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Al Mohler is Mistaken about “Women Pastors” in the Southern Baptist Convention

Like R. Albert Mohler, Jr., I’m not a moderate, or an egalitarian, or an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist.

I’m a conservative, complementarian, Southern Baptist.

I agree with the Bible when it says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” in 1 Timothy 2:12.

I agree with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 when it says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

I agree with Dr. Mohler when he says, “So what did ‘pastor’ mean here? It basically means the same thing as ‘elder.'”

That last claim is significant. The BFM2000 posits only two offices in the church, “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons,” such that Southern Baptists view pastors, elders, and overseers (bishops) as different descriptors for the one office of pastor, distinct from the only other office of deacon.

Senior Pastors, Associate Pastors, Youth Pastors, Children’s Pastors, and the like aren’t separate offices from the office of pastor. The Bible doesn’t recognize such a distinction, the BFM2000 doesn’t recognize such a distinction, and Dr. Mohler doesn’t recognize such a distinction. I don’t either.

That’s why a tweet from Denny Burk that does appear to recognize such a distinction caught my attention:

Dr. Burk qualifies his claim with “senior.” Burk leaves open the possibility women are serving as “pastors” in the Southern Baptist Convention, they just aren’t senior pastors. But the Bible and BFM2000 know of no such distinction.

And Burk is wrong anyway.

Linda in Louisville

The Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has – according to her church’s website – pastored Fern Creek Baptist Church since 1993. Click here if you want to see the Staff page for the church. Click here if you want to see the Affiliations page for the church. Click here to see the church listed on the official SBC site.

The church is 12 miles from the church where Burk serves as pastor. It’s 12.7 miles from the church where Mohler is a member. And it’s 9.5 miles from Boyce College and Southern Seminary, where Burk serves as professor, and Mohler as President.

Dr. Mohler’s claims on his Friday, August 14, 2020 edition of The Briefing are much more ambitious than Burk’s. He does not make the qualification of “senior” pastor:

It’s just to say, this is a social science sample, and it is here interpreted in such a way as to say that a majority of Southern Baptist women strongly support women serving as pastors.

The problem with that is not one of those churches has a woman as pastor.

 

[…]

 

We’re talking about 40,000 churches. And at the moment, I don’t believe that a single one of them has a woman as pastor.

 

[…]

 

Again, the math, 40,000 roughly, and the other column zero. That’s not a close call.

 

[…]

 

Again, 40,000 in one column, zero in the other.

 

[…]

 

If Southern Baptists want Southern Baptist churches to have pastors who are women, they can do it, but they don’t do it.

Every one of these claims is false.

[Caveat: Granted, I don’t believe a single SBC church has a woman pastor either. But that’s because I don’t believe any church has a woman pastor. I don’t believe there’s any such thing in Scripture as a woman pastor. Moreover, some of the “churches” that supposedly have women pastors aren’t churches at all. But I digress. We aren’t talking here about what I believe, or about what Mohler believes, but about what various bodies identifying themselves as churches in the SBC believe and practice regarding women serving in the office of pastor. I take it this is what Mohler is referring to as well, and that’s why I say his claims are false.]

I Promise There’s More

Consider Faith Promise Church. You can find the site for Faith Promise by clicking here. Faith Promise has multiple campuses, one of which is in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is listed on the official SBC site here. Michele Stephens is listed as “Executive Pastor, Experience” as you can see here.

Also, Brittany Pollard is listed as “Early Childhood Associate Pastor” here. Kayla Roberts is listed as “Preschool Associate Pastor” here. Sheena Hunley is listed as “Associate Pastor” here. Lisa Cole is listed as “Love Local Director & God Behind Bars Campus Pastor” here. Tiffany Reid is listed as “fpKIDS Pastor” here. Kandice Baker is listed as “fpKIDS Pastor” here. Carrie Wrinn is listed as “fpKIDS Pastor” here. Kristen Rogers is listed as “fpKIDS Pastor” here. Angie Noye is listed as “fpKIDS Pastor” here. Interestingly, the church also has women serving in roles like “administrator” and “director,” which seems to indicate the use of “pastor” in these instances is both distinct from those roles and intentional.

Some consider churches like those above so beyond the pale due to liberal theology or pragmatism that they are dismissed as being something other than Southern Baptist. Dismissing every example of an SBC church that claims to have women pastors in that way is an instance of the No True Scotsman fallacy. It could be such churches don’t list the SBC on their church sites, or don’t give X dollar amount to the Cooperative Program, or are dual aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but none of these observations means that a church isn’t SBC. The same remains true when it comes to churches in the Baptist General Convention of Virginia or the Baptist General Convention of Texas, both of which are in cooperation with the SBC.

But Wait, There’s More

The Rev. Christy Foldenauer is listed as “Senior Pastor” at Tomahawk Baptist Church. Click here if you want to see the Staff page for the church. Click here to see the church listed on the official SBC site.

Derrick and Ilya Golden are listed as “Senior Pastors” of Amazing Church. Click here if you want to see the Our Pastors page for the church. Click here to see the church listed on the official SBC site.

Consider Amarillo Journey Church. You can find the site for Journey by clicking here. April Pierce is listed as “Groups Pastor,” as you can see here. Also, Kristy Keeter is listed as “Student Pastor” here and Julie Meier is listed as “Children’s Pastor” here. Click here to see the church listed on the official SBC site.

We Pay for This

Cooperative Program dollars go toward advertising for these churches in directories on the SBC site. I made this point last year with respect to a job listing for the position of Senior Pastor at Allendale First Baptist Church in South Carolina. The church was clear about its openness to hiring a woman for the position of Senior Pastor.

A number of us contacted the webmaster about this posting. The page was quietly removed within the hour without any comment. The church didn’t get a woman pastor, but is still SBC as you can see here. And of course the church is listed on the official SBC site as you can see here.

Prominent SBC Churches

You can find the site for Elevation Church here. Elevation is a massive church plant of the SBC associated Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Its lead pastor, Steven Furtick, is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can listen to Steven introduce his wife as “Pastor Holly Furtick” here. You can see the listing for Elevation on the official SBC site here.

The site for Church by the Glades is here. Its pastor, David Hughes, was invited to speak at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2019 and became tied up in the controversy surrounding it that you can read about here, here, and here. Among the many issues raised was one regarding Church by the Glades recognizing David’s wife, Lisa Evans Hughes, as a pastor. You can find Church by the Glades listed on the official SBC site here.

Conservative Churches?

You can find the site for Lifepoint Church here. You can find Lifepoint listed on the official SBC site here. However, Lifepoint is also listed on the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia site here. On that site, the pastor of the supposedly conservative multi-site church is Daniel Floyd. But if you visit the Our Pastors page at the church’s website, you learn, “Pastors Daniel and Tammie Floyd are the founding and Senior Pastors of Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.” Click here to see for yourself.

I could keep going, but the point is plain. Both Burk and Mohler are mistaken, whether we are talking about “Senior Pastors” or pastors in general. I agree with Mohler’s overall argument from The Briefing. Ryan Burge’s research isn’t right. But Burk and Mohler are wrong to affirm the universal negative.

 

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