Senior Pastor’s Response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Constitutional Amendment
Dear Church Family,
Our storied congregation has, throughout its history, partnered with organizations that complement the unique identity and work of First Baptist Church Gainesville (FBCG). While most of our cooperating partners remain committed to a healthy and supportive relationship with FBCG, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has just taken an historic vote which effectively expels FBCG from membership within the SBC.
On June 14, 2023, messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting voted to amend the SBC constitution to explicitly remove any church which “affirms, appoints or employs a woman as a pastor of any kind.” As you are likely aware, FBCG has celebrated the presence of women pastors on our staff for some time, and we will not compromise this practice on account of the SBC’s actions.
Our staff has anticipated this move by the Convention for some time, but the possibility became an imminent reality when leaders from within the SBC publicly categorized several congregations, including FBCG, as bodies which “contaminate the soil of our Convention with distrust and disobedience to the Scriptures.” Additionally, certain leaders from within the SBC obtained the names and photos of FBCG staff and published them on a digital “watch list” of churches with female pastors in order to garner support for the aforementioned constitutional amendment. This bullying tactic compromised the safety and well-being of the women on our staff, a move which saddened and infuriated our church leadership.
This series of events had already led FBCG staff and deacons to evaluate our ongoing partnership with the SBC, though no official action had been taken prior to this week’s events. With the Convention’s vote to disfellowship churches with women pastors, we will accept the reality that we are no longer welcome at the SBC table and sever all remaining ties with the SBC and its partner organizations (i.e. Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB), Chattahoochee Baptist Association (CBA)), pending FBC approval at an upcoming church conference.
To be clear, FBCG maintained only minimal ties with the SBC prior to this week’s events. We continued to make small contributions to the SBC’s Cooperative Program to honor our historic partnership and to obtain certain employee benefits but largely prioritized giving to other organizations such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist World Alliance. Because of this week’s events, FBC leadership will initiate discussions on how to redirect existing SBC, GBMB and CBA expenditures towards causes which advance the missional work of our church.
I pray that FBCG responds to this week’s events with a renewed commitment to historic Baptist principles and the continued empowerment of women in ministry. We will not allow the SBC’s regrettable compromise on local church autonomy to affect our efforts to be the church God has called us to be in our unique context. Additionally, we will seek to grow in our support and encouragement of female leaders in the church as they follow the Spirit’s leading in their lives.
May the presence of Christ fill our community as we pursue kingdom-building work and relationships in Gainesville and beyond.
Reverend Doctor Jeremy Shoulta
First Baptist Church Gainesville