The SBC Will Sell Insurance, Retirement to Women Pastors — If They Aren’t Southern Baptists - Word&Way

The SBC Will Sell Insurance, Retirement to Women Pastors — If They Aren’t Southern Baptists

(RNS) — Southern Baptists do not believe that women can be pastors or that churches should baptize infants.

But that won’t stop them from doing business with churches that disagree.

The Global Methodist Church, a relatively new denomination made up mostly of former United Methodists, announced this week that Dallas-based GuideStone Financial Resources “will administer its retirement, health insurance, and ancillary benefit programs” for the denomination starting in July.

GuideStone, which provides insurance and retirement plans to pastors, is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, which last summer passed a constitutional amendment that bars member churches from having women in any pastoral role. That amendment, first proposed by Mike Law, an SBC pastor from Virginia, must be confirmed in 2024 to take effect.

Logos for the Global Methodist Church, left, and the United Methodist Church, right. Courtesy images

Logos for the Global Methodist Church, left, and the United Methodist Church, right. Courtesy images

Several churches were expelled from the SBC in 2023 for having women pastors, including Saddleback Church in California, one of the nation’s largest congregations, and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The SBC’s statement of faith has previously also limited the role of pastor to men but there had been disagreement over whether that limit applied only to the role of senior pastor or to any pastor on a church staff.

The Global Methodist Church, by contrast, affirms women pastors.

“As part of its decision to have GuideStone administer its benefits programs, the Global Methodist Church has communicated to GuideStone that it is unequivocally committed to the ordination and deployment of women in any and all leadership positions in the Global Methodist Church and its regional conferences and local churches,” Keith Boyette, transitional connectional officer for the Global Methodist Church, told Religion News Service.

When it was founded in 2022, leaders of the Global Methodist Church had named Wespath, which manages benefits for the United Methodist Church, to administer denominational benefits, but they have since decided to make a change.

Denominational rules require GMC churches to work with the church’s plan administrator — in this case, GuideStone.

Julie Capozzi, managing director for communications at Wespath, said the agency could still provide services to GMC churches that wanted them.

“We are positioned to serve an individual GMC church for their employee retirement services if they choose to remain with us,” she said.

The new denomination currently has 4,290 congregations and 4,400 clergy — most of which were formerly United Methodists. More than 7,600 congregations have left the United Methodist Church since 2019, including more than 5,000 in 2023, in a schism mainly over LGBTQ affirmation and ordination.

Boyette said he did not have statistics on how many of the GMC’s clergy are women. The denomination’s Transitional Leadership Council includes two women pastors, according to the GMC website.

GuideStone has worked with non-Southern Baptist churches since 2004 after getting permission from the denomination’s annual meeting to do so, GuideStone President Hance Dilbeck Jr. told RNS in an emailed statement. Those denominations may disagree with the SBC over pastoral roles but agree on other core beliefs, he said.

“While we may disagree on some beliefs and practice, we share far more in common with these brothers and sisters than we have differences and are able to serve them effectively in their benefit needs,” he said. “All have affirmed that they share historic biblical convictions regarding Scripture, Christology, Gospel proclamation, and marriage.”

Dilbeck said the constitutional amendment applies to SBC churches and not to churches that GuideStone serves outside the SBC. “We trust Southern Baptists to make a final decision and respect the will of the Convention,” Dilbeck told RNS.

GuideStone will only work with SBC churches that are in good standing with the denomination or one of its state conventions. That would rule out churches that have been expelled from the denomination, even if they previously did business with GuideStone.

D. Hance Dilbeck Jr., president and CEO, GuideStone Financial Resources, gives a financial resources report during the start of the Southern Baptist Convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., on June 14, 2022. Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Religion News Service

Law told RNS that the Bible, not the amendment he backs, bars women from the pastorate. However, he did not see the amendment affecting GuideStone’s work.

“God limits the pastorate to men in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, not an amendment,” said Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. “The proposed constitutional amendment addresses which churches may send Messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting. It does not address who GuideStone serves, that decision is left to the trustees of GuideStone.”

Boyette said the GMC is confident in its choice of GuideStone.

“The Global Methodist Church has been assured by the leadership of GuideStone that decisions made by the Southern Baptist Convention on issues such as the ordination of women or women serving in any clergy role do not and will not impact the services that GuideStone provides to the Global Methodist Church.”