Last month, SBC Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida and President of Founders Ministries, Tom Ascol questioned the Southern Baptist Convention’s church planting network North American Missions Board (NAMB) about funding Florida church plant 1Name Church that has a woman pastor on staff. Using Twitter to call on NAMB’s President Kevin Ezell to explain why this happened, Ascol said, “This is unacceptable.”
Ascol cited the SBC statement of faith titled ‘The Baptist Faith and Message 2000‘ that states in section six called ‘The Church‘ that “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Shortly after Pastor Ascol questioned why NAMB funded the new plant 1Name Church, he was informed the church had left the SBC and he was asked to “please leave them alone.” Ascol wanted to be clear that he wasn’t questioning 1Name Church and said, “My questions were directed to @NAMB_SBC, the agency owned by SBC churches. If the church isn’t in agreement with SBC confessional commitments then it was an honorable decision to leave.”
SBC Executive Pastor Nate Schlomann of the Village Church in Richmond, Virginia, published an article on Conservative Resurgence Voices that asked the question “Has the SBC, without a vote, become an egalitarian convention based on its actual practice?” In the article, Schlomann said he had observed four more current NAMB church plants that have women pastors on staff, and he made clear his intent in sharing about the churches wasn’t to shame or embarrass them individually for the theology they strongly believe in. Rather, he was directing his questions to NAMB and SBC leadership, expressing “We must have clarity on this issue.”
One of the churches Schlomann alludes to is ECHO.CHURCH in California that has lead pastor Andy Wood’s wife Stacie Wood is listed as a ‘Teaching Pastor’ on their website, and she can be seen preaching on a Sunday morning here. Along with Mrs. Wood, Lori Adams-Brown and Lucile Sablan are listed as an associate campus pastors, Karen McGovern is listed as a groups pastor, and Linnea Hedgecock is listed as an administrative pastor.
SBC Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas, Tom Buck (who recently was in the news for comparing Vice President Harris to pagan queen Jezebel) posted on Twitter referencing ECHO.CHURCH and the women pastors they have on staff saying, “SBC leaders need to be held accountable! I also asked about Echo church & women pastors in @NAMB_SBC churches. I received the same word-for-word response as @cuatronelson. We don’t need shifting things around in the dark, but for truth to come into the light.”
Buck referred to Conservative Resurgence Voices’ Allen Nelson’s article “PragNAMBtism: Dr. Ezell’s Position on Women Pastors in SBC Church Plants” where Nelson asked Dr. Ezell to clarify an email he received that said, “…we do not fund any plants who have women as lead pastors, etc,” asking the question “Does this mean you do fund plants that have women on staff as pastors in other capacities? For example, children’s pastor, youth pastor, administrative pastor, or any role with the title of a pastor?”
Dr. Ezell responded saying, “NAMB only approves Biblically qualified men to serve in the role of a pastor at plants which we endorse and fund. In addition, they are required to whole-heartedly embrace Baptist Faith and Message 2000. BFM2000, and specifically the role of women in the church are among the things our assessors discuss with candidates during assessment – all of it in harmony with BFM200.”
Not completely satisfied, Nelson gave Dr. Ezell two quick examples of churches funded by NAMB that have women serving as pastors. Explaining his desire isn’t to be controversial, but he wanted to point out that it seems NAMB is failing at making sure SBC church plants are in agreement with the BFM2000. Nelson asked, “How can this be made right?”
In the response, Dr. Ezell gave more detail as to how women pastors are serving in some of the NAMB Church Planted SBC churches. He said, “At all of our plants, men occupy the senior pastor role. We don’t look at staff rosters to see what titles they’re using for other roles. The 52,000 autonomous churches in the Southern Baptist family use a wide variety of titles for staff roles.”
Nelson wrote in his article, “A church cannot be whole-heartedly embracing the BFM 2000 and have women serving in the role of a pastor.” After emailing Dr. Ezell and talking to a NAMB employee, he said NAMB’s position is that they are fine with women pastors as long as they aren’t the ‘lead’ pastor.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin tweeted, “To bring clarity: women cannot serve as a pastor. Pastors are always men in the Bible. To call a women a pastor in any capacity is not faithful to the biblical revelation. She can serve in many capacities but it is theologically in error to call her a pastor. The Bible is crystal clear there are many things women can do in the church. It is also clear that God reserves the office of pastor, elder & overseer to men. Scripture makes no distinction between Sr Pastor which applies only to men and other pastors which can be men or women.”
Fellow SBC Pastor Dwight McKissic responded to Akin’s post by asking the questions, “Does that mean then of the many local SBC churches where a woman carries the word ‘pastor’ in their title, that church is out of line, with the Bfm2k & should be disfellowshipped? Is the SBC going to dictate titles for staff in local churches, forbidding ‘pastor’ in women titles?… Should a church be disfellowshipped for doing so? Doesn’t it violate autonomy? Isn’t it going beyond the parameters of the BFM2K to do so?”
As customary at the SBC Annual Meeting in June, President Ezell will give a report on NAMB and will have an open mic question session following his address. It’s a high probability that the questions Ascol, Buck, and other SBC pastors have been asking since the beginning of this year will be answered more in depth then.