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First Thoughts

Three Reasons to Pass the Law Amendment

I’ve never met Mike Law or even had a conversation with him, but I do support his amendment to the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that messengers will consider at our meeting in Indianapolis this June.

There are three reasons why I hope Southern Baptists will approve this amendment.

1. There Has Been Confusion on This Issue

Some very faithful pastors in our convention have wondered whether this is necessary because our convention voted in New Orleans to remove several churches with female pastors, including Saddleback Church.

But this reality overlooks the reason the Law Amendment was first introduced. At the 2022 SBC meeting in Anaheim, the credentials committee investigating churches with female pastors asked the convention for a year to study what the SBC meant by the term “pastor.” This motion was withdrawn, but it is significant that a committee whose sole job was to make a determination on this matter felt that more clarity was needed in our convention documents.

The Law Amendment was offered to provide this clarity, and I think it does that.

2. This Is a Convictional Issue

Some very faithful pastors in our convention who also happen to be very dear friends of mine are concerned about what happens after the Law Amendment gets approved. They don’t want our convention being driven by suspicion, investigations, and the urge to purge.

I absolutely do not want this either. At the end of the day, we can either be a convention focused on The Great Commission or one distracted by great investigations. But the reality is that these investigations can happen right now without the Law Amendment. Right now, today, anyone with an internet connection can initiate an investigation into any church in the SBC. Passing the Law Amendment will not change this reality.

What is really at stake here is conviction. The Law Amendment adds language to the SBC constitution that states a church will not be in friendly cooperation unless it “Affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

Regardless of how we got here and regardless of our fears of where this might lead, Southern Baptists agree on this language. We agree with it because we are convictional people. I want to suggest to my dear fellow Southern Baptist messengers that, before God, we don’t have the freedom to vote against something we are sure is biblical because of a fear about what might happen in the future. It would be wrong to make an unfaithful decision today to avoid complications in the future. The straightforward choice is simply to stand with God’s Word, be faithful today, and trust him with tomorrow.

3. We Need This to End

In order to be ratified, the Law Amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the messengers in Indianapolis. It is unimaginable to me that a majority of Southern Baptists will vote against an amendment so straightforwardly biblical. That means, if it fails, it won’t be because it fails to get a majority, but because it fails to get a supermajority.

I’m ready to guarantee that if the amendment narrowly fails to pass, there are many people in the majority who will want to make another attempt at passing the amendment. That will ensure that we are talking about this issue for another two years. Everyone in leadership knows this kind of procedural maneuvering is sideways energy that prohibits progress on our Great Commission efforts. I am convinced that a convictional stand on this matter is actually the best way to finally move past this issue.

I mentioned that I’ve never met Mike, but I have met a lady named Sue, and she is one of the most important people in my life. She led me to Christ at a Southern Baptist youth camp thirty years ago. I will be in heaven because of God’s grace ministered through this incredible woman. I also know Margaret, Helisha, Teri, Marilyn, and Caroline. They are just a few of the women on our ministry staff at First Baptist. It would be impossible for us to do our work without them. All of those women are spending their lives in crucial service to the Lord Jesus Christ, and none of them would ever want to wear the label of pastor.

I say that to make clear that this is not about whether our convention affirms and values women, and it is not about whether there is a place for them on our church staffs. This is about whether we will take a convictional stand and agree with Scripture.

I think most Southern Baptists want to do this. We are a convictional people, and we take convictional stands. We have done it for our entire history, and I pray that we can do it again in Indianapolis and vote in favor of the Law Amendment.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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