Three churches have filed appeals of their dismissal from the SBC by the Executive Committee (EC) by the May 15 deadline and will take their cases to the messengers at the New Orleans annual meeting. Time for a vote has been allotted in the Tuesday afternoon session, June 13. Two churches were disfellowshipped for having women in lead pastoral roles, while the third was deemed “not in friendly cooperation” for its failure to resolve claims of an abuse allegation.
The EC disfellowshipped the churches in February by affirming recommendations from the SBC Credentials Committee, which is tasked to “consider questions that arise concerning whether a church is in ‘friendly cooperation’ with the Convention.” That committee was given broader powers to make recommendations in 2019 after the sexual abuse scandal broke.
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., ordained three women as pastors in 2021. Retired pastor and founder Rick Warren cited several reasons for leading the appeal, including his concern for women in the SBC overall “whose God-given spiritual gifts and leadership skills are being wasted.” Warren says he has been contacted by 300 pastors who have women serving on their staff, who fear their churches will be ousted.
“We believe a decision this critical to the SBC’s identity and future should be decided by the messengers, not a committee,” Warren wrote in an email to a religious news organization. “The messengers must decide if they want the Executive Committee to act like a Catholic magisterium.” Warren said he wants to “spark the thinking of messengers regarding direction of the SBC.”
The other SBC church which will appeal its dismissal of Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. Linda Barnes Popham has served as pastor there since 1993. The church is a member of its local association and state convention.
Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla. denied the charge that it had failed to act on a claim of sexual abuse, and said that the Anglican Church in North America had cleared the church in the matter. The local association and state convention both severed ties with Freedom Church last year.
The schedule for the Tuesday afternoon session of the Annual Meeting has been adjusted to allow messengers to vote on the appeals. In each case, if a majority of messengers vote “yes,” the action by the EC to disfellowship that church will be upheld; a “no” majority will overturn the EC action, and the church’s SBC membership will be reinstated.
Three other churches that were dismissed in February, which have women pastors, will not appeal. They are Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga., and St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist Church in Baltimore.
– With information from Baptist Press, Global Baptist News, and The Tennessean