Last week, Saddleback Church ordained three women, a first for the largest Southern Baptist Convention-connected church in the United States. The move made enormous waves for the SBC, which does not allow women to become pastors, prompting reactions both celebratory and, well, less so. It also sparked questions about just how SBC leaders would respond. And now, SBC President J.D. Greear has done so on his own blog. He’s not happy.
“While I have long respected Saddleback’s ministry impact and heart for getting the gospel to the nations, I disagree with their decision to take this step, and would even say I find it disappointing,” Greear wrote. “As Pastor James Merritt noted, we can affirm both (1) that God calls men and women to vital ministry in the church and (2) that God’s Word clearly reserves the office of pastor/elder/overseer for qualified men.”
Greear went on to lay out the SBC’s position on women in ministry, saying “there is no such thing as a healthy church in which the men flourish and the women do not.” Greear did say that “[w]e need godly, strong women to step up and use the gifts God has given them” but seemed to imply that such gifts would not include teaching.
We need these women in the home, speaking courage into their family’s lives. We need them in ministry, calling us to give and pray and go and sacrifice. We need them in society, leading with wisdom, courage, and faith. And may we stay faithful to stand on the bedrock of God’s Word—whether the issue is the role of pastor or any other issue.
The issue has been a source of enormous tension for years in the SBC, playing a role in several convention splinters in the late ’70s that spawned the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In 2020, one-time Southern Baptist superstar Beth Moore announced that she was no longer a member of the SBC, partially because of the limitations it put on women.
In RELEVANT’s March/April issue, Mars Hill Associate Pastor Ashlee Eiland laid out her case for women preaching in the church. “Women have been included in the great story of the Gospel since the beginning, and by God’s design, we’ve been equipped to proclaim the good news of the empty tomb, of the Resurrection, of salvation,” she wrote. “We’ve been equipped to lead and prophecy and teach and administer mercy and care. May we as women – and may all of us – continue to walk forward in what is ours to do with Christ.”