A Taxonomy of Bad Arguments Against the Law-Sanchez Amendment

Jason Gray

Answering the Ad Hominems, Red Herrings, Emotional Appeals, and More

As the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) prepares to convene in Indianapolis this June, the messengers will be faced with a crucial vote to ratify the Law-Sanchez Amendment (Amendment).[1] This Amendment, which seeks to clarify the principles of complementarianism and the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), holds significant implications for the future of the SBC.

It passed with overwhelming support on the first vote in New Orleans last year. Unfortunately, in the months following that decision by the messengers, it has faced some loud public opposition—primarily from a small group of “leaders” in the SBC.

For SBC church members who are less involved in denominational affairs, the ongoing debate may seem perplexing. Why would there be any SBC leaders, pastors, or messengers who oppose what is essentially a reaffirmation of the BF&M? After all, the Executive Committee initially resisted bringing the Amendment to the floor (despite eventually doing so) on the grounds that the BF&M already upholds the Amendment’s content. If this is the case, then why is there such resistance to its ratification? Why would individuals who profess to uphold complementarianism and the BF&M be against an amendment that seeks to clarify these very principles?

People’s reasons for their opposition are varied and confusing. In fact, it seems that part of the opposition’s strategy to defeat the Amendment is to throw as many objections as possible against the wall to see what sticks.

My goal in this article is to wade through a variety of the most frequently used arguments against the Amendment that I’ve encountered and categorize them. In doing so, I will provide a taxonomy of the main groupings of arguments against the Amendment, along with offering rebuttals.

My responses, however, are brief because my main goal is not to give a treatise for the Amendment per se—that has been done by others. My goal here is to help others spot the (many) bad arguments and help clear the field of the less serious arguments so that we can try to discern what reasonable issues should be discussed by well-meaning brothers and sisters in the SBC.

The categories are as follows: 1) Ad Hominem, 2) Red Herrings, 3) Emotional Appeals, 4) Irrelevant, and 5) Related but Different Questions.

Ad Hominem

The first category of bad arguments I’ve seen against the Amendment is the ad hominem attack. These have come from a variety of sources, both inside and outside of the SBC, and often focus on the character and intention of the Amendment’s supporters. These arguments are not about the substance of the Amendment but rather attack the source or person defending the Amendment; hence, they are ad hominem.

A few examples of these arguments are:

  1. “Supporters of the Amendment are being divisive.” This accusation suggests that by even proposing the Amendment its supporters are causing a “division” in the SBC. The reality is that this division is already present, and speaking about it and seeking a resolution is not divisive. Discussing disagreement may shine a light on the problem, but it does not cause a problem. Seeking a resolution is not divisive, even if people disagree with the proposed solution. Moreover, as has been pointed out by both sides, the Amendment is re-stating the BF&M and what messengers have repeatedly affirmed. It cannot be seen as being divisive to support what roughly 80% of the messengers want to see done (as seen by the vote for the Amendment last year) or to codify further what both sides agree is present in the BF&M. Perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps the most divisive position is to go against the will of the messengers and what is present within the BF&M.
  2. “Supporters are going to start a witch-hunt for female ‘children’s directors.’” This accusation assumes to know the motives and intentions of the proponents without any reference to their previous actions or stated intentions. This position denies the simple wording of the Amendment and paints the proponents as liars and deceivers. The Amendment is clearly addressing positions with the title of “pastor.” Though it is undoubtedly true that some churches may just play word games with titles, that is between them and the Lord, and such duplicity cannot and should not be “hunted down” but left to their own consciences. The amendment addresses those with the title of “pastor,” not “director,” and I have seen no desire from supporters of the Amendment to use its passage as a means of removing churches with female children’s directors.
  3. “If we pass this, then what’s next?” This charge seems to imply that the proponents of the Amendment have a plan to try and shrink the parameters of cooperation by adding more and more amendments to shove out well-meaning cooperative Baptists. This accusation again impugns the character and motives of the supporters of the Amendment. The passage of this Amendment in no way demands or even implies any further amendments. Any future actions would stand or fall on their own, which would not be decided by some small group of supposed bad actors but approved by a super-majority of SBC messengers. The attempt to undermine this motion by pointing to “possible” moves in the future is misleading at best and downright dishonest at worst.

It is my desire for all of us to deal with the substance of the Amendment and not devolve into personal attacks to avoid the issue. If a singular person makes a bad-faith argument, that person should be held accountable for their words. If ulterior motives can be proven by facts, the evidence should be brought to light.

But attacking the Amendment by impugning the motives of its supporters based on nothing more than what people assume they think is not how we ought to conduct business in the SBC. The Amendment is clear; therefore, let our arguments and vote be about the content of the Amendment, and let’s not play politics by trying to smear the character or motives of its supporters without any evidence for the accusations.

Red Herrings

A red herring fallacy is a form of logical fallacy that occurs when a misleading argument or question is presented to distract people from the main issue or argument at hand. There are some arguments thrown out there that are simply evasive; they don’t intend to address the Amendment at all, but to divert attention away from any discussion of it at all. These arguments vary in level of preposterousness, but all are trying to distract or cause people to downplay the importance of the issue set before the messengers.

These arguments include:

  1. “Passing the Amendment destroys local church autonomy.” This might be the king of the red herring arguments. It’s deployed as a scare tactic to make it look as if the SBC is acting in some way to undermine the local church or is being “un-Baptist.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Local church autonomy is in no way threatened by any decision made by the SBC. Local churches are free to believe whatever they want. No one in the SBC can force them to believe or do anything. No one can even force them to be in the SBC. They freely associate with the SBC. But an association (or convention) has its own right of authority and autonomy, meaning that it can freely determine the boundaries of cooperation and which churches it deems in or out of that cooperation. Interestingly, the same people making this accusation were (rightly) in complete support when the exact same formula for defining cooperation was used to exclude churches on the wrong side of racism or abuse. Passing the Amendment is not a violation of local church autonomy; it is simply an association of Baptist churches employing their authority and autonomy to define who is in friendly cooperation, a practice as old as the history of Baptist associations.
  2. “What about churches with unqualified male pastors?” This may seem like a plausible argument at first, but it is, again, just a diversion tactic. However, let me state clearly that I believe that any churches with male pastors who can be proven to be unqualified ought to be encouraged to make a change in their pastor. Now, one must admit it is a bit harder to see such qualifications from a distance and provide an adequate evaluation beyond “he posts things I don’t like on social media.” The nature of the issue is such that a female pastor is obviously not qualified ipso facto‘ but that is not the case with male pastors, whether they are qualified or not. That is why this objection is a bit more absurd than it first appears.
  3. “If we do this, then we must remove churches that practice open communion.” I must admit, when someone raises this concern, I wonder if they don’t believe that women pastors should be removed. This seems less like the concern of a fellow complementarian who believes the BF&M and more like someone who is upset that one loophole is closing and so they start pointing out other loopholes. Now, to the argument itself, in my eyes, open communion is not a historic Baptist position, and there is a reason it is excluded from the BF&M. Baptists have always held to closed or “close” communion. I’m thankful it is in the BF&M. But to bring up this issue is an attempt to avoid answering the question of the Amendment.
  4. “Some churches are breaking the BF&M by failing to baptize any persons last year.” This argument, quite frankly, is one of the more absurd things that I’ve read in the discussion of the Amendment. Though it is lamentable that so many churches failed to baptize anyone last year, it does not follow that they have rejected the BF&M’s teaching on baptism. Such churches should be encouraged in their evangelistic fervor, not be seen or treated as if they reject the Baptist understanding of baptism and are thus outside of friendly cooperation. This is a poor argument and has nothing to do whatsoever with the Amendment.
  5. “We have other issues in the SBC that demand our attention.” This is undoubtedly true. We have many issues in the SBC. Ours are difficult times, and we must be willing to address any and every issue facing this Convention. But I believe we can handle multiple issues at once; indeed, we do this all the time. It is a rather silly distraction and non-serious argument to suggest we cannot deal with the issue of the Amendment while other issues exist in the SBC.

Again, the issue before us is the actual wording of the Amendment. Any attempt to divert attention from the Amendment must be met with firm rejection. These are red herrings; they are political arguments meant to confuse and distract the messengers. We need to be more serious in our discussions and refuse to take the bait of endless red herring objections. The content of the actual Amendment is the issue, nothing else.

Emotional Appeals

Some arguments opposing the Amendment attempt to appeal to the messengers’ emotions, trying to make them believe that the consequence of passing the Amendment will negatively impact some segments of the SBC in “hurtful” ways. These are not about the substance of the amendment; they are an appeal to pity fallacy, trying to sway the discussion. It is emotional steering and manipulation and should be rejected.

These arguments include:

  1. “Passing the Amendment tells women they are not wanted in ministry.” This is not about women serving in churches or women doing “ministry.” This is specifically about the office of the pastor and those to whom we assign such titles. All our churches are filled with gifted women who serve their local church bodies well. We all affirm that vibrant and God-honoring ministry can be done by women in our churches. We overwhelmingly passed a resolution affirming this last year at the annual meeting. The conflation of these two issues is unhelpful and/or dishonest.
  2. “Passing the Amendment tells ethnic or minority churches they are not wanted in the SBC.” This argument often appeals to certain ethnic groups that may use the term “pastor” differently than the SBC does.[2] It plays on the fear of some that we may be considered “racist” if we do not allow them to continue with their misuse of the term pastor. Our approach to such churches cannot be to lower the standards for them, either scripturally or with regard to SBC cooperation. The better and more biblical approach is to encourage them to use scriptural terms and not terms that are culturally derived or simply accepted due to historical practice. The SBC cannot be beholden to the misuse of terms, regardless of where they originate. Rather, we must set the tone by providing clarity so that churches know what we expect in our cooperation, and to help push them toward faithfulness in this area. If we agree they are not using the term “pastor” properly, how will they ever feel the need to correct their usage if we continually make exceptions and do not encourage change? This is not about pushing them away but rather uniting together, regardless of ethnic background, around the same biblical principles.
  3. “Passing the Amendment tells churches that misuse the term ‘pastor’ that they are not wanted in the SBC.” This argument tries to convince us that we are running off well-meaning churches by passing the Amendment. But I argue that is not the case at all. If a church insists on holding to egalitarianism, we absolutely want them to hear us say they are outside the bounds of “friendly cooperation.” We want such clarity to change their mind on this issue. But if a church, due to any number of reasons, might misuse the term “pastor,” then our goal is not to run them off but to set a clear standard for cooperation. If they feel their position means they cannot cooperate with the SBC, that is sad, but it must be that way. There are quite a few churches in the SBC that cannot affirm the BF&M, and some who directly contradict it, on this issue. It would be more ethical for them to choose to opt-out, as some already have. My desire is that churches that currently violate the BF&M would see their error and willingly change their practice or titles.[3] That approach rightly displays the spirit of desired cooperation. But it is not “cooperative” for the churches that are out of bounds of our confession to demand that everyone bend to their will and practice. Rather, they should demonstrate their desire to cooperate by not ensuring that their practices do not contradict the BF&M. The goal of passing the Amendment is to call SBC churches to humbly cooperate around our statement of faith. The goal is not to push these churches out but to draw them in around an agreed-upon set of beliefs that can inform our cooperative missions and planting efforts.

Ultimately, we must make decisions about the future of the SBC not based on emotional appeals but on what Scripture says. The BF&M is clear on this issue, and it seems that most of these arguments aren’t about the Amendment; rather, they show a fear that if we truly hold to the BF&M and expect others not to contradict it, we are somehow being unkind or unreasonable. That is not true. These arguments will often work on those whose greatest motivation is the approval of others or “the watching world,” but that cannot be allowed to determine how we act within the SBC.

Irrelevant Arguments

Some arguments are made in good faith but are irrelevant to the passage of the Amendment itself. These are more about process and procedure. So, they are fair to discuss and consider, but I believe they would be worthy of such discussion regardless of whether the Amendment passes or not.

These arguments include:

  1. “We already have a process for removing churches that works, so we don’t need the Amendment.” As has been pointed out by both sides, we do have a process for the removal of churches, and the Amendment doesn’t change that process. With or without the Amendment, the onus is on the Credentials Committee to make decisions. This process has removed several churches with women pastors in recent years, which shows that we can remove non-cooperating churches when we choose to. It also serves as a warning that there are such churches that need to be removed. However, the process does not “work” nearly as well as some claim. Still, how the process does or does not work is irrelevant to the Amendment itself. The goal of the Amendment is to provide further clarification for the Credentials Committee. Speaking to the “process” is not an argument for or against the Amendment.
  2. “Passing the Amendment creates a pattern of ‘shrinking’ cooperation by amending our constitution.” If someone wants to shrink the nature of cooperation by adding to the BF&M or our constitution, then that can happen with or without this Amendment. I believe this is a subtle shot at the Amendment, accusing it of “shrinking cooperation” while it does no such thing. This amendment shrinks nothing; it simply clarifies previously agreed-upon statements in the BF&M. Again, most of the opposition agrees to this (perhaps unwittingly) when they claim the Amendment is “unnecessary.” It can only be unnecessary if it is the agreed-upon (but not enforced) position of the SBC. Since it is, then those affirming it cannot be accused of “shrinking” cooperation if they are merely clarifying the cooperation we already affirm. Moreover, there were no similar concerns when we added previous amendments on different subjects but with similar wording and in the same section of the constitution.
  3. “Passing the Amendment will motivate future attempts to change the constitution.” Again, anyone can move to change our governing documents at any time. This reality does not change through the passage of the Amendment, nor does its failure keep it from being presented again. I don’t think any of us can speak to the likelihood of future constitutional changes, but I don’t see how one change necessarily demands more, as each proposed change would need to be evaluated on its own merits. This argument is irrelevant.

Related But Different Questions

Finally, I should mention that there is another category of issues that I would classify as “related but different.”  These are questions more than arguments. They often get mentioned, I believe, to distract from the Amendment as worded, but they are legitimate questions. They are connected issues that the SBC must address in the coming years. Yet, they are not part of the substance of the Amendment and therefore should not factor into what the SBC ultimately decides to do with the Amendment.

These questions require much discussion and perhaps even some complicated conclusions and actions, but they should not be allowed to influence the passing of the Amendment because the Amendment does not directly speak to them. These questions include:

  1. What is the relationship between “title” and “function” in the office of pastor?
  2. What is the confessional nature of the SBC?
  3. What does it mean for a church to “closely identify” with the SBC?
  4. Where does the SBC stand on women preaching in SBC churches?
  5. Which articles of the confession are binding for “cooperation” and to “closely identify,” and which are not?

I pray that we will address all of these issues over time. Having clear-cut answers to these questions will help us move forward together in the SBC. However, these questions do not need to be answered before we ratify the Amendment, as we should.


In two months, thousands of messengers will gather in Indianapolis for the 2024 SBC annual meeting. Let me encourage you to make the effort to be there. During these trying times in the SBC, we need more messengers making their voices heard and casting their votes, not fewer.

I hope that this taxonomy is an accurate representation of common arguments being made against the Amendment that are simply not helpful. There are other arguments out there against the Amendment that I have chosen not to address here because they come from those who I don’t think have the best interest of the SBC at heart. For example, the egalitarians will always accuse the SBC of being misogynistic, even if we do not pass this Amendment. Nothing short of a full-throated approval of women serving in all pastoral roles and with no restriction on the application of the title “pastor” will remove that accusation.

My prayer is that these categories and brief responses will clear the field of some of the worst arguments against the Amendment. Doing this will allow us to hear the honest concerns of good-faith SBC members so that we can discuss the merits or demerits of the Amendment itself, without getting distracted by logical fallacies, emotional ploys, or irrelevant considerations. Too much of our SBC discourse is cluttered with those approaches, but we should desire to discuss the facts before us and make a clear-headed decision. I hope this taxonomy will aid us in that endeavor.

And I hope to see you in Indianapolis.

[1] It seems the common nomenclature is “Law Amendment.” However, the language of the current amendment was adopted via an amendment to the initial motion by Juan Sanchez. Thus, I use this title. We could also refer to it as the “SBC Amendment” per its website.

[2] See https://chinesebaptists.org/women-in-ministry-roles-and-titles-in-chinese-baptist-churches/.

[3] One prominent example would be that of churches that say “pastor is a gift, not an office.” That would be a direct contradiction of the BF&M, which clearly states that pastor/elder/overseer is one of two biblical offices. Such a church may argue they are within the bounds of Danvers Statement on complementarianism, but they cannot argue they are not in contradiction of the BF&M. Such a position puts them at clears odds with the SBC on this issue.

  • Jason Gray

    Jason has a B.S. in Economics from the University of Florida, and a Master of Divinity as well as a Doctor of Ministry in Applied Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jason serves as Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church (Abilene, TX). He has written for Christ Over All and serves as a Contributing Scholar for The Center for Baptist Leadership.