Editor’s Note: Since the documentation is so important to the piece below we are going to include links to referenced content within parenthesis following the relevant items. Please read the piece thoughtfully and click the links to see the supporting information.
If cover-up is implausible, (https://twitter.com/justinsampler/status/1445862562113916928) then why are former ERLC president Russell D. Moore and the SBC wringing their hands and spending millions to investigate the Executive Committee for alleged cover-up? Moore and his fellow hang-wringers obviously don’t think cover-up is implausible when it comes to the EC. So shouldn’t Sampler say it’s more likely Moore is lying?
Or, to borrow a term, is it more plausible a double standard is in play with Sampler’s tweets? Or even something more disturbing?
Lying about what? Again – because this is crucial to the dispute: lying about what? Even if Whitehead were mistaken in his inferences, the information is all here to support his claims. Sampler acts like someone credibly accused of abuse cover-up.
Here are the facts:
1. Moore addressed a letter to the Board of Trustees of the ERLC in February of 2020, making accusations against the SBC EC.
What happened at the annual meeting? What did the motion say?
Among the numerous items of business that were considered at the SBC Annual Meeting this past June was a “Motion to Investigate the SBC Executive Committee.” This motion received no small amount of attention at the time, as part of a larger campaign to investigate allegations of sexual abuse. Part of the motion (with emphasis added) is included below:
“We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.”
Waiver of attorney-client privilege is no small matter, yet that portion of the motion seems to have received relatively little attention.
What is attorney-client privilege? Why is the privilege important?
Most readers probably have at least a general idea of what is meant by the attorney-client privilege. Nevertheless, defining the concept a little more concretely will be helpful for the purposes of this article.
One of the oldest concepts in the Anglo-American system of common law, the attorney-client privilege is (as the name implies) a privilege held by legal clients (and exercisable by them) that protects the confidentiality of a client’s communications with the client’s attorney. Writing for the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, Sue Michmerhuizen helpfully explains further:
The attorney-client privilege only protects the essence of the communications actually had by the client and lawyer and only extends to information given for the purpose of obtaining legal representation. The underlying information is not protected if it is available from another source. Therefore, information cannot be placed under an evidentiary “cloak” of protection simply because it has been told to the lawyer.
The important points to highlight here are: (1) communications, not information, are what the privilege protects and (2) not all communications with an attorney are protected. Hopefully the readers’ eyes haven’t begun to glaze over at what looks like legal minutiae, but at least a basic understanding of the contours of the privilege is important if one is going to assess what the messengers actually did when the motion was approved in June.
One might reasonably ask, “Who cares? Why should communications between an attorney and his clients be kept confidential?” The United States Supreme Court has succinctly explained the importance of the privilege:
Its purpose is to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of law and administration of justice. The privilege recognizes that sound legal advice or advocacy serves public ends and that such advice or advocacy depends upon the lawyer’s being fully informed by the client.
Thus, although it may not seem so at first, the goal of the privilege is to promote justice, not stifle it. The very purpose of seeking advice from an attorney is so that the client can be reliably informed about how to conform his actions to the law. If clients are afraid that their communications with their attorneys may be used against them, they will be deterred from seeking out that advice and will be left to do their best to discern for themselves what the law requires.
What is the relationship between the EC and the rest of the SBC?
Another issue that is important to flesh out before thinking about the implications of the motion is the relationship between the Executive Committee (“EC”) and the rest of the Southern Baptist Convention. In one sense, the Southern Baptist Convention writ large exists only once per year when the messengers assemble for the annual meeting. In between those meetings, however, the EC acts as “the fiduciary, the fiscal, and the executive entity of the Convention in all its affairs not specifically committed to some other board or entity.” Among other duties, the EC is “specifically authorized, instructed, and commissioned to . . . act for the Convention ad interim in all matters not otherwise provided for.”
In other words, the EC takes actions on behalf of the messengers (and by extension the churches they represent), but it is not a separate entity unto itself with any inherent authority. As some have pointed out, the polity of the SBC leaves little room (perhaps none at all) for the EC to decline to follow direction given by the assembled messengers. The EC has only a delegated authority, but because that delegation covers “all matters not otherwise provided for” the scope is potentially quite broad.
What are the unanswered questions arising from the motion to waive privilege?
With that background in view, hopefully Southern Baptists will begin to ask some questions about the motion.
For instance, it’s not entirely clear what the motion is asking for. Was the intent that the EC waive privilege for the EC itself? Some of the more recent discussion (online and elsewhere) seems to assume that was the intent, but that does not line up with the wording of the motion which refers to “staff and members waiving attorney client privilege.”
Yet, that only leads to another question: can the EC waive privilege on behalf of its members or its staff? It is well-established that the privilege is held and can only be waived by the client. But who is the client in this scenario? Is it the EC itself or the staff and members? Can the messengers of the SBC require individuals to waive their own attorney client privilege? If the motion requires that the EC waive privilege for its staff and members, have the messengers asked the EC to do some action that the EC has no legal authority to do?
It’s not so much that these questions don’t have answers, but they are certainly answers that would be unknown to the vast majority of the messengers who were at the meeting, few of whom were attorneys with more than superficial knowledge in this area of the law.
Additional questions about what the motion intends remain unanswered. What is the scope of this waiver? It certainly reads as if it is meant to be a blanket waiver, but is anything so broad really necessary or was this meant to be more limited in scope?
Alongside the “what” the messengers might well want to ask the “why.” Given just how important the attorney-client privilege is, why is anyone being asked to surrender that legal protection at the outset, before anyone has even had the chance to assert the privilege? Why was the motion stated in terms of a blanket waiver rather than one more limited in its reach? Why ask that privilege be waived in the first place, knowing that the prevailing legal advice would be not to do so?
All of those questions are important and ought to have been answered in Nashville. Even if the presiding officer’s asking the messengers whether there was discussion was more than a mere formality, the kind of deliberation necessary to answer these questions never would be possible from the floor of the meeting. Ample time seems to have been allotted for that portion of the meeting, but no meaningful discussion actually occurred.
It’s clear, however, that SBC leadership was prepared to deal with motions that had legal implications. An attorney was called to the stage to render an opinion about the ability of the messengers to rescind a resolution passed by the previous annual meeting, but no one thought it would be a good idea to have an attorney speak to the ability of the messengers to instruct the EC to waive the attorney-client privilege of its individual staff and members? One struggles to find a satisfying explanation for that disparity.
One also struggles to discern more than the most superficial of justifications for the waiver part of the motion. It seems to boil down to the naked assertion that “the commissioned third-party” said the EC has to waive in order to have a thorough investigation. Even that claim, however, seems to have been subjected to very little scrutiny. One is forced to speculate, but the rejoinder may well be related to recent actions by the Attorney General of Michigan who cancelled one investigation and refused to begin another unless the institutions under investigation would give up attorney client privilege. Regardless of the merits of such a demand by the Attorney General of Michigan, no one seems prepared to attempt to justify such a demand in the case of the SBC.
Across the country, countless investigations of even the most heinous criminal wrongdoing proceed every day without law enforcement officers or prosecutors demanding that individuals waive the privilege. That is because, as noted above, investigating the facts of a situation does not require stripping confidentiality from the communications between clients and lawyers.
A common bromide in discussions of privilege (as well as discussion of the right against self-incrimination) is “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide.” Without meaning to be uncharitable, such statements are as ignorant as they are harmful. The privilege was not established and maintained over the past centuries as a convenient means to cover up wrongdoing but, as explained above, to encourage individuals to consult legal professionals so that they can know what is the right thing to do.
In fact, given the way that abuse has been defined of late, asking the staff and members of the EC to give up legal rights out of a claimed spiritual obligation is itself a form of abuse. Unquestioning proponents of a blanket waiver of privilege would do well to consider whether they, in fact, are the ones engaged in wrongdoing (even if only because they are uninformed).
Finally, the tactic of insisting that individuals or organizations under investigation waive attorney-privilege is a practice of prosecutors that has come under significant scrutiny as its use has increased since the late 1990s. David M. Brodsky, Steven K. Hazen, R. William Ide, and Mark O. Kasanin, commenting on proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Evidence, brought into sharp relief the problematic aspects of this “you must waive privilege for us to do our investigation” approach:
Under current governmental policies, companies do not realistically have the option to preserve the confidentiality upon which an effective attorney-client relationship is so heavily dependent and otherwise protected by the privilege and doctrine, or they run the considerable risk of being deemed “uncooperative” by the government authority— a characterization that can be a virtual corporate death sentence or, at least, extraordinarily financially punitive. Putting it another way, if the government decides a company is not being cooperative, in essence the government can act as a prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.
Although their comments were written in the context of government investigations, the danger to the SBC is the same. The messengers may well have put “the commissioned third-party” in the position to “act as a prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.”
If the staff and members of the EC (whether in keeping with SBC polity or otherwise) do not waive privilege, will they be criticized for being “uncooperative”? If that is not what the authors of the motion intended, is it at least something that they considered? Again, these questions are ones that could have been answered months ago. They should have been answered months ago. That they were not answered in June puts the EC in a dilemma that seems, at this point, impossible for them to resolve without doing significant damage to the SBC. That’s a particular shame because the dilemma that has been set up for the EC is one that need not be faced in order to have an investigation.
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.
As you likely know, Owen Strachan is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention.
How should we think about that move?
For starters there are lots of people his departure is good for. It’s great for everyone connected to Grace Bible Theological Seminary, so great that “great” really doesn’t quite capture how good it is. Go look on YouTube for the reaction in Cleveland when the Cavs won the Lebron James lottery. That is what I mean by “great for GBTS.”
The people who it is bad – really bad – for are those of us who care about the faithfulness and future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Strachan represents rarified air within scholarly Southern Baptist circles in terms of scholarship, leadership, faithfulness – particularly when one considers his relative youth. Give his faculty page at the old gig a read. He’s… accomplished. Published. Lead. Contributed. Taken stands.
In short, he’s the kind of scholar coming into the very height of his powers that a wise institution not only fights like a wild animal to keep but builds its program on.
But Midwestern wished him well.
And Grace Bible Theological Seminary won the lottery.
This, in and of itself, is a catastrophic loss for the Southern Baptist Convention. Let me ask you, reader, this question:
Dr. Strachan was clearly the #1 opponent of CRT working at a Southern Baptist entity. Who is in the #2 slot behind him?
Don’t worry – I’ll wait.
Insofar as this decision looks like the failure to retain a voice critical of Critical Race Theory the implications for the Southern Baptist Convention are increasingly distressing.
When the news broke a friend told me he is sending his daughter to MBTS’ Spurgeon College and now is questioning the decision. Strachan, by himself, granted a degree of legitimacy to MBTS among those who see CRT for the danger it is that no other seminary can boast. That MBTS failed to retain Strachan leaves many of us not just wondering if MBTS is a viable option but whether there is a viable option in the SBC for Seminary education. It appears the policy of our seminaries is to deny that CRT has any place in their institution even as the content coming to light from their faculty makes clear that CRT is very much at home within those schools. Owen offered a practical, real-world alternative – again, as I have mentioned, largely by himself – and now the door to a theological education not subject to CRT propaganda appears to have departed the SBC with him.
I once told Owen that I believed he was our Machen because he was taking an unique stand against a popular and egregious error. His departure makes the parallels more pronounced. Think I am wrong? Providentially, Ligonier’s Renewing Your Mind podcast has been running lectures from Dr. Robert Godfrey’s Church History lectures. Recent episodes have covered the 20th Century Modernist / Fundamentalist split. This paradigm is the best we have for understanding the current developing divide between woke evangelicals and those who wish to remain within the historical Christian tradition. Give these episodes a listen and tell me that the comparison is not painfully apt.
Machen’s departure should have prompted American Presbyterianism to rend their clothes in sackcloth and ashes. That didn’t happen. Princeton was lost to apostasy and continues to vomit toxicity to our day.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the place our Presbyterian brothers found themselves long ago. May the Lord grant we learn from their lesson and act more faithfully.
Let me put a point on this: Get to Nashville. Vote in every session. We have two candidates who won’t allow the degradation into Church Intersectionality to continue. We have a third who might not. Vote for them.*
Haven’t been planning to go? No excuses – get to Nashville.
Think the last minute planning will be too difficult? Stop. Get to Nashville.
Seriously. Enough is enough. Get to Nashville. Need help? Reply to this post and we’ll see what we can do. But get to Nashville – with as many voters as your church can send. I’m dead serious.
Owen Strachan left the Southern Baptist Convention. He left not because he was forced out, I think, but because the options outside were better for his calling. That the options for him outside the SBC were better is to our great shame and his departure has massive and immediate ramifications for our brothers and sisters in Southern Baptist Churches.
If we fail to act now, if we fail to learn from church history, we will find ourselves where the options outside the SBC aren’t merely better but rather the only option for faithful Christians.
A couple readers have asked that I elaborate here; I honestly assumed it was obvious. I’ll clarify but I want it to be clear I am speaking for myself and not CR:V or any other contributors.
I think Mike Stone is the best candidate, Randy Adams is another great option. Al Mohler, who I respect as much as anyone in the SBC, is the maybe candidate; if we get the guy who reformed SBTS and speaks on The Briefing every day he’d move straight up the chart like a rocket. However, that he is also Matt Hall’s boss makes the proposition more iffy.
On this episode Jeff sits down with Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, and candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. You’ll get to know Randy better – how important the BCM was in his walk with Christ, his time pastoring, how he came to the Northwest, and what his aspirations for the Southern Baptist Convention look like.
We trust you will find this interview enlightening and enjoyable!
You can stream the episode here or find it on your favorite podcast platform.
Give Randy a follow on Twitter then check out his SBC-focused writings at SBCtransform.com.
It’s totally a Baptist thing to have a committee on committees, isn’t it? But for those who do not know, this committee is one of the most important (if not the most important) committees that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press correctly articulates the situation:
“The Committee on Committees, with two members from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation, has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence on Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our 11 convention entities and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.”
A key to a healthy convention is God fearing trustees since they are responsible to watch over our entities on behalf of the 47,000 churches of the SBC. These trustees receive their appointment through the Committee on Nominations. Therefore, you want to have a solid Committee on Nominations in order to ensure solid trustee nominations. This brings us back to the Committee on Committees – this committee needs to be strong since it is charged with appointing who will sit on the Committee on Nominations.
The 2021 Situation
In mid-April of 2021 SBC President, J.D. Greear, named the 68 members of the Committee on Committees. By the way, this is one of the reasons electing a strong conservative SBC President in 2021 is so important since they are the ones who name the persons on the Committee on Committees.
What is the makeup of Greear’s Committee on Committees? Well, there’s quite a bit of makeup actually. It is chaired by Meredith Cook, a member of Neartown Church in Houston, Texas. Along with Mrs. Cook there are an additional 38 women sitting on the committee bringing the total to 39 out of 68 members (57%) being female (source).
Thus, out of the 34 states/regions that comprise the Committee on Committees there were multiple areas that J.D. decided needed no male leadership at all.
What’s the Problem?
In a Q&A session (that was definitely not sponsored by SWBTS and NAMB) with Dr. Ed Litton on April 29, 2021 I had the opportunity to ask if he thought there was any issue with this committee being a majority (57%) female committee. Several pastors in the room laughed at me and shouted “No!” Dr. Litton smiled at the support in the room and answered (though in a kinder way) along with them, “No.”
As you have probably already figured out, the point of this post is to show why a majority women Committee on Committees in the Southern Baptist Convention is an issue. Here are a few reasons why:
It Reeks of Tokenism
My wife is the one who brought this point to my attention. She said that she finds it offensive that so many women are on the Committee on Committees simply because they are women. It seems as though J.D. wanted to make a point and it certainly has been made!
It’s Catering to the Culture
This move seems to be another example of the Southern Baptist Convention seeking to make peace with a godless culture. It is extremely countercultural in our day to preach and live out strong biblical complementarianism in our homes and churches. This seems to be another move whereby we can shout at the culture to look how non-complementarian we are.
Let me quickly mention in response to these first two points that I’ve grown quite weary of leadership in the SBC not exalting the roles of women that we have in Scripture as important and meaningful to our convention. That is, why are women only seen as “empowered” if they serve on a certain committee? Why do we not value the role of a wife and mother in the home, submitting to her husband, nurturing her children, and being a godly member of her local church? Why are we so bent on making women preach or serve in this or that area of leadership as the only real meaningful contributions they can give?
It is an Egalitarian Slide
Here is where I will spend most of the blog post. Egalitarianism “holds that women and men properly have equal and interchangeable roles in the home, church, and wider society.” That is, an egalitarian would hold that it doesn’t matter who preaches, pastors, leads the home, etc. in terms of gender. Both men and women are qualified to hold whatever position in the home, church, or society.
Complementarianism, on the other hand, says “that God created man and woman equal in value and personhood, and equal in bearing His image, but that both creation and redemption indicate some distinct roles for men and women in marriage and in the church.”
Unequivocally, the Southern Baptist Convention is a complementarian convention of churches – at least on paper. What paper? Well, the Baptist Faith and Message says this, for example,
“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation” (BFM 2000, XVIII).
So, what does all of this have to do with the Committee on Committees? Quite a lot actually. But first let me say this: I am not arguing for or against in this post whether a woman ought to serve on a committee. That’s not the purpose of this writing. The purpose of this writing is to ask whether or not the most important committee in the Southern Baptist Convention ought to have a majority of its seats held by women.
We have already affirmed in the BFM 2000 that we believe that men ought to lead in the home. We also state that men ought to lead in the church as the office of pastor is only for qualified men (see BFM 2000, VI.). Yet, when it comes to this committee, Southern Baptists are affirming an egalitarian position – that is, the role of leadership here is interchangeable.
A Moment of Crisis
No matter which “side” someone is on in the current SBC debates I think most would agree we are in a moment of crisis. Some might say the “crisis” is people saying there is a crisis! But that would still be a form of crisis.
And here is the point I am making: How can we think it is a good idea – a God ordained idea – that in a moment of crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, we ought to have our most important committee led by women? Shouldn’t men be leading in all times, but especially during a moment of crisis?
Yes, before you ask, I have read the book of Judges and am familiar with Deborah. I am also familiar with the context of the book and that we do not want to get to a point in Southern Baptist life whereby we are in need of a Deborah to lead us.
The Value of Godly Women
I don’t think this point needs to be made but I’m going to make it anyway. Women in the Southern Baptist Convention are unquestionably valuable. Our churches and our convention would not be where they are today without godly women. This is incontrovertible.
Why then am I saying it’s not a good idea for our most important committee to be led by women? Because God’s very good and holy design in the home, church, and society at large is for men to take up the mantle of leadership. This is not to wonder whether or not a woman is able to select a good candidate for the Committee on Nominations. It’s rather to say that God has not created men to put their wives in that situation.
And I’ll close with this: The Committee on Committees situation is another example where we are losing the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. If we believe the Bible is sufficient to teach us gender roles, then why are we not making proper application on the Committee on Committees? Why do we believe, as the BFM states, that men are designed for leadership in the home and the church, but that the Committee on Committees is an exception?
Some have stated this is about “power” or “control.” The reality is this is true. This is about power. It is about the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. And it is about control. Will we allow this authoritative and sufficient Word to control our convention or will the cultural winds change our course? Do we trust God’s very good design or not?
 Major Contributors and Editors,“Egalitarianism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
*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.”
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.
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.
I suppose every post must start somewhere. This one begins in 1673 – the year Benjamin Keach decided to apply Matthew 26:30 tangibly to his church at Horsleydown in London. I suppose I should also mention Keach was Baptist before it was cool; before there was so much Great Commission™ money. This was before the Act of Toleration; a time when Baptists embraced being outsiders to the mainstream.
I know. I’m throwing a few jabs early there. But I’ll save the haymaker for later.
Moving along, in 1673 Keach leads his church to sing a hymn after the Lord’s Supper. By 1690 Isaac Marlow is publicly opposing him in the social media of the day: tracts. They duke it out in the public arena and eventually, the singing Baptists win.
In 1688 Elias Keach, son of Benjamin, is pastoring in the Philadelphia area. It’s not just his influence mind you (I do think it significant enough to mention) but by 1707 the churches in the area have unofficially adopted “the Confession” as their theological foundation.
What is “the Confession”? Well, in 1742 it is officially named the Philadelphia Confession. Why did I start this story with Benjamin Keach? Because the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 is the 1689 London Baptist Confession with two additions: one dealing with the laying on of hands. The other? Singing.
We now fast forward to 1814 – the same year Colonel Jackson took his little trip down to New Orleans. Unrelatedly, the Triennial Baptist Convention (TBC) was formed (it had a longer name) by Luther Rice.
Fast forward again to 1844. In a 7-5 decision, the Board of the Home Missionary Society declined the appointment of a missionary from Georgia because he owned slaves. In response, Alabama Baptists wrote to the Foreign Mission Board asking if they would appoint missionaries who owned slaves. The answer: No.
Some southerners, “did not attempt to defend the evils in the slavery system, but described the institution as an inherited disease to be cured slowly.”* Others tried to justify slavery with the Bible. This was a sad and tragic era in the history of Triennial Baptist churches south of the Mason Dixon line.
Thus, over the issue of missionaries being denied appointment because of slavery, “a total of 293 delegates” representing a “substantial” number of local churches gathered on “May 8, 1845 in Augusta, Georgia” and formed the Southern Baptist Convention.** Thankfully, Southern Baptists today continue to repudiate the reprehensible view some in the early SBC held toward people of color.
Now, what hath London to do with Augusta? Why start this post with Benjamin Keach?
Because, as the faculty blog of SEBTS notes, “In 1845, when the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, every delegate came from a church or association that had adopted the Philadelphia Confession or an abstract of the document.”
Nearly 300 delegates and every single one of them was influenced by Benjamin Keach and the uncool 17th-century Baptists of England. Which, we must also point out that historically the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (written in 1677) had nothing to do with American chattel slavery. I only mention this because you cannot argue historically that the Confession was a pro-slavery document. The error in the early SBC was in spite of the Philadelphia Confession they held to, not because of it.
So, now, we are ready to get to a point!
Sometimes you will hear Southern Baptists today saying, “What we agree on is more than what we disagree on” or, important for this post, “the SBC is a big tent!”
Now, there is some truth in that. We have differences of style or eschatology, or how flashy our bulletins ought to be, or whether we can preach from an iPad. But despite these differences, we can, and should, still partner together for mission.
After all, at its inception, Southern Baptists said their organization was about “directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.”***
However, the SBC in 1845 didn’t merely unite just for the purpose of “mission” but had a very rich theological underpinning. Yes, the SBC partners for mission. But this partnership began with serious theological parameters. Doctrinal parameters must be maintained, for if the tent is too big, the cooperation fails.
Because, theologically, being a Southern Baptist, at least in the beginning, was about a rich and glorious orthodoxy. A Confession that had a high view of God, a biblical view of the local church and its male leadership, and a robust trust in the sufficiency of Scripture, was held to by our Baptist forefathers.
Again, I am willing to admit this was not always applied correctly, but this is not the Confession’s fault, nor is it the Bible’s. It is the hearts of men that are to blame.
Now, I do not imply that one must hold to the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 in order to be a “true” Southern Baptist. But I do, without reservation, say that we must hold clear conservative doctrinal convictions. So, everyone who calls themselves a Southern (or Great Commission™) Baptist, is not necessarily SBC. You can’t say you’re SBC for the sake of “mission” and yet be removed from certain doctrinal standards, like those defined in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)
The SBC was never designed to be such a big tent that orthodoxy was in question. But even beyond that- it was never designed to allow for, say, paedobaptism. Nor was the tent built for various views of women pastors, or for any to take or leave the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.
The SBC was always meant to agree on not only the gospel, but even other core issues. To partner for mission without that understanding is to misunderstand why the SBC even exists. Southern Baptists did not join in this large association with Presbyterians or free will Baptists “for the sake of the gospel.” Rather, they came together from a likeminded theological position as articulated by the Philadelphia Confession.