California megachurch Saddleback Church, founded by prominent Christian leader and best-selling author Rick Warren, was disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on Tuesday over having a female pastor.
Officials on the Executive Committee voted out one of the largest churches in the United States less than a year after Warren delivered his final sermon as Saddleback’s senior pastor and ushered in lead pastor Andy Wood and his wife, Stacie, who serves as a teaching pastor.
Due to the church continuing to have a female functioning in the office of pastor, SBC Executive Committee Chairman Jared Wellman told The Daily Wire in a statement that the convention ousted the 43-year-old megachurch, as it is “not in friendly cooperation” with the denomination.
Wood told The Associated Press last year that the Bible “teaches that men and women were given spiritual gifts by God.”
“The church should be a place where both men and women can exercise those spiritual gifts,” Wood said. “My wife has the spiritual gift of teaching and she is really good. People often tell me she’s better than me when it comes to preaching, and I’m really glad to hear that.”
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.
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.”
Friends worldwide: I'm so touched by your love!
Kay & I love you back!
We'll respond to #SBC in OUR time & way
thru direct channels:
Our newsletters to 600,000 ch leaders
Daily Hope radio broadcast
1 million PDC alumni pastors list
11 million social media followers
— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) February 21, 2023
At an SBC convention in June 2022, Warren responded to officials calling to sever the relationship with Saddleback.
“Are we going to keep bickering over secondary issues?” Warren 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.
“They are on that path — anybody can see this by following their social media pages,” a source, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Wire.
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, Georgia, St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist in Baltimore, Maryland, Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and Fern Creek Baptist Church, in Louisville, Kentucky.
SBC officials also disfellowshipped Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Florida, over a sex abuse-related issue, which The Tennessean reported executive committee chairman Wellman said the church exhibited “a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation.”
“These churches have been valued, cooperating churches for many years, and this decision was not made lightly,” Wellman told The Daily Wire. “However, we remain committed to upholding the theological convictions of the SBC and maintaining unity among its cooperating churches.”
Pastor Richard Demsick of Freedom Church said in an interview with The Tennessean, “we are deeply saddened by the false allegations, which are slanderous.”
“There are no sexual abuse allegations,” he added. “There have been false reports based on gossip.”
The Southern Baptist Convention leaders said last year the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which has almost 14 million members and more than 47,000 churches in all 50 states, was under investigation by the Justice Department for sexual abuse allegations.
An outside consultant reported that women and children were abused by male pastors, church employees, and officials from 2000 to the present, The New York Times reported.
“For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention,” the consultant’s report said, “to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff.”
Victims said they made several attempts via phone, mail, and email, showed up at meetings, and held rallies, “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility.”
SBC officials said the convention would “fully and completely cooperate” with the investigation, and the church continues to “grieve and lament past mistakes.”
All six churches can appeal the decision made by SBC officials at the convention’s next annual meeting, which is set to take place in New Orleans in June.