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Southern Baptist Convention Rejects Rick Warren's Attempt to Defy Statement of Faith, Confirms His Church's Expulsion

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The Southern Baptist Convention has refused to welcome Saddleback Church back into its fold, rejecting an appeal by the California megachurch over its February ouster for having women pastors in defiance of Scripture.

Southern Baptist church representatives at their annual meeting in New Orleans also rejected a similar appeal by a smaller church, Fern Creek Baptist of Louisville, Kentucky.

The results of the Tuesday votes were announced Wednesday morning on the concluding day of the two-day annual meeting of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, whose statement of faith asserts the biblical view that only qualified men can serve as pastors.

Saddleback had been the denomination’s second-largest congregation and until recently was widely touted as a success story amid larger Southern Baptist membership declines.

With the 9,437-1,212 vote, delegates rejected an appeal by Rick Warren, the retired founding pastor of Saddleback and author of the best-selling phenomenon, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

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Warren had urged Baptists to agree to disagree “in order to share a common mission.”

“Saddleback Church was deemed the church not to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, due to ‘the church continuing to have a female teaching pastor functioning in the office of a pastor,'” Baptist Press reported Wednesday.

Did the Southern Baptist Convention make the right decision?

“The committee specified the teaching pastor role of Stacie Wood, the wife of Warren’s successor, Andy Wood,” it said.

“Since then, Saddleback announced May 7 that Katie Edwards would become the new campus pastor for its Lake Forest campus. Edwards was among three women ordained with the title of pastor at Saddleback in May 2021.”

Church representatives also voted 9,700-806 to deny an appeal by Fern Creek Baptist Church, which has had Linda Barnes Popham in the pastor’s role for three decades but came under heightened scrutiny this year.

Warren and Popham made their final appeals to Southern Baptists on Tuesday during the denomination’s annual meeting.

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In February, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted to oust the two congregations, along with three others that chose not to appeal, for having women pastors.

All Baptist churches are independent, so the convention can’t tell them what to do, but it can decide which churches are “not in friendly cooperation,” the official verbiage for an expulsion.

The SBC’s official statement of faith says the office of pastor is reserved for qualified men, but this is believed to be the first time the convention has expelled any churches over it.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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