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Southern Baptists to Revisit Women Pastors, Membership Decline and More at Annual Meeting

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Southern Baptists will meet in Indianapolis this week for their annual convention. This year's theme is "One Mind, One Voice," a desire toward unity from Romans chapter 15. It is a timely message as the denomination wrestles with some of the more urgent matters of the day.

A key vote on whether to ban churches with women pastors is expected during the meeting.

"The denomination has a strong conviction that pastors of local churches should be men," Dr. Jeff Iorg, Southern Baptist Executive Committee President said in an interview with CBN News.

"There's been a pressure campaign to get some churches to not support it but I would not be surprised to see them implement it," said nationally syndicated radio host Erick Erickson. "And frankly I think it's a good thing if they do to provide much-needed clarity on cooperation within the denomination."    

Iorg stressed that the SBC is not anti-women although denominational leaders voted to restrict female pastors last year.

"Southern Baptists are not saying no to women in ministry or ministry leadership," said Iorg. "They're simply saying that we expect men to lead their homes and we expect men to lead our churches."

One very timely move is an anticipated vote on the question of officially opposing in vitro fertilization.

The Alabama Supreme Court sparked controversy in February by ruling that frozen embryos created during IVF are children.  

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), recently called for federal safeguards for the unborn in a letter to U.S. senators.

"We urge legislators to develop and implement a system of federal oversight that protects and informs women and ensures embryos are treated with care, even as we oppose the general practice of IVF," said Leatherwood.

Meanwhile, membership in the denomination continues to decline with the SBC losing over 1,200 churches in 2022 alone according to Lifeway Research. 

Iorg said, "It's always concerning when membership numbers go down. But the membership numbers in our denomination are only one barometer of how we're doing. We're seeing actually increases in the number of baptisms, increases in some areas of giving."

Abuse reform will again be on the agenda this year.

A vote on recommendations from the SBC task force created in 2022 to help protect survivors of sexual abuse is also expected. 

"The next big step for Southern Baptists is finding, if you will, a permanent home within our denominational family of entities for sexual abuse prevention and reform, so that we'll have a place for churches to turn that need help with resourcing, with a hotline, with information about prevention and preventive steps they can take," explained Iorg.

Despite the challenges, Iorge remains optimistic about the overall message and direction many take from this year's convention.

"I hope most of all, most of all, is that every one of them leaves more committed to fulfilling the great commission of Jesus Christ and reaching more and more people with the gospel and building stronger and stronger churches to carry our movement forward into the next generation," Iorg said.

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About The Author

Charlene Aaron

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter, news anchor, co-host of The 700 Club, co-host of 700 Club Interactive, and co-host of The Prayerlink on the CBN News Channel. She covers various social issues, such as abortion, gender identity, race relations, and more. Before joining CBN News in 2003, she was a personal letter writer for Dr. Pat Robertson. Charlene attended Old Dominion University and Elizabeth City State University. She is an ordained minister and pastor’s wife. She lives in Smithfield, VA, with her husband.