Can So. Baptist churches designate women as 'pastors'?

Can So. Baptist churches designate women as 'pastors'?

Can So. Baptist churches designate women as 'pastors'?

Southern Baptist messengers are meeting in Anaheim, California, this week for their annual meeting. One of the issues discussed during Day 1 of the two-day assembly was the appointment of women to be pastors.

Perhaps the most newsworthy decision coming out of Tuesday's meeting was the election of a Texas pastor as the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pastor Bart Barber of Farmersville, Texas, defeated three other candidates and ultimately prevailed in a run-off vote (61% to 39%) over Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida.

And while the major topic on the minds of Southern Baptist leaders and messengers likely was the sex abuse report recently released by an independent investigator, it certainly wasn't the only one. For example, Pastor Michael Law of Arlington Baptist Church introduced this resolution:

Law: "The enumerated six item would read, 'Does not affirm, appoint, or employee a woman as a pastor of any kind.'"

The back story: Rick Warren's Saddleback Church – a quasi-Southern Baptist church – ordained three women pastors a year ago, something that scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message forbid. The issue went to the Credentials Committee, which determines which churches are in friendly cooperation with the SBC. That committee studied it for a while – and yesterday, committee chair Linda Cooper made this report:

Cooper: "We have concluded that we are not yet prepared to make a recommendation regarding Saddleback Church, recognizing that there are differing opinions regarding the intent of the office of pastor."

The thinking is that not everyone a church designates as a "pastor" fulfills the role scripture forbids women to take – e.g., "children's pastor" or "outreach pastor." Florida Pastor Tom Ascol wasn't convinced:

Ascol: "It's simple. Saddleback has ordained women to be pastors – very loudly. They've celebrated it. The Southern Baptist Convention has said we do not believe that women can serve in the office of pastor."

The SBC on Tuesday also heard resolutions about renaming buildings with historically offensive names, making Baptist Press more independent, and even abolishing the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Those items were presented, but not debated or voted on.