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SBC Cooperation Group Recommends Against Using Harsh Terms Like “Disfellowship” When Booting Churches With Women Pastors

by | May 2, 2024 | Feminism, News, Religion, Social-Issues, The Church

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The Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperation Group, which was formed to study make recommendations on the role of women in the pastorate in the Southern Baptist Convention, released a draft of four recommendations for the upcoming convention. The group has recommended swapping the term “disfellowship” for “not in friendly cooperation” in official parlance. This change, they suggest, is to avoid the harsh implications of the former term. However, the timing and nature of this suggestion hint at a deeper strategic play—one that might be aimed at influencing the Convention’s stance on more contentious issues, such as the ordination of women to the pastorate.

The backdrop to this linguistic recommendation is the Mike Law Amendment, a proposed measure focused squarely on churches that appoint women as pastors—a practice diametrically at odds with the biblical qualification of pastors, elders, and overseers as outlined in the Baptist Faith & Message. The Amendment represents a firm stance on what is a clear-cut biblical issue, maintaining doctrinal integrity and adherence to Scripture.

So why the sudden concern over the term “disfellowship”? To the skeptical observer, it appears the Cooperation Group might be attempting to soften the denominational posture indirectly. By focusing on the supposedly harsh nature of “disfellowship,” the Group is likely manipulating the messengers by signaling that the Convention’s approach, particularly towards churches with women pastors, is overly severe—a subtle bid to sway the messengers’ collective opinion, framing the entire debate around women pastors as unnecessarily rigid and uncharitable.

This focus on semantics might seem minor, but in the battleground of theological disputes, words carry significant weight. “Disfellowship” conveys a definitive separation from established norms—a serious step that communicates the gravity of doctrinal breaches. Replacing it with a milder term dilutes the severity of such violations of God’s statutes, possibly leading messengers to view the Mike Law Amendment as an extreme response rather than a necessary upholding of Baptist standards.

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This is a classic case of focusing on optics over substance, a strategic redirection rather than a genuine concern for linguistic clarity. It raises questions about whether the real agenda is to protect the denomination’s doctrinal boundaries or to ensure that the discussion remains palatable to a broader, potentially more progressive audience.

As the Southern Baptist Convention gears up for its pivotal gathering, the implications of this seemingly innocuous recommendation could extend far beyond vocabulary. Don’t be duped, in theological debates, as in politics, every word matters—and sometimes, a change in terminology can result a whole new direction in policy.

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