Why I No Longer Trust Our Current SBC Leaders 

Stephen Feinstein

The Rapidly Dwindling Capital of the SBC Platform Means I Can No Longer Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt  

In years past, I have been accused of being an SBC company man because I generally defended national SBC leadership. I aimed to interpret their decisions and statements with charity rather than suspicion. Perhaps the quintessential example of this is when I wrote the resolution that became the infamous Resolution 9. Even though my original draft was significantly changed, I did not, and still do not, believe the Resolution Committee did anything nefarious (though I know good brothers disagree on that). I do wish they would have accepted Tom Ascol’s amendment because, in my opinion, that would have made it a near-perfect resolution.

My point in bringing this up is not to dwell on that incident. Rather, I want to point out that my support for our SBC leadership class over the years has earned me the suspicion of many in the more conservative camp and/or among the growing number of Southern Baptists who realize that “we have a problem.” 

But now, I find myself sharing almost all of their concerns.

I write this so that the reader may understand that I’m not someone you would expect to write an article that questions the courage and faithfulness of many SBC platform leaders—past and present. Yet here I am doing this very thing. 

On May 17, 2024, I quote-tweeted a post from Jon Whitehead in which he highlighted a statement recently made by the influential former SBC President J. D. Greear. Greear summarized the goal of the Law Amendment as “fundamentalism run amok.” In response to Whitehead’s tweet, I wrote:

“I used to give SBC entity leaders the benefit of the doubt on almost EVERYTHING. I can’t do so anymore. In convictions that matter, they are so nuanced that the convictions become meaningless. They are soft on issues dear to the left & dismissive of issues that trouble the right.”

Apparently, my tweet struck a chord with many people who feel the same way. Therefore, I figured writing down my concerns in more detail would be helpful. Why would someone like me lose confidence in our most influential leaders? The rest of this article will answer that question. 

The Tipping Point

Truly, the Law Amendment has been a tipping point for me. This amendment should not be controversial. Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 clearly states that “The office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” This is based on a clear reading of several passages of Scripture (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). 

Some prominent SBC pastors in years past (e.g., Dwight McKissick) obfuscated this statement of the BF&M by insisting that it only refers to senior pastors. They rendered the statement ambiguous to justify their ordination of women pastors subordinate to the senior pastor. As the debate over the egalitarian shift in the SBC picked up, some SBC pastors like Tom Buck began to post websites of SBC churches with women pastors. But his concerns were dismissively cast aside by platform leaders who contended that the problem was not widespread enough to warrant an alarm. 

On June 6, 2023, J. D. Greear wrote that the problem of women pastors among Baptists “is not growing, but shrinking,” and anyone “who says otherwise is either ignorant, misinformed, or being purposely divisive.” Pastor Mike Law, in contrast, suspected the problem was real, and from a sample of churches, he uncovered 170 SBC churches with female pastors. Likewise, egalitarian Rick Warren tweeted on June 8, 2023, that at least 1,928 SBC churches have women pastors. One journal, American Reformer, conducted its own study of a much larger sample and concluded there are approximately 1,844 female pastors serving in SBC churches. Thus, the quantifiable data—as offered by both Rick Warren and American Reformer—confirms Tom Buck’s alarm. 

Think about what was just written. Egalitarians and concerned complementarians both agreed that there is a large number of female pastors in the SBC. Yet, national SBC leaders were singularly devoted to convincing us that there was nothing to see here.

Things like this make it very difficult to keep assuming the best. In fact, this issue does not exist in isolation. I also could not ignore how zealous our leaders were to protect victims of sexual abuse and how sensitive they were to prevent doxing until the victim was Jennifer Buck. I cannot unsee how these leaders would lament with trumpets the failure of SBC entities to take victim advocacy seriously but then refuse to apologize to the Bucks or even conduct a real investigation into the leakage of Mrs. Buck’s story. This sent the message that many SBC leaders despise certain conservative SBC pastors, especially ones who seek accountability from our entities. 

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Ed Litton’s plagiarism. This, too, contributed to my current attitude toward our leaders. Our denominational leaders have regularly lambasted us with the motto, “The world is watching.” Apparently, when it comes to the world’s progressive opinion on matters of justice, we need to be mindful of our denomination’s decisions. Well then, were these same people mindful of the “watching world” when our president was caught in plagiarism? Did they call for his resignation? 

No. Instead, the wagons defensively circled, and arguments of faux sophistication were presented to dismiss dissenting SBC members’ concerns. We were assured that there is a venerable history of pastors writing sermons in committee. Tell that to the majority of SBC pastors who work in churches too small to have massive staff that can help with sermon production and see how it lands.

And to be honest, who would believe that a collaboration of brilliant minds would produce sermons that are identical to another pastor, including that pastor’s personal anecdotal stories? It would be easier to believe ten monkeys on ten typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. The doubling down of many SBC “leaders” on this has cost them social capital. With whom did it cost them? How about the watching world they bring up so often? Such blatant hypocrisy at our highest level certainly would cost us capital with the watching world. After all, the response of our leaders only makes it more difficult for the rest of us to condemn the antisemitic Ivy League presidents who are masterclass plagiarizers. 

In addition to costing us social capital with the world, these things also cost social capital with me and many people like me. Why does that matter? Well, people like me are not part of the Conservative Baptist Network. People like me voted for Albert Mohler to be the SBC president in 2021. People like me took the side of the leadership in the Caring Well Initiative. People like me gave our leaders the benefit of the doubt on Resolution 9. 

But I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

How the Platform Discredits Conservative Critics

To be sure, I have often been frustrated by the behavior of many reformed-minded conservative SBC pastors on social media. I’ve been frustrated by spliced clips of contextless lectures being used to accuse leaders and professors of things they do not actually believe. The same thing happened to me when a well-known parachurch leader spliced a clip of one of my videos, hoping to get John MacArthur to tap dance on my bald spot in front of thousands of pastors at a conference. Thankfully, Phil Johnson corrected this man’s misrepresentation before any real damage could be done. 

For that reason, I ignored most accusations against SBC leaders that came from “that camp.” For example, I’ve seen some argue that Al Mohler is a closet liberal secretly setting up the SBC for a liberal collapse. Since many of the concerns raised against our leadership came from these circles, it was too easy for me to dismiss their concerns as conspiracy theories. 

But now, I am convinced that many SBC leaders used this perceived lack of “credibility” from their critics to cover for their own moral cowardice and inconsistency. Because of this, it took a while for people like me to see that these concerns with many SBC leaders are legitimate. 

Well, I am here to say we see it now.

Importantly, I think that I and others like me (like Willy Rice) have a certain credibility and track record that cannot be ignored. We trusted the platform and defended it against accusations in the past. We aimed to be charitable—perhaps even too charitable. So, when we see the problem, our leaders need to wake up and realize that their social capital is rapidly dwindling.

Cultural Elites vs Conservative Baptists 

One thing that conservative people hate is the condescension of our cultural elites as they dismiss our concerns. It is as if we are peasants who do not know any better without the help of our benevolent, cultural overlords. We need them to tell us to cut our emissions even as they fly private jets all over the world. When we call out their hypocrisy, we are dismissed or gaslighted. 

As frustrating as this is, we should expect this behavior from godless people in positions of power and influence (1 John 5:19). But should we expect it from the church? Should we expect it from those in our denomination? Given that the SBC is democratic, we assume that we are electing and hiring the best and brightest of our ranks. Even more importantly, we believe they are morally courageous and faithful. Otherwise, why would we elect them? Well, we do elect them. We also continue to grant them influence even after their terms are over. And as of late, it seems like many of them talk down to regular SBC members in a manner like the cultural elites. 

This brings me back to the Law Amendment. The vast majority of SBC messengers agree with the biblical position upheld by the amendment. I’m certain we also agree with the necessity of the amendment itself. It easily gained the required two-thirds vote last year. Furthermore, Rick Warren is one of the most popular pastors in America, and yet 88.46% of the messengers in New Orleans voted to expel his church for having women pastors. This should be more than enough to get our leaders to realize that most SBC pastors and messengers are people of biblical conviction. 

We believe that our cooperation requires fidelity to primary and secondary doctrines. We clearly believe that egalitarianism is no less than a secondary doctrine. Rather than supporting the biblical conviction of most messengers, some of the platformed SBC leaders are pushing hard against our will. Going back to Greear’s statements against the Law Amendment, he argued that supporters of the Law Amendment tacitly imply that SBC cooperation requires absolute conformity in all biblical convictions, both great and small. He argued that passing the Law Amendment would lead us to do this kind of thing over our “tertiary application” of other issues. 

What does this tell us? It reveals that while the SBC messengers see women pastors as a secondary issue (or even primary), Greear sees it as tertiary. That is astonishing, especially given the BF&M’s clear statement against female pastors. 

It does not stop with Greear. Recently, Dr. Jeff Iorg became the new president of the SBC Executive Committee. For the record, let me declare my respect and admiration for Dr. Iorg. I received my Th.M from Gateway, and Dr. Iorg is a solid leader who casts faithful biblical visions. That is why he was selected for his current position. 

My praise withstanding, Dr. Iorg posted a piece in the Baptist Press that I find greatly disappointing. He argued that the Law Amendment would put us in a position where we must also test male pastors’ qualifications in churches across the SBC. This argument makes little sense and confuses categories. The Bible forbids women from being pastors. Our denominational statement of faith does the same. It does not forbid men from being pastors. Therefore, it is up to the local church to determine what men meet the biblical qualifications. But no Southern Baptist church should be able to use autonomy as an excuse to appoint as pastors those that the Bible and our statement of faith exclude

Dr. Iorg worries about the consequence of the Law Amendment, arguing that this may force many churches out of the SBC. Though I sympathize, I think asking why they are leaving is far more important. If it is because they truly are egalitarian, we need them to leave. They are not good-faith partners for the SBC. They are leaven that will spread among the whole lump. 

But what if they are not egalitarian and instead come from traditions that use the title pastor as synonymous with minister or director? I would ask them this: Do they believe in Semper Reformanda? Do they believe we are always supposed to test our traditions by Scripture? Do they believe that if Scripture contradicts our tradition, we should then reform our tradition? I hope so. 

Because if they do believe this, all they have to do is fix a simple deficiency in their nomenclature. I would not hesitate to change the nomenclature of offices in my church if I learned that we were wrongly applying a biblical title. If churches are unwilling to do that and leave because of their tradition, they are not “victims” of an amendment. Instead, they have elevated tradition above Scripture. 

I understand that many SBC churches also wrongly apply the office of deacon and give it the elder status. If it were up to me, we would work to reform that practice next. That might upset many older SBC churches, but I want consistency. We should conform our offices and nomenclature to Scripture. 

Two Major Problems with the Platform Position Against the Law Amendment

Getting back to Dr. Iorg’s position, if we truly act as if egalitarianism and/or deficient nomenclature is not an important issue of cooperation, then we fail to appreciate or understand the long-term impact. Clearly, the number of SBC churches with women pastors is on the rise. If tolerated, that number will only continue to grow. Those churches can send messengers to SBC annual meetings. Liberalization often occurs in increments. In time, the number of churches that violate the BF&M will increase to such a degree that messengers from their churches can effectively change the denomination’s doctrinal position. That is the first problem. 

The second problem is the confusion caused by making a concrete title ambiguous. We keep hearing that the world is watching. I was once of the world. I am a Jew, and as such, I was not raised in Christ. Even when I was an unbeliever, whenever I heard the title pastor, I assumed it meant church leader. Again, the word had a concrete definition generally understood by believers and unbelievers alike. 

But now our leaders are trying to appease churches that intentionally use the title in a way that does not mean what it normally means. This makes the word “pastor” fluid. It can mean one thing to one group and an entirely different thing to another group. In the end, it becomes meaningless.

In its new fluid confusion, the next generation will easily be fooled into accepting the broadest definition possible. Additionally, if we cannot have a standardized, biblically determined meaning for the word, we can never hold anyone accountable for violating the Bible’s teachings about church leadership. Undoubtedly, this kind of thing will happen with other words and doctrines of the faith as well. 

Most SBC messengers understand this. That is why we voted for the Law Amendment last year. That is why we are going to vote for it again in Indianapolis. 

And yet, our leaders seem to think they know better than the messengers. On May 22, Jonathan Howe tweeted that we need to celebrate our diversity rather than strive for conformity. This was clearly a statement against the Law Amendment. 

Personally, I see this as a form of gaslighting. Diversity is something to celebrate, but not without qualification. Heterodoxy is a type of diversity we must reject. That is the kind of diversity being championed by those who want the SBC to do nothing about churches ordaining women as pastors. This is not diversity but heterodoxy. We unite in truth, and we divide over error. We do not unite over error. Framing those who support the Law Amendment as people striving for conformity over against diversity is dishonest. 

Many brothers like myself, who have long given SBC leadership the benefit of the doubt, are now tired of SBC leaders who shame us for calling out their errors. 


Why has my confidence in many of the most influential SBC leaders rapidly dwindled? It is simple. Over the last few years, their public statements and actions have left a particular impression in my mind—and it’s not a positive one. The Law Amendment has truly been a tipping point. 

I see leaders who speak in weak terms against the cultural idols and sins of the progressives, but they speak with thunder against the cultural idols of conservatives. 

I see leaders who protect the sins of their fellow platform members but dismiss the concerns of others. 

I see influencers pander to deconstructing survivors and then dox and attack survivors who are orthodox. 

I now think many of our leaders are moral cowards who deride the opinions of most SBC pastors. 

Their voice is anything but prophetic, for their challenge to the godless is timid, while their dismissiveness toward the faithful is bold. The Prophets of old were just the opposite. Until our leaders clean up their act, their social capital will continue to evaporate, and trust in their leadership from people like me will continue to erode.

And if they’ve lost my trust, I’m confident they’ve lost the trust of thousands of other Southern Baptists, too.

  • Stephen Feinstein

    Stephen Feinstein is a preaching pastor at Sovereign Way Christian Church in Hesperia, California, an SBC church he planted in 2010. He is the author of “We Destroy Arguments” on presuppositional apologetics. He also serves as a NAMB chaplain in the United States Army Reserves, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel. Additionally, he is certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors as a level two biblical counselor. Stephen has a B.A. in history from California State University of San Bernardino, an M.A. in educational administration from California State University of San Bernardino, an M.A. in theological studies from Liberty University, an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and an Th.M.from Gateway Seminary.