Home Christian News Since the 1880S, Southern Baptists Have Argued Over the Role of Women

Since the 1880S, Southern Baptists Have Argued Over the Role of Women

Saddleback pastor Andy Wood also released a video this week outlining the church’s view on women leaders.

The current SBC debate over women pastors has been fueled, at least in part, by a 2019 tweet from bestselling author and Bible teacher Beth Moore about speaking at a church on Mother’s Day. Her social media post sparked a wave of controversy that eventually contributed to her leaving the denomination.

At the time, the SBC also was dealing with a major crisis over sexual abuse and some felt the alarm bell over women preachers was being used to distract from that crisis. The news of Saddleback’s expulsion has likewise overshadowed decisions around paying for abuse reforms.

Delegates to the June meeting, known as messengers, may also debate a potential constitutional amendment to officially bar churches that “affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

Virginia Baptist pastor Mike Law proposed the constitutional amendment last year, but the SBC Executive Committee has yet to decide whether to let it move forward. Any changes to the SBC’s constitution would have to be passed two years in a row.

Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church, said several SBC churches close to his congregation have women pastors. That prompted him to write to the Executive Committee last May, seeking clarification about the SBC’s rules.

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His email also had a personal side. Arlington Baptist Church, where Law began serving in 2014, had at least two women pastors in its past. Having women as pastors, he believed, put the church at odds with the SBC’s doctrine.

“Thankfully, the saints at Arlington Baptist have returned to faithfulness on this issue, and unity with Southern Baptists,” Law wrote in his proposed amendment. Law, who was not available for an interview because he was assisting a church member, has also set up a website for the proposed amendment, including a video explaining his rationale.

“Why is it wrong for women to serve as pastors?” Law said in the video, which was sent to members of the Executive Committee. “Because it is contrary to God’s design for his church. It is that simple. Don’t overthink this issue.”

Law also put together a list of 170 women pastors serving at SBC churches. That list includes 51 women who are senior pastors, 20 associate pastors, 47 children’s pastors, 12 elders, 11 worship pastors and 35 “other” pastors.

David Booker, lead pastor of Acts Church in Waco, Texas, was not aware until recently that his church was on Law’s list. But he was not surprised.

He and his wife, Kim, the church’s co-lead pastor, founded the church in 2007. The church, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the SBC, also has a worship pastor, a children’s pastor and an executive pastor who are all women.

Booker said that men who hold those roles are often called pastors — and so the church just uses the same titles for the women in those roles. The church also has several women elders, a position that some churches limit to men.