Al Mohler has an article this morning called, “Women Pastors, Women Preachers, and the Looming Test of the Southern Baptist Convention.” I certainly share his convictions regarding women serving as pastors and/or preaching when the church is gathered on the Lord’s Day. I believe Scripture is very clear with the answers it provides to those questions. I agree with Dr. Mohler that 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 are the most helpful biblical texts in answering these questions.
But while I share Dr. Mohler’s convictions, I do not share his feeling of alarm. Dr. Mohler quotes from 1 Kings 18:44-45 and argues that the question of women serving as pastors and/or preachers is now a storm within the Southern Baptist Convention rather than merely a small cloud. Let me just share a few reasons why I’m not particularly concerned, at least not yet.
1) As Dr. Mohler acknowledges, all of our Southern Baptist entities affirm and adhere to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 which clearly limits the office of pastor to qualified men.
Prior to the Conservative Resurgence, as Dr. Mohler notes, our seminaries were full of people who believed and taught that women could serve in the office of pastor. That is simply not the case right now. I don’t know of anyone teaching in one of our seminaries who believes that women can serve in the office of pastor. All our seminary faculty have publicly affirmed the BF&M.
If anyone can clearly demonstrate where one of our seminary faculty members is teaching contrary to the BF&M, I will join you in calling for their removal. The same goes for all the other little storm clouds swirling about the Southern Baptist Convention right now. Let’s see the evidence. From where I stand, the current controversies are about narrowing our doctrinal parameters, not upholding the ones to which we’ve already agreed. Count me among those strongly opposed to any narrowing of our current doctrinal parameters for friendly cooperation.
2) There has never been a time since the Conservative Resurgence when there were no Southern Baptist Churches with a woman serving as pastor or preaching on the Lord’s Day.
Some of you who think women preaching and pastoring SBC churches was completely rooted out of the SBC in 2000 should come visit me in Virginia. I can take you to SBC churches across our Commonwealth that have or have had a woman preach and/or serve the church as a pastor. These churches are not actively involved in the SBC. Most of them send a little bit of money to LMCO for historical reasons, but they cooperate mostly with the CBF. In fact, one of the Virginia state conventions affirms women serving in the office of pastor and had a woman pastor as its convention president just a few years ago.
Southern Baptists have been unconcerned with this reality until very recently. Part of that, I assume, has to do with awareness. Social media allows us to be right up in the middle of everyone else’s business. The other part has to do with those who think they have been given the ministry of discernment and heresy hunting. For some, if they are not fighting perceived liberalism, then they are being unfaithful. Just chill out a bit. I’m content to ensure that our convention remains committed to conservative theology as described in the BF&M2K and let others pastor their own churches while I pastor mine.
3) Saddleback Church is certainly one of the largest Southern Baptist Churches on paper, but when I think Saddleback, I don’t think Southern Baptist.
Julie Roys wrote an article on Saturday called “Saddleback Church Ordains 3 Women Pastors, Defying Southern Baptist Position.” I don’t want to get caught in the weeds, but “ignoring” may be a better word there than “defying.” I doubt the leaders of Saddleback were thinking about the BF&M or the position of the SBC when they made their decision to ordain three women as pastors. I’m speculating here, but it really goes back to the reality that Saddleback was hardly SBC prior to this decision. SBC in name only.
Are there any members of Saddleback Church serving on any boards or committees in the SBC? Maybe there are. I don’t know. If so, I would support their removal. How much does Saddleback give to the SBC anyway? I can’t imagine it’s a lot. Maybe I’m wrong. But as long as they want to keep sending the check, I’m fine with the EC cashing it. As long as we’re cashing checks from the Baptist General Association of Virginia, we should keep cashing Saddleback’s checks. Our doctrinal purity isn’t compromised by using money they send to support missionaries who are in agreement with the BF&M.
4) While there is disagreement along the spectrum of complementarianism among Southern Baptists, I don’t know any actively involved Southern Baptists who would consider themselves an egalitarian.
Is anyone scheduled to be on the platform at the SBC this year an egalitarian? I don’t know of anyone. I think it is safe to assume that 99% of messengers to the annual meeting this year fall somewhere along the complementarian spectrum. Do I wish that number was 100%? Sure. Am I worried about the fact that it’s likely not 100%? No. I’m certainly not interested in trying to root out the 1%.
I’m not arguing that this could never become a problem in the SBC. It has been a problem in the past. It could certainly become a problem in the future. The church I pastor would not be interested in supporting seminaries or mission agencies that do not affirm the BF&M position against women serving as pastors. We would take our mission dollars elsewhere if that’s the direction the SBC chooses to go at some point in the future. But presently, we are a long way from that.
I’m far more concerned about the heresy hunting I see in the SBC right now. The SBC might choose to go down that path too, but it also would eventually lead to our church taking our mission dollars and spending them elsewhere.
Let’s be diligent to ensure that our convention remains committed to our agreed upon statement of faith. But let’s not attempt to narrow the parameters of cooperation further. There’s a lost world out there in need of Jesus, but right now all they see us doing is fighting amongst ourselves.