The Law Amendment failed to receive the needed second affirmative vote at the 2024 SBC annual meeting.

The family of congregations we like to call N.C. Baptists are born from the truths of God’s inspired, inerrant Word, and they are built to advance the gospel to the ends of the earth.

These churches come in a variety of sizes, shapes, styles and preferences, but we are devoted to one sacred effort. We are on mission together.

Unrest among our national partners in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has caused uncertainty in some circles about the limits of Baptist partnerships. Do we still have the ability to unite for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission?

The issues of gender roles, church governance, biblical qualifications for pastors, their titles and function led to years of debate and culminated this week in a final vote on an amendment to the SBC Constitution.

Below is a summary of what happened regarding this matter at the 2024 SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., along with comments about what it means for N.C. Baptist churches.

What was the Law Amendment?

The Law Amendment — named such because it was first introduced by Virginia pastor Mike Law — was a proposed change to the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

The amendment would have added a qualification to the SBC Constitution that churches in friendly cooperation affirm, appoint or employ “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” 

Changes to the SBC Constitution require a two-thirds vote by messengers at two consecutive annual meetings. The amendment was first proposed at the 2023 SBC annual meeting, where it was affirmed by messengers after a change in wording recommended by Texas Pastor Juan Sanchez.

Discussions and debates ensued in Baptist life about the amendment’s potential impact on cooperation among churches, how it should be applied to congregations with women in pastoral roles, and so on. The amendment failed to receive the needed second affirmative vote at the 2024 SBC annual meeting.

What happens now?

Since the amendment failed to clear the required procedural hurdles, no changes will be made to the SBC Constitution at this time regarding that proposal. The amendment did, however, receive 61.45% of votes by messengers at the 2024 SBC annual meeting, which means the issue of gender and the role of pastors in the local church will likely continue as a matter of debate among Baptists.

Meanwhile, the SBC retains the ability to remove churches with female pastors according to the processes of its Credentials Committee, as it has done with churches in the past and at this year’s annual meeting. The SBC Credentials Committee still bears responsibility for inquiring of reported churches and making recommendations about their partnership status.

The basis for those recommendations comes from current language in the SBC Constitution about “close identification” with the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) and precedents set by messenger votes on items such as resolutions and church appeals for reinstatement after their removal.

How does this affect N.C. Baptists?

Discussions about the Law Amendment have stirred up deeply held convictions among many churches. The Law Amendment’s failure may prompt some churches to end their partnership with the SBC. Those churches are encouraged to evaluate their partnership with N.C. Baptists as a separate matter. 

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is not a subsidiary organization of the SBC. We are separate and autonomous partners with our own set of parameters for establishing whether churches are in friendly cooperation with the state convention. Even if the Law Amendment had passed, it would not have necessitated changes to the N.C. Baptist governing documents. 

Our parameters for church partnerships are similar to the SBC because they depend in part on close identification with Baptist beliefs and distinctives, but N.C. Baptists have chosen a more relational approach to engaging churches on doctrinal issues rather than identifying particular doctrinal issues in our governing documents that warrant exclusion from partnership.

The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) continues to serve as the statement of faith for N.C. Baptist missions and ministries. In partnership with the North American Mission Board, all supported church plants must affirm that statement of faith. The same is true for N.C. Baptist missionaries with the International Mission Board and new N.C. Baptist board and committee members.

To learn more about church partnerships, visit our website or email [email protected]

For more information about missions giving and the Cooperative Program, go to N.C.Baptist.org/giving. Churches may exclude SBC entities as a whole from their Cooperative Program giving. This method of cooperative giving offers flexibility to churches while still enabling them to remain in friendly cooperation with N.C. Baptists.