As Southern Baptist Convention messengers prepare to vote on an amendment in their constitution, known as the Law Amendment, that would permanently ban women from serving as pastors “as qualified by Scripture,” the denomination’s former president J.D. Greear has called it “unwise” and “unnecessary” and said it could lead to a hemorrhaging of minority churches.

“I remain convictionally opposed to this amendment, not because of its content but because of its attempt to undermine our historic principles of cooperation,” Greear, who served as the SBC’s president from 2018 to 2021, wrote on his website Thursday.

“It overturns a system that works. I don’t oppose the Law Amendment because I’m a closet moderate or soft on theological issues. 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.” Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 further notes that the scriptural offices are pastors and deacons and “[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 2023, a proposed amendment to the SBC’s constitution clarifying that women cannot serve as pastors passed with approximately 80% of the vote from more than 12,000 messengers.

The amendment, which was proposed by Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church in Virginia, will become permanent if it gains majority support at the SBC’s Annual Meeting which kicked off on Sunday in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The vote on the amendment last year came just hours after 88% of messengers voted to uphold the removal of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church for allowing a woman to serve in the office of a teaching pastor. The removal of Fern Creek Baptist Church for having a woman pastor was also affirmed by a vote of 92%.

During that meeting, roughly nine out of every 10 messengers voted to disfellowship churches that have women pastors.

While Greear argued that he does not believe amending the SBC’s constitution is necessary to keep women in the denomination from serving as pastors, Heath Lambert, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, disagrees.

Lambert, who has authored a number of books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World, argued in a primer on the issue shared on his church’s website, that the “Law Amendment 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. 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 explained.

“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.”

While acknowledging that some SBC leaders, including current President Bart Barber, don’t see the amendment as necessary, Lambert argued that it is the controversy that erupted over Saddleback Church’s employment of female pastors which necessitated the clarification.


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