Southern Baptist Convention upholds decision to expel Rick Warren's Saddleback Church

Pastor Rick Warren walks to the pulpit at Saddleback Church on August 28, 2022, where he preached his final sermon as lead pastor.(Photo: Saddleback Church)

(CP) The Southern Baptist Convention has upheld the removal of Saddleback Church from the denomination due to the California megachurch allowing a woman to serve in the office of teaching pastor.

In results announced Wednesday morning at the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Saddleback's expulsion was upheld by 9,437 votes (88.46%) to 1,212 votes (11.36%), with 19 ballots disallowed.

Additionally, the disfellowshipping of Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, and Freedom Church of Vero Beach, Florida, were also upheld by a vote of 9,700 to 806 and 9,984 to 343, respectively.

Fern Creek Baptist had been removed from SBC membership for having a woman serve as pastor of the congregation. Freedom Church was removed because its lead pastor has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

In February, the SBC Executive Committee deemed Saddleback, along with five other churches, to not be in "friendly cooperation" with the convention. At issue is Pastor Andy Wood, who succeeded Saddleback founder Rick Warren as lead pastor of the megachurch last year, listing his wife, Stacie, as the church's teaching pastor.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states that while men and women are both called to spread the Gospel, the office of pastor is limited to men.

On Tuesday afternoon, messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting heard appeals in the cases of Saddleback, Fern Creek Baptist and Freedom Church, with Warren imploring the denomination to reconsider the Saddleback's removal.

Warren argued that Southern Baptists could agree to disagree on the matter of female pastors, comparing it to the SBC's decision to not disfellowship churches that adhered to Calvinist theology.

"We should remove churches for all kinds of sexual sins, racial sin, financial sin, leadership sin, sins that harm the testimony of our convention," Warren said. "But the 1,129 churches with women on pastoral staff have not sinned."

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke against Saddleback's appeal, warning that Saddleback was threatening the unity of the SBC and that the issue was not nonessential.

"It's not just a matter of church polity; it's not just a matter of hermeneutics," Mohler stressed. "It's a matter of biblical commitment, a commitment to the Scripture that unequivocally we believe limits the office of pastor to men."

"Here we face the unusual situation in which Dr. Warren himself has made repeated statements, and the church has taken repeated actions that make very clear it rejects the confessional understanding of the Southern Baptist Convention on this issue."

Founded in 1980 by Rick and Kay Warren, Saddleback has grown to more than a dozen locations in California, with an average weekly worship attendance of around 30,000.

© The Christian Post