Weekly Update

Indianapolis and the Prayer of Jesus

Jun 12, 2024

…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21, NIV)

I pray you are having a blessed summer and that your church is engaged in sharing Christ’s love in word and deed through summer events.

I write this update from Indianapolis as the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting here. Over 12,000 people have gathered to hear reports, listen to speakers and act on convention business. It was so good to attend our Texas Baptists Meetup at the GC2 Press booth on Monday and share a meal afterward. Thank you to all who stopped by or joined us for dinner.

Three items that seem to have captured much attention Tuesday and today include First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia being found outside of friendly cooperation with the SBC, the so-called Law Amendment’s consideration and near passage and an exchange between a BGCT pastor and NAMB leadership following that entity’s report. 

To the latter point, I addressed the subject of NAMB funding for BGCT church starts following our May Executive Board meeting. I encourage you to visit my past update on the topic here.

Yesterday, an overwhelming majority of messengers voted that FBC Alexandria was outside of friendly cooperation with the SBC because of its egalitarian beliefs regarding the office of pastor. The church first received an inquiry from the SBC Credentials Committee because they have an ordained woman who serves as children’s pastor.

Based on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the SBC has declared churches with women lead pastors out of friendly cooperation for some time now. The Law Amendment sought to expand the exclusion of women lead pastors to any woman serving on pastoral staff.

Today, the Law Amendment failed to meet the required two-thirds majority. The motion received 61.5% affirmative votes, making it a simple majority but insufficient to pass. Regardless of the result, Texas Baptists’ position on this matter is unchanged. In my report to the executive board in May, I stated the following and I continue to stand by it:

“We stand fast in our affirmation of local church autonomy. Specifically, when it comes to the subject of the role of women in ministry, we believe that each church has the freedom under Christ to decide what roles and titles it gives to her ministers including men and women.

“We assume that all Texas Baptists churches agree that God calls, gifts and uses women in ministry. The difference among our churches is the exact role and title women hold in a particular church.”

We have congregations that are fully complementarian, others who are fully egalitarian and mostly churches who are somewhere between these two positions.

Some of our churches believe women should not be pastors at any level. Some of our churches believe that a woman can serve as a lead pastor. Many of our churches have women serving in staff pastoral roles where the lead pastor is a male. These views are not a test of fellowship for Texas Baptists. Local church autonomy implies that the convention serves each church or group of churches according to their conviction on this matter.

We do not believe the topic of women in ministry is a matter of scriptural authority. We believe it is an issue of scriptural interpretation. When churches arrive at their position after prayerful consideration, careful study of the Scriptures and submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and are willing to cooperate with other churches who might arrive at a different conviction, we show respect for local church autonomy.

There are those who would like Texas Baptists to adopt a strictly complementarian position like the SBC and the BFM 2000. There are also those who would like Texas Baptists to be officially egalitarian. Yet, we are committed to unity in diversity under the Scriptures and the Lordship of Christ.

Some proponents of the Law Amendment have suggested that the matter of women serving in pastoral roles is a “sin issue.” The overwhelming majority of messengers to the SBC in 2024 have advanced the view that full and strict adherence to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is necessary for cooperation.

We disagree on both counts. 

Women serving in pastoral roles is not a “sin issue.” It is instead a matter of scriptural interpretation and cultural context. In traditional Baptist polity and history, statements of faith have served to express the doctrines that Baptists hold in general for cooperation and witness purposes. They are not to be used as instruments of imposed uniformity. We adhere to this traditional view.

We will continue to affirm and celebrate the contribution of women in ministry and leadership across Texas Baptists life. We know from our listening sessions that many women are weary and need encouragement and support. We see you and we support you. At the direction of the messengers to our Texas Baptists Annual Meeting, we will continue in our work to equip and connect women in ministry in the days ahead.

We will continue to welcome churches from any state who align with our commitment to God’s mission under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scriptures and who desire to affiliate with us. We can do more together than we can apart.

We will continue to partner with like-minded Great Commission entities who are willing to partner with us for the sake of the Gospel.

This continues to be our stance, and I will expand more on these points in the future.

I believe the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21 is needed today: May his people be one so that the world may believe in Jesus. Our unity in Christ matters because of our witness to the world. The Great Commission requires our cooperation as Baptists.

While we seek and pray for unity, we will continue to be committed to God’s mission above all.

This weekly update was revised at 12:30 p.m. on 6/13/24 to clarify the reason messengers voted to discontinue SBC's cooperative relationship with FBC Alexandria. The initial inquiry related to the church's female children's pastor. The motion to find the church outside of friendly cooperation cited the church's public endorsement of egalitarianism. 

Dr. Guarneri is the 21st executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He holds degrees from Texas A&M University Kingsville, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dallas Baptist University. He has more than 39 years of ministerial experience and is passionate about sharing the Gospel with the nations and cross-cultural missions and ministry.