Southern Baptists Narrowly Vote Against Great Constitutional Ban on Women Pastors

By Jun 15, 2024

Southern Baptists Narrowly Vote

Southern-The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently held a significant vote regarding a proposal to formally ban churches with women pastors from the denomination’s constitution. This proposal was narrowly rejected on Wednesday, following intense debates among the delegates. Although the proposal received support from 61% of the delegates, it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds supermajority, thus reversing a preliminary vote from the previous year that had favored the ban.

The current doctrinal stance of the Southern Baptist Convention already restricts the role of pastor to men, as stipulated in their official statement of faith. Opponents of the proposed amendment argued that this existing doctrinal statement is sufficient, and that additional reinforcement in the constitution was unnecessary. They emphasized that the SBC already has mechanisms in place to remove churches that contravene this rule, as demonstrated by the recent ousting of several churches that employed women pastors.


The meeting, held over two days in Indianapolis, culminated in this decisive vote.

Since the year 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention’s nonbinding statement of faith has declared that only men are qualified for the pastoral role. Interpretations of this statement vary within the denomination, with some believing it only applies to senior pastors, allowing women to serve as associate pastors as long as the senior pastor is male.

This would include roles from lead pastor to associates or even churches that simply affirm women in pastoral roles.

The rejected amendment proposed that any church deemed in “friendly cooperation” with the SBC must only affirm, appoint, or employ men as pastors or elders, in accordance with scriptural qualifications. Opponents contended that the convention already possesses the authority to remove churches over this issue, and warned that the amendment could have unintended consequences, such as disproportionately affecting Black Southern Baptist congregations, which are more likely to have women on their pastoral staffs.

He argued that there is considerable confusion about gender roles in wider culture, citing the influence of what he termed “the ravages of the LGBTQIA agenda.”

Conversely, Spence Shelton, pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, argued against the necessity of the amendment. He pointed out that Southern Baptists are already complementarian, a belief that men and women have equal value but different roles that complement each other. Shelton highlighted the convention’s recent decisions to expel several churches with women pastors, including the prominent Virginia church and the California megachurch Saddleback, as evidence that the current mechanisms are sufficient.

Mike Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Virginia and the author of the amendment, emphasized that his proposal was about upholding biblical teachings, not about limiting women’s roles in ministry. He cited scripture to support the restriction of the pastoral office to men and mentioned a report indicating that there are about 1,800 women pastors in the denomination.

The Southern Baptist Convention, while unable to dictate the actions of its independent churches, does hold the authority to determine which churches are in “friendly cooperation” with the denomination. This allows the SBC to set membership standards and exclude churches that do not comply with its doctrinal positions.

Last year, the SBC upheld the decision to expel Saddleback, one of its largest congregations, and a small Kentucky church, both of which had women in senior pastoral roles. These churches had appealed their ouster at the 2023 annual meeting but were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegates. A similar situation occurred in Indianapolis, where messengers voted to expel First Baptist Church of Alexandria in Virginia, which had a woman in an associate pastoral position and asserted that women could hold senior pastoral roles.

Supporters of the amendment believe it would not result in an immediate large-scale purge of churches, but opponents expressed concerns about the potential burden on SBC volunteers and staff to investigate numerous churches.

In addition to the vote on the amendment, delegates also elected Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pressley, a longtime denominational statesman, won after a contested election that went into two run-off votes. As SBC president, Pressley will preside over the annual meeting and appoint members to the denomination’s committees. He has expressed support for the proposed amendment to ban churches with women pastors.

Pressley holds a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, an SBC institution, and has led Hickory Grove since 2011. His previous roles include pastoring churches in Alabama and Mississippi, serving as first vice president of the SBC in 2014-15, and holding various positions on denominational boards.

Additionally, delegates rejected a proposal to abolish the SBC’s public policy agency, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. This proposal reflected the views of some members who felt that the commission was not conservative enough.

This series of events underscores the ongoing debate within the Southern Baptist Convention regarding the role of women in pastoral positions. While the recent vote has maintained the status quo, the discussions reveal deep-seated convictions and differing interpretations of biblical teachings among the denomination’s members. The outcomes of these debates will likely continue to shape the future direction of the SBC and its approach to doctrinal issues.

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