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SBC Will Not Add Language Banning Women Pastors to Constitution; Law Amendment Fails To Get Two-Thirds Majority

Mike Law
Mike Law speaking at the SBC at a Crossroads event at the 2024 annual meeting in Indianapolis. Photo credit: ChurchLeaders

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers failed to get enough votes to approve an amendment to the SBC constitution banning women from holding the office of pastor. The change, authored by Pastor Mike Law and known as the Law Amendment, would have added a doctrinal position that is stated in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM) but is not present in the convention’s constitution.

“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,” said Mike Law in a letter to the SBC’s Executive Committee (EC). “The enumerated 6th item would read: ‘6. Does not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.’”

The results of a vote taken by written ballot were announced just before messengers broke for lunch Wednesday, June 12. Out of the 10,942 messengers present at the meeting, 5,099 (61.45%) voted in favor of the amendment, and 3,185 (38.38%) voted against it. 

Law Amendment Banning Women Pastors Fails

Mike Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, introduced his amendment in 2022 at the SBC annual meeting that took place in Anaheim, California. Law brought the amendment after learning there were “five Southern Baptist churches, roughly within a five-mile radius of my own congregation…employing women as pastors of various kinds, including women serving as ‘Sr. Pastor.’” See here for a detailed timeline of events surrounding the amendment.

When they met the day before the 2023 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, the EC decided to bring the Law Amendment to messengers for a vote, despite the committee stating its opposition to the amendment on the grounds that the convention’s views on the topic of women’s ordination are already adequately stated in the BFM.

The BFM says, “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.”

Proponents of the amendment have argued that Scripture is clear, as is the BFM, that women should not be pastors, so an amended constitution would merely reiterate a belief that Southern Baptists already affirm. Furthermore, churches that are in line with the SBC’s values would not be impacted by the adoption of the amendment.

Opponents have countered that because the BFM already states that women cannot be pastors, the Law Amendment is unnecessary. Also, some have expressed concern regarding churches where women serve in roles such as children’s pastor, saying these churches could be unfairly disfellowshipped because of the word “pastor” despite the churches being complementarian in practice. 

In addition to seeing a problem with a growing number of churches ordaining women as pastors, Law and his supporters have drawn attention to the Credentials Committee’s decision in 2022 to withdraw a recommendation it had made to disfellowship Saddleback Church over Saddleback’s ordination of female pastors. 

The committee decided not to call for Saddleback to be disfellowshipped at that time “until clarity is provided regarding the use of the title ‘pastor’ for staff positions with different responsibility and authority than that of the lead pastor.” Saddleback Church was later disfellowshipped at the 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans. 

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