The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the biggest Protestant Christian organization in the U.S., experienced a pivotal week last week. At its annual convention, the SBC confirmed the expulsion of two churches with female pastors, sparking uproar.
The two churches in question were Saddleback Church, a sizable southern California congregation with more than a dozen campuses founded by Pastor Rick Warren, best known for his book "The Purpose Driven Life," and Fern Creek in Louisville, Kentucky, where Rev. Linda Barnes Popham has served as the pastor since 1993.
Tension Rises in Southern Baptist Convention Over the Exclusion of Female Pastors
According to the article in CNN, Christian women both inside and outside the SBC have questions about the decision. The church also proposed an amendment to its constitution that sought to limit all pastoral and elder duties to men alone, further fanning the fires of contention. According to the SBC's constitution, only the position of pastor was previously reserved for men.
Although a second vote will be required to approve this amendment next year, the SBC has already begun to feel its potential impact of it because it may have a substantial impact on more congregations and female leaders.
Erica Edwards, an ordained leader at Macedonia Baptist Church, expressed concerns over the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) recent policy decisions restricting female leadership roles. Edwards highlighted the contradiction between these rules and the practical reality within many churches. With the new ruling, she fears women's contributions to congregations may be minimized or hidden. Despite the SBC's traditional stance, Edwards affirms that women have been instrumental in nurturing Baptist churches for centuries and believes this reality will remain unchanged.
Within the SBC, disagreements arose over the decision to expel the churches. With about 8% of members choosing to save Fern Creek and 11% supporting Saddleback, the vote was far from unanimous. According to the article shared in the Albany Herald, only Fern Creek and Saddleback made an appeal after the SBC removed five congregations with female pastors. The vote total in favor of the amendment prohibiting women from holding elder positions was not made public.
SBC President Bart Barber supported the choice after the meeting, highlighting the impact of the New Testament and Southern Baptist interpretations on their perspectives. He emphasized their renewed position, which reiterates their stand from the year 2000 and maintains that Scripture alone justifies men holding the office of pastor. This was stated by Barber at a press conference. The SBC has not made any other remarks on the subject, and any additional questions have been referred to the press conference that was taped.
Rick Warren's Push for Female Pastors got Rejected
The passionate push for the approval of female pastors by evangelist Rick Warren has been rejected. According to the article shared here in Christianity Daily, Warren ran a thorough campaign that included videos, open letters, media appearances, and social media lobbying, but she was unable to influence the convention, which decided to expel her by an overwhelming margin.
Pastor Linda Barnes Popham of Fern Creek and Warren made fervent pleas for harmony and the acceptance of various doctrines. While Andy Wood, the current Saddleback Church pastor, continues to support the vital role that women play in pastoral roles, Warren is still optimistic that truth will ultimately triumph over tradition.