SBC’s largest church ordains three female pastors – Baptist News Global
The largest church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention ordained three women as ministers on May 6, sending shock waves through the male leaders of the country’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay in 1980, posted on Facebook that on May 6 it ordained three women ministers on a “historic night.”
On Mother’s Day, which fell three days after Saddleback’s ordination, the Sunday morning online post was given by Kay Warren. Although not one of the newly ordained, her delivery of the Sunday morning message in worship was sure to further alarm the strictest of male leadership advocates within the SBC, who insist that the women should not preach sermons to men.
The three women ordained on May 6 are Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty and Katie Edwards – all longtime staff members within the church’s vast network of 15 U.S. campuses and four international campuses. The church has over 24,000 members and lists 18 “campus pastors”, all of them men.
Due to the massive size of the church spread over so many locations, no comprehensive staff directory is published online. Petty’s LinkedIn profile lists her as a children’s minister at Saddleback, where she has served since 1999. Puffer describes herself as a “minister” at Saddleback Church in her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Her Facebook profile describes her as a pastor for church ministry. Edwards is the pastor of student ministries at the Saddleback’s Lake Forest campus, where she has worked for 24 years.
Saddleback is not only the largest church in the SBC, but one of its leaders in evangelism. The church’s emphasis on evangelism and church growth has been studied and replicated around the world. Warren was one of the early advocates of what has come to be known as the “Seeker-Friendly Church” – a church experience designed specifically to welcome non-believers and to help them. get them to believe in Jesus Christ. He wrote about it in a bestselling book, The Church Motivated by a Purpose.
A burning issue in the SBC
As the SBC has faced year after year with a decline in membership – along with every other Christian denomination in America – its leadership has become increasingly dogmatic on certain doctrinal issues, including opposition to women as pastors. This problem was one of the determining factors in the schism that began at the SBC in 1979 and which eventually led to the creation of two splinter groups, the Baptist Alliance and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
It also made international headlines earlier this year when acclaimed Bible teacher Beth Moore announced she was quitting the SBC and apologized for not speaking out earlier about the limits imposed on women in as leaders in SBC churches.
In a question-and-answer section on the SBC website, the issue of women as pastors is discussed. The site says, “The convention recognizes biblical language regarding the office of pastor” and points to a section of the Baptist doctrinal statement Faith and Message. This quote reads: “While men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by the scriptures.”
The official SBC explanation adds: “The passages which assign the office of pastor to men do not deny the essential equality of men and women before God, but rather focus on the assignment of roles.” This is in accordance with a theological view known as complementarism, which teaches that women and men are of equal worth before God but must adhere to the different roles assigned to them by God in creation.
Complementarists rely heavily on a verse of Scripture, 1 Timothy 2:12, to champion their cause.
In 1984, as fundamentalists consolidated control of the SBC, the messengers of the SBC annual meeting passed a much controversial resolution on ordination and the role of women in ministry. This resolution said that the apostle Paul, in writing 1 Timothy, “excludes women from pastoral leadership to preserve a submission that God needs because man was first in creation and woman was first in fall. Edenic.
Therefore, the resolution stated, “We encourage the service of women in all aspects of the life and work of the Church other than pastoral functions and leadership roles involving ordination.”
“We encourage the service of women in all aspects of the life and work of the Church other than pastoral functions and leadership roles involving ordination.”
In recent years, the SBC has expelled churches from membership when they go against the denomination’s stated positions on key issues, such as LGBTQ inclusion. While local Baptist associations have suppressed churches to ordain women, the SBC has not.
The Saddleback news, however, could push this issue to the fore, as some SBC pastors immediately took to social media over Mother’s Day weekend to call for Saddleback’s expulsion.
Faith leaders respond
Other faith leaders have stopped calling for the eviction, but have clearly expressed their displeasure.
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., And candidate for the SBC president this summer, posted on Twitter a comment from John Broadus, one of the seminary’s slave founders, on why women should not be allowed to “speak in mixed town halls.”
Jason Allen, president of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, tweeted that Saddleback’s action is “a disappointing departure from the clear teaching of the Scriptures, BF&M, and the long-standing consensus and practice of the SBC.” He said that the teachings of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 “list qualifications, not suggestions. Hold fast to the Scriptures. “
Adam Greenway, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas – Rick Warren’s Alma Mater – tweeted a quote from seminary founder BH Carroll: “The custom in some congregations to have a woman as a pastor is in flagrant contradiction with this apostolic teaching and is an open rebellion against Christ our King, and a high treason against his sovereignty.” . justifiable. “
Mike Stone, Georgian pastor and also SBC presidential candidate representing the more conservative side of the conservative denomination, tweeted a sentence: “No woman can be ‘the husband of one woman’, however that expression is interpreted.” This is a reference to 1 Timothy 3: 2, where the apostle Paul writes that a “overseer” must be “the husband of one wife”.
Others hailed the news of Saddleback’s ordinations while others pointed out that the three ordained women had worked as ministers for decades before being recognized as such.
Ashley Easter, author and advocate for women’s service in the church, tweeted her gratitude for Saddleback’s action, then added, “But don’t forget these women have been with the church since the ’90s. That’s the time it takes a church to say,’ Oh, these women are pastoralists ”. This is the hill that women must climb.
Saddleback’s low-key approach
Other than the social media post announcing the ordination and showing photos of the service, Saddleback has not released any public statements about it, and no videos of the ordination service have been uploaded.
This fits the long-standing model of Warren and the church, with a routine emphasis on outside mission and not on the inner workings of the church or denominational concerns. Although Warren supported the SBC, he abstained from almost all political or religious matters.
After Rick Warren graduated from Southwestern Seminary, he and Kay arrived in California in 1979 with the vision of starting a church for people who were not interested in church. He is famous for going door-to-door, asking people three questions that opened up conversations about the faith and the church.
Pragmatism has been a hallmark of Saddleback’s growth from the start. While adopting a highly orthodox evangelical theology, Warren has often been an outlier on non-essential elements, such as worship format, styles of music, and approaches to ministry.
Beginning with a little Bible study at home, the Warrens quickly grew Saddleback after a public launch on Easter Sunday, 1980, when 205 showed up. Most of those present had never been practitioners before.
Over 200,000 church leaders have been trained in the goal-oriented philosophy of Saddleback, and Warren’s 1995 book has sold over a million copies and has since been reprinted in a limited edition. up to date.
In a world of celebrity pastor scandals, the Warrens have stayed away from the news and remained deeply involved in the day-to-day running of the multi-campus church.
How the decision was made
At this point, little is known about how Saddleback made the decision to ordain women, as the church has given no public explanation. The only public glimpse came in an interview posted on Live Good, the website of a company that sells organic produce. There, Cynthia Petty explained how she came to be part of this historic group of ordained women ministers at Saddleback.
Petty said he received a call from Rick Warren on November 2, 2020, informing him that “the elders had been discussing for many months the possibility of ordaining women as pastors at Saddleback Church.” He told her that the all-male alumni group “voted unanimously to appoint me as one of the first three female pastors of Saddleback Church.”
Petty said of Warren’s phone call: “He asserted my leadership and my call to the ministry, and it was a conversation I will not forget.”
Asked about her own sense of calling, Petty said, “I love my ministry to children and students, and I have never doubted God’s calling on my life to minister to Saddleback. This call and guidance from God in my life has always supported me, even in the most difficult days of ministry. Becoming a pastor has never been something that I have pursued. I had always been involved in churches where women could lead, under the authority of a male pastor. So this shift in philosophy for “women in ministry” was revolutionary. I was honored and felt extremely humble. And what I thought most mattered to me was how it would be revolutionary for all the young female ministers who were really on the staff who really had a desire or dream to be a pastor someday.
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