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Complementarianism Ecclesiology Gender Reform

NAMB and SBC Egalitarianism

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has an egalitarian problem. How big of a problem largely depends, in my opinion, on the willingness of NAMB leadership to speak with clarity to this issue.

Two weeks ago, it was revealed that a Florida NAMB church plant had a husband and wife as dual Lead Pastors. It appears the church has subsequently chosen to disaffiliate with the SBC.

This week, I have documented and observed that at least four more current NAMB church plants have women pastors on staff. In the interest of not repeating some of the distractions from last week, the names of these churches are not identified in this post. The decision to withhold this information is not because I want this matter to be swept under the rug, but quite the opposite.

The main issue that needs to be addressed is not ultimately with any individual SBC church, regardless of their error. The issue that must be addressed is whether or not we as a convention broadly and NAMB as an entity specifically approve of women serving in the role of pastor.

Has the SBC, without a vote, become an egalitarian convention based on its actual practice? We must have clarity on this issue.

My intent in sharing this information is not to embarrass or shame anyone. Indeed, one should not be embarrassed by their theological commitments. Presumably all of these churches and individuals believe what they are doing is right. None of the questions which are to follow are directed at the individual churches and people involved. These questions are directed to NAMB and SBC leadership.


A large California church recently became associated with NAMB for their church planting efforts. The plants of this church are currently listed on the NAMB website. Additionally, the Executive Pastor of this church serves as a NAMB church planting trainer.

This church also has five women serving on their staff as pastors.

Two other smaller California NAMB church plants have women listed as pastors on their websites.

 

In the Washington DC area, a NAMB church plant is outspoken about their egalitarianism. This statement is displayed proudly on the churches’ website:

All of these churches above are currently listed on the NAMB website of associated churches, and none of this information appears to be outdated.


SBC, we need clarity. Do we have women pastors in the SBC, or not?

Is the SBC still complementarian?

The perception the last few years has been that denominational leadership responds to concerns of egalitarian drift with a general response of, “Of course we are complementarian. We affirm the BF&M2000.” 

The BF&M2000 states in regards to the local church, “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Notice that the statement says “officers” and “pastors” in the plural. The BF&M2000 assumes that many churches will have more than one pastor, and that anyone serving in this office must be a man.

It is well known there are liberal SBC congregations who affirm women as pastors. Generally, these are congregations who have drifted from their doctrinal convictions over the years, but have not stopped affiliating with the SBC. Many of these congregations affirm the BF&M1963, but not the 2000 revision. While I do believe this situation ought to be addressed, the concern raised by these NAMB affiliated churches is much more urgent.

We have observed now five current churches who claim to be following the BF&M2000, but are not. These churches are affirmed by NAMB. This SBC entity is supposed to be ensuring that our convention work is holding to our doctrinal commitments, but something has broken down in the process.

The other alternative is that NAMB leadership, at multiple levels, interprets the BF&M2000 in a way that allows for women pastors.

This is a big deal. Our complementarian commitments as a convention mean nothing if they can be violated by our entities with no repercussions.

Our complementarian commitments also mean nothing if they can be defined away beyond any reasonable recognition. I am confident that a majority of individual SBC members and churches would define the details highlighted in this article as egalitarianism.


How is it that no one in NAMB leadership considered this issue important enough to address before now? Church plants have a lot of input in regards to assessment, training, mentoring, etc. No one saw these plants appointing women pastors and thought this would be a problem? No one at the state level said something? No NAMB leader simply reviewing church planting activity thought to bring this up? This is very concerning.

More concerning still, how is that no one at NAMB thought that a SEND church planting trainer with five women pastors on staff at his church was a good idea? There is not a good answer for this.

We can’t cooperate in the SBC if we can’t agree on our basis for cooperation. Our basis for cooperation is the BF&M2000. This means entity heads have a particular responsibility to offer clarifications regarding interpretation of the BF&M.

Twelve years ago our church was planted with the SBC. I was excited to cooperate because I saw a convention of churches that had held the line for Biblical faithfulness against an onslaught of cultural pressure, unlike so many other large denominations. Complementarianism is a non-negotiable for me and my local church.


If the official position of the SBC is that women can serve in pastoral roles as long as they do not serve as “Senior” or “Lead” pastor, this would be news to many people. This position is an egalitarian position, not a complementarian position. If the SBC has decided to interpret the BF&M2000 in an egalitarian way, we deserve to know.

I do believe, and it is my personal observation, that the vast majority of NAMB SBC church plants follow the BF&M2000 and are complementarian. I also believe that ignoring this issue in these few churches that are violating their doctrinal commitments is precisely what will lead to a drift towards egalitarianism. We will become what we allow.   

The SBC must decide here and now that it is going to uphold its complementarian commitments. Furthermore, every SBC entity must ensure that they uphold the SBC’s doctrinal commitments.

We don’t need a response.

We don’t need a phone call.

We don’t need to hear that a private conversation was had and “everything is ok.”

What we need is to see – in action – that leadership at every level of every SBC entity takes our complementarian doctrine seriously.

Or, if some of our entities have decided that women serving as pastors fits the boundaries of the BF&M2000, we need to know that too. At least then the SBC can deal with that reality publicly and honestly.

Want to take appropriate action to address this problem? Give this post a read!

15 replies on “NAMB and SBC Egalitarianism”

I feel it’s okay for women to teach and preach if God leads them there but I don’t think a woman is to be a pastor of a church or leader. That’s a man of God’s place.

That’s just it, Sylvia – God has been clear that He *doesn’t* lead women to preach. That role is reserved in Scripture for men, as you’ve rightly recognized.

Simply because the designation, “pastor”, is put in a title, does not change the role that is being performed by the women who, for the most part, seem to serve in legitimate positions of ministry without violating sound doctrine or the BF&M 2000 regarding women’s role in the church. Designation of “pastor” simply gives recognition to the ministry role that is being filled. I see no difference in designating a woman, “Administrative Pastor”, as giving her the title, “Administrative Coordinator”. The term “pastor” simply recognizes the ministry role. It does not automatically bequeath authority or ecclesiastical standing.

Vernon, with all due respect, that simply isn’t accurate. The Bible knows of no woman pastor. Full stop. The term clearly is associated with authority in Scripture, as every Baptist confession of faith I am familiar with recognizes. I am thankful that both Dr. Mohler and Dr. Akin have been clear on this front:

Mohler, 2019: A lot of younger Southern Baptists…understand that complementarian or the gender relations, that’s a second-order issue. But what they’re missing is second-order issues are also constitutive of the Southern Baptist Convention. And so just understand we had a 30 year battle over 1st and 2nd order issues. One secondary issue we were fighting over was should women be pastors. The convention has declared itself so emphatically on that it’s in the confession of faith. Our confession of faith that constitutes the basis of our cooperation is inherently complementarian…The Baptist Faith and Message requires an understanding that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture and that there are distinct roles for men and women in the home and in the church…But this is where I think a lot of younger Southern Baptists are acting as if Southern Baptist can embrace a pluralism on this that would include egalitarianism. No! We spent 30 years struggling with Scripture and each other to define the fact that this fellowship is established upon Complementarianism.”

Akin, January 28, 2021, Danny Akin:
“[W]omen cannot serve as a pastor. Pastors are always men in the Bible. To call a woman a pastor in any capacity is not faithful to the biblical revelation. She can serve in many capacities but it is theologically in error to call her a pastor.”

Based on that reply, Jeff, I could use some clarification. Are you simply objecting to the use of the term “pastor” for women who are serving in non-lead positions in the church? Would you be comfortable with these women serving in the same roles, under the headship of the Senior Pastor and the church Board, as long as they were called “Director of” or “Coordinator of” rather than “Pastor of?” Is it their role or their title that you believe is out of compliance with the SBC/NAMB position on complimentarianism? Or to put it another way, would you not understand these women to be under the appropriate Biblical authority of the Lead Pastor who is the “head” over them, and is this not complimentarianism?

Tim, it seems like there is some muddiness in the follow up there. If we are talking about the authoritative preaching and teaching done by elders/pastors/ then Scripture (and the BFM2k) is clear that this office is limited to men.

It seems you also have a category of administrative function in mind. If a woman is serving in that capacity, perhaps using professional capacities in financial arenas of the church, I don’t think you or I would call that pastoring.

An older woman teaching younger woman according to Titus 2 would also not require any sort of title involving pastor, which would further confusion the Biblical distinction between the office of Pastor and other, non-pastoral functions in the church.

Does that help?

Please point me to the Scriptural references you are using to defend your men-only use for the term “pastor.” I am only aware of one instance in the New Testament where that specific term is even used, so I may be missing what you are basing this on. In the reference I am thinking of (Eph 4:11), Paul is describing the gifts of the body of believers (I cannot see where is specifies men), and it states nothing about that person’s specific role. If a woman is teaching, mentoring, “pastoring,” and otherwise ministering to women and children under the headship of a male authority, then is calling her a pastor really unbiblical? She is not teaching men, so she is not egalitarian. Why is calling her a director of women’s ministry preferable to pastor of women’s ministry? Again, I would love to see the actual Scriptural references where the term “pastor” applies only to men – not preacher, teacher, leader, etc, but the term “pastor” since that is what seems to be the source of this debate. I’ll be honest, it comes across as extremely legalistic to fixate on a single word that is used only once in the entire New Testament in order to shame or call out organizations and churches who are faithfully doing the work of Christ, so I would like to see the other references to “pastor” you are using. Not women speaking and leading in church, but actually calling women “pastors.”

I clicked on every Scripture reference in the relevant section you provided and never once saw the term “pastor.” In fact, it neglected to include the only New Testament verse that I have found that even mentions that term (Eph 4:11). And the Twitter link had zero mention of Scripture at all, so it’s not a relevant source to answer my question. So we’re back to square one. Tell me where in Scripture it says that only men can be called “pastors.” This is is why you have specifically targeted these churches and two organizations for being unbiblical, but you cannot tell me from where in Scripture you are drawing your conclusions. Again, I am not looking for why women should not have leadership over men, but why you have a problem with calling them “pastors” if they are serving Biblically appropriate roles in the church.

Jenna, I can’t imagine how you clicked through all of those without seeing at least 1 Timothy 2:9-14 and 3:1-15. That you did indicates the problem you have isn’t with anyone being unable to “tell you where in Scripture it says only men can be called ‘pastors.”” If you don’t want to see it then I don’t have the power to make you.

You’re right, Jeff. You do not have the power to make me see it, because it is simply not there. I read every single one of those verses and did not even see the word “pastor” listed. So would you be so kind as to point to the specific verse where you see it written that women cannot be called “pastors?” NOT where women shouldn’t lead men (because I’m not protesting that), but show me where the specific word “pastor” can in no why apply to women. The two references you listed do not include that. So, either state that your position is that women should absolutely hold NO role in church leadership – be it over men, women or children – or tell me why men and women that are allowed to hold the same role, let’s say Children’s Minister, and the man can be called the Pastor of Children’s Ministries, whereas the woman must be called Director of Children’s Ministries. That is hypocritical and legalistic. If you believe women should hold no ministerial roles in the church, fine. Tell THAT to NAMB and the SBC. But you are quibbling over the term “pastor” and you have not yet given me a viable Scriptural reason why you are fixated on that term and condemning others for using it.

Jenna, I’ve done that already: 1 Timothy 3 couldn’t be more clear. Titus 1 does the same thing, if you want more. Your refusal to acknowledge what it says isn’t a failure on my part or Scripture’s – you’ll have to take it up with the Lord who inspired the Word.

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