SBC messengers uphold ouster of Saddleback, other churches, over female pastors

SBC messengers uphold ouster of Saddleback, other churches, over female pastors

SBC messengers uphold ouster of Saddleback, other churches, over female pastors

NEW ORLEANS — The Southern Baptist Convention has refused to welcome Saddleback Church back into its fold, rejecting an appeal by the California megachurch over its February ouster for having women pastors.

Southern Baptist church representatives at their annual meeting here also rejected a similar appeal by a smaller church, Fern Creek Baptist of Louisville, Kentucky, which is led by a woman pastor.

The results of the Tuesday votes were announced Wednesday morning on the concluding day of the the two-day annual meeting here of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, whose statement of faith asserts that only qualified men can serve as pastors.

Barber overwhelmingly reelected by SBC messengers

Steve Jordahl, AFN.net

Messengers for the Southern Baptist Convention reelected Bart Barber as president for another year, concluding an unusual challenge from a fellow pastor who says the denomination is drifting left.

In a vote late Tuesday, the 12,000 messengers chose Barber over Mike Stone in a 68%-31% vote at the annual meeting in New Orleans. 

The vote means Barber will finish the second year of a two-year term to lead the denomination. 

Barber was elected last year in a runoff in which he easily defeated Tom Ascol. That vote last year at this time was 61%-39%.

On the convention floor, Barber was nominated by Jarrett Stephens who said the SBC president has overseen growth in the Cooperative Program and the North American Mission Board.

“We're headed in the right direction,” Stephens told fellow Southern Baptists.

Florida Pastor Willie Rice nominated Mike Stone in a speech that pointed to divisions in the SBC.

“A cancel culture has replaced a gospel culture,” Rice said, “and we have been told the end justifies the means even if the means requires compromise.”

Rice also insisted Stone is a man who “will not bend and “will not fold,” likely comparing him to the less-confrontational current president.

After his defeat last year, Ascol called Barber a good man but also insisted Barber does not realize the left-wing threat to the SBC that others are fighting.

AFN has interviewed both Barber and Stone in recent weeks leading up the annual convention.

The convention hall packed with about 12,000 Southern Baptists was quiet after the announcement, appearing to have listened to the earlier urging by SBC President Bart Barber for them to show restraint.

“I know sometimes there are churches where people wind up in biblical divorce,” he said. “But we don’t throw divorce parties at church. And whatever these results are, I’m asking you, behave like Christians.”

Saddleback had been the denomination’s second-largest congregation and until recently was widely touted as a success story amid larger Southern Baptist membership declines.

With the 9,437-1,212 vote, delegates rejected an appeal by Rick Warren, the retired founding pastor of Saddleback and author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

In a speech to the gathering, Warren had urged Baptists to agree to disagree “in order to share a common mission.”

Church representatives also voted 9,700-806 to deny an appeal by a smaller congregation, Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky. That church has had a woman pastor for three decades but came under heightened scrutiny this year.

Warren and the Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, pastor of Fern Creek, made their final appeals to Southern Baptists here on Tuesday during the denomination's annual meeting.

On the convention floor, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered a a rebuttal after both churches voiced their appeals. 

“Thirty years ago, this issue threatened to tear this denomination apart,” Mohler said, citing controversies of the late 20th century that culminated in the denomination's conservative shift. He said the denomination has had a consensus in the past two decades on the issue that is now being threatened.

In his speech, Mohler also said churches have the right to choose their practices, but so does the convention.

“We do not seek to invade the autonomy of any local church,” he said. “At the same time, this convention has the sole responsibility to establish its own membership.”

“We do not seek to invade the autonomy of any local church,” he said. “At the same time, this convention has the sole responsibility to establish its own membership.”

Warren, a lifelong Southern Baptist, probably never expected Saddleback to be removed even though he has pushed the boundaries for several years now, said Scott Thumma, a sociology of religion professor and director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

“It’s pretty clear (from his speech Tuesday) that Warren did not think the SBC was going to reinstate Saddleback,” he said. “But he’s had a platform to say what being Baptist means, what the Scripture says about women in ministry, that Southern Baptists are under a big tent and what it means to exclude any congregation. This is all probably more symbolic.”

In February, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted to oust the two congregations, along with three others that chose not to appeal, for having women pastors.

All Baptist churches are independent, so the convention can’t tell them what to do, but it can decide which churches are “not in friendly cooperation,” the official verbiage for an expulsion.

The SBC’s official statement of faith says the office of pastor is reserved for qualified men, but this is believed to be the first time the convention has expelled any churches over it.