NASHVILLE (BP) – Texas pastor Juan Sanchez believes Southern Baptists can walk and chew gum at the same. Sanchez led the way for messengers at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting to affirm the first reading of an amendment to the SBC Constitution that would include a statement saying only men can serve in the role of pastor or elder in a cooperating church.
“We can say only men are to be pastors as qualified by Scripture. And women have a vital place in the life of the church,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez is the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. He was the guest on Baptist Press This Week to talk about the proposed amendment.
The motion, first brought last year by Virginia pastor Mike Law, received the required two-thirds vote by messengers. Another two-thirds vote of approval is necessary at next year’s annual meeting to proceed with the amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution.
Article III of the SBC Constitution lists five points that place churches within the definition of cooperation with the SBC. The amended motion calls for a sixth, adding churches that affirm, appoint, or employ “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”
Law’s original motion was referred to the SBC Executive Committee. The EC brought the motion to the 2023 Annual Meeting but said that while they agreed with the premise of the motion, they did not think it should be added to the SBC’s governing documents but included in the Convention’s statement of faith.
Sanchez says he is no expert in the area of what should or shouldn’t be placed in an organization’s charter documents, but, “In our own constitution, we actually have our confessional statement, and then we have the statements that we need to communicate how we order ourselves.”
He understands some Southern Baptists may not agree with adding the amendment to the Constitution but believes most are on the same page when it comes to what the Baptist Faith and Message says about only men serving in the office of pastor.
Sanchez also understands the amendment calls into question what he calls the “sloppy” use of the word pastor in many Southern Baptist churches.
“I don’t think it’s intentional. And I would argue that there are a lot of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention that may have a woman functioning in the children’s ministry that has the title pastor. And probably this woman does not see herself as a pastor, does not want to be a pastor, does not want to preach,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez also doesn’t believe that including the amendment in the constitution should be viewed as a derogatory move toward women.
“We can honor women in ways that are appropriate without confusing the biblical categories,” he said in the interview.
Sanchez said he hopes the discussion will help churches think biblically about the offices of pastor and deacon and other staff roles that may be needed in a local church.
“I think we’re all trying to get to the same place and that’s to establish clear language because there’s enough ambiguity that creates conversation,” he said.
“I think part of the problem is we are talking past each other in many ways. I’m confident that there’s confusion about terminology that we should be having conversations about.”
He said he also hopes the amendment will not be misused by Southern Baptists.
“One of the things I lament in our conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention right now is that there’s a lot of weaponizing of language and there’s a lot of tactics of fear,” he said.
One of his aims, he said, was to provide for clarity that he believed was missing during the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim.
“What became clear in Anaheim is that the credentials committee was not equipped to make a decision,” he said. “My hope is that by having this amendment, the Credentials Committee now has some clear definitions as to how to operate.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee.)