The Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday disfellowshipped Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church because it has a female pastor. SBC Executive Committee Chairman Jared Wellman said in a statement that the convention ousted the 43-year-old megachurch because it is “not in friendly cooperation” with the denomination.
The move from the convention also comes after Warren ordained three women as pastors in May 2021, sparking the initial discussion to remove the church from the SBC, arguing it defied Biblical principles and Article VI in the Baptist Faith and Message. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of the pastor is limited to men as qualified by scripture,” the article reads.
Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Warren stepped down last year and was replaced by Andy Wood and his wife, Stacie Wood, according to the Baptist Press. Andy Wood is the lead pastor; Stacie Wood serves as a teaching pastor.
Warren responded to Saddleback’s disfellowship in a tweet on Tuesday, thanking his supporters. “Friends worldwide: I’m so touched by your love!” Warren said. “We’ll respond to #SBC in OUR time & way thru direct channels.”
At an SBC convention last June, Warren responded to officials calling to sever the relationship with Saddleback. “Are we going to keep bickering over secondary issues?” he said. “Or are we going to keep the main thing the main thing?”
Warren also reportedly said at the same meeting that he believes there is a difference between the office of pastor and the gift of pastor. Traditional Christians believe the Bible makes it clear from a complementarian viewpoint that women have a place in ministry under a male leader’s authority, arguing that primary leadership roles for females are unhealthy, counter to biblical standards and place the congregation on a slippery slope away from fundamental scripture teachings and on a path toward more liberalism.
The executive committee also ousted five other churches from the convention, four of which have a woman serving as a lead or senior pastor. Those churches include New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga.; St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist in Baltimore; Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss;, and Fern Creek Baptist Church, in Louisville, Ky. SBC officials also disfellowshipped Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Florida, over a sex abuse-related issue.
“These churches have been valued, cooperating churches for many years, and this decision was not made lightly,” Wellman said. “However, we remain committed to upholding the theological convictions of the SBC and maintaining unity among its cooperating churches.”
Saddleback’s elders issued a statement mirroring Warren’s earlier comments.
“We love and have always valued our relationship with the SBC and its faithful churches,” they said. “We will engage and respond through the proper channels at the appropriate time in hopes to serve other like-minded Bible believing SBC churches. Meanwhile, we remain focused on following God’s leadership to love and serve our church family and the communities around our campuses.”
Response on social media was quick with some asking why the SBC had not outsted pastors involved in sexual misconduct investigations. Others said the larger problem was not that there was a female pastor, but that it was another case of mega-church nepotism in which family members of the pastor were employed by the church. Setting up “church dynasties” is a bigger threat said observer.
For his part, Warren responded on Instagram, reminding people how many followers he has.
“We will respond to #SBC in OUR time & our way thru direct channels; Our newsletters to 600,000 [church] leaders, Daily Hope radio broadcast, 1 million PDC [Purpose-Driven Church] alumni pastors list, 11 million social media followers.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice