Over the last several years, the Southern Baptist Convention has been embroiled in contentious debate after contentious debate. While the denomination has been bickering over everything from LGBTQ inclusion to Critical Race Theory, the current war between conservatives and liberals is the ordination of women to the pastorate in Southern Baptist churches.
During the annual meeting in 2022, the Southern Baptist Convention brought a motion to the floor seeking to disfellowship one of the largest congregations in the denomination, Saddleback Church. At the time, Saddleback was pastored by Rick Warren but had been entangled in controversy over its ordination of three women to the pastorate the previous year. Over a year later, after Warren and Saddleback had gone through the credentials committee’s process, the committee came to no conclusion or recommendation on the proposed disfellowship of Saddleback and, instead, recommended the denomination form another committee to research the definition of “pastor” as it relates to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
While Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) was the only person to speak against the credentials committee’s resolution to form a committee to research the definition of “pastor” (as this was an absurd recommendation, rightly noted by Mohler), other Southern Baptist leaders took a softer stance and, instead, defended the “freedom” of Southern Baptist churches to do as they please with the pastorate. One such leader was Adam Greenway, who recently resigned from his post at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) amid charges of incompetency by the board of trustees. Following the annual meeting, Greenway went on the offensive attacking the biblical doctrine of Complementarianism and arguing relentlessly that the Baptist Faith and Message does indeed allow for women pastors.
Fast forward to October 2022, and it has come to light that Saddleback Church’s new pastor, Andy Wood, also supports women pastors, and according to an article in the Associated Press, his wife, Stacie, is “the congregation’s newest teaching pastor.” Complicating matters, Andy Wood’s former church, Echo Church, was supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) while Stacie was an ordained “teaching pastor” at that church.
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As the fight for biblical orthodoxy rages on in the Southern Baptist Convention, conservatives are losing battle after battle as conservatives continue to be outvoted at annual meetings for leadership roles by moderate-left candidates. At the 2022 annual meeting, the two top conservatives for leadership, Tom Ascol and Voddie Baucham, for president of the Convention and the Pastors’ Conference, respectively, were both outvoted by their moderate-left opponents.
While many have given up hope for the denomination and moved on, some are hanging on and hoping to restore orthodoxy by continuing to speak out and fight. One such fighter is Michael Law of Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, VA. In an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, Law says there are five Southern Baptist churches within five miles of his own congregation that have ordained women to the pastorate and calls on the body to recommend a Constitutional amendment banning such practices. Law writes in the letter:
Personally, I felt the need to offer this amendment because five Southern Baptist churches, roughly within a five-mile radius of my own congregation, are employing women as pastors of various kinds, including women serving as “Sr. Pastor.” Many others have found that a number of Southern Baptist churches appoint, affirm, or employ women as pastors in their areas, too. These churches often use a modified title – co-pastor, worship pastor, women and children’s pastor, discipleship pastor, or youth pastor – but all trade on the office of “pastor.”
Currently, the open letter has 558 signatures from other Southern Baptist pastors who share the sentiment.