Saddleback megachurch expelled by Southern Baptist Convention over female pastor

By Danielle Jarvis
woman preaching

The Southern Baptist Convention has expelled the Saddleback megachurch for appointing a woman as a teaching pastor.

According to Baptist Press, the SBC Executive Committee, which acts on behalf of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in-between the convention’s annual meetings, made the ouster official during its winter meeting Feb. 21 in Nashville. 

The Executive Committee approved a recommendation from the SBC Credentials Committee urging Saddleback “be deemed not in friendly cooperation with the convention, on the basis that the church has a faith and practice that does not closely identify with the convention’s adopted statement of faith, as demonstrated by the church having a female teaching pastor functioning in the office of pastor.”

The SBC’s doctrinal statement, the Baptist Faith and Message, states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

During the session in which the Executive Committee acted on Saddleback, members removed four other churches for calling women as pastors and one church for a sexual abuse problem. While clergy sexual abuse has been the dominant issue within the SBC the past couple of years, disagreement over the role of women in the church provided the catalyst for conflict that divided the convention in the 1980s and ’90s.

Saddleback, which was launched in 1980, has been on the SBC hot seat since the spring of 2021. Under the leadership of founding Pastor Rick Warren, the church announced it ordained three women — all long-tenured staff members — as ministers. 

Saddleback opponents wanted to remove the church from the SBC at the annual meeting in 2021, about a month after the women’s ordination service. Messengers asked the Credentials Committee to determine if the church remained “in friendly cooperation with the SBC” since the Baptist Faith and Message restricts the pastorate to men.

The church, now headed up by Andy and Stacie Wood, following the retirement of Rick Warren, has drawn the ire of SBC given Stacie Wood continues to be a teaching pastor at the church.

Warren has not yet commented on SBC’s move, other than tweeting that he will respond in due course. Given he is no longer the pastor of Saddleback, his comments will be those of his own.

In addition to Saddleback, the Executive Committee voted to remove four other churches because they have women pastors. They are:

  • New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga., which has a female senior pastor.
  • St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md., which has a female senior pastor.
  • Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., which has a female lead pastor.
  • Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., which has a female lead pastor.