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Jeff Iorg

SBC Executive Committee President Jeff Iorg Opposes Banning Female Pastors

The Southern Baptist Convention is set to vote on ratifying the Mike Law Amendment which will specify in the SBC constitution that churches with female pastors are not in friendly cooperation with the convention. Before the vote last year, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (SBCEC) let the issue go to a floor vote but recommended against it. This trend is unchanged going into the 2024 Annual Southern Baptist Convention, as the new SBCEC president, Jeff Iorg has come out against the Mike Law Amendment. Before becoming president of the SBCEC, Jeff Iorg was president of Gateway Theological Seminary.

In the Baptist Press, Jeff Iorg published a longwinded column addressing his concerns with banning female pastors. Most of his concerns are practical, though his major arguments are theological.

Second, the previous issues (homosexuality, sexual abuse and racism) have a defined moral component. They are sinful acts clearly condemned in the Bible. Women serving in pastoral roles are not in this category. Gender leadership roles are a debate about interpreting the Bible, not about submitting to its authority.

Jeff Iorg believes that having female pastors somehow isn’t an obedience issue. Such disobedience of Scripture’s authority would be sinful. Southern Baptists rightly recognize that female pastors are a proxy for the authority of Scripture. Those who disobey this authority have reaped the rewards of their infidelity. See the Methodists, Episcopalians, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

While most Southern Baptists agree Christians may differ on gender leadership roles (meaning they are not a primary doctrine), the SBC is now deciding if gender leadership roles will be a secondary instead of a tertiary doctrine. This is a needed clarification for some; a major change for others who believe this has been and should remain a tertiary issue. We are deciding if gender leadership roles are a doctrine worth dividing over instead of a doctrine worth debating.

The Southern Baptist Convention settled the female pastor issue with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The Mike Law Amendment codifies these distinctions into the definition of friendly cooperation. Jeff Iorg is trying to rehash a debate Southern Baptists have settled.

  1. Let’s use our current processes to respond to churches which clearly and intentionally operate outside our confessional statement, declaring them “not in friendly cooperation” when necessary.
  2. Let’s keep debating the issue of gender leadership roles in churches with the goal of persuading churches to change their position or practices rather than removing them from the SBC.
  3. Let’s persuade people about the unique role of pastors and the importance of preserving that title for specific functions. Not every church leader is a pastor. We need to do more than change titles, we need to elevate the pastoral role so that it towers above other leadership roles in title, calling, function and stature.
  4. Let’s recommit to cooperation in pursuit of God’s eternal mission. We are a diverse, messy collection of churches with leaders opining on every imaginable issue. We must celebrate our diversity rather than striving for conformity, while doubling down on what the SBC came together to do in the first place – getting the Gospel to people who have never heard it.
  5. Let’s focus our energy on external threats instead of internal battles. Global secularism and religious persecution are increasing daily. We are dissipating energy and resources on infighting when we need to stand together with as many believers as possible to overcome true enemies of the Gospel. May God give us grace to pursue His eternal mission, together, despite real differences which have always been and will always be part of our movement.

Jeff Iorg refuses to acknowledge the time the Southern Baptist Convention is in. Many churches with female pastors may have places that have an undue influence on the Southern Baptist Convention. After all, there are over 1800 female pastors in the SBC.

To save the Southern Baptist Convention would require majority of the messengers at the annual meeting to be orthodox. That has not been the case functionally, though perhaps theologically. Purging churches with female pastors would shift the potential voter rolls of the annual meeting. And it could cause churches to repent. These are both good outcomes that should be sought. If half of the meeting is focused on unseating messengers and purging liberal churches, so be it. It is a far better use of time than the vain pageantry Southern Baptists are accustomed to.

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2 Responses

  1. Yes, just like the SBC benefited from losing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship people in the early 1990s, it would greatly benefit now from losing women-ordaining churches. It’s not arguing on how many angels can fit on the head of a pin when the Bible calls it a disgrace for women to be pastors (I Cor. 14:35). If women pastors is merely an issue of “interpretation” like eschatology or the Calvinist/Arminian debate and not an issue of obedience, then that throws open the door to the possibility that homosexuality should be regarded as an issue of interpretation as well. And in fact the arguments that have been used for women pastors have served as a template for conjuring up arguments for gay-affirming religion.

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