Updated: Feb 25
On Wednesday, February 22, 2023 the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention reported out that it had voted to Disfellowship six churches from the Convention — Meaning that on the basis of doctrine or practice, or both, these churches have been ruled out of order as it pertains the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
The BF&M 2000 is the SBS’s doctrinal statement of faith.
Five Churches were disfellowshipped on the basis of their having Female Senior Pastors. Those churches are:
Saddleback Church, Lakeland, Ca. — Historically, the largest church in the convention, formerly pastored by Rick Warren.
New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga.
St. Timothy’s Christian Church in Baltimore, Md.
Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.
Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
The BF&M 2000, article VI, "the Church," states plainly, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
While that should settle the issue, the conversation is not yet over as others in the Convention are still trying to parse the word "Pastor," making a distinction between a woman serving as "Senior Pastor" and a woman serving as a "Staff Pastor." But, Scripture makes no such distinction nor allows for it.
Another Church, “Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla., was deemed to be not in friendly cooperation because the church failed to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding an abuse allegation,” reports the Baptist Press.
Per the SBC bylaws, a disfellowshipped church has the right to appeal the decision at the following Convention meeting. Baptist Press reports that “We do plan to appeal this decision,” Fern Creek Baptist Church senior pastor Linda Popham told Baptist Press.”
I would expect other appeals to made as well.
A Forced Issue for Our Day.
As was made plain by the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California, the issue of women in the pastorate is going to have to be addressed. Not because the Bible is unclear, but because people are sinful. At the 2022 Convention, Dr. Albert Mohler made the case plainly saying that the sacred text of Scripture and the text of the BF&M are clear, only men can be pastors no matter our attempts to parse it otherwise. To think we can debate our way around the issue through parsing words and bending meanings is not only foolish, but sinful. It is a twisting of the Scriptures and rebellion.
Baptists have always held that the Pastoral office is limited by Scripture to qualified men. So, why is it such an issue now? Stated plainly, it is an issue only because some people are making it an issue. With the rise and influence of feminism, mingled with the growing force of the LGBTQ revolution, our culture has been made to feel as if biblical gender lines have become blurred. But, this is not the case. God has spoken plainly in His Word on these matters. To bend His Word is to depart from the true gospel of God; it is spiritual rebellion.
Barring women from the pastoral office is not sexism or discrimination in any way. It is the right and proper honoring of God-given gender distinctions and gender roles.
Critical voices are already crying foul. This should surprise us none. Already, less than 24-hours after the decision to disfellowship these churches, women and men are casting stones at the Convention over the decision with straw-man arguments and deflection noting that there are bigger fish to fry; namely the Sexual abuse scandal and the SATF report published last year.
Aimee Byrd, a popular writer and Bible teacher has already come out against the statement on the basis of feeling sad. Her response, rather than being grateful that the SBC has taken this step of biblical faithfulness is to "lament to God."
Bob Roberts Jr. took to twitter accusing the SBC of fundamentalist extremism saying, “You don’t have to agree with Rick but to go to this extreme over a non-essential theological position in light of all the scandals & sin in the SBC shows you the sickness of the patient - God help us we’ve succumbed to fundamentalist extremist.”
That’s the price for holding to the Word of God today; being labeled a fundamentalist extremist from those formerly inside the camp.
Aimee Byrd was such a promising theologian on the rise, but she has quickly veered off the path of orthodoxy over the issue of gender, and a woman’s place in ministry. She raises many good points and needed critiques, and she has experienced true hatred and sexism — but that does not excuse her neglect of Scripture’s clarity on this issue.
And for people like Bob Roberts Jr., well, if biblical faithfulness counts as fundamentalist extremism, I guess call me, and many others, fundies.
What’s at Stake?
People like Byrd, Roberts Jr., and others will cry foul on this by pointing to other issues, offering foolish rhetoric, or by name-calling. But the real issue at stake in both the SATF report and the issue of female pastors is Biblical Faithfulness. One does not cancel out the other. Both must be addressed. And in its own way, the SBC is addressing both issues to the glory of God.
What’s ultimately at stake is the Southern Baptist Convention’s stance on biblical faithfulness.
Robert’s Jr. and others will argue that the Convention is nitpicking over inconsequential theological disagreements while larger, more pressing issues like sexual abuse are floating around unaddressed. But, this is just not the case.
How the Convention deals with the issue of women in the pastorate will ultimately spell out how the Convention will handle all of its business. Its that important.
The 2022 SBC made it clear that the Convention is not only serious about dealing with sexual abuse, we are more committed than ever to dealing with it in transparent ways. The 22' Convention moved to create a standing committee called the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF), and they are actively at work carrying out the policy recommendations brought to light in the 2022 SATF report, and leading the Convention into the future. on this issue So, the issue is not being ignored. To say otherwise is to lie.
The issue of women in the pastorate is just as much an issue of biblical faithfulness as properly dealing with the sex-abuse issue. Both require Southern Baptists to take the Bible seriously, and submit to its authority.
To step outside of God’s clear Word on the issue of women in the pastorate is no less a disregarding of Scripture than anything else. Pastor John MacArthur notes that a Church who installs a woman in the pastorate is simply announcing its rebellion against God.
So, the five churches listed above who have installed women, not only as pastors, but as lead/senior pastors, are in gross violation of the sacred Word of God—which is their primary offense. It is open rebellion against God. But also, by installing women in pastoral leadership, they have also clearly departed from the express biblical convictions of the Southern Baptist Convention as made plain in the BF&M 2000, article VI, “The Church.”
While there is an expectation of appeals being made from the floor of the 2023 Convention, there are no grounds for such an appeal other than these churches repenting of their sin and rebellion. And that is exactly what it is: Rebellion against God’s Word.
Disfellowshipping was the right move.