Critics in the media are trying to weave a narrative that Southern Baptists chose their complementarian theology over abuse reform and women in ministry. That narrative is a lie. It’s also theologically and practically a false choice. We don’t have to pick between our complementarian theology and abuse reform/women in ministry. We can do it all at once, and we did.
It’s been nearly a week since the SBC annual meeting finished up in New Orleans. I have been fascinated to read all of the “reports” and commentary that have come out over the last seven days. One thing that has become very clear. Even some of the “straight news” reporting has been beholden to a narrative that distorts what actually happened.
According to the narrative, abuse reforms “slowed down” while Southern Baptists reasserted the “patriarchy” by excluding female pastors. The New York Times published a “report” that amounts to little more than thinly veiled contempt. The article frets about an “ultraconservative” take-over and reduces the SBC’s relevance to being “a key Republican voting bloc ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”
TIME magazine warns of “The Southern Baptist Convention’s Long War for the Patriarchy.” Beth Allison Barr wrote for MSNBC.com that the SBC is “ignoring” the abused in order to “increase the power of men.” Barr even alleges that our complementarian theology amounts to “beliefs that rationalize and enable abuse against women.”
This is no surprise. The SBC is a complementarian convention. It’s written into our governing documents. The world hates this teaching and will try to paint the teaching in the worst possible light. Egalitarians and feminists have been levelling the abuse-slander against complementarians for decades. It is the worst sort of ad hominem, and egalitarians have found it a useful tactic when they are otherwise losing the biblical argument.
And make no mistake about last week. Proponents of female pastors were losing the argument. The SBC voted overwhelmingly to exclude two churches with female pastors. The convention also amended its doctrinal statement to clarify that the terms pastor, elder, and overseer are merely three ways of referring to the same office. Also, the convention voted to approve an amendment to the SBC Constitution which defines a cooperating church as one that “affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” None of these votes were close. They were all 80-90% supermajorities.