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Rick Warren Campaigns for Southern Baptist Reinstatement of Saddleback Church

By Adelle Banks
rick warren SBC campaigns reinstate reinstatement
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, addresses the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Religion News Service)

Days before the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, former megachurch pastor Rick Warren has appealed to his fellow Southern Baptists to overturn a denominational decision to oust his Saddleback Church because it permits women to serve with the title pastor.

“This should be the moment where 47,000+ autonomous, independent, freedom-loving churches say NO to turning the Executive Committee into a theological Magisterium that controls a perpetual inquisition of churches and makes the EC a centralized hierarchy that tells our congregations who to hire and what to call them,” Warren wrote in an open letter released Friday.

The SBC’s Executive Committee voted in February to oust Saddleback, approving a recommendation of its credentials committee that determined the congregation was “not in friendly cooperation” because Stacie Wood, wife of Warren successor Andy Wood, had the title of “teaching pastor.”

On Mother’s Day weekend in 2021, Saddleback ordained three women who were longtime staffers. Nearly two years later, Katie Edwards was announced as the new campus pastor of the church’s Lake Forest, California, location.

In May, Saddleback announced it would appeal the decision. Since that time, Warren has mounted a campaign that includes the open letter, a website and a video series detailing why he thinks the church should be permitted to remain within the Southern Baptist fold.

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Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, June 12, 2022. (RNS photo by Bob Smietana)

“Your own family members often hold opposing opinions, but you don’t disown them for that,” he wrote. “You still love them in spite of disagreement.” (Italics are Warren’s.)

Warren also cited Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, two women missionaries in whose names major denominational missions funds are collected in SBC churches every year. The letter encouraged fellow Baptists “to say NO to those who would have silenced these Southern Baptist women.”

Delegates to the annual meeting, set for June 13-14 in New Orleans, will vote on whether to affirm or overturn decisions about Saddleback, along with two other churches that have appealed their ousters — one for having a woman in a pastoral role and the other for “a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation.”

In addition to seeking to overturn the Executive Committee decision, Warren hopes for a change in the SBC constitution that would override a section first approved in 2014 and voted on a second time and implemented in 2015. It said the denomination would include only churches with “a faith and practice which closely identifies” with the Baptist Faith and Message. That statement of faith restricts the office of pastor to men.

Any change in the constitution that would update that amendment would have to be passed by votes over two consecutive years by the messengers.

Virginia Baptist pastor Mike Law proposed a constitutional amendment at the 2022 annual meeting that would officially bar churches that “affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

“Why is it wrong for women to serve as pastors?” Law said in a video sent to Executive Committee members. “Because it is contrary to God’s design for his church. It is that simple. Don’t overthink this issue.”

Warren says the denomination has changed direction in the past, lamenting slavery and apologizing in 1995 to African Americans for condoning racism, and more recently attempting to address the concerns of victims of sex abuse.

He argues that the debate is far larger than what might happen to the church he founded, pointing to the continuing decline in membership of the Protestant denomination, which totaled 13.2 million in 2022, a drop of more than 3 million members since 2006.

This is a vote to affirm the God-given freedom of every Baptist to interpret Scripture AS A BAPTIST – by saying NO to those who deny that freedom,” he said. “This is a vote to affirm evangelism by saying NO to factionalism.” (All boldface and italics are Warren’s.)

Adelle Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.



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18 Responses

  1. Throughout scripture God always put men in the leadership positions. Of course, women can share the good news of scripture to any gender but they are not to have the authority over men. In Titus 2 it is telling the older women to train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good and to be submissive to their husbands; then they will not bring shame on the word of God. How odd it is when a woman is the pastor and main authority of a church that her husband also attends and she is her husband’s pastor! Let’s remember in Genesis where it says that Eve was the one deceived and that her husband would rule over her.

    1. Kuddos to you, Carrie, your comments are refreshingly biblical but are frowned upon especially in Charismatic circles where the Word is supposed to be preeminent.

    2. “Let’s remember in Genesis where it says that Eve was the one deceived and that her husband would rule over her.”

      By your logic, if women are to accept being ruled over, they must also refuse every pain mitigation in childbirth, and men must accept all poor working conditions and refuse every method and device to improve the process and the result.

      By your logic, the man is to rule and lead because being a cowardly who blames others and refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes and shortcomings isn’t so bad.

      Furthermore, by your logic Jesus, the last Adam, and his sacrifice is not all that powerful.

      “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” -Romans 5:19

    3. “Let’s remember in Genesis where it says that Eve was the one deceived and that her husband would rule over her.”

      Have you considered that the man ruling over the woman would be a symptom of the brokeness that resulted from the fall?
      In the same way that women’s pain in childbirth did not represent the perfection of God’s creation, but was a consequence of sin entering the world.

      The Kingdom of God has come and we are now called through the power of the Holy Spirit to renewal of all things, righting wrongs and restoring what was broken

  2. I don’t know. Rick Warren is pretty powerful. He has a huge network of supporters, and a lot of money. I have the feeling that they will capitulate. Whether I believe in the Men-only-as-pastors view makes no difference. It comes down to who has the most influnece

  3. I am puzzled why this even matters to Rick Warren anymore. Seeing the SBC in decline and in turmoil, why would he want Saddleback associated with it. Oooh wait, I remember there’s probably money involved. That’s the only thing that can get mega-church guys like this all turnt like this year after year.

    What’s surprising is I only see Andy Woods name mentioned, never quoted? He went to the flagship SBC seminary and should be welcomed voice in the conversation. I mean, he’s the one at the helm now over there at Saddleback…correct? Homeboy had controversy coming into the deal and still kicking up dust a year later. Also, it’s become apparent that there is a staff exodus currently happening.

    But with a change in regime that’s usually status quo…been part of one myself.

    1. Rick Warren hired Andy Wood who had psychological, spiritually, emotionally, verbally, and financially abused me, a woman pastor. Rick Warren covered it up, and did nothing about Andy’s many abuses of many staff and NDAs that to this day silence men and women. This isn’t about women pastors. It’s a distraction from the abuse. We are meant to believe two men “fighting for” women pastors would never abuse women behind the curtain and cover it up. Except that they did. Don’t fall for the show. The spin doctors have a playbook of smoke and mirrors.
      The attrition rate at was alarmingly high. NDAs meant we couldn’t know why…

      1. Lori, first let me say I am so sorry for what you have gone through and are still going through. Trauma and the resulting PTSD are real and I can’t imagine the pain and anguish you have experienced because of the abuse of the Wood’s.

        Also, I am always grateful to see your voice through post on every article about the Wood’s. They may have tried to silence you but there are many people not letting you be silenced! Your story needs to be told and the Wood’s continually need to be exposed.

        There are so many couples in lead positions out there like the Wood’s who need to be exposed for the frauds, bullies, grifters that they are. People who’ve had their horrible behaviors excused for because they’re “gifted”. It’s time for the charisma over character culture to end!

  4. Again, the problem is not Stacie Wood, but Mr. and Mrs . Andy Wood, yet another Jim-and-Tammy two headed pastorate. We still haven’t found out the truth about their “operations” re Warren is serving red herring for dinner..

  5. Just stick to Scripture mr warren and what THAT says oh wait if you did you would not be in powerful position you are in now would you!!!

  6. I’m convinced SBC has an identity crisis. Substantive issues they cannot agree on, abound. For example, in the south, many if not most affiliated SBC churches preach justification by Faith alone. Out west, it’s Faith plus obedience 24/7. That’s the discipleship crowd. Discipleship is an unattainable carrot stick produced by greedy pastors, looking for totally “dedicated” yes men who volunteer and sacrifice their family time to church. And that suits the pastor just fine. I find it abundantly rich that none of these Lordship Salvation gurus are courageous enough to clearly outline their various petty rules in writing, because they know it contradicts tenants of Grace. I earned my SBC card by the abuse and lies. No thanx, no more.

  7. Evangelicals need to figure out what it means when we say the bible is the word of God. While God illumines all of scripture, not all of scripture functions prophetically. It’s not all directly “thus sayeth the Lord.” We interpret, often unconsciously, according to genre. So how do we interpret Paul? In regard to women needing to have their head covered, we are allowed to “judge for ourselves” (1 Cor. 11) even though some of the same creation order logic is invoked. So clearly Paul doesn’t intend the head covering issue to be understood in the direct sense of “thus sayeth the Lord.” Other places it is clear that Paul intends to speak prophetically, as when he lists activities that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of God. There is a meaningful difference that isn’t parsed out well in this conversation.

    1. Loren –
      You bring up a great point. I think it comes down to defining what’s disputable or not. We are often attacking the faith or discipleship of others based on very disputable matters (and losing many in the process).

      Jesus as son of God and Savior? Not disputable
      Role of women in the church? Disputable
      The Trinity? Not disputable
      Size of church? Disputable

  8. I simply wish to clarify my previous post above, and kindly ask Julie Roys and others to understand. I generally have an abundance of respect for pastors. But all this “fruit inspection” is dividing people. My wife is a school teacher and I am a Believer who is blessed to serve public with social work issues. Are you honestly going to tell my wife and I because we don’t have time to volunteer in church we are not disciples of Christ?! There needs to be more pastorate accountability in SBC, with pastors who are spewing their hateful legalism.

    Because pastors now hire attorney’s to sue their flock when exposed, I will not name my pastor or church. Suffice it to state I believe it affiliated with SBC. It was for certain Baptist. Four years ago, my son, who was an active member received multiple stab wounds from a criminal attack. After he was released from ICU, not one pastor came to visit our home or make a phone call. NOT ONE! Really?!!!!! Head pastor is always asking for money, so he can build a new church. He has said during sermons, “If you have not been to church in past couple of years (during COVID), you probably aren’t a Christian.” Rude and arrogant to core, always emphasizing Discipleship, yet maybe he should practice same.

    Finally I would posit, far better to attend a simple church where people are not taught exclusivity, than a 24/7 performance driven mega church.

    1. G.K. Chesterton once remarked about occultist Madame Blavatska that she believed Christianity and Hinduism were the same, “especially Hinduism”.
      We inspect fruit for the same reason California and Canada do: because bad fruit makes you sick. Evidence #1: the current situation. Evidence #2: TRR.

    2. Your comments ring true! My experience is much the same. My mother went to a church in Oregon for 40 years. She tithed her gross salary and worked in the nursery for nearly 20 years. I moved her in with me because of her health issues and when we called the church to get her rides just on Sundays I was working we didn’t even get a return call . We tried twice!!¡! There’s more but I personally have never found a loving responsive church. Sad ! They seem to be all about money!!!

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