women from serving as pastors.

Known as the Law Amendment — named after Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church in Virginia — the measure received 61% of the vote, failing to get the necessary 66.66% majority to pass.

At the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, the Law Amendment received approximately 80% of the vote from messengers in the first of the two votes on the proposal.

Critics of the Law Amendment included former SBC president J.D. Greear, who warned that should the measure pass, it could threaten the convention's relationships with minority churches. 

"I remain convictionally opposed to this amendment, not because of its content but because of its attempt to undermine our historic principles of cooperation," stated Greear on his website before the vote.

"It overturns a system that works. I don't oppose the Law Amendment because I'm a closet moderate or soft on theological issues. I am concerned that the missional, cooperative balance that has characterized our Convention since the Conservative Resurgence is about to be overturned."

Supporters of the amendment, such as Heath Lambert, author and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, argued that the measure was necessary for scriptural reasons.

"The real issue on this matter is the Bible. The Bible is crystal clear that the office of pastor is reserved for men as qualified by Scripture," Lambert explained. "Baptists know this. That clear knowledge makes this whole thing much easier than some of the overcooked debates around this issue would lead you to believe."

"The question the amendment asks is whether we agree with Scripture that the office of pastor is reserved for men. Brothers and sisters, the clear answer — the only answer — is yes. Simple faithfulness demands our agreement with Scripture."

At the 2023 Annual Meeting, messengers upheld the removal of Rick Warren's California megachurch, Saddleback Church, from friendly cooperation for hiring a female teaching pastor. Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky had also been removed from SBC membership for having a woman serving as pastor of the congregation. 

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.