Is a Plurality of Elders for Southern Baptists?
By Shuan Marksbury - Posted at The Domain for Truth:
Today, the term “elders” rings sour in many Baptist ears. Perhaps it seems too Presbyterian, or it may seem to authoritarian. Indeed, many SBC churches practice a model of a deacon leadership or have such a congregational government that spiritual decisions are left in the hands of those not holding (and, perhaps, unqualified for) any office.
It was not always so, and Baptists at one time understood that (multiple) elders should led a church. For instance, the first president of the SBC, W. B. Johnson, taught that individual churches should be led by a plurality of elders. One of the founding members of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, William Williams, likewise taught this; the Abstract of Principles says, “The regular officers of a Church [singular] are Bishops or Elders [plural], and Deacons.”
The SBC statement of faith is no different. In 1925, it stated, “A church of Christ [singular] is a congregation of baptized believers… Its [singular] Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders [synonymous, plural terms in Scripture], and deacons.” The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message opted for the term “pastor,” but maintained the principle—“Its [singular] Scriptural officers are pastors [plural] and deacons.” The 2000 statement retained the wording: “Its [singular] scriptural officers are pastors [plural] and deacons.”