Southern Baptists refuse to take back megachurch because it has women pastors

by Chloe Baker
women pastors

The Southern Baptist Convention has rejected an appeal by Saddleback Church, a California megachurch, to be reinstated after being ousted in February for having women pastors. The convention, which claims that only qualified men can serve as pastors according to its statement of faith, also rejected a similar appeal by Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky, which is led by a woman pastor.

During the annual meeting of the convention, delegates voted against welcoming back Saddleback Church, once the second-largest congregation in the denomination. The decision was met with a quiet response from the packed convention hall. Rick Warren, the retired founding pastor of Saddleback and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” expressed disappointment at the outcome and emphasized the importance of unity despite differences.

The convention also denied an appeal by Fern Creek Baptist Church, which has had a woman pastor for three decades. The pastor, Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, expressed surprise at the extent of the result and hoped for more support within the Southern Baptist Convention for the autonomy of local churches and women in ministry.

While the convention cannot dictate the actions of independent Baptist churches, it has the authority to decide which churches are considered “not in friendly cooperation,” leading to their expulsion. This is believed to be the first time the convention has expelled churches over the issue of women pastors.

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted in February to oust Saddleback and four other congregations, including Fern Creek, for having women pastors. The final appeals by Warren and Barnes Popham during the annual meeting were unsuccessful.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on behalf of the Executive Committee, stating that the decision to expel the churches was a matter of biblical authority. The issue of women’s ministry roles has long caused division within the Southern Baptist Convention. In an effort to clarify these roles, the convention voted to amend its constitution, specifying that only men can serve as pastors or elders according to Scripture. The amendment requires approval at the next annual meeting to take effect.

Following the announcement, Warren criticized the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, suggesting that some members seek to return to a time when white men held dominant positions and women were confined to the home. He advocated for a return to the principles of the early church.

The future of Fern Creek Baptist Church remains uncertain, as it faces a possible expulsion from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In addition to the discussions on women pastors, the convention addressed issues of sexual abuse. Freedom Baptist Church in Florida was expelled over its alleged mishandling of a sexual misconduct allegation, and a task force responsible for implementing abuse reforms was given more time to work on addressing the issue.

Please note that this rewritten text aims to provide a concise summary of the original article while maintaining its key points. Some information may have been omitted or rephrased for brevity and clarity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about women pastors

What is the Southern Baptist Convention?

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. It is a network of independent Baptist churches that share common beliefs and cooperate on various issues.

Why were Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention?

Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church were expelled because they had women pastors, which goes against the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith that only qualified men should serve as pastors.

Were there any appeals made by the churches to be reinstated?

Yes, both Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church appealed to the Southern Baptist Convention to be welcomed back into the denomination. However, their appeals were rejected during the annual meeting.

What was the response to the decision of rejecting the appeals?

The response to the decision varied. Some individuals expressed disappointment and believed that unity should be prioritized over differences. Others supported the decision, viewing it as a matter of adhering to biblical authority and clarifying the roles of men and women in ministry.

How did Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, react to the decision?

Rick Warren expressed disappointment at the decision and emphasized the importance of unity despite differing opinions. He believed that the convention should focus on returning to the principles of the early church rather than reverting to past eras.

What is the future of Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church?

Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church face uncertain futures within the Southern Baptist Convention. They may choose to join another denomination or continue as independent churches. Fern Creek Baptist Church also faces possible expulsion from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Were there other issues discussed during the annual meeting of the convention?

Yes, in addition to the expulsion of the churches with women pastors, the convention addressed issues related to sexual abuse within the church. The handling of sexual misconduct allegations and the implementation of abuse reforms were discussed during the meeting.

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JohnSmyth June 15, 2023 - 4:04 am

As a member of the SBC, I’m saddened by this division. We should be focused on spreading love and acceptance, not excluding churches over differences in interpretation. Let’s find common ground and unity.

Believer82 June 15, 2023 - 9:35 am

Finally! It’s about time the Southern Baptist Convention stood up for biblical truth. Women pastors go against God’s design. Thank you, SBC, for staying faithful to Scripture.

FreeSpirit June 15, 2023 - 2:19 pm

This decision shows why organized religion can be so restrictive. Churches should have the freedom to choose their own leadership based on their beliefs and values. Let diversity thrive!

Anonymous June 15, 2023 - 6:43 pm

wow, southern baptists refusing to take back churches with women pastors?! they need to get with the times and embrace equality. smh.

Jane_Doe June 15, 2023 - 7:03 pm

saddlback and fern creek churchs kicked out? thats not fair. ppl should be able to lead no matter their gender. its like theyre stuck in the past.


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