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Southern Baptist Convention. Resolutions on Women

Southern Baptist Convention

Resolution on the Place of Women in Christian Service (1973)
Resolution on the Place of Women in Christian Service (1973)
Resolution on missionary Qualifications (1974)
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1980)
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1983)
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1984)

Resolution on the Place of Women in Christian Service (1973)

Resolution No. 12 - On the Place of Women in Christian Service

WHEREAS, The Scriptures bear record to the distinctive roles of men and women in the church and in the home, and

WHEREAS, Christian women have made and are making a significant contribution to the cause of Christ, and

WHEREAS, Christian women have been exhorted to redig the old wells of mission promotion and education in our churches by Kenneth Chafin, and

WHEREAS, There is a great attack by the members of most women’s liberation movements upon scriptural precepts of woman’s place in society, and

WHEREAS, The theme of the Convention is “Share the Word Now” and this Word we share is explicitly clear on this subject.

Therefore, be it ’Resolved, that we “redig” or reaffirm God’s order of authority for his church and the Christian home: (1) Christ the head of every man; (2) man the head of the woman; (3) children in subjection to their parents-in the Lord.

Therefore, be it further Resolved, that we “redig” or reaffirm God’s explicit Word that (1) man was not made for the woman, but the woman for the man; (2) that the woman is the glory of man; (3) that as woman would not have existed without man, henceforth, neither would man have existed without the woman, they are dependent one upon the other - to the glory of God.

Notes: This 1973 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention (approximately 14,000,000 members) came nine years after Addie Davis became the Convention’s first ordained woman and one year after Druecillar Fordham became the Convention’s first ordained black woman pastor. The resolution was brought by Mrs. Jesse Sappington, the wife of a Houston pastor. Passage of this statement, which reaffirms the woman’s subjection to the man, unleashed considerable emotions on both sides of the issue.

Southern Baptist Convention
Concerning Freedom for Women (1974)

Christian morality is at the heart of the faith we embrace, the gospel we preach, and the churches we serve. Particularly important to Christian morality development at this time are a careful consideration of freedom for women, race relations, integrity in government, and economic life.

  1. Freedom for Women.- The good news proclaimed by the New Testament is that God has entered history through his son, Jesus, freeing human beings to reach their highest potential. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus made the cause of human liberation his own, committing himself “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:19).

    The Bible champions human liberation. Paul, in reflecting upon the new life in Christ, wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”(Gal. 3:28).

    Both men and women share the freedom which Christ gives. Historically, men have enjoyed far more freedom than women. Yet, men are not as free as God means for them to be, for when men keep women from being free, then both remain enslaved; and the work of Jesus Christ at this important point is made of no effect.

    Injustice toward women persists to some degree in every institution in society: government, business, education, and the church. So imbedded is discrimination against women that it affects not only the hearts and minds of people in society but also the institutions and structures of society itself. Unequal pay for the same kind of work is an example of the injustices against women which ought to be intolerable to Christians. Even in our churches, women often have been kept from assuming places of leadership for which their abilities and their Christian commitment qualify them.

    Just as it is sinful for men to discriminate against women, so it is sinful for women to refuse to accept the dignity God has bestowed on them.

    To endorse the great concept of the human liberation of women in Jesus Christ is not to endorse the ideas or actions of every person who unfurls the women’s liberation banner. Irresponsibility is no respecter of the sexes, and Christians must resist it no matter where it is found.

    Encouraging women to achieve their God-intended potential need not be detrimental to the stability of the family and the spiritual health of the church. The home and the church have crucial responsibilities for teaching the equal worth as well as the distinctive roles of males and females.

Recommendation No. 1 Concerning Freedom for Women

In response to Christ’s great call to freedom, we recommend:

  1. That we reaffirm our commitment to the Bible’s teaching that every individual has infinite worth and that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female, and that we endeavor to communicate these basic truths through Christian education, by precept and example, in church and at home;
  2. That we work to develop greater sensitivity to both overt and covert discrimination against women and that we endeavor through religious, political, social, business, and educational structures to eliminate such discrimination; and
  3. That our churches and our denominational agencies bear witness to the rest of society by rejecting discrimination against women in job placement, by providing equal pay for equal work, and by electing women to positions of leadership for which God’s gifts and the Holy Spirit’s calling equip them.
  4. We recommend that the Southern Baptist Convention’s Constitution and Bylaws, paragraph 5 [which is printed on pages 33-34 of the 1973 ’Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention as follows: “All Convention committees, boards and commissions shall include both ordained and lay persons as members. Not more than two-thirds of the members of any group should be drawn from either category.”] of Bylaw 7 entitled “How Board Members, Trustees, Commissioners, or Members of Standing Committees Are Elected,” be amended by adding as a move toward more equitable representation the following concluding sentence: At least one fifth of the total members shall be women. [Since this recommendation involves a Bylaw change, it is understood that it requires a two-thirds vote of the Convention.]
  5. We further recommend that this change be begun in 1975 and fully implemented no later than 1980.

Notes: This resolution by the Christian Life Commission was challenged by Mrs. Jesse Sappington, who gained prominence in the previous year by her support of a statement in favor of the subordination of women. The Convention voted the first three points separately from the fourth point. In both cases the resolution failed. The phrase "electing women to positions of leadership for which God’s gifts and the Holy Spirit’s calling equip them” seemed to many to be a veiled affirmation of the ordination of women.

Southern Baptist Convention
Resolution on missionary Qualifications (1974)

33. Tom Reynolds (Tex.) moved that the following be added to Article IX of the Constitution under the “Missionary Qualifications”: “All appointments, endorsements, etc., (including the military and industrial chaplaincy) whose function will be that of a pastor, which is restricted to males by Scripture, must meet those requirements as outlined in the New Testament.” The motion was referred for later consideration, which was set at 11:40 A.M. the following day. (See Item 138) . . . .

138. Tom Reynolds (Tex.) spoke in support of the motion he had offered (see Item 33). Discussion followed by Suzanne Coyle (Ky.) and Richard Jackson (Ariz.). A point of order was raised again from the floor about consideration of the motion to table still pending from the Tuesday evening session. The Chair declared that the messengers had sustained his ruling and that the consideration of the Reynolds motion would continue. James W. Kelly (Ga.) spoke to the motion. Howard Aultman (Miss.) moved the previous question. The motion passed. Since the result of a standing vote was in doubt, the vote was taken by ballot.

Notes: ’This resolution would require that all positions beyond the local church that involve pastoring, such as chaplaincy, be limited to men. The Convention was evenly divided on this issue, as a standing vote did not result in a decision. The resolution eventually failed, but this did not mean the voters were in favor of women chaplains. Given the tenor of votes on similar issues, it more likely meant that they were not willing to infringe so strongly on local church prerogatives in ordination. ’’’

Southern Baptist Convention
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1980)

Resolution No. 21 - On Women

WHEREAS, Through responsibilities in the family and in multiplied avenues of service, women have made immeasurable contributions to the home, society, and the Kingdom of God, and

WHEREAS, Many women today are answering God’s call for service within the home, in the church, and in the work-a-day world, and

WHEREAS, Contemporary pressures are forcing men and women to make difficult decisions regarding priorities and responsibilities,

Therefore be it Resolved, That we express gratitude to God for the contribution made by women in all avenues of service, and we call on Christian women to follow the pattern of Jesus and the teaching of the Scripture in determining priorities and responsibilities, and

Be it further Resolved, That we encourage all persons to be sensitive to the contemporary pressures facing women, and

Be it further Resolved, That for women who need or want to work outside the home we urge employers to seek fairness for women in compensation, advancement, and opportunities for improvement.

Be it finally Resolved, That this Convention, reaffirming the biblical role which stresses the equal worth but not always the sameness of function of women, does not endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.

Notes: This resolution encourages unbiased treatment of women in the work world while at the same time refusing to open certain arenas to women. The same resolution was again passed in 1981.

Southern Baptist Convention
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1983)

Resolution No.8 - On Women

WHEREAS, The Bible teaches that men and women share in the dignity of creation, both being made "in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27); and

WHEREAS, Our Lord Jesus Christ by his attitude and actions affirmed the worth and dignity of women; and

WHEREAS The Apostle Paul set forth in Galations 3:28 the principle of spiritual equality before God declaring that in the grace of God “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptist women have been and continue to be active, vitally involved, contributing members of the churches and of this Convention.

Therefore be it Resolved, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention assembled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 14-16, 1983, express gratitude to God for the contributions made by Southern Baptist women in service to home, society, the missions enterprise, and the cause of Christ in general; and that we affirm those women who labor for the Lord and the churches in places of special service to which God has called them; and

Be it further Resolved, That for women who serve the Lord as homemakers, we affirm their special calling, honor them for their unique contributions to church and society, and support their right to financial security; and

Be it further Resolved, That for women who work outside the home, we urge all employers, including those Southern Baptist churches, institutions, and agencies which employ women, to seek fairness for women in compensation, benefits, and opportunities for advancement; and

Be it finally Resolved That we encourage all Southern Baptists to continue to explore further opportunities of service for Baptist women, to ensure maximum utilization of all God-called servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notes: This resolution repeats a number of the ideas found in the 1980 and 1981 resolutions, but adds several new items that differ from those earlier documents. It emphasizes that both men and women share the image of God; and quotes the Galatians passage that is a favorite of those supporting women’s ordination. The final section implies a willingness to discuss the ordination of women. The implications of this resolution apparently prompted the 1984 resolution as a clarification measure.

Southern Baptist Convention
Statement on Women’s Ordination (1984)

Resolution No. 3 - On Ordination and the Role of Women in Ministry

WHEREAS, We, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Kansas City, June 12-14, 1984, recognize the authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice including the autonomy of the local church; and

WHEREAS, The New Testament enjoins all Christians to proclaim the gospel; and

WHEREAS, The New Testament churches as a community of faith recognized God’s ordination and anointing of some believers for special ministries (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:7; Titus 1:15) and in consequence of their demonstrated loyalty to the gospel, conferred public blessing and engaged in public dedicatory prayer setting them apart for service; and

WHEREAS, The New Testament does not mandate that all who are divinely called to ministry be ordained; and

WHEREAS, In the New Testament, ordination symbolizes spiritual succession to the world task of proclaiming and extending the gospel of Christ, and not a sacramental transfer of unique divine grace that perpetuates apostolic authority; and

WHEREAS, The New Testament emphasizes the equal dignity of men and women (Gal. 3:28) and that the Holy Spirit was at Pentecost divinely outpoured on men and women alike (Acts 2:17); and

WHEREAS, Women as well as men prayed and prophesied in public worship services (1 Cor. 11:2-16), and Priscilla joined her husband in teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26), and women fulfilled special church service-ministries as exemplified by Phoebe whose work Paul tributes as that of a servant of the church (Rom. 16:1); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures attest to God’s delegated order of authority (God the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, man the head of woman, man and woman dependent one upon the other to the glory of God) distinguishing the roles of men and women in public prayer and prophecy (1 Cor. 11:2-5); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures teach that women are not in public worship to assume a role of authority over men lest confusion reign in the local church (1 Cor. 14:33-36); and

WHEREAS, While Paul commends women and men alike in other roles of ministry and service (Titus 2:1-10), he excludes women from pastoral leadership (1 Tim. 2:12) to preserve a submission God requires because the man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall (1 Tim. 2:13ff); and

WHEREAS, These Scriptures are not intended to stifle the creative contribution of men and women as co-workers in many roles of church service, both on distant mission fields and in domestic ministries, but imply that women and men are nonetheless divinely gifted for distinctive areas of evangelical engagement; and

WHEREAS, Women are held in high honor for their unique and significant contribution to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, and the building of godly homes should be esteemed for its vital contribution to developing personal Christian character and Christlike concern for others.

Therefore, be it Resolved, That we not decide concerns of Christian doctrine and practice by modern cultural, sociological, and ecclesiastical trends or by emotional factors; that we remind ourselves of the dearly bought Baptist principle of the final authority of Scripture in matters of faith and conduct; and that we encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.

Notes: This resolution alters the apparent implications of the 1983 resolution by explicitly stating that, based on various Bible passages, women are not to be permitted to serve in ordained capacities. Because of the very loose authority the Convention wields over individual congregations, this resolution cannot force congregations to expel women pastors already in place, nor can it prevent congregations from ordaining others.

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