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Two SBC Leaders Who Changed their Opinion on Women in Pastoral Ministry

The SBC Controversy was a complicated, intra-denominational melee that involved (depending upon one's perspective) questions of theology, practice, politics, career-making and maintenance of the convention's status quo. Though most Southern Baptists who were active in the Controversy eventually identified with one of two major politico-theological parties, many people identified with more than one "camp" at various times during the 1980's and 1990's. I know many men who were once theological progressives who are now committed conservatives. I also know a few theological conservatives who ultimately chose to identify with the moderate/liberal wing of the denomination. Some individuals hide from their past, opting to ignore the fact they used to be more conservative or liberal than they are now. Others are willing to admit when they change their minds on certain crucial theological issues.

In his SBC blog today, Dr. Albert Mohler discusses SBC president Frank Page's evolving views on women in ministry. Dr. Page once believed that the Bible allowed for women to serve as senior pastors, even defending the practice in his 1980 doctoral dissertation. But then he changed his mind. Dr. Page, like almost all conservative Southern Baptists, now believes that the Bible affirms women in many types of ministry but the office of pastor is reserved for men alone.

After describing Dr. Page's change of heart and raising some important questions about the extent of the convention president's present convictions, Dr. Mohler candidly admits that he too once advocated women serving as senior pastors. He even admits that he was publicly involved in the moderate backlash against the 1984 convention resolution arguing against female pastoral leadership. Dr. Mohler unequivocally states that his position in the early-1980's was biblically incorrect, and he shares how he came to the complimentarian convictions he now believes and teaches.

Dr. Mohler's post is especially noteworthy because many moderates continue to claim that he is a "closet moderate" who "switched sides" so he could be president of Southern Seminary. I have personally heard this charge repeated by a number of moderate historians in both public settings and private conversation. But Dr. Mohler is not hiding from his past theological and/or political beliefs; rather, he admits his convictions have changed and that his current opinion better comports with what Scripture teaches on gender roles and pastoral leadership. In other words, Dr. Mohler has enough integrity to admit he was wrong.

Praise God for leaders like Drs. Mohler and Page who believe the Bible enough to conform their convictions to the Word, even when that means altering their beliefs on a controversial issue. And praise God for two men who have enough integrity to admit they were wrong.