Rick Warren Named First-Ever Chancellor of Prominent London Seminary

By Josh Shepherd
rick warren spurgeon's college
Pastor Rick Warren (center), author and founder of Saddleback Church, has been installed as chancellor of Spurgeon’s College, a Baptist institution in London, England. (Photo via Larry A. Ross)

Best-selling author Rick Warren, who last year stepped down as pastor of his prominent California megachurch, has been named chancellor of the largest Baptist college in the U.K. 

Spurgeon’s College in London announced Monday that Warren was installed as chancellor, an “honorary and ceremonial” role, enabling him to advance the “vision, gospel mission and values” of the institution. Warren will be “providing guest lectures” for Spurgeon’s College’s students and promoting the school to potential benefactors, according to the statement. 

Warren, 69, author of best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life, said in a statement that he is “delighted” to take on this role “at this important time in (the college’s) development and mission.” Warren also noted his “deep, personal family connection” to Charles Spurgeon.

Warren’s great-great grandfather studied at Spurgeon’s College and “was commissioned to Christian service by Mr. Spurgeon himself,” said Philip McCormack, principal and vice chancellor of Spurgeon’s College, in a video announcement.

Speaking to students and staff of the college, Warren said: “Even though we are separated by eight time zones between London and Los Angeles, I intend to establish regular communication with you via Zoom.” 

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Founded in 1856 by the famed Baptist preacher, Spurgeon’s College is recognized as the largest Baptist theological school in the United Kingdom and one of the most prominent evangelical institutions. 

Last May, the school received a higher level of accreditation, granting it full degree awarding powers – the first theological college in the U.K. to achieve this status. 

Warren’s transition, health challenges

Last year, Warren stepped down as senior pastor of multi-site megachurch Saddleback Church in southern California, which he and his wife, Kay, founded in 1980. 

In an April interview, Warren revealed that he has suffered from an autoimmune disease for the past two years. “It leaves all my major muscles in pain, pretty much 24 hours a day,” he said. “It’s debilitating. It’s tough walking, working.” 

He added that he is not wheelchair-bound currently and that the prognosis is positive. “It’s not life-threatening,” he said. “(Doctors say) it lasts between three to five years.”

Last September, following a search process, Warren endorsed Andy Wood, formerly of Echo Church, as his replacement as senior pastor at Saddleback. Wood’s wife, Stacie, was also named “teaching pastor,” which became a point of contention. 

andy wood rick warren church acquire
Andy Wood (left) pictured with his wife Stacie Wood (right) and Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren. (Photo Courtesy: A. Larry Ross)

In February, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ousted Saddleback from the denomination due to Stacie Wood “functioning in the office of pastor.” Saddleback also previously ordained three women pastors in 2021. 

Reportedly, Saddleback leaders plan to appeal that decision at the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting, scheduled for June 13 to 14 in New Orleans, La. 

Separately, Andy Wood has faced allegations of abusive leadership at his previous church. A report from a third-party firm ostensibly cleared Wood of fostering an “abusive staff culture.” But, as reported by The Roys Report (TRR), two former high-level staff at Wood’s former church challenged the conclusion, saying victims’ voices were minimized in the investigation.

Wood also has been accused by Baptist leaders of having a predatory pattern of trying to acquire expensive church properties from vulnerable, aging populations.

In addition to his role at the London-based college, Warren serves as executive director of Finishing the Task, a coalition of Bible-translation and evangelism groups. 

The release from Spurgeon’s College noted the school has a similar evangelistic mission. “The most recent census data (shows) that less than 5% of the UK population identify as practising Christians, yet 33% said they wanted to know more about Jesus,” it stated.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.



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11 thoughts on “Rick Warren Named First-Ever Chancellor of Prominent London Seminary”

  1. Congratulations pastor Rick and thank you for years of the love you and Kay showed all of us. Especially to us veterans.

  2. So he is going to be chancellor of a school in London but he is going to live in CA? How is this not nothing more than a publicity stunt?

    1. Marin Heiskell

      I saw this as no different than various board members of a company coming from industries and geographies all over the world; each are selected to bring a certain expertise and perspective to the company’s overall strategic direction. (and yes, board members often get compensated)
      Warren likely also brings about a certain level of credibility in support of the new accreditation of the school.
      I see little problem with it. It’s a common practice.

      And while I don’t follow Warren frequently, IMO what I’ve read by him – and the 1 or 2 sermons I’ve heard – are pretty good at “meeting people where they are” as it comes to introducing the gospel (and navigating some of the bad reputations churches have to focus on one’s individual relationship with God through Christ). I believe I’m a bit farther along in my faith for his ministry, but will not negate or discount the place for it.

  3. Lori Adams-Brown

    Rick Warren covered up the abuse of many Echo.church abuse survivors when he hired Andy Wood to replace him and had Vanderbloemen (a hiring agency) conduct a faux “investigation” for image management filled with false narratives and minimizing of the abuse. Did Spurgeon College reach out to any of the many abuse survivors to hear their stories? If so, how many? Did they make it safe for survivors to share? Do they know the difference between abuse and “conflict” or “he said/she said”? As a seminary graduate myself, I call on all seminaries to fully vet for abuse and learn to do that with best practices through resources such as Grace Ministries or Scot McKnight, Wade Mullen or Diane Langberg. Seminaries and churches need those in power to not cover up abuse.

  4. Rick Warren is a false teacher pushing ecumenism. The Gospel he preaches is distorted. He is the typical American preacher in todays spiritually bankrupt “Christian culture”

  5. As a UK (Scotland) citizen, I cannot but be concerned about UK Christianity taking on characteristics of some USA Christianity. For better or worse, the respective Christianities are of a piece with their hosting societies. We see this where the UK Church of England and CofE churches outwith the UK, are now at doctrinal odds. Polarisation, secular and Christian, is more extreme in the USA than in the UK. Intermingling of faith and politics likewise. Recourse to business modelling of Church management likewise. Many of these differences attach to the constitutional differences between the USA and the UK: the USA having a written constitution; the UK having an unwritten constitution.

  6. He’s probably a figurehead, intended to bring students to a school with a famous Chancellor. He’s not a scholar in any way. And I doubt he will live in the U.K.

  7. I was alarmed by the headline until I realised that “Prominent London Seminary” is not the name of the institution concerned. The London Seminary is a totally different institution, PTL.

  8. I don’t think some commentors are grasping that this is a purely “honorary and ceremonial” role. It is like someone famous being given the keys to a city and people commenting about whether the city is still safe, and where he will store the keys so no one can steal them and take over the city, and so on. This is not a new job. It is not a new revenue stream. That is part of what “honorary” means. An “honorary” professor does not get a salary and does not have a job. Mr Warren will play a ceremonial role at the annual graduation and – just by being well known – be a sort of goodwill ambassador for the college.

  9. Spurgeon would be appalled at this appointment of one who is so steeped in ecumenism and building the one world religion of the Antichrist in league with the Pope and Roman Catholicism and detestable false religions that Spurgeon abhorred.

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