The Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) decided the morning of Monday, June 12, to give messengers the opportunity to vote on whether to amend the SBC constitution to include a permanent ban on female pastors, as proposed by Virginia pastor Mike Law. After some debate, the SBC Executive Committee decided to bring Law’s amendment to the messengers at the annual meeting in New Orleans, but voiced its opposition to that amendment.
“While the messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting entrusted the Executive Committee with this motion,” said the EC in its recommendation, “we recognize the significance of the matter, at this given time, and therefore believe it is prudent to place the referred motion before the entire body of messengers, while also expressing our opposition to the suggested amendment to SBC Constitution Article III.”
SBC Executive Committee Approves Recommendation
The SBC’s annual meeting takes place in New Orleans this week from June 13-14, and around 15,000 messengers (i.e., delegates) are expected to attend. One of the hot-button issues on the table is the SBC’s stance on women in positions of church leadership.
Last year, Pastor Mike Law proposed an amendment to the SBC constitution that says, “I move that the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention be amended to include an enumerated 6th item under Article 3, Paragraph 1, concerning composition. The enumerated 6th item would read: ‘6. Does not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.’”
Monday morning the EC voted on whether or not to approve an EC recommendation regarding Law’s motion. The EC’s recommendation said that “the Executive Committee strongly affirms Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM), which states, ‘While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.’”
The recommendation continued, “However, the Executive Committee deems that our beliefs are most appropriately stated in our adopted statement of faith rather than in our constitution and therefore opposes a suggested amendment to SBC Constitution, Article III.”
Joshua Hetzler, an EC member from Chester, Virginia, put forward a motion in favor of removing the language in the EC’s recommendation that stated its opposition to Law’s amendment. Instead, Hetzler argued for a “posture of neutrality in handing this to the messengers.”
There have been other times when the SBC’s constitution has restated doctrines already in the BFM, said Hetzler, such as in the examples of discrimination and sexual abuse. “We’re at a cultural moment where this issue…is very confused,” said Hetzler, expressing that a constitutional amendment would empower the SBC Executive Committee in taking action against churches not in cooperation with the SBC’s position on women in church leadership.
Other EC members voiced concern regarding the consequences of embedding Southern Baptist beliefs into the Convention’s constitution and bylaws. “Is it prudent to start putting our statement of faith in our constitutional documents, and have we taken the time to analyze all the ramifications of moving this direction as a denomination and as a convention?” asked EC member Richard Spring, arguing against Hetzler’s motion.
Hetzler’s motion to make the recommendation’s language more neutral failed, and the EC voted by a significant margin to take the recommendation as is to messengers this week.
Other items of business the EC addressed included an update from Neal Hughes, chairman of the new search team for the next EC president and the election of new officers. Dr. Philip Robertson was elected as the new EC chairman and Dr. Tony Dockery as elected vice chairman.