NAAF leader issues letter questioning decisions on women pastors

NAAF leader issues letter questioning decisions on women pastors

The president of one of the SBC’s largest fellowships has issued a public letter addressing concerns about the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent move to disaffiliate two churches with women in leadership roles.

In the July 3 letter addressed to SBC President Bart Barber, Gregory Perkins, president of the National African American Fellowship and lead pastor at The View Church in Menifee, California, says the disfellowshipping of Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church, combined with a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution that would allow only men to be affirmed, appointed or employed as any kind of pastor or elder, “undermine the tie that binds i.e., the autonomy of the local church, and are inconsistent with our shared Baptist polity.”

“This may signal [that] churches in the SBC that do not believe that women should be the Senior Pastor but allow women the usage of a pastoral title or appoints a woman to be a pastoral role are no longer welcome in the SBC,” Perkins writes.

The National African American Fellowship, SBC (NAAF) represents over 4,000 congregations who self-identify as predominantly African American, Perkins noted. The denomination’s decisions regarding women in leadership “may disproportionately impact NAAF affiliated congregations,” he wrote.

“Many of our churches assign the title of ‘pastor’ to women who oversee ministries of the church under the authority of a male Senior Pastor, i.e., Children’s Pastor, Worship Pastor, Discipleship Pastor, etc. To disfellowship like-minded churches who share our faith in Jesus Christ, our belief in the authority of Scripture, our mandate to carry out the Great Commission and our agreement to give cooperatively based upon a local church governance decision dishonors the spirit of cooperation and the guiding tenets of our denomination.”

Barber responded July 10 on Twitter, “Our sister SBC churches in the NAAF have asked us for a season of prayer and dialogue. What a Christ-honoring, biblical way to approach decisions when fellow believers want to find common ground and make decisions together!”

He added, “I honor and value these partners in the work of the gospel. I will make sure that the entire SBC family has ample opportunity for prayer and dialogue throughout the coming year leading up to our meeting next June in Indianapolis.

“Indeed, I plan to see many of our NAAF leaders next week in Asheville, North Carolina, where I trust that we will make a healthy start in both prayer and fruitful conversation with one another,” he said.

‘Cherished distinctives’

Perkins points to a 1997 article in “SBC Life” in which Morris Chapman, then president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, stated, “The principle of local church autonomy is one of the most cherished distinctives of ecclesiology among Southern Baptists.”

“The autonomy of the local church is a defining Baptist conviction and forms the foundational framework for our shared cooperation,” Perkins writes, concluding with a statement of willingness on behalf of NAAF leaders to further discuss their concerns.

Read the full text of the NAAF letter here.

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