Prominent Southern Baptist theologians have published a statement clarifying the meaning of the word “pastor” amid controversy within the United States’ largest Protestant denomination stemming from Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church ordaining female pastors last year.
According to the Christian Post, The document “A Statement Concerning the Baptist Faith & Message and the Word’ Pastor'” was released last week by two Southern Baptist seminary presidents and the former head of the denomination’s public policy arm.
The signatories are Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Richard Land, who served as the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission from 1988-2013 and is the president emeritus of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina. The Confession Revision Committee assigned the three men to write a study guide for the new 2000 Baptist Faith & Message Confession.
Aiming to bring clarity to a fractious debate within SBC life, the theologians said that when it comes to the word “pastor,” Southern Baptists have always understood the term. In keeping with the spirit of Baptist Faith and Message 2000, “pastor” means “one who fulfills the pastoral office and carries out the pastor’s functions.”
Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states that the scriptural offices are pastors and deacons and 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.”
The function of the office and the office itself are inseparable, the three Baptist leaders maintained. They highlighted that the commentary they wrote on the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message notes that central to that pastoral role is “the responsibility to preach and teach.”
“[I]t is important to understand that the word pastor was chosen precisely because of its clarity among Southern Baptists. The statement carefully affirms that both men and women are gifted for service in the church, but the role of pastor is biblically defined and is to be held only by men as qualified by Scripture,” they reiterated in the new statement.
When the Baptist Faith & Message was adopted and revised in 2000, the committee established that “pastor” was not to be used to describe every ministerial position within a church, they added.