Southern Baptists reject ban on women pastors in historic vote

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday rejected adding language to its constitution that would ban women from serving as pastors or elders in the church.

The vote at the annual SBC meeting gave a win to churches within the denomination that seek to maintain local church authority over who can serve as pastor and in what capacity.

The vote came after two years of dispute over the policy that has seen churches ousted from the denomination over their insistence that a woman is as qualified as a man to deliver a sermon and attend to the duties of a cleric.

The amendment would have added language to the denomination’s constitution saying that “only men” could be affirmed or employed “as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture,” The New York Times reported.

According to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, women cannot be pastors or elders in a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The Faith and Message makes clear “the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture” and cites 1 Timothy 2:9-14, 1 Timothy 3:1-15 and Titus 2:3-5, along with various other Biblical passages.

Churches that have a female functioning in the office of pastor are considered not “in friendly cooperation” with the convention, and churches such as Saddleback Church in California — the largest Baptist church in the state — and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky were removed last year from the convention.

While they were set to vote on the amendment on Wednesday, on Tuesday, the convention overwhelmingly approved the ouster of First Baptist Church Alexandria in Virginia for holding to an egalitarian view of women in ministry, The Associated Press reported.

“First Baptist Alexandria stands before you as a testament that we can maintain a fruitful partnership with churches that take a different stance on women in ministry,” said FBC Alexandria senior pastor Robert Stephens during a floor debate Tuesday afternoon.

The SBC, which has nearly 13 million members across the U.S., has disfellowshipped seven churches for allowing women in roles traditionally held by men.

“Is this amendment necessary for the convention to respond when churches in our convention act in a way contrary to our complementarian doctrine?” North Carolina pastor Spence Shelton said in a speech against the measure during a brief floor debate Wednesday.

“We showed last year we have an effective mechanism,” Shelton said. “It allows us to act with conviction and unity when it comes to this issue.”

Pastor Mike Law, who proposed the amendment, on Tuesday called on God in prayer to help the amendment pass.

“If we compromise our message, we will corrode our mission,” Law said on Tuesday at a lunch meeting that concluded in prayer for the amendment’s passage. “If we want the big giant ship of the Southern Baptist Convention to go for the long haul, a little leak is not OK. And the leak is growing.”

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