Pastor Rick Warren says the church he founded will appeal its disfellowshipping by the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue of female pastors.
Warren on Tuesday told ChurchLeaders.com that Saddleback Church will appeal to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans the February decision by the SBC’s Executive Committee to oust the congregation. The SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 13-14.
“Our goal is to spark the thinking of messengers regarding the direction of the SBC, regardless of the outcome of the vote,” Warren said.
Warren said he has been told by the California Southern Baptist State Convention and the Orange County Southern Baptist Association – the state and regional Baptist affiliates – “that the EC ruling will be ignored at their levels.”
The SBC’s 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.” Last year Saddleback hired Andy Wood as the successor to Warren. Andy Wood is the lead pastor, and his wife, Stacie, is a teaching pastor. Meanwhile, Saddleback in May announced that Katie Edwards, one of the three women previously ordained, would become a campus pastor.
The Executive Committee said the church was not in “friendly cooperation” with the convention.
“These churches have been valued, cooperating churches for many years, and this decision was not made lightly,” EC chairman Jared Wellman said in February. “However, we remain committed to upholding the theological convictions of the SBC and maintaining unity among its cooperating churches.”
Warren, in a statement to ChurchLeaders.com, listed five reasons Saddleback is appealing. Below are Warren’s five reasons:
- “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of millions of SBC women whose God-given spiritual gifts and leadership skills are being wasted instead of empowered for the Great Commission,” Warren said. “We cannot finish the task Jesus gave us, with 50 percent of the church forced to sit on the bench,” he added. Warren further challenged the decision by noting that “Great Commission Baptists believe that Jesus authorized every woman to go, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach – just as he authorized every man.”
- “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of over 300 concerned pastors who have female pastors serving on their staff and have written to me,” Warren said. He noted that many church leaders were “fearful and worried that their congregations will also be disfellowshipped when the new inquisition discovers them.”
- “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of our IMB missionaries.” Warren highlighted the decline in Baptist missionaries by almost 1,500 people over the last 23 years. This decline, he says, began when the revised Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) was approved in 2000. “With a renewed emphasis on the restriction of women, we’ll lose more godly female church planters and couples serving as pastoral teams in the mission field,” Warren argued.
- “We believe a decision this critical to the SBC’s identity and future should be decided by the Messengers, not a committee,” Warren asserted. “The Messengers must decide if they want the Executive Committee to act like a Catholic Magisterium.”
- “Our goal is to spark the thinking of messengers regarding the direction of the SBC, regardless of the outcome of the vote,” the pastor said. “If you really love something, you fight for it. But sometimes it takes years for people to consider an event before change happens,” he continued. Pointing to the work of evangelical and abolitionist William Wilberforce, Warren highlighted the importance of change. “Wilberforce lost every vote for 17 years before the slave trade was eventually abolished. It took 10 years after the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 for the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s to coalesce. Note my prediction: The next generation of Southern Baptists will remove the restriction on women one day, because truth eventually triumphs over tradition.”
Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla., also are appealing, according to ChurchLeaders.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Alex Wong/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.