Southern Baptists uphold ouster of Saddleback, Fern Creek churches over women pastors

  • Two churches, Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church, which contested the significant ruling concerning the debate on women pastors, were removed from the convention.
  • The voting delegates voted to maintain the removal of Saddleback and Fern Creek.
  • Meanwhile, there is an impending vote on a proposal to establish a prohibition on female ministers.
  • In New Orleans, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, made a significant statement this week regarding the role of women in the church by explicitly stating that only males are eligible for the position of pastor.

    At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans in 2023, the delegates voted to uphold the removal of female pastors and the prohibition on women serving as senior pastors or in lead roles at Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Saddleback Church in Southern California.

    Churches led by female pastors will be expelled by the conservative denomination. It was evident during the annual gathering of Southern Baptists from all over the country in New Orleans this week that the role of women was one of the most prominent and debated issues.

    In a declaration, Meredith Stone, director of Baptist Women in Ministry, expressed, “These ballots diminish the value and vocations of women to engage in the work of God through the local congregation.” Stone’s non-profit organization collaborates with female clergy in churches affiliated with the SBC and other Baptist affiliations.

    Stone stated, “When women’s physical and spiritual safety is further jeopardized in a denominational political conflict, it is not only their worth that is diminished but also their emotional well-being.”

    On Tuesday afternoon, Pastor Linda Popham of Fern Creek and Pastor Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback and bestselling author, passionately pleaded with over 12,000 messengers to allow the two back churches into the largest Protestant denomination in the nation.

    On Wednesday morning, SBC leaders announced 88% of messengers voted to uphold Saddleback’s ouster and 92% voted the same for Fern Creek.

    The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently emerged with a complementarian view that holds different roles for men and women. However, there is ongoing debate about whether the SBC should enforce the belief that only men can hold the position of pastor, as stated in the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement.

    “So, why at this time?” Popham declared in her address to the conference Tuesday afternoon, restating a question she has posed since February.

    The fate of those churches was determined during the final call made at the full convention last week. Saddleback and Fern Creek were among the five churches that were disfellowshipped in February by the Executive Committee of the SBC, due to their practices being out of sync with the SBC’s doctrinal statement, particularly regarding women pastors. This decision was made during the annual meeting of the Executive Committee, which manages the business of the denomination outside of the convention.

    “The unity and harmony of the Southern Baptist Convention is a convention that is highly valued among Southern Baptists. It is a topic that has been brought forward with clarity, and it is actually one of the factors that has led to the unity of Southern Baptists. Albert R. Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, mentioned in his rebuttal to Warren on Tuesday that it is an issue of biblical authority.”

    Popham’s emotional plea for pastors to take a stricter stance on nature also prompted other SBC leaders, as well as Mohler, who is geographically close to Fern Creek’s church in Kentucky, just miles away from Mohler’s seminary in Louisville, to respond with a rebuttal.

    Wednesday live updates:Live updates: Southern Baptists take initial action in approving prohibition on women pastors.

    Tuesday live updates: SBC updates: Rick Warren delivers a passionate plea for Saddleback Church in SBC discussion on female pastors.

    Popham stated, “The devil adores creating divisions among us, he’s dismantling this gathering.” “He takes pleasure in witnessing religious figures occupying secure and cushioned authoritative seats, being overwhelmed by customs, viewpoints, authority, and matters unrelated to salvation.”

    Warren, the founder of one of the largest SBC churches, has undertaken a significant public relations effort to support. In specific matters, Warren aimed to challenge the SBC by engaging churches with contrasting perspectives, resulting in a broader and more individualized appeal.

    Warren stated, “You are incorrect if you believe that every Baptist shares your beliefs.” “Only one term contradicts Saddleback (of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000). That constitutes a 99.99999% consensus. Isn’t that sufficiently close?”

    Although the national convention has decided to uphold the ouster of both Creek Fern and Saddleback churches, their respective state conventions remain part of the decision.

    The SBC Executive Committee determines whether to endorse those suggestions. On a nationwide scale, the choices regarding Saddleback and Fern Creek establish a standard for the SBC Credentials Committee, a supervisory team that assesses churches’ association with the Nashville-based SBC, to propose disfellowshipping additional churches with female pastors in the coming times.

    Warren spoke to the press in a press conference following the announcement of the vote results on Saddleback.

    Regarding this matter, Warren cautioned that the ruling establishes a perilous precedent and asserted that it does not reflect the stance of numerous Southern Baptists, although he anticipated the result.

    “The appearance of Southern Baptists does not resemble our annual meeting at all,” Warren stated.

    Constitutional amendment and resolutions

    The expulsion of Saddleback and Fern Creek was confirmed when delegates cast their votes, solidifying a new reality that emerged with the delegates’ endorsement of the constitutional amendment.

    Already, the annual meeting of the SBC next year requires a second round of approval for the constitutional amendment, which leaves no doubt that churches disfellowshipping women pastors recommend the credentials committee to the committee. The outcomes for Fern Creek and Saddleback have already been simplified.

    Other 2023 SBC meeting updates: Southern Baptists choose to retain Bart Barber as president, marking a victory for mainstream conservatives.

    Before the vote on the constitutional amendment on Wednesday, messengers debated whether it was necessary to add this measure to their constitution.

    Sarah Clatworthy, a courier from Texas, stated that messengers “must hold our position and firmly reject feminism and liberalism.”

    She mentioned that churches led by female pastors should become part of the United Methodist Church.

    She expressed, “Inform them that Scripture is our ultimate source of authority, rather than the prevailing societal norms.” “We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters in future generations do not encounter any ambiguity regarding the stance of the SBC.”