Saddleback Church Appeals Southern Baptist Convention Ouster Over Woman Pastor

By Adelle Banks
saddleback church
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, June 12, 2022. (RNS photo by Bob Smietana)

Saddleback Church, the California megachurch long known for its former pastor, bestselling author Rick Warren, has appealed the decision by the Southern Baptist Convention to oust it for naming a woman to its pastoral team.

Stacie Wood, wife of Andy Wood, who replaced Warren as lead pastor last summer, has the title of “teaching pastor.”

Of the eight congregations removed from official affiliation by the denomination’s Executive Committee since last year’s annual meeting, three are appealing the decision.

Another church, Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, was also among the five churches ousted for having women in pastoral roles, a stance that is against SBC teaching.

The third church making an appeal is Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Florida, which was ousted “based on a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation,” the committee stated in February.

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On Tuesday, the SBC credentials committee issued a statement saying the three churches had appealed, following a process that requires a submission in writing at least 30 days before the SBC annual meeting.

That gathering is scheduled for June 13-14 in New Orleans.

During it, the credentials committee said, a representative of each of the three churches will be allotted a time to speak, as well as a representative of either of the two committees. Messengers, or delegates, to the meeting will then determine if their decisions will be upheld.

“A ‘yes’ vote will affirm the decision of the Executive Committee and Credentials Committee,” the statement reads. “A ‘no’ vote will overturn the decision of the committees and allow the church to immediately be registered and to seat messengers in accordance with Convention rules.”

Executive Committee Chairman David Sons noted in a separate statement that this is a historic juncture for the Protestant denomination, the nation’s largest.

“Since this is the first time in SBC history for this particular item of business to come before the Convention, it’s important for everyone coming to New Orleans to be prepared and informed about the process,” he said.

rick warren SBC saddleback
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)

During the last annual meeting, Warren, who founded Saddleback in 1980 after graduating from a Southern Baptist seminary, took a surprise turn at a microphone and encouraged Southern Baptists to focus on cooperation rather than differences.

“I love Southern Baptists,” the author of “The Purpose Driven Life” said at the time. “As Western culture becomes more dark, more evil, more secular, we have to decide: Are we going to treat each other as allies or not?”

Saddleback’s elders issued a statement in February reiterating that theme, but also noted a possible future response.

“We love and have always valued our relationship with the SBC and its faithful churches,” they said. “We will engage and respond through the proper channels at the appropriate time in hopes to serve other like-minded Bible believing SBC churches.”

Prior to the Woods’ arrival and since, the megachurch has shown its support for women in ministry.

On Mother’s Day weekend in 2021, it ordained three women who were longtime staffers. The weekend before Mother’s Day this year, Katie Edwards was announced as the new campus pastor of the church’s Lake Forest, California, location.

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



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11 thoughts on “Saddleback Church Appeals Southern Baptist Convention Ouster Over Woman Pastor”

  1. other than giving SBC money what exactly does being a member of SBC mean? unlike American Express, memberships don’t have any privileges. As stated in the past. most of us saddleback folks didn’t even know we were part of the SBC. I see WIN WIN for saddleback to say, “bye!.” And as reminder you woman folk need to know your place and it’s not telling us SBC men what to do. After all our history going back to the 1800s is worthy of being able tell the world how to live.

    1. Anita Bierstadt

      It probably doesn’t matter to the average person sitting in the pew, but SBC affiliation benefits the pastors (and staff?) by allowing them to participate in the SBC retirement /life insurance/ disability plans.

      1. Hi Anita, retired insurance agent here. If that’s all it offers, then carriers can offer all those items. Small business with very few to very many employees qualify for all of that. The agency I worked at and retired from at the most we had around 50 people. Never was without life or dental or medical or 401k. Benefits are the easy part. Plenty of employee benefits agents went to saddleback.

        1. Anita Bierstadt

          Gary, I’m just grasping at straws here. As someone who essentially left the SBC before the “conservative resurgence” took over, I fail to understand why Saddleback would want or need to affiliate with the denomination.

          1. Anita I completely agree. Never understood the need. Don’t know why saddleback even returns their calls.

  2. Michael Barley

    The SBC has had female pastors since 1964. At one time the number was over 1200. No hutch has ever been kicked out for having a female pastor before.

    1. Michael, you should read up on current SBC issues. This is a hot button right now and has been since I was in college 08-11, which was an SBC University.

      We had an Applied Theology program for us preparing for full-time ministry and Seminary and no women were allowed in the program. They were allowed to be Christian Ministry majors, but not Applied Theology.

      I know at any SBC church I’ve been at no woman has been allowed to give announcements or read without a male present with her and she had to be on a lower platform than the main stage. Also, no woman was ever allowed to teach or lead men in any manner and was never called pastor or elder.

      I disagreed with this very early on in ministry and left the SBC.

      But, yes the SBC will remove churches who don’t align with this and have become even more sticklers on this.

      1. then Michael, I count them the blessed ones. SBC appears to be stuck in the past. Maybe the SBC needs to see why they are bleeding member.

        1. except that scripture is crystal clear about the qualifications for elder, pastor and deacon. the sbc is holding to scripture and saddleback is capitulating to the culture. a true christian church will always be “stuck in the past” when scripture is our past. it was true when god breathed it out and will always be true, regardless of the culture.

          1. Can two walk together lest they be in agreement, hermeneutically? 40,000 denominations later, the answer seems to be “no.”

  3. Christopher Hanley

    Less concerned about women being pastors/teachers than a)abominable husband and wife “family business” pastors running churches into the ground, and b) Saddleback’s version mistreating other churches(Echo) and staffers. Throttle back on the egalitarianism; the Woods seem to have real problems.

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