A Southern Baptist church ordained three women as pastors in May, renewing the conversation over gender roles and the church. When Saddleback Church, led by Pastor Rick Warren, posted about the “historic night” on the church’s Facebook page, some Southern Baptist leaders responded on social media.
“While I have long respected Saddleback’s ministry impact and heart for getting the gospel to the nations,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear wrote in a blog post, “I disagree with their decision to take this step, and would even say I find it disappointing.”
The Southern Baptist Convention holds in its statement of faith that “while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The statement was added to The Baptist Faith and Message when it was updated in 2000 by a committee including SBC presidential candidate Albert Mohler.
Debate around the ordinations is likely to come up during Baptists’ June annual meeting Nashville related to possible action by the SBC Credentials Committee. The committee is tasked with considering whether a church is in “friendly cooperation” with the Convention according to the SBC Constitution. Article III of the Constitution states that a church in friendly cooperation with the SBC “has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.”
Each of the four announced candidates for SBC president shared with Baptist Press their positions on The Baptist Faith and Message’s section regarding women and the office of pastor:
Randy Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention: “Southern Baptists clarified their position on women pastors in the BFM 2000. This clarification was founded on Scripture and has been the common belief and practice of our churches historically.”
Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala.: “Without hesitation or reservation I am a complementarian and I wholeheartedly affirm the BF&M (2000). The Bible clearly teaches that the office of pastor is reserved only for qualified men, and I also want to encourage my sisters in Christ to be equipped, using every gift God has given them for the church and its mission with the gospel.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The Baptist Faith and Message rightly states our biblical conviction that the office of pastor is limited to men as authorized by Scripture, and this means both the teaching office and the function of preaching before the congregation. Southern Baptists have been tested over this conviction before, and we will be again, but this is the clear teaching of the Bible and we cannot compromise this commitment.”
Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga.: “The BFM is clear that Southern Baptists do not believe in women serving as pastors. Churches which ordain or call female pastors are not acting in friendly cooperation with the SBC and should either change, withdraw, or be subject to our disfellowshipping processes.”
In 2020, Saddleback was the 4th largest congregation in the U.S., according to a top 100 list compiled by Outreach magazine, Lifeway Research, and Exponential. It was also the largest SBC congregation on the list, which reported Saddleback’s attendance as 23,494. The women ordained recently by the church are longtime staff members who serve in the areas of pastoral care, children’s ministry, and student ministry.
–Illinois Baptist, with reporting from Baptist Press