The passage of the Mike Law amendment at the SBC 2023 convention, paired with the disfellowshipping of Fern Creek and Saddleback (or Brokeback) Church has sent a warning shot across the denomination to the egalitarians within. While there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, who possess women pastors, two of the more notorious bad actors were purged from the convention. Fern Creek was more outwardly defiant, which was exhibited in Linda Popham’s speech on the convention floor. Yet the situation of Saddleback Church is more commonplace within the SBC, that while they do not employ a woman “Senior Pastor,” they compromise to feminism through titling women as “Associate Pastors” who do not supersede the male headship of the church. Another common scenario is the pastor’s wife functioning as a co-pastor. Both were present in Saddleback.
Following the convention, Tosha Lamdin Williams took to Christian Post to write her column, “A Southern Baptist pastor’s wife responds to the ‘women pastor’ issue.” Kelly Williams is the pastor of Vangaurd Church, a multi-campus megachurch in Colorado Springs, CO. This church is listed in the SBC directory.
After describing her initial “calling” into ministry and her seminary training at Dallas Theological Seminary, she then goes on to describe their “calling” into church planting.
When we gave God our “yes” to church planting, we promised to do what He told us to do regardless of how the provision came, who believed in us, or what opposition we faced. Still, the opportunity for some monthly support from the SBC was almost too good to be true. We decided to apply.
The rigorous process included personality tests, background checks, recommendations, interview calls, and spiritual gifts tests. We followed the vetting process prayerfully. Finally, we were flown to SBC headquarters to meet for our final interviews and assessments. We were excited and nervous, but nothing prepared us for the way it all unfolded. The denouement moment came when the interviewer read us our spiritual gifts test results. He started with Kelly’s and then read mine
The female pastor problem in the SBC is undergirded by the institutions themselves, who either train up women as pastors in seminary or plant churches with women pastors. Yet another problem described is the use of “personality tests” and “spiritual gifts test” in the church planting process. Neither of these tools are useful or biblical. Personality tests are worthless and have no bearing on one’s qualification. There is no scientific basis to Meyers Briggs or Enneagram, nor should they be employed within the church for any reason. Moreover, they are employed by Ivy League universities as tools of discrimination (see Harvard). And Spiritual Gifts Test are equally unscientific.
We all know Scripture teaches that spiritual gifts are from God. He chooses who gets which gifts; He decides how they are appointed. 1 Corinthians 12:11 clarifies, “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”
Nonetheless, our interviewer told me, after reading my test results, that my gifts were nullified because I am a woman. “Your spiritual gifts are those of a pastor,” he said, “and don’t ever think you’re going to use those gifts of a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention.” He didn’t open other doors or offer suggestions for how to use my God-given spiritual gifts in different ways. He simply, firmly and arrogantly told me what I would never do and knocked the wind out of me.
The irony of quoting Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:11 to affirm her perception of her spiritual gifts while ignoring 1 Corinthians 14:34 cannot be unstated. In her story, the SBC attempted to “let her down easy” while also affirming her delusion that some arbitrary test results claim she has “the gift.”
After describing her role in ministry, where she has led thousands over twenty-five years. This has led to her being ascribed as a pastor while not adopting the title.
Truth is, I may be called “Pastor Tosha,” but I am not overtaking his role, subverting the elders’ authority or striving to rule over men. My commission has been to submissively, and yet simultaneously, courageously, boldly, vocally and lead all those God has entrusted to me.
Her words coincide with Kelly Williams’s views on female leadership in the church, in which he wrote at Patheos, “If an adult woman is in submission to her husband’s spiritual authority, she is eligible to exercise whatever spiritual gifts God has entrusted to her including the gift of prophecy/teaching, that is, forth telling truth of God and His Word.” This view conflates the Sphere of Family with the Sphere of Church. How can a woman submit in one sphere while having overarching authority over her husband in another?
It must also be noted that while Tosha Williams can comply with this statement as written, Vanguard Church employs women as pastors in title and function. Listed under their Pastoral Leadership Team includes Danel Smith, an Operations Pastor/Finance Director, and Jenni Ehrlin, a Ministries Pastor. They also have Dana Fike, who serves as an Associate Worship Pastor. Although Williams does not possess the title, there are women at Vanguard who do, and they are not co-pastors operating under their husband’s authority.
Tosha Williams concludes with uncertainty over the future of the church’s relationship with the SBC.
I don’t know what the future holds regarding the SBC and Vanguard Church — or any other Southern Baptist church with women who serve in pastoral roles or have pastoral gifts. But I do know this. I have not been called by men. I have been called by God, and I will keep my word and obey Him as long as He gives me breath.
May such be so in your life, as well.
Vanguard Church employs three women outwardly as “pastors” while listing Tosha Williams as a “Lead Shep & Teaching Team Member.” Presumably, “Shep” is short for shepherd, which is the meaning behind the word Pastor. Theoretically, they should be disfellowshipped for their violation of Scripture. Will they, probably not.
However, a central theme with these so-called women pastors is the feeling of spiritual gifts versus the blatant statements of Scripture itself. Rather than submit their feelings to the unambiguous authority of 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-13, and Titus 1:5-7, they instead read “pastors” into every woman listed in the New Testament felicitations written by the Apostle Paul. All these women suddenly become leaders based on the scantest textual evidence.
The Lord is the determiner of Spiritual Gifts, not Man, not some test results, not the feelings of the individual.