The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has declined to welcome Saddleback Church back into its fellowship, dismissing an appeal by the California megachurch. Saddleback Church had been expelled in February due to its inclusion of women pastors. A similar appeal by Fern Creek Baptist, a smaller church led by a woman pastor in Louisville, Kentucky, was also rejected at the annual SBC meeting.
Southern Baptist Rejects Churches with Women Pastors
In February, the SBC’s Executive Committee voted to expel Saddleback Church and three other congregations that chose not to appeal due to their inclusion of women pastors.
During the concluding day of the two-day gathering, the results of the votes were announced to the approximately 12,000 Southern Baptists present. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination, guided by a statement of faith that asserts the exclusive eligibility of qualified men as pastors, remained steadfast in its position.
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The convention hall remained hushed after the announcement, reflecting the earlier call by SBC President Bart Barber for attendees to exhibit restraint and Christian behavior.
Saddleback Church, once the second-largest congregation within the denomination and previously celebrated as a success story, faced a vote of 9,437 to 1,212 against its appeal. Rick Warren, the retired founding pastor of Saddleback and author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” had advocated for Baptists to find common ground despite disagreements for the sake of a shared mission. Following the vote, Warren expressed his disappointment during a news conference, emphasizing the need for unity through embracing diversity.
The appeal made by Fern Creek Baptist Church, which has had a woman pastor for three decades, was also denied by a vote of 9,700 to 806. This congregation had come under heightened scrutiny within the SBC this year.
Both Rick Warren and Reverend Linda Barnes Popham, the pastor of Fern Creek, presented their final pleas to Southern Baptists during the annual meeting. The removal of Saddleback Church from the denomination, despite Warren’s long standing affiliation with Southern Baptist beliefs, indicated a significant development for the pastor who has been pushing boundaries within the denomination for years.