Southern Baptists Reject Pleas, Expel Churches Led by Women

Rick Warren, female pastor fail to move convention
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2023 4:46 PM CDT
Rick Warren, Female Pastor Fail to Move Southern Baptists
Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, responds to Southern Baptists' refusal to let the megachurch back into the denomination for having women pastors during a news conference on Wednesday in New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Peter Smith)

Pleas from pastors whose churches are being expelled because they're led by women failed to persuade Southern Baptists to reverse their decision. Delegates made the expulsions from the denomination final at their annual convention in New Orleans, the New York Times reports, despite emotional speeches from the leaders of the two congregations. Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Southern California, told the delegates that famed evangelist Billy Graham had once said his daughter, Anne, was "the best preacher" in the Graham family.

"No one is asking any Southern Baptist to change their theology," Warren said. "I am not asking you to agree with our church. I am asking you to act like Southern Baptists who have historically 'agreed to disagree' on dozens of doctrines in order to share a common mission." Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville was the other congregation ousted, with more than 90% of delegates voting for removal. Nearly as many voted to kick out Saddleback, the second-largest church in the denomination. The votes were taken Tuesday and announced Wednesday.

The margins surprised Fern Creek’s pastor, the Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, who also addressed the meeting. "I thought there were more people left in the Southern Baptist Convention who support the autonomy of the local church, if not women in ministry," she said. Baptist churches are independent, per the AP, but the convention can rule them "not in friendly cooperation"—which expels them. It's apparently the first time a congregation has been kicked out for having a female pastor, though the denomination's theological statement says the office is for qualified men. Warren told delegates that statement is 4,032 words. "Saddleback disagrees with one word," he said. "That’s 99.99999999% in agreement! Isn’t that close enough?" The crowd roared "No!" (Read more Southern Baptist Convention stories.)

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