FIRST-PERSON: A convention of complementarian churches

Over the past two years, I’ve said very little in public about the so-called Law Amendment. As Recording Secretary, I’m an officer of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who is eligible for perpetual election. If elected, I’ll serve Southern Baptists joyfully, regardless of the outcome of this or any number of other votes. But now that the decision about the Law Amendment has been made, at least for now, I want to offer some brief thoughts about the path forward.

My advice to those who are lamenting the defeat of the Law Amendment: take heart. Some of you left the annual meeting discouraged. But the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) is crystal clear in its affirmation of complementarianism in Article VI and Article XVIII. Our entities, boards, and commissions are committed to complementarianism. The Credentials Committee, Executive Committee and, of course, the messengers have established a clear precedent for declaring egalitarian churches to be not in friendly cooperation. We are a convention of complementarian churches.

My advice to those who are celebrating the defeat of the Law Amendment: tread carefully. Some of you raised concerns about potential negative implications of the amendment. Southern Baptists have been debating those issues and will no doubt continue to do so. But if you desire a convention that takes an “I’m okay, you’re okay” approach to female pastors, you misunderstand who Southern Baptists are and what nearly all of us believe. You are part of a tiny, ever-shrinking minority in the SBC because we are a convention of complementarian churches.

My advice to those churches that employ female staff members with pastoral titles who wish to remain in friendly cooperation with the SBC: align your practices with Scripture. In many cases, this might simply mean changing the title to clarify that the female staff member is not a pastor/elder/overseer. If this describes your situation, then changing the title ought to be an easy call.

However, in some cases it might mean that you also need to change the staff member’s job description so that she is not functioning as a pastor/elder/overseer. If this describes your situation, it may be a harder change to make. But do not grow weary in doing what is good (Gal. 6:9); it is always worth doing hard things to align your faith and practice with Scripture. I sincerely want your church to remain in friendly cooperation with the SBC. At the same time, you must understand that we are a convention of complementarian churches.

As the saying goes, Southern Baptists are “better together.” By God’s grace, let’s seek to always be “together” in our alignment around the biblical truths we confess in the Baptist Faith & Message (2000). And let’s pray God uses our convention of complementarian churches to proclaim the good news to the world that he so loves.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn is professor of faith and culture and executive director of the Institute for Transformational Leadership at North Greenville University. He is also the Recording Secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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