The new interim president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee is a member of a church dually aligned with the SBC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and where his seminary-educated wife holds the job title “minister of students and discipleship.”
Based on actions taken by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in June, Beth Howe would be one of the female ministers targeted by the so-called “Law Amendment” if ratified on second reading at next year’s annual meeting. That amendment would expel from the SBC any church that ordains a woman, allows a woman to preach or gives a woman the title of “pastor” in any way.
Although some SBC insiders are parsing the linguistic difference between the title “pastor” and “minister,” advocates for the resolution clearly do not see a distinction.
The resolution’s author, Virginia pastor Mike Law, published a detailed list of female ministers in Virginia and Texas — creating a firestorm of protest for allegedly targeting women.
Beth Howe serves on staff at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville, a church essential to the formation story of CBF in 1991. At that time, the church’s longtime pastor was Bill Sherman, brother of Cecil Sherman, CBF’s first executive staff leader.
Today’s SBC leaders want nothing to do with CBF, which was created as a breakaway group from the SBC as fundamentalists gained control of the denomination. An unknown number of churches remain dually aligned with both the SBC and CBF and support both financially.
BNG has reached out to the official spokesperson for the SBC Executive Committee for comment and will update this story when a response is received.
The matter of Jonathan Howe’s church membership and his wife’s employment have been the subject of much debate on a private online discussion group called The Baptist Review. Woodmont Pastor Nathan Parker weighed in at one point to say he does not personally support women serving as pastors and that Beth Howe was not hired to perform pastoral duties. He commended the couple for their leadership in the church and said Beth Howe feels called to her “ministerial” role but not to be a “pastor.”
A history of Tennessee CBF highlights the role Woodmont Baptist played from the beginning: “On July 24, 1992, two hundred Tennessee Baptists gathered at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville to begin charting a corresponding course for ‘free and faithful’ Baptists in Tennessee.”
What those Tennessee Baptists hoped to be “free” of was the tyranny of the SBC’s new leadership. Woodmont and its pastor played prominent roles in the formation of CBF nationally and in Tennessee.
The Baptist Center for Ethics — created as an alternative to the SBC Christian Life Commission — got its start at Woodmont, where the nonprofit’s founder, Robert Parham, was a member. BCE today has been subsumed into Good Faith Media.
The church’s current pastor, Nathan Parker, was called to that role in 2017. He is the church’s fourth pastor.