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The 2024 Southern Baptist Convention in Review…

Updated: Jun 18

For those of you interested in a recap of the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention, here is a broad, and hopefully fair overview of the main events and issues of this year's meeting. If you don’t want to read the whole piece, you can skip to the summary at the bottom. 

So, without further ado, here’s my report for my little corner of the SBC…

1 - Women Pastors and The “Law Amendment.” 

By far, the issue of female pastors loomed largest over the messengers who gathered for the 2024 Annual meeting of the SBC. The recent history of this issue goes back to the 2022 SBC in Anaheim where the Credentials Committee (in response to Saddleback Church’s appointing of female pastors) stated that it was unsure as to the interpretation of “pastor” regarding non-lead pastor positions (see here, number 4, “Female Pastors”). 

By failing to act against Saddleback, the Credentials Committee essentially asked the Convention to clarify its already clear beliefs as stated in the BF&M 2000, which states that the Church’s “two scriptural offices are that of pastor/elder/overseer and deacon. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

This is further clarified by the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which states, “In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9).”

In response to the Credential Committee’s 2022 failure, messenger Mike Law proposed an amendment to the SBC constitution, article III, that would bring the needed “extra clarity” to this issue once and for all. The proposed amendment (#6, highlighted) reads,

The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which: 

  1. Has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

  2. Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)

  3. Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.

  4. Does not act in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse.

  5. Does not act to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.

  6. Affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.

According to SBC bylaws, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds approval of the messengers at two consecutive annual meetings. The Law Amendment received overwhelming approval at the 2023 Convention with over 80% support. But in order to amend the Constitution, the amendment also needed a two-thirds approval from the messengers at the 2024 Convention. 

In the typical flow of things, the Convention votes by show of ballots, but President Barber requested this vote be taken by secret ballot, which (in my opinion) may have affected the outcome of the vote, allowing some people to vote differently given anonymity. 

There was also lots of discussion about the amendment going into this convention, and unfortunately, lots of spinning the truth and intentional (maybe unintentional?) deception from both inside and outside the Convention. Unfortunately, I think the year’s long conversation served to create doubt in the minds of many and left them feeling uncertain about the vote.

To be fair, there are faithful Christians on both sides of the issue. Some opposed the amendment because they saw it as unnecessary. They argue that the Convention is already sufficiently clear in the BF&M 2000 on the issue, and point to the recent removal of Saddleback, Fern Creek, and FBC Alexandria as evidence. Their opposition, as far as I can tell, is not to the doctrinal truth of the amendment, but to the mechanism it sought to create. They saw no need for more clarity. 

Others argue that while the BF&M is sufficiently clear, the Convention has shown itself slow (and unwilling as in the 2022 case with the CC and Saddleback) in dealing with such cases, and needed the additional clarity and strength of the amendment. Saddleback took several years to address, Fern Creek had a female lead pastor for several decades before the SBC took action, and FBC Arlington noted that it has affirmed women to the pastorate for more than 50 years. And there are still numerous other cases to evaluate and deal with. So, while the BF&M is sufficiently clear on paper, it has not been adequately applied. The Law amendment sought to aid in its effective application. 

As one messenger said from the floor, the Law amendment has nothing to do with women serving in ministry. The amendment had only to do with women serving in the office of Pastor, which the Scripture clearly prohibits (1 Tim. 2-3; Titus 1). Southern Baptists joyfully support and give thanks for the many faithful women who have and are serving the Lord in and through His Church. We need those sisters in a mighty way!

The Law Amendment only sought to stand where the Bible and Southern Baptist’s already stand, and to address a growing issue in the culture. The majority of those present voted for it. That is good news. I do not think (most of) those who voted against are actually against the doctrine behind it (as evidenced by the 91% vote to break with FBC Arlington). I do believe the Convention is getting this right overall and will get this issue of doctrinal clarity right.  

For my part, I voted in support of the amendment.

Denny Burk's article on the lost Law Amendment is helpful.

2 - The ARITF (Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force).

This also goes back to the 2022 Anaheim Convention where the Sexual-Abuse Task force released its initial earth-shattering findings. In its wake, the Convention set up a Task Force (The ARITF) to address what was found, and to set about the work of taking the needed next steps. 

For the last two years, the ARITF was tasked by the Messengers with several objectives: To create an online database of offenders, to produce a training curriculum for churches, and several other items. The ARITF expired this year, but made several recommendations to the Convention on its way out. 

First, to affirm the objectives outlined in their 2024 report. I support these objectives. 

Second, the ARITF handed their work off to the Executive Committee under the new leadership of Jeff Iorg. Per the ARITF’s recommendation, the messengers referred these ongoing matters to the EC for next steps and to locate this work in a permanent home. 

There was a curious exchange between a messenger from the floor at the Task Force’s chairman. When asked why the group had not completed the database of offenders, the chairman noted that, while the Convention had previously mandated all funds needed for this work be made available to the task force from a NAMB account, those funds had not, in fact, been released. The TF had faced internal roadblocks.

No more public attention was paid to that comment and the Convention machine marched on. That is of great concern. 

We should commit to praying over this situation: Pray for the victims of abuse, for those leading abuse reform, for Jeff Iorg to have the courage to take up this work and champion it for victims and for Southern Baptists, and for SBC to continue holding the line. 

Here is the ARITF Training Curriculum, which is free to all SBC Churches. 

3 - Missionary Sending

This is always a highlight of the Convention, and as IMB President Dr. Paul Chitwood aptly reminded us, sending missionaries is why the SBC exists. Rallying in our early days to support the missionary work of Adoniram Judson, Southern Baptists have always existed for missional partnership in efforts to get the gospel to the nations. 

83 missionaries were introduced and commissioned to take the Gospel around the world. As always, some of these courageous folks were able to introduce themselves to us by name and face, sharing with us where they were headed to do gospel work. But a large number (half maybe) had to be hidden behind screens, someone else introducing them so their voices would not be on record, because the places they’re headed are dangerous. 

What a testimony to hear of young men and women, young marrieds, families, older retired couples packing up life here and heading to the nations to tell others of Christ crucified and raised!

May we not forget the main things! And as President Barber said to those brave missionaries, “Your Southern Baptist Churches will be here holding the line for you!”

But keep in mind, if the SBC falters on its doctrine and thus loses its shape and form, there will be no one holding the line.

4 - Jeff Iorg’s EC Speech (and article)

For many years, Dr. Jeff Iorg has served as President of Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) in central California. He is a leadership expert, and is a proven leader both at the institutional level and in his many books of leadership. A number of his books have been personally helpful to me. 

It was no surprise to many when, just a few months ago, the SBC Executive Committee announced that Dr. Iorg had been nominated and heartily approved to fill the office of President of the EC. The EC has been in chaos for the last few years, and it makes good sense to bring in a trusted and proven statesmen-leader like Iorg to restore order and peace. I believe he will do a fine job in that regard. 

I am concerned, however, with two initial moves Iorg has made as EC President. Just prior to the convention, Dr. Iorg released an article on Baptist Press outlining his opposition to the Law Amendment. In my opinion, the article was woefully beneath his stature, lacked biblical and theological coherence and rationality, and fell painfully short of presenting any sort of biblical wisdom and logic. You can read the article for yourself and decide. 

And then, at the convention, Dr. Iorg gave his first address as EC President, calling on the Convention to lay aside the lesser issues of “Political activism, social justice, convention reform and doctrinal conformity” which he called “common mission substitutes.” He argued that these issues only take away from the Gospel mission, where instead, we need to refocus ourselves on Christ alone. The speech sounded good and was delivered with Iorg's usually gusto. It while it received praise from some former entity heads (Chuck Kelly), the speech was riddled with the same holes as the article. It was not biblically faithful as Dr. Iorg built his arguments around straw-men, and made too much of his own personal accomplishments. He made it seem as though he was the chosen one sent to save the misguided SBC (although I don’t think he intended that way). To put it bluntly, I was embarrassed for him.   

The biggest issue was that the speech felt like a public spanking for those who supported the Law Amendment (which turned out to be a large majority of the messengers), and he unfairly (in my opinion) accused that group of pitting doctrinal conformity against missional commitment. But those issues are not enemies, they're siblings. As Dr. Danny Akin regularly says, “Mission and doctrine go together.” 

5 - Presidential Election

For some reason, six men allowed their names to be put forward for consideration for the SBC President. I am not sure why so many men were running, and to be honest, it caused a lot of confusion and extra work for the messengers. 

At a Presidential forum late Monday night, the moderators split the men into two groups: Those who supported the Law amendment and those who opposed it. And based on some of what I’ve heard and read since, that seemed to be a major factor in how people voted. 

Either way, after 3 ballot votes, Clint Pressley, Pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pressley was in support of the Law Amendment.

Clint has a pastor’s heart, and is well-spoken of by his peers. He is also a very well-dressed man. As one commentator said, he is “our most sartorial President ever.” 

Here’s the Baptist Press article announcing the new Convention Leadership. 

6 - The 2024 Resolutions 

You can read an official draft of all the presented resolutions here. As a reminder, Resolutions are not binding documents and have no authoritative power within the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Resolutions are more like “the voice of the Convention,” and they serve to make “public statements” and “public comments” on things that have the Convention’s attention. No doubt, SBC Resolutions, while lacking authoritative power, have an impact in the life of the Convention, and in the thousands of Churches that make up the Convention. Additionally, the voice of the Southern Baptist Convention, being the largest and most powerful protestant group in the United States, also carries weight in the larger culture to some extent. 

SBC resolutions have the potential to shape decision making in our entities, our churches, and with governmental policy makers. And that was just the intention of Resolution 6, “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo.” 

While we need to be careful and sensitive with this topic, the Convention needed to go on record about the growing issue in our culture and in our churches. As SBC ethicist Andrew Walker notes, this is not a new issue. IVF has been around since the 1970’s, but as with many things, the SBC has been slow to speak on it, and slow to develop a significant, biblically informed Christian ethic of In vitro fertilization treatment. The same may also be said regarding many Christians. 

To be clear, the Resolution does not condemn outright the use of IVF. In one very important statement, the Resolution reads “ Resolved, that we commend couples who at great cost have earnestly sought to only utilize infertility treatments and reproductive technologies in ways consistent with the dignity of the human embryo as well as those who have adopted frozen embryos;” 

The heart of this statement is to call attention to the unethical practices that IVF easily leads to (although not necessarily), which is the formation of viable human embryos that, unused, are placed into cryogenic storage and often destroyed. The Christian view is that life begins at conception, when the sperm and egg unite. This means that viable human embryos placed in cryogenic storage for long periods of time, and are then purposefully discarded and destroyed is not a practice that Christians can support. Such practices are in line with abortion, which Christians rightly oppose. 

The practices of IVF often encourage the production of far more embryos that a couple desires to implant. That is the issue. 

There are Christian couples who have utilized IVF in ways consistent with biblical ethics, and this resolution does not condemn those couples. Furthermore, if you read the text, you will note that it also commends those who seek to adopt those embryos long-ago forgotten. 

One woman courageously spoke from the floor and shared her testimony of how she and her husband adopted/rescued two forgotten embryos out of cryo-storage and certain destruction.

This resolution does not condemn IVF outright; It only condemns the malpractice that this technology easily leads to because of its harmful and deadly effects on the unborn. 

Here are some helpful articles dealing with the issue. 

8 - Disfellowshipping of FBC Alexandria. 

A final note is the disfellowshipping of FBC Alexandria, VA. I’ve already written about this issue in some detail here, so I will not rehash the details. 

But, the Credentials Committee did recommend to the messengers that the Church was not in friendly cooperation with the SBC given their views on women in pastoral ministry, and the fact that the Church has long ordained and employed women in the pastoral office. 

The Convention moved overwhelmingly (91%) to break ties with FBC Alexandria. It was the right move. 

In Summary: 

1 - The SBC stood firm on its Biblical complementarian understanding of gender roles, voting overwhelmingly (91%) that FBC Alexandria was no longer in friendly cooperation with the SBC. 

The vote on the Law Amendment, while failing to achieve the required 2/3rds majority, still carried a large majority (61%). The Convention made its voice clear: It still holds clearly to a biblical understanding of gender and gender roles. 

2 - Southern Baptists remain committed to the work of sex-abuse reform. It is clear that we are unclear on how best to move forward, but Jeff Iorg has shown himself to be an effective organizational leader, and we look for the Executive Committee to take action on the recommendations of both the ARITF and the vote of the 2022, 2023, and 2024 messengers. Further, the abuse protection curriculum and other resources put out by the ARITF are excellent tools for SBC churches. 

3 - As always, the SBC rightly highlighted the sending of missionaries, with 83 missionaries commissioned by the Convention. Some were able to share their identities and the location of their service, but a large portion were not given the dangers of where they are headed. They are traveling to hard places where the danger is high and the risks are real. But the Lord has called them to GO, and the SBC stands behind them to train, send, equip, meet needs, and support them. In a sweet time of worship, the SBC did what it exists to do: We sent missionaries. 

4 - Jeff Iorg’s first address as the new EC President was less than spectacular. It seems to me that he is out of step with a large portion of the SBC messenger body when it comes to some theological issues, but Iorg is a proven executive leader and I have confidence that he is able to bring needed reform and leadership to the EC. 

5 - Out of a broad field of 6 candidates, the Convention held 3 rounds of voting, finally selecting Charlotte Pastor Clint Pressley. Pressley assumes the role that Bart Barber has done so well in. We look forward to Pressley’s leadership and pray he does well. 

6 - The Convention struggled with Resolutions this year. A full list can be found here. The most consequential will be the Resolution on a Christian view of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), but the Convention took the right stand on these issues. It is now the work of mature Christians and faithful Pastors to shepherd their people in understanding these things biblically. 

Overall, a mixed bag, but a good Convention. Southern Baptists should be encouraged that while the Convention has very real issues of great importance, and those issues will require biblical faithfulness, commitment, patience, and prayer, we are NOT facing the more deadly issues that some of our sister denominations have succumbed to. 

It's important to note that while many issues revolve around the SBC, issues like female pastors, ethical views of IVF, and the disfellowshipping of churches, each of these are Great Commission issues.

It's too easy to say, "I wish the Convention would stay out of politics and focus on missions." Or "I wish we wouldn't police our doctrine and just focus on evangelism." But friends, doctrine is as much about mission as missionaries are. Jesus said, "Go (evangelism) into all the world and teach (doctrine/mission) them all that I have commanded you."

Make no mistake, friends, the SBC is as focused and missional as ever.

May we stay faithful!

See you in Dallas, Texas for SBC 2025!


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