Kyle Whitt has released a video with several specific and distressing claims about the doctrinal fidelity and inner workings of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board discovered during his two years working to plant a church in Washington state.
For the past two years I’ve been working with NAMB to plant a church in Washington state. After hours of research and conversations, I came to the conclusion that NAMB’s church planting arm, the Send Network, is pushing us to teach a false gospel. There are many other serious issues at Send and NAMB, but this video only covers the biggest and most important. I get that this is a big accusation, and believe me this is not something done lightly or without a lot of prayer. I ask that you watch the whole thing, look into what I’ve pointed out, and use this as a starting point to answer this question. I’m extremely nervous right now, as I have no idea what posting this video will result in for me, so it might take me a little bit to reply to comments. I plan on doing some follow up to help answer questions/clarify things (livestream? AMA?), but for right now I’m taking this one step at a time.
Some [at NAMB] are adding specific works as a “key component of the gospel.” I assumed they were wording it poorly, talking about obedience to Christ, and the good works we do as a result of the gospel transforming us. After lots of research, and conversations (including with Dhati Lewis, head of NAMB’s church planting arm, the Send Network) it was clear that no, they’re attaching these things directly as a part of the gospel.
It’s been a while since we released an episode of our podcast so I thought I would drop in to tell you about some upcoming episodes we hope you find helpful.
The CR:V site is SBC-facing and as you likely know the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting is coming up. This year we have four people currently running for the office of President which, in and of itself is an indication of what most people are expecting to be a wilder version of the annual meeting.
We thought it would be helpful to give our audience an interview with each of the candidates running for office and began putting a series of short interviews together. We have Randy Adams and Mike Stone recorded. We initially had Ed Litton committed but his secretary reached out and said he no longer had time in his schedule to do the interview. We also reached out to Dr. Mohler’s office but have yet to hear back from him.
Like me, you have probably read or heard people predicting a strange and contentious Annual Meeting is upon us for Nashville. Remember, too, that there is still a bit of time before the annual meeting and we are likely to see more strangeness. We have already seen at least one seminary promoting a presidential candidate (and no, it wasn’t Southern and Dr. Mohler). There are rumors that some kind of belittling caricature of Mike Stone is going to be released on Social Media in the days before the annual meeting. Some are saying Dr. Mohler will drop out of the race altogether.
To help navigate the strangeness as best we can we are going to release our interviews with Randy Adams and Mike Stone in the coming weeks. If you know or can reach Ed Litton and Al Mohler to encourage them to participate we would appreciate that greatly. We want a healthy Southern Baptist Convention making disciples of the nations both domestically and internationally. A healthy Annual Meeting is a vital step in that process. Healthy leadership is also vital. Toward that end we want to help you get to know the candidates as best we can.
Finally, if you are listening to this I cannot stress how important it is that you attend the annual meeting as a messenger, bring as many people as you can with you as messengers, and encourage your sister churches to do the same. We have heard reports of people on social media actually discouraging attendance to the annual meeting. That is an indication of shenanigans and is antithetical to the cooperative work of the Southern Baptist Convention.
So give our interviews a listen, prayerfully consider how you should vote, show up at the annual meeting, attend ever session of business and reporting. That’s the job now. And if you think “I would go but I can’t afford a place to stay or dining or whatever else” please reach out; we’ll try to help connect you with people who can alleviate those burdens.
*At the time of this posting Echo Church is still listed as a NAMB church plant with a female teaching pastor.
If the Southern Baptist Convention is going to see true reformation, the 11th Commandment has to end. For those unfamiliar with this rule, it is an unwritten agreement that you don’t talk publicly about anything negative in the SBC, particularly with any of the main entities.
Conservative Resurgence Voices is not a polemics site. But we are willing to speak publicly about what’s going on in the SBC because we truly long for a conservative resurgence. Part of the battle has been convincing some that there is even a need for a conservative resurgence. After all, the SBC is a “conservative” organization. Right?
Hopefully, last week’s piece on NAMB churches utilizing women as pastors has brought more awareness to some of what is going on in our convention. The reality is, this is not the worst of it. Dr. Ezell, and apparently NAMB Trustees, know this is happening. As a result, I’m forced to wonder if they either do not care or perhaps are pushing it.
Bad as the ’80s?
I’ve had several phone conversations since the NAMB piece last week. In most of them, folks were concerned about the direction of the SBC. But in one of them, with a NAMB employee, the topic was brought up by the other party that “This is nowhere near as bad as 1985-1986.”
Well, I was born in 1986 so I cannot speak to that. But this would be similar to me telling you that I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and you responding with “Oh yeah? I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and beat it.” Praise the Lord you beat cancer! But this does not take away from the seriousness of my own diagnosis even if it appears to be at an earlier stage. If left untreated it will kill me.
Maybe people are not publicly denying the inerrancy of the Bible – yet. But the situation we are currently in is that people are saying one thing with their mouths and doing another in their actions. This is a terrible direction. It is pragmatism at its worst.
Dr. Ezell’s Position
It’s never been my desire or hope to get to a point in SBC life where we need to publish an entity head’s emails. But this is where we are. The doublespeak has to end. The political maneuvering has to end. Transparency is what we want.
Let me state a few things up front. First, a lot of what I am publishing from Dr. Ezell has been said similarly by him on social media or in the public arena. Secondly, at least one other SBC pastor received what I received verbatim (his was on 1/12-1/13/2021). So, these answers seem to be pretty public for anyone who wants them.
Still, to be as charitable as possible I’m only publishing what I think needs published. I will leave out the rest. After the fiasco with the Florida Church Plant that had a woman lead pastor, I reached out to NAMB. I got a form letter in reply but asked to speak to Dr. Ezell directly. He did email and said he was willing to answer questions so I sent him this on January 29, 2021:
Dr. Ezell kindly and promptly replied on January 30, 2021. Again, this information has been emailed to more than just me. Understandably, I’m sure Dr. Ezell got a lot of the same questions, so it seems there were some who received basically the same information. So again, this information isn’t really hidden for any who would care to write Dr. Ezell. Here is his 1/30/21 response:
The yellow highlighted portion was done by either Dr. Ezell, or someone else. And I have to be honest, it was very encouraging to read that. It says a few things very clearly:
Only biblically qualified men are approved in the role of pastor which are endorsed and funded by NAMB
SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and
specifically the role of women. Which just to remind us here the BFM says this: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
So, again, quite encouraging. Shouldn’t, then, we reasonably assume that what this means is that NAMB will not support churches that intentionally violate the BFM 2000 by having women serve as pastors? That’s what I assumed when I read it.
I was even tempted to leave it there and basically say in my mind, “Whatever is going on with NAMB it must be that Dr. Ezell does not know and things must fall through the cracks at times.”
I think this is probably what a lot of Southern Baptists believe. And when they see reports about church plants with women pastors they think, “Sure, but we trust Dr. Ezell. We know that he’s not allowing this to happen intentionally.”
Thus, I decided not to let it go and on 1/31/21 I wrote this back to Dr. Ezell:
And here is what I think Southern Baptists need to know. I think it is what they deserve to know. On Monday, February 1, Dr. Ezell replied:
Here is what is frustrating as a Southern Baptist. In one email Dr. Ezell assured me that SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and specifically the role of women. That is, the Southern Baptist Convention has unequivocally stated in its statement of faith that only qualified men can serve in the role of pastor.
Yet, when pressed on this, the real story is: “We don’t look at staff rosters.” That is, “We don’t really care if women are serving as pastors or not.” Now, which is it? Because these two emails are contradictory. A church cannot be whole-heartedly embracing the BFM 2000 and have women serving in the role of a pastor.
After these emails and talking with a NAMB employee, I can tell you definitively and beyond any shadow of a doubt that NAMB’s position is that female pastors are fine as long as they are not the “lead” pastor.
I do not understand the strategy in this. It seems that Dr. Ezell and the leadership at NAMB, without informing the Convention, have reinterpreted the BFM 2000 to mean something its writers never intended it to mean: that women are only barred from serving as “senior” pastors. This is an absolute butchering of the BFM 2000. And what’s more concerning is that this is a classic liberal tactic: To say you affirm a statement when you just redefine the terms. This is not me calling Dr. Ezell a liberal. This is me saying he is undeniably using a liberal tactic.
How can an SBC entity adopt a policy that is in contrast to the clear doctrinal parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)? Without asking or informing the convention, an entity that is under the authority of the churches in the convention has usurped the authority of these churches and carved its own path. And then, at best, they have been very political in their wording, and at worst they have bold faced lied to Southern Baptists about their strategy.
Since last week’s posting there has been some shuffling around with NAMB’s website. It appears some churches with female “non-lead” pastors have been removed? Is this being done silently?
“Several trustees related being frustrated by the notion that some are putting forth that the NAMB trustees are not doing our job and that we don’t know what is going on at NAMB. Not only do we know what is going on, in most cases we initiated and, in every case, we affirm the strategies and changes that are being implemented.”
This is not a comforting statement. I’m trying to be fair to this statement but it seems rather reasonable that I could plug this in: “Not only do NAMB trustees know that women are serving as pastors in NAMB plants in most cases they also initiated it, and in every case, they affirmed it.”
So, not only are NAMB employees “in” on this. Apparently, so are the trustees? And this is not with the consent of the Convention. How is this happening if the SBC really is under the authority of the local churches?
Does NAMB work for the local churches in the SBC or not? If so, why does it get to do what it wants in terms of disregarding the Baptist Faith and Message? And if it doesn’t work for the churches of the SBC, why are we giving them money under the guise that they do work for us?
I did email Danny de Armas, Chair of the Board of Trustees for NAMB and wrote, “Please brother, we must hold NAMB accountable to planting churches that are in true agreement with the BFM 2000.” He did email me back thanking me for reaching out but did not respond to the comment about the Baptist Faith and Message. Perhaps it was an oversight. But it is hard for me to continually pursue these avenues as a Southern Baptist Pastor only to time and again have my questions ignored, overlooked, or answered deceptively.
Brothers and sisters, this is beyond heartbreaking. It is well past time to contact our NAMB trustees and reiterate to them that our standard of cooperation is the BF&M 2000. Maybe other trustees will listen. As Denny Burk wrote last week, “Our ability to cooperate is materially compromised when a cooperating church ignores what we have all agreed upon as the doctrinal basis for our work together—the BF&M.”
Absolutely. The SBC is sick. She has a cancer that is spreading through her churches that if left unchecked will eventually be terminal. One may think “Oh we are just arguing about words here.” No. We are arguing over whether or not we actually believe and practice that the Word of God is our highest authority and wholly sufficient for how we understand the leadership of the church.
“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.”
“[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.”
What does this mean? It means we can argue about whether or not churches that have women pastors are true churches or not. But what we cannot argue about is if they are Southern Baptist churches, because they are not – not if we “wholeheartedly embrace the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”
Yesterday we released an article describing concerns over egalitarianism in NAMB church plants. Since then, the most frequent question we’ve received is whether or not these are current NAMB churches.
Each of these churches was verified on the NAMB church plant database prior to publication. Each church was re-verified today and that is documented below. This website information does reveal the names of the churches. We want to again stress that our intention is to seek clarification from NAMB and all our SBC entities, not to interrogate the practices of any individual church.
This post is being provided so that those interested can see the accuracy and timeliness of our concerns. Our previous article stated that one of the five churches has already left NAMB affiliation. If more of these churches have since left NAMB and the SBC, this does not change the substance of our questions. Indeed, if that is the case it raises questions about our assessment process on such a key doctrinal issue.
While how we got to this point would still be concerning, many Southern Baptists would be relieved to see a statement from NAMB clarifying our current church planting practices in regards to egalitarianism.
We want to hear that NAMB does not plant or partner with churches who violate the BF&M2000 by appointing women to the office of pastor. The office of pastor is not arbitrarily limited only to one position in a local church known as a “senior” or “lead” pastor, and this language is found nowhere in the BF&M2000. We would expect that any SBC entity would be eager to affirm such a statement, and to correct any practices found to be in violation of this.
The recent news about North American Mission Board church plants identifying women in their congregation as pastors may have piqued your interest in what the process is like for those interested in planting.
As you can read, the anonymous author speaks to worries about whether or not to plant with the North American Mission Board because of the current controversy as well as a degree of ambivalence about specifically affirming the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. 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.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
As Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin recently articulated, there is no ambiguity in what Southern Baptists confess. Scripture knows of no office of pastor available to women, regardless of what other adjectives and qualifications might be attempted.
Thankfully, Southern Baptists have an excellent mechanism for planting Biblically-faithful Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches in the North American Mission Board. However, the last two weeks have revealed that the blessings of Southern Baptist churches planting Biblical Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches through the North American Mission Board is experiencing a disruption that has to be addressed.
January 26th, 2020 brought to light the first sign of the breakdown: A North American Mission Board church plant, 1 Name Church of Planation, FL, was found to be using the title “Pastor” in unbiblical fashion, applying it to a woman within the church.
When this breakdown in healthy practice – most importantly, by breaking with Scripture’s clear teaching but secondarily also by breaking faith with the Southern Baptist donors who sponsored the church in good faith with the North American Mission Board under the assumption that NAMB would plant churches keeping with our confession of faith – came to light 1 Name promptly ended their relationship with the SBC and asked to be left alone.
Ultimately the decision of a local church to cooperate or not with the Southern Baptist Convention is that church’s decision. What remains is for the North American Mission Board to account for (a) how much money they were tasked with stewarding on behalf of Southern Baptists has been sunk into a church that was clearly not of like faith and practice and (b) what safeguards failed to prevent this from happening.
There was an initial indication that Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, was willing to address the seriousness of the problem directly.
What appeared to be an invitation to engage directly with Dr. Ezell via email resulted for those of us who reached out in a form-letter response from someone other than Dr. Ezell that amounted to a shutdown in further communication (the last I personally received directed me back to Dr. Ezell’s tweets, for instance).
Unfortunately, the intervening days have revealed the problem is more pronounced than just one church. In fact, – in the most distressing fashion possible – it is now clear that the situation with 1 Name Church is far from an isolated incident. As Nate Scholman has demonstrated here on CR Voices – and please read the whole thing – there are a disturbing number of churches receiving sponsorship from the NAMB who are in open contradiction to The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, indicating a breakdown in the partnership/stewardship relationship of Southern Baptist donors and the NAMB, doctrinal fidelity to our confessional statement, and faithfulness to Scripture’s clear teaching.
Since the problem is now seen to be worse than indicated on January 26th and the opportunity to engage with Dr. Ezell resulted in no additional way forward to address these breakdowns in Southern Baptist cooperative ministry it is now time to call on the trustees of the North American Mission Board to fulfill their responsibilities to Southern Baptists. The trustees of Southern Baptist entities work on behalf of Southern Baptists (rather than on behalf of the entities themselves) to supervise the work of these entities in such a way that the entities fulfill the mandate given them by Southern Baptists.
The Executive Committee action comes in response to “ongoing concerns” cited by EC members, state leaders and other Southern Baptists that the ERLC is not adequately fulfilling its Convention-approved ministry assignments.
The motion specifically noted that concerns “have been expressed both publicly and privately to various members of the Executive Committee and other Southern Baptists regarding how the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s actions in relation to its ministry statements are affecting the Convention and its relationships with local churches, local associations, and state conventions.”
“We are looking for the facts,” said Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone, who will chair the task force. “We are hearing from state leadership and other pastors across the country. We are making a statement about effectiveness.”
This action creates “a formal process by which we can receive information and determine the level that this issue is affecting the Cooperative Program,” said Stone. “I’m fully aware that we may find, as we did in 2017, that what we are hearing is not as significant in fact as it is in perception. What we want to find is where the facts lead us.”
The Task Force made its findings available yesterday and the report is an important read for all Southern Baptists, regardless of their opinion on the activity of the ERLC. Click here to read the Task Force’s report (PDF reader required).
Of particular interest are the following sections of the report:
Section V: The Long-Term Decline of the Cooperative Program [Excerpt]
In recent years, the allocation forwarded by the states to the national convention has increased
from an average of 37% (2009) to 42% (2018-2019). But total dollars received by our
state/regional convention partners has been in steady decline as noted in Appendix 4.
Percentage giving by churches has fallen by more than half over the last three decades. This is
despite the fact that total giving to SBC churches has grown from around $4 billion to around
$12 billion in this same time frame.
Sections X & XI: Conclusions & Recommendations
(1) That there seems to be confusion among Southern Baptists regarding increases and
decreases in national Cooperative Program giving.
(2) That while much of the work of the ERLC is praised and appreciated by Southern Baptists,
the ERLC is also a source of significant distraction from the Great Commission work of Southern
Baptists. The leader of a large state convention stated, “one of the major points of erosion of Cooperative Program support has been the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.” The task force finds merit in this statement.
(3) That the unacceptable handling of the amicus brief matter discussed in #9 above [in the report] is an
example of a concern raised by many SBC leaders that the ERLC is not as responsive as it ought
to be in correcting problems and controversies it creates. In this context, one state executive
responded about the ERLC that “National SBC controversy impacts CP giving through the state convention.”
(4) That the current perception of the leadership and direction of the ERLC by many Southern
Baptists is a substantial impediment to the growth of the Cooperative Program. Without quick
and significant changes in that perception, the findings suggest the potential for a measurable
decline in the near future and beyond. The executive director of one of our largest-contributing state conventions told the task force, “one of the major points of erosion of Cooperative Program support has been the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.”
(5) That there is considerable conversation across the Convention as to whether the ERLC is the
most effective and efficient structure and means for addressing the public policy concerns of
the Southern Baptist Convention.
(1) That the Executive Committee seek to provide even greater clarity about Convention-wide
giving trends as it reports giving to the national Convention budget.
(2) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees, in an effort to foster
greater unity among our churches, encourage ERLC staff to focus, where possible, on speaking
where the Southern Baptist Convention has already spoken through resolutions and The Baptist
Faith and Message.
(3) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees encourage the
president and staff of the ERLC to refrain from opposing specific candidates for public office.
(4) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees encourage the ERLC
staff to be more responsive to requests from Southern Baptists to address/acknowledge certain
news items as a means of better serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
(5) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees work with the ERLC
staff to develop an intentional plan to demonstrate a greater appreciation for how its positions,
including social media usage, affect the spirit of cooperation among Southern Baptists.
(6) That the Executive Committee request that the boards of trustees of each of the entities of
the Convention adopt and implement a policy of submitting legal briefs, where those briefs
address the nature and work of Southern Baptists, to Convention attorneys, prior to their being
filed, for the purpose of receiving input regarding the effect of those briefs on the ministries of
the Southern Baptist Convention.
Aaron Ren has released an episode of his podcast, The Masculinist, with critical insights for those interested in learning lessons for today from church history. The focus of the episode is the battle for conservative theology within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
The quote in the title of this post can be found around the 12:41 mark in the episode. You can listen to it on your podcast app or stream it here.
In this article from Ronnie Floyd’s Advancing the Vision series, Floyd writes, “The future is not in having cultural conversations apart from the Bible. This will always lead to division. Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and churches need to be having biblical conversations about cultural matters.”