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US Southern Baptists effort to enshrine ban on women pastors falls short

By Thomson Reuters Jun 12, 2024 | 11:41 AM

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday fell just short of the two-thirds majority vote needed to enshrine in its constitution a ban on women as church pastors.

Issues impacting women are prominent at this year’s annual meeting of the SBC, taking place in Indianapolis. Later on Wednesday the church leaders were expected to vote on whether to approve a resolution that condemns the use of in vitro fertilization.

The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with over 50,000 churches and over 14 million faithful, and has become a political force in recent decades.

The proposed constitutional change banning women pastors, known as the Law Amendment, had been approved during last year’s annual meeting. By church rules, any such change must be approved at two consecutive annual meetings, and this year it was approved by 61.45% of church leaders who voted – short of the 2/3 majority required.

The denomination has in recent years voted that individual churches that have female leaders were no longer in “friendly cooperation” with the organization, citing the denomination’s doctrine and scriptures as indicating that only men can lead a church.

The over 10,000 church leaders – known as “messengers” – attending the meeting and voting on an array of issues, fell just short of officially changing the SBC’s constitution to assert that a church can only employ “men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by the scripture.”

Individual Baptist churches are largely autonomous, typically locally own their own facilities and make their own decisions on how to worship.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Editing by Donna Bryson and David Gregorio)