"While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
This statement is clear. Whether or not one agrees with the premise, it should be granted that the 2000 BFM prohibits women from serving in the office of pastor ; which is defined in Article VI as an office within a church. There is no prohibition regarding women serving as Hebrew professors at our seminaries; there is no prohibition regarding women serving as Vice-Presidents or even Presidents of our Southern Baptist agencies; there is no prohibition regarding women serving as Strategy Cordinators with the International Mission Board; there is no prohibition regarding women teaching men; and as and there is no prohibition regarding women serving as chaplains. The only confessional prohibition is that women cannot serve in the 'office of pastor.'
The 2000 BFM Committee also used clear language to express their belief in the possible fallibility (error) of their interpretations of the sacred text. The 2000 BFM Committee displayed the same humble approach that the 1925 and 1963 Committees exhibited in acknowledging their ability to err in interpretating biblical doctrines - while at the same time believing the Bible itself is without error. This acknowledgment is spelled out in in their report to the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention:
As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time. Any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so. The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
If this generation of Southern Baptists does not understand the significance of such humble language and experience heartfelt gratitude for it, there will one day arise another generation who will express appreciation that their Southern Baptist forefathers had such wisdom. All Southern Baptists readily concede that unless the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is revised, women are officially prohibited from serving in the 'office of pastor' within a church that wishes to cooperate with other Southern Baptists churches or be identified with the Southern Baptist Convention. My goal is neither to revise or amend the 2000 BFM; I desire to show Southern Baptists how the phrase 'office of pastor' has now been taken by hard-line complementarians in the Southern Baptist Convention and used as the basis for the removal of women from performing any Christian function or ministry that involves men. These ministries from which Southern Baptist women have been prohibited include, but are not limited to, the 'indulgence' of exegeting Scripture in the presence of men, participating in any public leadership or administration of the ordinances with men present, and serving in Southern Baptist positions or jobs that require supervision of men. Integrity demands that we Southern Baptist should say what we mean. The intentional and clear phrase 'office of pastor' means what it says. To now use it to justify the complete removal of Southern Baptist women from any ministry involving men is both deceptive and unacceptable.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Southern Baptists, including Dorothy Patterson, Al Mohler, Danny Akin and others, serve on the Board of Directors of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. There are some fine men and women across the evangelical spectrum who serve on the board of directors, council and board of reference of CBMW. They write some excellent articles and materials from a complementarian perspective, and I have profited from them. I am grateful for Christians like those who serve on the Council, including the Southern Baptists named above, because they think seriously about such issues as manhood and womanhood and write for the profit of others. There are as many other conservative, evangelical men and women who write for Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization that holds to egalitarianism, and I have profited from their scholarly approach to biblical manhood and womanhood as well. Contrary what some assert, not only is it possible for a conservative, Bible-believing Christian to hold to egalitarianism. thousands of inerrantists do.
It is interesting to me, however, that complementarians often seem to lack either consensus or precision related to the question of whether or not it is only the senior pastor position that is banned for women. Hard-line complementarians on the CBMW have not reached a consensus with softer complementarians on whether or not women can lead worship, serve on pastoral staffs, teach men in the academic setting, etc . . . Unfortunately, it seems as if those advocating the hard-line complementarian position, which limits women far beyond the role of 'pastor' or 'elder,' may be currently winning the day at CBMW. I would love to be proven wrong by the CBMW revealing publicly which ministries they believe to be barred to women, with clear biblical warrants given. Otherwise, the kingdom is harmed by a kind of blanket discouragement for women to think of themselves as being able to minister according to their gifts, or to pursue ministry positions within the church other than the 'office of pastor.'
It is time that we Southern Baptists recognized that there may be a few people in leadership positions within our Convention who would seek to force upon the convention things regarding women that we have never offically adopted - like prohibitions on missionaries possessing a private prayer language, or prohibitions on women teaching Hebrew in our seminaries, or prohibitions on women serving as chaplains, etc . . . In my next post (I'm still researching for it) I will tell you the story of Regimental Army Chaplain, Major Paige Heard, who is now stationed at historic West Point Military Academy. Major Heard is a life-long Southern Baptist, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, New Orleans Seminary, and has faithfully served Christ as an endorsed chaplain of the Southern Baptist Convention. Paige is a conservative. She believes the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and sufficient. Yet, she is now only one of five female Southern Baptist chaplains left in the Army. In 2004 the trustees of the North American Misson Board voted to stop endorsing female chaplains. Major Heard had been endorsed prior to the 2004 prohibition and was 'grandfathered' in.
Ironically, the North American Mission Board in 2003 had initially said they would not 'ordain' women. But when they learned that the Army did not require ordination for a woman to serve as Chaplain, just an endorsement from NAMB, the trustees scrambled to stop the endorsements in 2004. In explaining why the trustees would no longer endorse 'women' to be chaplains for the Army, the NAMB Chairman of the Trustee Board said, "we will not endorse a woman where where the role and function of the chaplain would be seen the same as that of a pastor."
Do you notice the difference in language? The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message prohibits a woman from 'the office of pastor' in the local church. Somebody, somewhere, drove the NAMB trustees in 2004 to change the prohibition from 'office' to 'function' or 'ministry.' Now, a Southern Baptist woman, according to those who wish to force this narrow view on the rest of us, cannot minister or serve in any manner that might smack of what a pastor might do. As in . . .
(1). Indulging in the exposition of Scripture with men present.
(2). Having 'authority' over men in ministry.
(3). Leading men to faith in Jesus Christ.
(4). Leading in the observing of the ordinances in the presence of men.
(5). Leading worship in a worship service with men present.
(6). Teaching Christian history to men who will be pastors.
(7). Teaching anything spiritual to a boy over the age of twelve.
At the rate we are going to have some leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention who may very well take this prohibition of women holding the 'office of pastor' and do something ridiculous like establish a homemaking program at a seminary to teach women to sew, cook, clean, iron, etc . . . since they are prohibited from doing anything else in terms of ministry. Oh, wait, that's already happening.