Someone recently asked me for evidence of a plurality of elders in SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCHES, and I did not have an answer for that person. I can’t remember who asked me, but the evidence is beautifully summarized in a piece by Mark Dever available at the 9 Marks site called Baptists and Elders.
In view of the evidence that Dever cites—evidence that includes an endorsement of the plurality of elders by the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, William B. Johnson (you really should go read Baptists and Elders)—it is surprising to me that some Southern Baptists are suggesting that having a plurality of elders in a local congregation is “semi-presbyterian.”
Dever also summarizes the biblical evidence for a plurality of elders in every church in Baptists and Elders, so I won’t rehearse what I have said earlier on this blog.
If you’re looking for more on a plurality of elders, you might be interested in a new book called Elders in Congregational Life, which is also reviewed on the 9Marks site. If you do a search on the 9Marks site on elders, you’ll see that Dever has written several short pieces on this issue.
I’ll never forget hearing John Hannah say that we owe two things to everyone with whom we enter into theological dispute. We owe them understanding. We must understand what they are saying. And we owe them fairness. We must treat them as we would want to be treated.
I hope that we Baptists can dialogue about our differences on these matters in a way that reflects that we understand the position taken by those with whom we disagree, and I hope that we’ll be fair to those with whom we disagree (in other words, I think the charge that a plurality of elders is "Presbyterian" is both unfair and fails to understand those of us who take this view).