Several churches deemed “not in friendly cooperation” with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have responded to action taken by the SBC Executive Committee, which met in Nashville, Tennessee, last week.
The recommendation from the SBC Credentials Committee regarding Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., came “on the basis that the church has a faith and practice that does not closely identify with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith, as demonstrated by the church having a female teaching pastor functioning in the office of pastor.”
New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga.; St. Timothy’s Christian Church in Baltimore, Md.; Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.; and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., were deemed to be not in friendly cooperation because of female senior pastors.
Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla., was deemed to be not in friendly cooperation because the church failed to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding an abuse allegation.
The churches have the opportunity to appeal the decision at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans on June 13 and 14.
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Saddleback Founding Pastor Rick Warren chose not to respond to Baptist Press, but did respond publicly on Facebook.
Warren’s Feb. 22 post said: Friends worldwide: I’m so touched by your love! Kay & I love you back!
We’ll respond to the #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. Luke 23:43
Fern Creek Baptist has said it will take the next steps in the process.
“We do plan to appeal this decision,” Fern Creek Baptist Church senior pastor Linda Popham told media. “We feel like we are a true Southern Baptist church following the teachings of Jesus. We are saddened by this decision. We as a church have faithfully followed Jesus all these years as a partner with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
New Faith Mission Ministry told WSB-TV in Atlanta that members were surprised by the action, saying the church has been non-denominational since 1999.
Gwennette Watson is listed as the co-founder and senior pastor of the church. She told WSB-TV they were “not affiliated with any organization at all”.
Churches are issued an SBC ID when they show an intent to cooperate with the SBC, which includes a financial contribution to Convention causes. New Faith Mission Ministry has an SBC ID.
The Credentials Committee issued the following statement responding to Watson’s comments:
“Multiple efforts are made to communicate with a church prior to a recommendation to the Executive Committee. Often a church voluntarily withdraws by communicating that they do not desire to cooperate with the Convention. The committee recognizes that autonomous churches do not have to respond to inquiries and are working to improve the process for churches that have no desire to cooperate with the Convention but do not communicate that with the committee.”
In a statement to ABC News, EC Chairman Jared Wellman said, “As stated in the Baptist Faith and Message Article VI, the SBC holds to the belief that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. These churches have been valued, cooperating churches for many years, and this decision was not made lightly. However, we remain committed to upholding the theological convictions of the SBC and maintaining unity among its cooperating churches.”
This article was originally published by Baptist Press and reprinted with permission.
Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee.