BR poll: Slight majority oppose Law Amendment, NC messengers evenly split

BR poll: Slight majority oppose Law Amendment, NC messengers evenly split

CARY, N.C. – A slight majority of respondents to an online poll by the Biblical Recorder (BR) said they did not support a proposed amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) constitution that would add language stating that only men can serve in the role of pastor or elder in a cooperating church.

Of the 358 total respondents to an informal online poll published over the past week by the BR, 54.75% said they were not in favor of the measure that has become known as the “Law Amendment” in reference to Virginia Pastor Mike Law who first introduced the measure in 2022.

Nearly 40% (39.94%) of total respondents said they supported the amendment, while 5.31% said they were undecided.

However, respondents from North Carolina who said they would be representing their respective churches as messengers at next week’s SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, were virtually evenly split on the measure with 48.81% expressing support and 47.62% expressing opposition to the amendment. Just 3.57% of those identifying as messengers from N.C. Baptist churches said they were undecided.

The anonymous, online poll asked “Do you support the Law Amendment?” and invited participants to select from one of three options – yes, no or undecided. The poll also asked respondents if they were a member of an N.C. Baptist church and if they would be a messenger at this year’s SBC annual meeting, which is scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11-12, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The poll was open for approximately one week from Wednesday, May 29, to Tuesday, June 4, and was intended to gauge opinions of N.C. Baptists and Southern Baptists related to the Law Amendment. Results should not be considered scientific. Responses were limited to one submission per person. More than two-thirds of those responding to the poll said they were members of N.C. Baptist churches (69.55%).  

The vote on the Law Amendment is one of the most widely anticipated business items at this year’s SBC annual meeting as messengers in attendance at next week’s gathering will vote on whether or not to ratify the amendment. 

Specifically, the proposal would amend Article III of the SBC Constitution, which lists five criteria that define whether or not a church is in friendly cooperation with the SBC. The amendment would add a sixth criteria, which states that a cooperating church “affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

The SBC Constitution stipulates that for a constitutional amendment to be ratified, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the messengers at two consecutive annual meetings of the national convention. The first vote on the amendment passed at the 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans. Messengers will consider the amendment during a second vote at this year’s meeting in Indianapolis.

If the BR’s poll results reflect broader sentiment related to the Law Amendment, support for the measure falls well short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

While support for the Law Amendment from all poll respondents registered at 39.94%, support from among those who identified as messengers was higher. Among all of the respondents who said they would be representing their respective churches as messengers, 43.23% expressed support for the amendment, while 53.55% said they were opposed to it. An additional 3.23% of those identifying as messengers said they were undecided.

In contrast to the near even support for the amendment expressed by those identifying as messengers from N.C. Baptist churches, support for the measure was lower by those who identified as messengers from non-N.C. Baptist churches.

Of the respondents who did not identify as N.C. Baptists who said they would be messengers at this year’s meeting, 36.62% said they supported the amendment, while 60.56% said they were opposed to it. Nearly 3% (2.82%) of messengers polled from non-N.C. Baptist churches said they were undecided.

Expressions of support and opposition to the amendment were similar among poll respondents who said they would not be messengers at this year’s annual. Overall, 37.44% of non-messengers said they supported the measure, 55.67% said they were opposed to it and 6.90% said they were undecided.

Among non-messengers from N.C. Baptist churches, 36.97% expressed support for the amendment, 55.76% said they were opposed to it and 7.27% said they were undecided. Of non-messengers who said they were not members of N.C. Baptist churches, 39.47% expressed support, 55.26% said they were opposed and 5.26% reported being undecided.

Opinions about the Law Amendment have been varied, and several key leaders across the SBC have expressed both support and opposition to the measure.

In general, proponents of the Law Amendment say it provides needed clarity on the SBC’s position regarding women serving in pastoral roles. Many critics of the measure affirm a complementarian position regarding gender roles in the church but argue the amendment is unnecessary and has the potential to undermine the autonomy of local churches. Opponents of the amendment say other SBC governing documents, such as The Baptist Faith and Message, provide clear guidance on the issue.

The six candidates who have been announced as nominees for SBC president — which includes two pastors from North Carolina — are evenly split on the amendment with three saying they support it and three saying they oppose it.

The two candidates from North Carolina — Bruce Frank and Clint Pressley — also hold differing perspectives on the measure. Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Church in Arden, N.C., has said that while he is complementarian, he opposes the Law Amendment. Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., has said he supports the measure.

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