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Southern Baptists don't change their stance banning women pastors

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's the last day of the annual meeting for the country's largest Protestant denomination. And in Indianapolis, Southern Baptists have been voting on some contentious issues, including whether women can serve as pastors and the church's stance on in vitro fertilization. Ben Thorp of Member Station WFYI joins us from Indianapolis. Hi there.

BEN THORP, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: So in the conference's closing moments today, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, was on the agenda. What did the Southern Baptist Convention decide?

THORP: So the convention ultimately decided to oppose in vitro fertilization. As you probably know, the treatment often creates more embryos than can be used for pregnancy, and those extra embryos can be frozen, used for research, or destroyed. And that's a problem for Southern Baptists who see those embryos as people. The vote was very emotional for Zachary Sahadak from Ohio, who told the convention he does not see the technology as inherently wicked.

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ZACHARY SAHADAK: I have a son because of IVF. I have another son 20 weeks old in my wife's womb because of IVF. And I have ten embryos that I love and, with every bit of my being, we will have or see born into a Christian family.

THORP: Despite that type of argument, the resolution to oppose in vitro fertilization passed overwhelmingly.

SHAPIRO: And another big issue at the conference was the role of women in leadership. Southern Baptists have held for a long time that only men can be pastors, and for the second time in two years, this issue came before the group. What happened?

THORP: So delegates rejected adding language into the SBC's Constitution in order to underline that only men could serve as any kind of pastor or elder. That's after a vote last year that was overwhelmingly in favor of doing so. But it takes two years and a second vote for any change to take place.

A bit of background - multiple churches have already been removed from the convention for holding to the belief that women can be pastors and were pastors within their churches. Ryan Fullerton from Louisville, Ky., supported adding the amendment and said it was about codifying some existing rules.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN FULLERTON: It's not aimed at preventing women from serving in a church or being on staff. All of us support women flourishing in the ministries that God calls them to.

THORP: But others within the convention worried the amendment was targeted at removing women from various leadership positions within the church. So although the amendment failed, things effectively are going to stay the same, and there's nothing to stop a church being removed from the Southern Baptist Convention if a woman is a pastor.

SHAPIRO: Then do these decisions that the Southern Baptists made today have any impact on people who aren't Southern Baptist?

THORP: Ari, as you mentioned at the top, this is the largest Protestant group and a big conservative political constituency. Former President Donald Trump appeared by video and Vice President Mike Pence in person at the convention. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is also a member of the Southern Baptist. So this is a religious group with political sway. And recently, the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission sent a letter to lawmakers urging them not to move forward with the IVF Protection Act, which could have an impact on people regardless of their religion.

SHAPIRO: That's Ben Thorp of member station WFYI in Indianapolis. Thanks.

THORP: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ben Thorp
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