The 2023 Annual Southern Baptist Convention had a massive victory for conservatives that appeared against all odds. Mike Law has been actively working to amend the SBC constitution to define churches that have female pastors as not being in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, an issue made relevant by Saddleback Church and many others.
Original Amendment (Highlighted)
Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.
- The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:
- Has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)
- Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)
- Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.
- Does not act in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse.
- Does not act to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.
- Does not affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.
The parallels language of the original wording was substituted with positive language.
The substitution was adopted and the amendment was debated featuring a crying male pastor prior to the question being called. The messengers voted to pass the amendment. A point of order was made to issue a paper ballot but the messengers refused.
James Merritt Motion
The former convention president made a motion while flanked by JD Greear and Ed Litton. The motion sought to have the liberal president Bart Barber create a task force to (re)define what it means for a church to be found to be not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. The motion is intentionally designed to undermine the Mike Law Amendment.
Pastor Dusty Deevers introduced an amendment to the motion to have Al Mohler be the chairman of the task force appealing to his reputation on this issue and history with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
This was designed to undermine the effectiveness of the task force that was designed to undermine the amendment. Deevers poison pill failed and the clock expired on debate. Bart Barber refused to extend the clock and moved to the vote as messengers rushed in opposition of the motion.
The motion was then passed.
The passage of the Mike Law Amendment and the James Merritt motion create a conflict going into 2024. The messengers will have to pass the amendment again in order to ratify. Yet the task force appointed by Bart Barber could likely strip the enforcement capabilities of the amendment, thus rendering it toothless. The enforcement of such amendment has the ability to purge many egalitarian churches from the SBC, thus changing the voting messengers.
The most significant conservative victory at the convention in years was swiftly undermined, but the fight is far from over.
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