At the Annual Meeting, messengers voted multiple times overwhelmingly in favor of complementarianism.
One of those votes included amending Article III of the SBC Constitution with a sixth requirement of churches. The exact wording of that section of Article III would read:
“The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work … which:
… 6.Affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”
If messengers in Indianapolis next year give a second affirmative vote on this motion to amend, churches will have to respond to this development.
While few churches in the SBC appear to be arguing over whether the office of pastor belongs only to men, much has been made in recent years about whether there is a difference between the office of pastor and the title of pastor. There are churches in our convention who insist they are within the guidelines of the Baptist Faith and Message because they assert that the office of pastor in a multi-staff church is only held by the senior pastor, and thus any other person with the title of pastor does not hold the office of pastor. There are churches in our convention (and they must be numerous if the messengers’ vote is any indication) who equate office of pastor with title of pastor, and thus in a multi-staff church may have multiple people in the office of pastor.
Should the amendment pass again, it is largely churches that fall into the former category that will have to adjust.
But there has been little discussion as to what responsibilities belong only to someone with the office and/or title of pastor.
I only see four possible ways these churches can respond. And three of them aren’t good for our convention.
First, some churches will voluntarily leave, or wait to be disfellowshipped from, our convention.
To those who would shrug and say, “Ok, let them,” I ask, will you increase your Cooperative Program giving to make up for this loss? To keep missionaries on the field? To keep churches being planted? To keep subsidizing the seminary educations of hundreds of current and future ministers of the Gospel?
Second, some women will lose their jobs.
Though each church in our convention has autonomy to select whomever they wish with whatever job description they wish for vocational (or volunteer) positions serving their congregations, some churches’ solution to the threat of being disfellowshipped will be to let go women serving as Children’s Pastor, Pastor of Digital Content, Student Ministries Pastor, etc. These are churches that will look closely at the job descriptions of these roles, determine that the work they are asking their employees or volunteers to do is indeed pastoral, that they neither wish the job description to change nor wish to be disfellowshipped, and thus will make the hard decision to let go those staff members. Because they are female.
If this indeed is their conviction, it is right for these churches to make this decision, but that makes it no less hard on the churches, the women, and the convention.
Again, some within our convention will shrug and say, “I’m sorry about that, but it was necessary. Why haven’t we just been hiring men for these positions to begin with?”
Simply because there aren’t enough.
Scott Pace and Shane Pruitt recently released the book Calling Out the Called. And it’s selling. Because there are more churches that need pastors than men who’ve accepted the call and submitted to the preparation necessary to fill our pulpits.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from two different sources in recent months that in Tennessee and Mississippi alone there are around 600 SBC churches without lead pastors. It’s around 10 percent of the SBC churches in those states. If that figure bears out within the whole of our convention (and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if it does), a quick Google search would tell you that equates to roughly five thousand vacant pulpits.
Our churches already need more leaders than we have. Let’s not act like adding to that number is no big deal.
Third, some women will just have their job titles changed.
I want to call this solution merely disingenuous, but I cannot: the consequences of this response are too serious. Churches that go this route will be defrauding the convention. They will be defrauding themselves. And they will be doing harm to the meaning of the title of pastor.
These responses concern me, and in the third case, downright disgust me. And the consequences for the convention are serious.
I said, however, that I see four possibilities. If you’ll hold in here with me, I’d like to propose a fourth, healthier response in another post.