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Mohler agrees with amendment to Baptist Faith and Message, shares concern about process

Albert Mohler was a guest on Baptist Press This Week released July 6. (screen capture)

NASHVILLE (BP) – A leading voice in the SBC believes the amendment to the Baptist Faith and Message made by messengers to the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting helps clarify what Southern Baptists believe about the office of pastor. But R. Albert Mohler Jr. has some concerns about the way the amendment was made.

Messengers approved a motion by Jared Cornutt, pastor of North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., to amend Article 6 of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BF&M) to add elder/overseer alongside pastor.

“That was actually the language that I wanted to see in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Mohler said in a Baptist Press This Week interview.

Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he deferred to Adrian Rogers to leave the title simply as pastor. The late Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in the Memphis area at the time, served as the chair of the committee.

“He said that pastor is one word Southern Baptists can’t mess up,” Mohler said of Rogers. “We’re testing that theory.”

Mohler said that while pastor is the most commonly used title in Southern Baptist churches, he preferred the inclusion of elder and overseer “based on the New Testament language,” and because the words were used in the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, the statement of faith that greatly influenced the first Baptist Faith and Message in 1925.

Mohler’s concerns about the process are based on how the sudden change could impact SBC entities.

The motion to amend the BF&M was made by Cornutt during the first day of the meeting in New Orleans. Cornutt told Baptist Press he was surprised that the Committee on the Order of Business (COB) allowed the motion to come directly to the floor for vote the next day.

The committee, though, determined the language of the motion dictated it be dealt with in New Orleans.

“It specifically asked for this year’s convention to take action,” Spence Shelton, 2023 COB chair and pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, N.C., told BP. “In this particular motion the COB, in counsel with president and our parliamentarians, spent considerable time coming to the conclusion that the appropriate parliamentary procedure was to allow the convention to decide on the proposed amendment as requested by the motion-maker.”

“Messengers really do have power to bring motions which the convention will deal with,” Mohler said.

Mohler said a quick change could have “charter implications” as “SBC entities are fully accountable to the Baptist Faith and Message”.

Some SBC entities include the language of the BF&M in employees’ contract, Mohler said. When the amendment is made over the span of a couple of SBC Annual Meetings, it gives them time to prepare legal and business documents to be prepared for the proposed change.

In the end, Mohler believes the change to the Convention’s statement of faith helps to bring clarity.

“I don’t think the Southern Baptist Convention has ever leaned into ambiguity, and I think that’s a part of the strength of the SBC,” he said.

Reporting from Scott Barkley is included in this article.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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