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Southern Baptists narrowly reject formal ban on churches with any women pastors

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2024 | 11:11 AM
Messengers stand for worship during a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Southern Baptists narrowly rejected a proposal Wednesday to enshrine a ban on churches with women pastors in the denomination's constitution after opponents argued it was unnecessary because the denomination already has a way of ousting such churches.

The vote received support from 61 per cent of the delegates, but it failed to get the required two-thirds supermajority. The action reversed a preliminary vote last year in favor of the official ban.

But it still leaves the Southern Baptist Convention with its official doctrinal statement saying the office of pastor is limited to men. Even the opponents of the ban said they favoured that doctrinal statement but didn't think it was necessary to reinforce it in the constitution.

Opponents noted that the SBC already can oust churches that assert women can serve as pastors — as it did last year and again Tuesday night.

The vote was perhaps the most highly anticipated of the annual meeting, reflecting years of debate in the United States' largest Protestant denomination. It is the final day of the SBC's two-day annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Since 2000, the SBC's nonbinding statement of faith has declared that only men are qualified for the role of pastor. It's interpreted differently across the denomination, with some believing it doesn't apply to associate pastors so long as the senior pastor is male.

The proposed amendment, which received preliminary approval last year, would formally exclude churches that have women in any pastoral positions, from lead pastor to associates, or even affirms them in that role. Supporters believe it is biblically necessary, estimating hundreds of Southern Baptist churches have women in those roles.

The rejected amendment would have said any church deemed in "friendly cooperation" — the official term for SBC affiliation — must be one that "affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture."

Opponents argued the convention already has the power to remove churches over this issue, and the amendment will have unintended consequences, including disproportionately affecting Black Southern Baptist congregations, which tend to have women on their pastoral staffs.

But the motion went swiftly to a vote after only brief debate.

Delegates also elected a North Carolina pastor and longtime denominational statesman to be the next president of their convention in a contest between six candidates that went into two run-off votes.

Clint Pressley, who is senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, will be the next Southern Baptist Convention president after winning 56 per cent of votes in the final run-off race.

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