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Hundreds of Pastors Call For SBC Constitutional Amendment Banning Female Pastors

By Sarah Einselen
woman ministry church female Bible
In a public letter, hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors and seminary professors are calling on the Southern Baptist Convention to bar their affiliated churches from naming a woman “as a pastor of any kind.” (Photo: Allen Taylor / Unsplash)

Hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors and seminary professors are calling on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to bar SBC churches from naming a woman “as a pastor of any kind.”

In a letter titled “A Call to Keep Our Unity,” Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, writes to the SBC’s Executive Committee in support of an amendment to the convention’s constitution. The proposed amendment states cooperating churches cannot “affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

Law’s letter is being circulated to other pastors and professors at Southern Baptist institutions for additional signatures. More than 700 Southern Baptist pastors have cosigned the letter, along with two professors at SBC seminaries.

Law proposed the amendment during the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting this past summer. His motion was referred to the executive committee to consider and report back for the 2023 annual meeting.

In his letter, Law asks the committee to recommend the amendment next year.

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“This action will bring clarity to the current confusion in our Convention, as well as ‘keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’,” Law writes, quoting Ephesians 4:3. He adds that the convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, already states that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Pastor Mike Law (Courtesy Photo)

It’s unclear how many pastors in Southern Baptist churches are women. When the SBC’s statement of faith was updated to bar women from the pastorate, less than 0.1% of SBC churches had women as senior pastors.

But the SBC’s largest cooperating church, Saddleback Church, ordained three women to associate pastor positions last year, igniting debate within the convention. The wife of Saddleback’s new lead pastor is identified as a teaching pastor, too.

Denny Burk, president of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, claimed the Bible and the SBC’s statement of faith necessitated removing Saddleback from the convention.

Florida pastor Tom Ascol, an unsuccessful candidate for SBC president this year, called on other pastors to sign Law’s letter.

However, the campaign supporting the amendment has received some pushback.

Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, noted that the SBC didn’t kick out churches for supporting slavery but now want to remove churches for allowing women to serve as a youth or children’s pastor.

And in a reply to Ascol, McKissic said on Twitter that the proposed amendment would alienate “thousands of SBC women & churches.”

Beth Moore, a Bible teacher and formerly the SBC’s highest-profile woman, left the SBC last year over concerns about racism and sexism. The denomination of the church she now attends, the Anglican Church in North America, does not ordain women as bishops, but allows dioceses to choose whether to ordain women as priests.

Historian and author Beth Allison Barr said the letter’s message was no surprise, but added she doesn’t believe it’s healthy, or even biblical.

Beth Allison Barr (Courtesy Photo)

Barr teaches at Baylor University, which was once affiliated with the SBC and has since 1990 been associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and her husband pastors a small Baptist church. Pastoring in the modern church doesn’t directly correlate to how early churches were led, she said, “so the word pastor, in the way we use it today, is something that we made up.”

She believes many in the SBC took Saddleback Church’s ordination of three women last year as a challenge. But the call for a male pastorate has its roots in the Conservative Resurgence movement decades ago within the SBC, she said.

Scholars have debated whether the Conservative Resurgence was about biblical inerrancy or about maintaining men’s power, Barr said. “I think what we’re seeing now is that these scholars who have argued that gender is at the heart of it are right.”

“It’s just the perpetuation of patriarchy,” she said of the letter. “If they don’t take a stand, then what they did with the Conservative Resurgence is going to start to unravel.”

Texas pastor Tom Buck, one of the letter’s cosigners, suggested the proposed amendment would mean Southern Baptist seminaries would also have to stop conferring pastoral ministry degrees to women.

The SBC has six seminaries in the U.S. The largest, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), affirmed this month that “men alone” could be pastors, but said it would continue graduating men and women from the seminary.

SBTS spokesman Caleb Shaw told The Roys Report (TRR) that the seminary “does not award the Master of Divinity with a concentration in pastoral studies to women.”

Similarly, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary states on its website that its Master of Divinity program in pastoral studies is designed for men going into the pastorate.

The rest of the SBC seminaries either don’t have degrees with pastoral ministry in the title or do not describe their pastoral ministry degrees as being designed for men.

One, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has previously conferred its bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry to a woman.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to accurately state the denominational affiliation of Baylor University.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.



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27 Responses

  1. How about the SBC teach their male pastors to deal with their sexual immorality issues before they worry about anything else.

    1. Glenn, second the motion. It’s so minor compared to the proverbial elephant in the living room: widespread clergy abuse scandals that were well documented by a thorough investigation completed earlier this year. Quit searching for needles in a haystack while the barn is on fire.

      1. Someone please inform Beth Allison Barr that God the Father is the original patriarch and that patriarchy is actually his design for the family and the church.

        1. Ian, grateful for the succinctness with which you express your understanding and position-taking.
          My sense then is that “patriarchy” is crucial to the design of the Old Testament. Crucial to an associated design of family and society and Church. Crucial to a designed understanding of G_d/God.
          It then seems to me that a cultural form of “patriarchy” is then found in the authoring of the New Testament, albeit the OT form of programmatic patriarchy might be taken as largely absent.
          I’m not then a supporter of sustaining patriarchy. However, given how key patriarchy is to the OT, and is not absent from the NT as a tendency; it seems to me that moving beyond this effect of patriarchy is going to necessarily involve coming to a fresh understanding of both testaments and their various design imperatives for family and society and Church and God.
          All of which leaves current Christianity in a reformation pickle.

          1. I think it’s simpler than that, Colin. The OT was written by men who lived in and propagated a patriarchal society. The religion they created reflected their mores. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the god the Israelites adopted from the Canaanite pantheon (Yahweh) and then adapted over time (losing the wife, blending in elements of the Elohim deity, and eventually becoming the one true god) would look so much like the men who created him – and “voice” a system that would protect the patriarchy.

            With the NT, you get an extension of the religion in books written by men with significant exposure to Roman thought and philosophy. So you have a gentler, somewhat liberated theology that’s still tied to the heavy patriarchy of the Old Testament source material. What you see playing out in the NT is the struggle to reconcile the two schools of thought – hence the seemingly contradictory passages about the place of women in the church.

          2. I think there is the patriarchy in terms of God’s design (God being head of man, and man being head of woman), and then there’s patriarchy in terms of culture (as we see in the OT, when women could not own property, be an heir, and could be left without protection if they did not have a male relative). I do not believe God condones the latter (we see the way He protected women in these situations throughout scripture). Patriarchy in scripture is about spiritual authority, submission and headship; it brings about order. Cultural patriarchy is about legalistic authority and male supremacy (e.g., when women could not open bank accounts without the signature of their husband or father, had their intellect and abilities questioned when they tried to enter certain fields, etc); it brings about fear.
            I believe it is the latter to which Beth Barr is objecting. It should not be upheld by the church.

    2. This was exactly my immediate reaction also. In such a broken world, how can this be at the top of their list?

  2. Well, as more and more educated women study, they aren’t going to stay in the SBC. Plus! Women will have $30 trillion dollars to invest over the next decade. You think that’s not going to matter? These guys are forcing themselves into pockets. Women will be sharing the Gospel, relating well with everyone and building the church. It will all roll out in God’s timing.

  3. I remember when my church in Bloomington, Illinois had a policy that they would not introduce any visiting pastors. My mother was a graduate of Cleveland Bible Institute, now Malone University, and was ordained by thge Ohio Meeting of Quakers and Friends. She went to church with me and I introduced her to the pastor. I thought she would be introduced. She was not to be introduced and on the way out, the pastor told me why.

  4. I’m trying to figure out what this has to do with “Restoring the Church”. Is TRR saying this is good or bad? Are they actually supporting comments like, “It’s amazing The SBC didn’t kick churches out for supporting slavery; allowed pastors who tolerated abuse to remain; didn’t remove churches who’ve practiced various forms of racism historically. Now,let a woman be a Women’s Pastor; Youth or Children’s Pastor-we can’t accept that.”…that totally conflate different issues? This line of reasoning would be thrown out in any respectable forum. Why is this abysmal use of reasoning even being given credence in writing here?

    1. As a journalistic site, we report the facts but don’t instruct people how to think about them. The comment section is a forum for open and free discussion. We are firm believers that the Spirit gives Christians the ability to discern truth from error.

      1. Julie,
        Many thanks for this.
        These days we are so used to media pre-censoring content that some are surprised when it doesn’t occur, I guess.

      2. Julie, I’d call your site journalistic with a definite leftist bent against traditional evangelicalism. Thank you for providing an “open” forum for discussion; I only qualify “open” because several of my obscenity-free, threat-free comments were never posted, obviously for ideological difference reasons.

        If you’d just be open about your ideological bent, it would make everyone more comfortable. I’d much rather face a known opponent than a covert pretender.

        1. the ideological bent is against the abuses of power, which traditional evangelicalism seems to be rife with…

        2. isn’t it possible that a perspective that differs from yours simply be different, rather than ‘left’? and isn’t it possible that there could be some merit and something worth considering in a different way of looking at things?

          or are you always right?

          why the knee-jerk reaction to frame things in a hostile, combative way (opponent)?

          it is implausible that the answers are always “right” or always “left”. dangerous, even. the answers are more apt to be in the messy middle.

          wisdom and truth are simply not on the extreme ends.
          life is too complex and many-sided for homogeneity. instead of holding on to polar side of the pool, a wise person lets go and learns to swim further out.

      3. I agree with everything you say here in your comment.

        As for the article though, let’s do the math here. This site reports the abuses going on in the church at large, which is commendable. (I support this site.) That will, by its nature, attract many who are also still in a stage of healing and recovery from that in their own lives. During that time, it is very easy to lean towards opposite extremes. For example: If a woman was abused by male leadership, the conclusion that many come to is to avoid male leadership, or that it “always” leads to abuse.

        So yes, I sometimes question the prayerfulness and consideration being taken before the “publish” button is clicked. I understand TRR is reporting facts; however, no one can ever report all the facts, so the facts that are reported will *always* have a bias to them; it is inevitable. I simply question what that bias is when I see this pattern.

    2. I believe that even though the SBC needs to focus on its sexual crimes, I believe this is progress to a more biblical denomination. It is perfectly clear throughout scripture that women are not to be pastors and not lead men. Womens group and children ministry is fine, but women are not commanded to teach men. Why do women want to teach men, why don’t they want to teach women and children like God commanded them?

      1. My issue is that it’s not always that women “want to teach men”. I recall when Beth Moore was just a Sunday school teacher of a women’s class. As her class grew in size and popularity, men started sitting in. When first asked about it, she questioned whether she should stop teaching when she sees a man enter, or if she should continue with her lesson, focusing on the greater (heavily female) congregation before her.
        I use Beth as an example only because I’ve heard other prominent women teachers say the same – they deem themselves to be women’s ministry leaders or teachers, yet men started coming so they just didn’t turn them away.
        I often wonder, why only ask the women? I mean, why does no one ask the men why they chose to sit in on a woman’s class?

  5. Way to keep your eye on the ball, SBC. I mean, this is clearly what you should be focusing on INSTEAD OF PROTECTING VULNERABLE PEOPLE FROM SEXUAL ABUSE.

    Sorry for yelling. But dang if these men aren’t exasperating.

  6. Dear Sirs: What will happen if when I am ministering in Sunday school or the nursery, I accidentally impart Biblical wisdom? Additionally, should not these most vulnerable and spiritually immature congregants be lead by those designated as pastors? Perhaps women should teach the adult lessons to mature Christians to lower the risk of spiritual damage. Will the church ever recover from decades of the maternal pastoring of children?

  7. Looks like the Southern Baptists (And other Evangelicals) are practicing their ‘selective literalism” again.

  8. Beth Barr is largely on target, I think. “Pastor” as an organisational title is completely absent from the early church, and more reflects the Reformation’s half-hearted break from Rome. The ‘priest’ has become the ‘pastor’. Neither are scriptural.
    So, that out of the way, where are we left?
    What is clearly scriptural is a plurality of caring elders; not ‘commanders’ or ‘archons’. So not ‘leaders’, as Americans love to designate anyone they can. There are hints in the pastorals that older women were also elders…and this a relational function, not an ‘office’!
    But the hurdle that has to be cleared is that Paul in Galatians 3:28 tells as that distinctions of sex are nugatory in the church. Everything has to be read in this light.
    OTOH, I would not want to toss around the scare word ‘patriarchy’. This was the social form in ancient times for good reason in those times. God used it to build the nation that would bring Messiah. This is separate from it being a paradigm for family organisation, let alone church organization.
    And finally, the harping on ‘head’ steps right past Paul’s use of the ‘head’ relationships to point back to Genesis 1, not to create a command system, but to remind his readers as to the creation, in contrast to the paganism of the times which included female deities that would disparage male-ness.

    1. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
      ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬


    2. Pastor seems to be a vague term that people infer different meanings into. Pastor is probably most rightly translated as shepherd, not the organizational leadership role so many want to place on the term or title “pastor.” Americans tend to view church as a business structure as opposed to a community. Are these SBC men saying that women cannot shepherd others or are they saying that women cannot have a leadership role in their business organization?

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