Talk a little bit about your view on the role of women in pastoral leadership in the local church.
I am complementarian. I believe that the office of pastor is limited to men, as qualified by Scripture. I fully affirm the Danvers Statement. I’m a comparatively strict complementarian. Everybody teaching a mixed Sunday school class in our church is male. We don’t have women preach. So, it’s not just the office for us. There’s also some functional restriction for us.
What about when you move outside of the local church because we have women leading on entity boards and committees?
Well, I’m complementarian to the degree that the Scriptures are complementarian. The Independent Baptists have reminded us for a long time that there aren’t committees and chair people and boards and all that sort of thing in the Scriptures. They’re right, but we have determined, in our statement of faith, to say that whenever we have work to do together, we have the liberty to organize these things—to organize entities and boards of trustees and committees and chair people and all that sort of thing—that are not spelled out in Scripture as the expedient means for us to elicit and direct and combine the work of the churches to go forward.
I don’t think that we can take scriptural limits that are placed on scriptural institutions and start applying them to the other things that we have going on.
We have women in the administrative structure of our church who are involved. We have women on staff. They’re just not pastors. They’re not deacons.
Are there other roads that we need to be traveling when it comes to dealing with racial reconciliation?
Critical Race Theory is, at its foundation, a theory about the law that comes out of law schools and the legal community. I think it is complex, but I think that most of it can be can be reduced down to an idea that the basic approach of law and order in the United States that has failed in terms of race for racial minorities. Something else has to be tried.
The civil rights movement thought it accomplished things, but it really didn’t accomplish what it thought it was going to accomplish. In making that move, Critical Race Theory is perfectly willing to dispense with what are some Judeo-Christian ideas about what fairness and justice look like, that I believe are biblical.
For that reason, the same things that motivate me to say that people who are opposed to CRT have to meet some fair standards in making accusations and proving things and whatever else, that same commitment to biblical ideals of justice makes me reject Critical Race Theory because it’s not generally committed to those ideas, to those principles.
However, having said that, I think that we let the division in our culture make complicated for us things that really aren’t that complicated. Everybody who pastors a church— everybody who pastors a church—knows what it is to see a congregation full of people, some of whom are involved to the hilt and some of whom are kind of sitting on the margins, some of whom are on the margins, drifting out, some of whom are on the margins because they just came in, and they know that it’s a job of every pastor to look at their congregation and to see the people who need to be welcomed and encouraged on in, to see the people that you have to be intentional about, helping them to know you belong here, you have a place to serve here, and they’ve all seen what it’s like.
For us at FBC Farmersville, we might look at somebody and say, “come cook on a Wednesday night cook team because it’s an opportunity for you to get involved, meet some more people, build some relationships and get plugged in and integrated into the life of our church.” Every pastor does that if he succeeds at all, and really that’s all we’re talking about in the Southern Baptist Convention. We’re a family of churches and that’s not strictly racial. We worry about smaller churches and about making sure that they don’t feel excluded.
All this elite versus populace kind of thing, we worry about churches that have not historically elected the president of the SBC because of how much money they have or how many people they have. We worry that they might feel like they’re on the fringes. So, we intentionally go about trying to bring them in, encourage them, help them to know that they belong, give them a place that they can join in and engage. Local associations do that. State conventions do that. The Southern Baptist Convention does that. And among those families are the cowboy church family or the rural church family, or the urban church family, the university town church family, the megachurch family. We also have the predominant Asian church family, the predominantly African American church family, the predominantly Hispanic church family. I think racial reconciliation can happen without treating those race-connected families of churches any differently than we treat size-based families of churches or geographically based families of churches.
Ultimately, racial reconciliation is reconciliation. And ultimately, it’s about doing that same thing we do in our local churches, looking to see who needs to be pulled in closer and being intentionally kind and welcoming and also recruiting to bring people into those positions of influence. I think it’s very important. I think we need to be about that. I’ll tell you something else I think we ought to be doing, that again is not racial.
This may get me in trouble, and I’m going to say it anyway. I worked hard as a member of the executive board for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and eventually as the chair of that board to try to invite in and welcome churches historically affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas.
I wrote my dissertation about a split in 1902. Those are people who were a part of that split, who left, went away from the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention has had quite a bit of success reaching out to churches like that. We split over things that were foolish. If you want to know more about that or if you want to cure your insomnia, go read my dissertation. We split over things that were foolish. There’s really nothing substantive or doctrinal that separates us from those groups, and we’ve reached out to these groups that became disaffected and meandered out of the Southern Baptist Convention and have brought a lot of those churches back in.