Will the Law Amendment pass next week?

As the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention has drawn near, I’ve had a lot of people asking me what the chances are that the Law Amendment will pass. The short answer is that I don’t know, but I am hopeful. 

On the one hand, it passed overwhelmingly last year with at least about 80% voting in favor. On the other hand, opponents only have to shave off about 10-15 percentage points from last year’s total to kill it. And they have done a pretty good job over the last year scaring people away from it with bad arguments. They have argued:

  • There are hardly any female pastors in the SBC, but we would lose a ton of important churches with female pastors if we pass it. (Yes, that’s self-contradictory, but not many people seem to notice.)
  • It would violate church autonomy.
  • It will prevent women from serving on church staffs or employing their gifts in ministry.
  • It’s a war on women.
  • Having female pastors is a tertiary issue that shouldn’t affect cooperation.
  • It would unfairly target minority churches. 
  • Pastoring is a gift, not an office.
  • If it passes, they are coming for the female children’s ministers next.

Of course, none of these things are true, but they don’t have to be true in order for people to believe them. And if enough messengers are distracted by a false narrative, the amendment could fall short of the two-thirds supermajority required for final passage. 

Even though that scenario is possible, I am not pessimistic. The reality is that Southern Baptists by and large agree with what the Bible teaches about qualifications for pastoral office. Last year’s votes on Saddleback and Fern Creek prove that. And the Law Amendment merely affirms what Southern Baptists already believe. 

If you clear away the propaganda and scaremongering, it really does come down to the fact that Southern Baptists believe the Bible. The Bible says that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. We want our cooperation to reflect what the Bible teaches about this. The Law Amendment clarifies these things. If messengers are able to keep their eyes on these simple truths, they will vote for it, and they will do so overwhelmingly.

Erick Erickson has an open-letter exhorting Southern Baptists to vote for the Law Amendment. He points out all the sad examples of denominations that have begun with female pastors and have ended up affirming LGBTQ. There’s a long list, and the sad stories are all too familiar by now. I don’t think the SBC is anywhere near the decline of those other groups, nor do I accuse opponents of the amendment of being liberal like those other groups. I know that’s not who they are, and I don’t believe that. These are my brothers and sisters.

Nevertheless over time, decisions become directions, and directions become destinations (as pastor Willy Rice says). If in the distant future (God forbid) the SBC were to fall away like those other groups, our descendants will look back on the Law Amendment vote as either toward or against that apostasy. I want my vote to be against any such trajectory.

Will the Law Amendment pass? It depends on who is in the room and which narrative about the Law Amendment they have believed. I am hoping and praying that messengers will believe the truth and will vote overwhelmingly in favor of the amendment. I’m also praying that—no matter how the vote goes—we will hold together on the other side. We will know the outcome soon enough. See you Indy.