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NAMB Regional Director Admits They Have No Problem With Women Preachers

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Feminism, News, Opinion, Religion, Social-Issues, The Church

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If you’ve been following the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), you’re probably aware of its latest debacle, a battle over women preachers. As a few remaining conservatives in the denomination fight to pass what is known as the Law Amendment, an amendment to the bylaws that would strictly disallow churches with women functioning as pastors in the SBC from cooperating with the SBC, there is a sizeable group of liberals fighting against its passage.

Men—like former SBC president, JD Greear, who argues that the Bible only “whispers” about homosexuality—apparently also believe that the Bible only whispers about women in the pastorate, despite the clear teaching Scripture against it. This sentiment is deeply ingrained within the liberal faction of the SBC, as current presidential nominee, Bruce Frank, who promotes witchcraft through the use of the Enneagram, is also opposed to the Law Amendment.

And while the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the church-planting wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, has often argued that it takes a conservative stance on such issues, behind the scenes, this is clearly not the case, as NAMB leaders have often been caught speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

In a series of emails that have recently come to light, Dean Fulk, the Regional Director for the Ohio Valley Region at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), clarified the organization’s lack of conviction on the issue of women preaching. This topic has been a point of debate within many church communities, particularly among those holding to complementarian views.

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The email thread, originating in June 2021, reveals an inquiry made by a church leader seeking to understand NAMB’s official stance on women preaching during worship services. Dean Fulk responded by stating that NAMB does not have an official position on this issue. Instead, NAMB simply requires its endorsed church planters to adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which asserts that the office of pastor is limited to qualified men, but then explains that the interpretation of whether women can preach is left to the discretion of each local congregation.

Fulk’s response was the typical run-around that we’ve heard from NAMB leaders over the last several years—that this “interpretive” flexibility allows individual churches to make their own decisions regarding women’s roles in preaching and teaching. He explained, “So, having a female speak from stage would be an interpretive issue to be worked out by each individual congregation.” This approach shifts the responsibility of holding member churches accountable from NAMB by deferring to “local church autonomy” on doctrinal matters that they argue are not explicitly defined in their guiding documents.

Interestingly enough, however, some issues that are not “explicitly defined” in the SBC’s governing documents are non-negotiable for NAMB. In a recorded phone conversation I listened to between one Southern Baptist pastor and the Kevin Ezell, the president of NAMB, drinking a Bud Lite will automatically disqualify a church or church planter from assistance from NAMB, despite the wide range of interpretations on this doctrinal issue and no mention of it in the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message. A church being accused of “racism” or “White supremacy” will also disqualify a church.

But women pastors, not so much—it’s a matter of church autonomy and interpretation, according to NAMB leaders.

The church leader who initiated the inquiry in the email thread above expressed surprise and concern over Fulk’s stance, as it appeared to conflict with their understanding of complementarian theology, which restricts pastoral and preaching roles to men. Seeking further clarification, the church leader questioned how Fulk, a regional director for NAMB, could reconcile this stance with their conscience and continue to serve in their role while supporting church planters who might contradict his own interpretation.

In another email exchange between the church planter and Kevin Ezell, Ezell further revealed that NAMB’s stance on women in the pulpit is extremely compromised. The exchange began with the other church leader’s notice of intent to cancel their contract with NAMB, due to this disagreement over women pastors and interpretative freedom.

After the church planter emailed NAMB a notice of intent to cancel the contract, Kevin Ezell, President of NAMB, replied arguing that NAMB’s interpretation does not allow women to hold the office of pastor but leaves the decision of who may preach to the discretion of individual local churches. Ezell argues that this stance aligns with the BF&M and allows local autonomy.

Further demonstrating how these men who should be leading Southern Baptists with doctrinal conviction and clarity instead speak out of both sides of their mouths, Ezell argues that their positions is against women pastors, and while saying that they “would never say that” about permitting women pastors, the only logical conclusion is that they do. Of course they do, because they’ve continued to argue that other churches can “interpret” the BF&M however they choose, and do what they want. Again, they wouldn’t allow such “interpretive freedom” with infant baptism, drinking alcohol, or any other issue, but they allow such freedom with women pastors. I’ll submit to you that the problem here is the feminization of Southern Baptist leadership and the refusal of these men to act like men.

Fulk’s and Ezells’s responses demonstrate the compromised and pragmatic position NAMB takes rather than any clear conviction that any of the leaders claim to have. This revelation about NAMB’s stance on women preaching is significant. It illustrates a broader trend within Baptist circles towards allowing local churches greater interpretive freedom on certain doctrinal issues, which always leads to compromise on the gospel. While the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 clearly restricts the office of pastor to men, this demonstrates the need for the Law Amendment, which would set strict, biblical guidelines for cooperating Southern Baptist Churches.

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