Baptist Women in Ministry is grieved by the actions of the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention.
Today, the vote was announced in which the SBC upheld its Executive Committee’s decision to disfellowship Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., where Linda Barnes Popham serves as pastor, and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., for appointing women to serve in pastoral roles.
Further, the convention voted this morning to amend the constitution of the SBC that a church in cooperation with the convention affirms, appoints or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture. A second vote will occur at the 2024 SBC annual meeting in order for the amendment to be put into effect.
These votes devalue the worth and callings of women to participate in God’s work through the local church.
Women who serve as pastors of various kinds in Southern Baptist churches will be faced with multiple challenges. Their congregations will have to decide whether to change their title to no longer match the leadership they provide, to no longer employ women in these roles, to voluntarily remove their congregations from fellowship with the SBC, or to risk being disfellowshipped in the future.
“This amendment further denigrates women.”
The SBC has made its position on women serving as pastors clear with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. However, this amendment further denigrates women. It creates division, draws lines and communicates that the bodies, lives, leadership and ministry of women are a battleground to determine who is “in” and who is “out.” The emotional, spiritual and physical safety of women is further threatened when they are not only devalued but used in a political denominational battle.
While some may say congregations who have women serving as pastors should just leave the SBC, we know the matter is more complicated than that.
For many, the SBC is their faith home. It provides the grounding for the churches where they first met Christ and felt God’s call. They have faithfully given to missionaries and participated in the ministries of the SBC for their entire lives. The SBC is their family.
Being kicked out of your family, or threatened to be kicked out of your family, is never easy. And for the women whose calling and leadership will cause their churches, their faith families, to experience this exclusion, they are placed in an impossible position of causing pain to their beloved congregations or being faithful to God’s call.
Therefore, Baptist Women in Ministry expresses solidarity with our sisters who are affected by the Southern Baptist Convention’s failure to value the worth and callings of women.
We reiterate what has been said by more than 3,000 people who signed our Open Letter to Baptist Women — the SBC is wrong. Women are worthy of God’s calling and find freedom in Jesus Christ. Women are created in the image of the boundless and limitless God.
Despite the SBC’s actions, there are no barriers with the God of all creation.
Meredith Stone serves as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry.
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