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above are currently listed on the NAMB website of associated churches, and none of this information appears to be outdated.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