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SBC DIGEST: Several states address role of women in ministry

SBTC postpones enactment of new rule clarifying ‘pastor’

By Diana Chandler

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) – Southern Baptists of Texas (SBTC) Nov. 14 delayed implementation of a rule interpreting “pastor” in the SBTC Constitution as any position including pastor in its title, whether senior or subordinate ministerial staff.

Messengers to the state convention’s 2023 annual meeting amended the rule adopted in 2022 clarifying the interpretation of “pastor” in Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, pushing its implementation from January 2024 to January 2025.

The postponement only impacts churches currently affiliated with the SBTC, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick told Baptist Press. For churches seeking affiliation, the interpretation became effective immediately upon its passage at the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting.

The SBTC Executive Board advised messengers to delay implementing the new interpretation until the SBC Cooperation Group completes its study of what determines friendly cooperation with the SBC, Lorick said.

The rule doesn’t change the wording of the Constitution itself.

The rule states “That the SBTC, for purposes of affiliation, interpret the language in the SBTC Constitution, Article IV, Section 1, to refer not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun ‘pastor,’ with the proviso that this new interpretation take effect regarding presently affiliated churches January 1, 2025.”

The delay was in line with SBC President Bart Barber’s August 2023 statement asking “local associations and state conventions within the SBC family to press ‘pause’ on any ongoing work they may be conducting or motions they may be considering that involve the nature of what it means to be a church in friendly cooperation with sister Southern Baptist churches.”

The SBTC referenced Barber’s request in asking messengers for the delay.

Barber appointed a Cooperation Group to study the determinants of church cooperation after messengers to the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting approved its creation.

VGAB approves task force on women pastors

By Ken Camp/Baptist Standard

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – The Baptist General Association of Virginia approved a motion to create a task force to explore ways to “support and advocate for women in pastoral, ministerial and leadership roles.”

In doing so, Virginia Baptists clearly differentiated themselves from the position taken by the Southern Baptist Convention in June, limiting the pastoral office only to men and ousting churches that have women pastors on staff.

During the BGAV annual meeting at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion introduced by Kristin Whitesides, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winchester, Va.

The motion stated: “I move that the Executive Board of the Baptist General Association of Virginia appoint a seven-member task force to explore programs, resources, policies, initiatives and relationships which further support and advocate for women in pastoral, ministerial and leadership roles among Virginia Baptists, and that the task force present a report of findings and recommendations to the messengers of the 2024 Baptist General Association of Virginia annual meeting.”

In speaking to her motion, Whitesides said: “As women in ministry, we have answered the Spirit’s calling on our lives to serve God’s purposes in the world. We teach, and we preach. We pray and we serve. We visit hospitals and bedsides, plan mission trips and lead Vacation Bible School.

“Our ministry does not denigrate or undercut the ministry of men. Instead, it enhances, deepens and expands our shared mission. We are an integral part of the church’s work, whether we are ordained or not.

“However, all too often, we are viewed as an exception rather than as exceptional. We are tolerated rather than celebrated. We believe the BGAV can do more and be more when our voices are valued and our perspectives are sought out.”

No messengers spoke in opposition to the motion.

North Carolina, Tennessee Baptists pass resolutions

Several weeks earlier, messengers to the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina approved a resolution on women in ministry urging North Carolina Baptists to “work together to commission, train, support and elevate women to lead in all aspects of church ministry and to go and make disciples while serving courageously, giving sacrificially and praying continually, in order to effectively impart the faith to the next generation.”

Tennessee Baptists also passed a resolution “Recognizing and Honoring the Significant Role of Women in Both the Bible and in Baptist Life” at their meeting today, Nov. 15.

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