Southern Baptist efforts to completely ban female pastors narrowly defeated

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment barring women from all pastoral positions, a decision that would have affected hundreds of churches, particularly minority congregations where the presence of women in pastoral positions official leadership is more common.

The constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval to pass, and the motion saying the SBC cooperates only with “churches that do not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as pastor of any kind” garnered support. 61 percent voted, compared to 38 percent who rejected. he.

Opponents of the amendment noted that there are only a few hundred SBC churches with women in any type of pastoral position — usually assistant pastors or women’s or children’s pastors — out of 47,000 SBC churches, and that the issue should be handled on a case-by-case basis. case by case. They pointed to a landslide vote Tuesday that ruled a church in Alexandria, Virginia, had not cooperated after staff said they would be comfortable hiring a woman as senior pastor.

The 14 million-member convention, the nation’s second-largest religious group, has been moving to the right since a conservative insurgency in the 1980s. Until the 1960s, there were as many women in Southern Baptist seminaries as in liberal seminaries.

The Reverend. Greg Perkins, a California pastor and president of the National African American Fellowship, a network of about 4,000 SBC churches, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that passage of the amendment would be a major blow.

“It will be a time of prayer then contemplation then decision-making. … There are many who will now think very carefully about continuing their commitment, and that breaks my heart,” Perkins said.

Perkins, whose church has a female pastor of discipleship and family life, said he believes in the “biblical mandate” that men be the senior pastors of churches.

“I don’t want us to drift into this unbiblical space, but I don’t know if we’re better served by hanging on on this issue,” he said.

The Reverend. Mike Law, the Arlington, Va., pastor who proposed the amendment, told representatives at the sprawling convention center Wednesday that the issue was following Scripture.

“Our culture may view this ban as harsh, but our God is all wise and he wrote his word for the flourishing of men and women,” he said. “Let us be extremely clear: we happily celebrate and are very grateful for the myriad women who serve the Church in many ways. This is not about women in ministry. “It’s about women in the pastoral office.”

At the SBC’s annual meeting Wednesday, a vote on a measure opposing in vitro fertilization was scheduled. “dehumanizing” and asking “the government to restrict” this practice, a sign of the growing effort of conservative evangelicals and the anti-abortion movement after the fall of the government. Roe v. Wade.

The vote on “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo” was part of a series of resolutions, which are understood to be Southern Baptist statements of belief; These are not rules with enforcement mandates.

Last year, representatives voted overwhelmingly to expel churches that had women in top pastoral leadership positions – including the Rev. Rick Warren’s massive Saddleback Church, one of the largest in the SBC. Supporters say this year’s amendment is necessary and therefore makes it clear that women cannot serve in less Roles such as women’s ministry pastor or children’s pastor.

Tuesday’s vote said the First Baptist Church of Alexandria was “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC because it has a “women’s and children’s pastor.”

First Baptist Children’s and Women’s Pastor Kim Eskridge told The Post on Wednesday that his church was reported to the SBC by neighboring Pastor Law of Arlington Baptist Church.

“My point has always been that this is something we can agree to disagree on and keep the main thing, which is sharing the message with the Lord,” said Eskridge, whose the church predates the existence of the SBC and has a typical Sunday. attendance of around 800 people.

JD Greear, a North Carolina pastor and former SBC president, told the Post Tuesday that the debate is semantic and that efforts to add mandates and rules hinder cooperation among SBC churches and distract from the issue. evangelization.

“This is a solution to a problem that is not what people make it out to be,” Greear said. “That’s the tragic thing: At a time when I think we should be celebrating women as leaders and creating better pathways for them, we just continue to tighten that framework and pour all this energy into it. It’s discouraging. I look around and we are focusing on the wrong thing.

The vote for women pastors marked a period that began in the 1980s, when conservatives took over the convention and began limiting women’s formal roles.

In 1984, the SBC passed a resolution affirming that Scripture teaches that “women do not participate in public worship to assume a role of authority over men.” In 1998, they changed their statement of faith and message – the SBC Statement of Faith – to say that a wife should “graciously submit” to her husband’s leadership, just as “the Church voluntarily submits to the leadership of Christ.

In 2000, he amended the Faith and Message statement to say that “the office of pastor is limited to men qualified by the Scriptures.”

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