Vote to add language to its constitution that affects churches with women as pastors fails at SBC

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Southern Baptist Convention to take up women pastors
Among the top items on the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention's agenda is deciding whether the organization should expel membership churches with women pastors.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- This week the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the country's largest protestant evangelical organization, is meeting in Indianapolis for its 2024 conference.

Thousands of members have descended upon the city to discuss important church business, topics, and hear from other pastors.

Wednesday morning, thousands of Southern Baptist Convention members formally voted on adding language to the organization's Constitution that officially lists its position on women in pastoral leadership. But, the vote failed. The SBC said it didn't get the required two-thirds votes to adopt the amendment.

Previously, language on women in pastoral leadership was only in the church's statement of faith.

Members voted to decide if this description should be added to the constitution: "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."

Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

In recent years, several churches have withdrawn membership over the convention's position on the subject, including megachurches Saddleback Church in California and Charlotte-based Elevation Church.

For example, those against women in pastoral leadership cite 1 Timothy 2:12 in their defense to disallow women in the pulpit.

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet," wrote Apostle Paul.

Additionally, Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth speaking of the same issue.

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul writes, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

"I say that the text is intertextual. When I read a book, you don't just need one line at the book and not allow it to speak with other parts of the larger story," said Lavarin. "So when people focus in on that one line and not even pay attention to the context of that line, which was that Paul was speaking to a specific church in a specific time, we are failing to think critically and we're also failing to allow God to move in today's context and today's time."

Lavarin said she believes God would have wanted something different than what the Convention has been debating for years.

"My hope is that one day the prevailing ethos of the church will be what we find in the book of Joel and in the book of Acts where it says that God will pour out God's Spirit on all flesh -- men and women. The young and the old," she said. "But until then, I believe unbelievers will have eyes to see that there is some polarization and that there is a side to be on."

Southern Baptist Convention - June 12 Law Amendment Vote Results
Southern Baptist Convention - June 12 Law Amendment Vote Results

Had the vote passed

Churches with female pastors would not have automatically been expelled or banned.

Member churches who believe another church is in "non-friendly cooperation" with the Convention's constitution must contact the accused church and attempt to address adherence to the Constitution.

Should the accused church decide not to comply or be in alignment with the Convention's Constitution, other member churches can then recommend that church for removal from the SBC through its formal process.

According to an SBC press release, the SBC membership voted Tuesday to discontinue its cooperative relationship with First Baptist Church Alexandria for having a female associate pastor.

Other SBC Agenda Items

Among the other top items on the group's agenda is a vote on the creation of a sexual assault and abuse database.

The creation of a sex crimes database comes following years of sexual allegations and convictions involving leaders at member churches and the church's perceived lack of oversight in handling such incidents.

In 2022, there was a 288-page investigative report published outlining a number of infractions, which included testimony from survivors.

"I wish I had a little bit more hope about how they'll have this conversation. It's been 16 years since the conversation was brought up," said the Rev. Barbara Lavarin with Baptist Women in Ministry.

"For me, the connection is that vulnerable people regardless of whether or not they're a woman, whether or not they're children, those who have been subjected to abuse will likely all kind of fall in the same camp. I wouldn't be surprised that their decision doesn't fall favorably for people who are survivors of abuse in the SBC."

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