By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
NEW ORLEANS (LBM) – The Southern Baptist Convention Credentials Committee reported May 16 that two churches who were disfellowshipped in February for ordaining women pastors plan to appeal the decisions during the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, which is going to be hosted in New Orleans, June 13-14. This means messengers will vote to decide whether women pastors, now excluded by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, will be allowed to serve in member congregations.
Those two congregations are Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, and Fern Creek Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Freedom Church, Vero Beach, Florida, intends to appeal its ouster for alleged lack of cooperation in resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation.
The Credentials Committee said it would set aside “a time for miscellaneous business during the afternoon session on Tuesday, June 13, for the consideration of the appeals received.”
A representative of each church will be allowed to speak, and a member of the Credentials Committee or Executive Committee will speak. Afterward, messengers will be asked to vote on the question, “Shall the decision of the Credentials Committee and the Executive Committee that [church] is not in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention be sustained?”
— A “yes” vote will affirm the decision to disfellowship the congregation.
— A “no” vote will allow the church to be restored as “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC.
The most well-known of the three churches planning to appeal their status with the SBC is Saddleback Church, who ordained three women pastors in May 2021.
Since then, the wife, Stacie Wood, of the new pastor, Andy Wood, has been identified as “teaching pastor” of the congregation. Also, the multi-site church announced, May 7, 2023, it had installed one of the three ordained women pastors as campus pastor for its members who meet at the Lake Forest location.
In March, Rick Warren, who retired in June 2021 as pastor of Saddleback Church, argued for women pastors during a podcast with the former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, who now is editor in chief of Christianity Today. Warren claimed Matthew 28:18-20 (Great Commission), Acts 2 (Pentecost) and Matthew 28:10 (“tell My brethren to go to Galilee”) justified women pastors. Warren told Moore:
— “Both men and women are to fulfill the Great Commission. … Women are to go. Women are to make disciples. Women are to baptize. And women are to teach. Not just men.”
— “We know women were in the upper room. We know women were filled with the Holy Spirit. We know that women were preaching in languages that other people couldn’t hear to a mixed audience. We know women – it wasn’t just men — women were preaching on the day of Pentecost.”
— “The very first sermon, the very first Christian sermon, the message of the Gospel of good news of the resurrection, Jesus chose a woman to deliver it to men. He had Mary Magdalene go and tell the disciples. Now that clearly wasn’t an accident. It was intentional. It’s a whole new world, baby. Now He has a woman go tell the apostles. Can a woman teach an apostle? Evidently. Did it on the first day.”
Warren told Baptist News Global in a May 16, 2023, email that he and Saddleback Church plan to release several videos to make the case for women pastors and to bolster the chances for its June 13 appeal to SBC messengers.
“We’re not challenging the Executive Committee ruling for Saddleback’s benefit,” Warren wrote. “No one wants to stay where they aren’t wanted. Instead, we are challenging the … ruling for five reasons that would benefit others we care about.”
— “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of millions of SBC women whose God-given spiritual gifts and leadership skills are being wasted instead of empowered for the Great Commission.”
— “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of over 300 concerned pastors who have written to me and have female pastors serving on their staffs.”
— “We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of our IMB missionaries.”
— “We believe a decision this critical to the SBC’s identity and future should be decided by the messengers, not a committee.”
— “Our goal is to spark the thinking of messengers regarding the direction of the SBC.”
David Sons, who is chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, South Carolina, issued a statement, May 16, that noted “this is the first time in SBC history for this particular item of business to come before the Convention,” and urged “everyone coming to New Orleans to be prepared and informed about the process.”