NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Executive Committee members approved a recommendation at their June 11 meeting to place a motion before messengers concerning whether churches that have women pastors should be considered outside the bounds of cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The motion, introduced to messengers at last year’s SBC annual meeting by Virginia pastor Mike Law, calls for an amendment to the SBC Constitution whereby a sixth identifier would be placed to Article III, paragraph 1. Churches “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC, it stated, would “not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”
While the recommendation is for messengers to decide the fate of the motion, the Executive Committee also expressed its “opposition to the suggested amendment.”
The EC “strongly affirms” Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 that limits the office of pastor to men “as qualified by Scripture,” the recommendation stated.
“However,” it continued, “the Executive Committee deems that our beliefs are most appropriately stated in our adopted statement of faith rather than in our constitution and therefore opposes a suggested amendment to SBC Constitution, Article III, which would unnecessarily restate the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article VI.”
Trustee Josh Hetzler proposed an amendment to the recommendation striking language in order to make it “more neutral.”
Hetzler’s amendment had been voted down in committee, Missions and Ministry committee chair Richard Spring explained, adding that it came down to a matter of “governance and procedure.”
Reiterating that the recommendation was going to the messengers, Spring questioned the wisdom of “putting our statement of faith in our constitutional documents.”
“Have we taken the time to analyze all the ramifications of moving in this direction as a denomination and convention?” he asked.
“The Executive Committee has historically not spoken to theology issues; we let the messengers make those determinations.”
The vote will go before messengers during the Executive Committee report on Wednesday morning (June 14).
New officers elected
When two rounds of stand-up voting yielded no clear leader, Russ Barksdale removed his name from consideration and cleared the way for Philip Robertson to become the new EC chair.
Stacy Bramlett nominated Robertson, while Barksdale was nominated by David Sons, who said he would remain a trustee while declining to serve as chair again in order to focus on his church and young family.
With 83 Executive Committee members, 42 votes were needed for a majority. The absence of a handful of members for various reasons led to an initial vote of 36-35, favoring Barksdale. A second round brought 35 votes each.
Last year, Robertson, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Pineville, La., removed himself from consideration for vice chairman in a similar situation. Sons, who was then elected vice chair, became chair earlier this year with the resignation of Jared Wellman.
Other officers elected were vice chair Anthony Dockery, pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif., and secretary Pam Reed, member of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Reports from McLaurin, Barber
Interim EC President and CEO Willie McLaurin reported above-budget Cooperative Program receipts for the month of May as well as plans to celebrate CP’s 100th birthday in 2025 as part of “putting the spotlight on the headquarters of the SBC – the local church.”
“The centennial celebration will be a time for us to honor the past and launch a vision for the future of Cooperative Program engagement,” he said.
A team consisting of state convention leaders and national entity partners have already been at work “to lay the groundwork for this historic celebration,” said McLaurin.
There is “much to celebrate,” he added, such as the largest international missionary sending agency in the world with the International Mission Board and largest church-planting network through the North American Mission Board.
Among those churches planted by Southern Baptists, 60 percent are racially and ethnically diverse. Collective baptism numbers have increased. Messengers have “overwhelmingly approved” steps for sexual abuse reforms to make churches safer for those most vulnerable, McLaurin said.
SBC President Bart Barber greeted trustees, followed with an admission that despite our devotion to Christ, it can be challenging to follow His admonition to “not be anxious about anything.”
“It is a time of difference of opinion [and] conflict at times,” he said. “I hear people talk about their concerns for the Southern Baptist Convention and half the time it’s about things that they think we might do, not what we’re doing today.”
Instead of being anxious, he said, bring those matters in prayer to God. Then … listen.
“How about we expect and pray that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which cannot be explained in a press conference, which cannot be analyzed and picked apart but is divine in nature – how about we expect that the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds – and dear Father, let it be, my mouth … in Christ Jesus. “