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JD Greear Says It’s ‘Unwise’ for SBC to Ban Female Pastors, Could Cost Them Minority Churches

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Former Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, a pastor based in Durham, North Carolina, explained this month he is “convictionally opposed” to a ban on female pastors.

While The Summit Church preacher said it’s not that he is “a closet moderate or soft on theological issues,” Greear argued in a blog post on his website that the so-called Law Amendment to the SBC’s constitution permanently banning women from serving as pastors “as qualified by Scripture” would “undermine our historic principles of cooperation.”

“It overturns a system that works,” he explained. “I am concerned that the missional, cooperative balance that has characterized our Convention since the Conservative Resurgence is about to be overturned.”

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines “pastor” as “one who fulfills the pastoral office and carries out the pastor’s functions” and later notes, in Article VI, that “[w]hile both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

At the SBC’s annual meeting in June of last year, Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church in Virginia brought forth the amendment, clarifying that women cannot serve in pastoral roles. The proposal passed with roughly 80% of the vote from more than 12,000 messengers.

It will become permanent if it gains majority support at this year’s annual meeting, which began Sunday in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The amendment was sparked by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. SBC messengers voted last February to remove Saddleback — the second-largest congregation in the convention — for employing a female pastor. The SBC voting members reaffirmed that decision last summer.

A vote on the Law Amendment came just a handful of hours after 88% of messengers voted to uphold the removal of Warren’s church from good standing in the SBC.

While Greear believes the amendment would be problematic to church cooperation within the SBC, many disagree with his position.

For example, Heath Lambert of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, said the subject of female pastoral leadership “is one of the most crucial issues facing messengers headed to Indianapolis for the 2024 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

“The real issue on this matter is the Bible,” he said. “The Bible is crystal clear that the office of pastor is reserved for men as qualified by Scripture (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 3:1-7; Titus 1:6). Baptists know this. That clear knowledge makes this whole thing much easier than some of the overcooked debates around this issue would lead you to believe.”

Lambert continued, “It is this simple. The Law Amendment has been placed before Southern Baptists. The question the amendment asks is whether we agree with Scripture that the office of pastor is reserved for men. Brothers and sisters, the clear answer — the only answer — is yes. Simple faithfulness demands our agreement with Scripture.”

It is important to note, however, that although he agrees with its theology, SBC President Bart Barber said this year he does not see the Law Amendment as necessary.

He told Lambert in January, “The SBC already requires that churches limit the office of pastor to men without the Law amendment.” Barber explained that such an amendment — if it’s approved and added to the SBC’s constitution — could cause problems and be weaponized against churches that have women on staff whose titles may include the word “pastor” but who do not function as overseers of congregations, which is at the heart of the debate.

“I think that, when we face extremely confusing and convoluted questions, we ought to just let the messenger body pray about it and sort that out,” he said. “We have the framework in place right now without any amendment.”

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Tré Goins-Phillips serves as a host and content creator for CBN News. He hosts the weekly “Faith vs. Culture” show and co-hosts “Quick Start,” a news podcast released every weekday morning. Born and raised in Virginia, Tré now lives along the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he has built his career, often traveling to meet and interview fascinating cultural influencers and entertainers. After working with brands like TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, Tré began his career at CBN News in 2018 and has a particular passion for bridging the chasm between the secular world and the church