Rick Warren: Southern Baptists Will Change 'at Some Point' on Female Pastors

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Jun 19, 2023
Rick Warren: Southern Baptists Will Change 'at Some Point' on Female Pastors

Rick Warren: Southern Baptists Will Change 'at Some Point' on Female Pastors

The same day his former church was removed from the Southern Baptist Convention for his hiring of a female pastor, pastor and author Rick Warren said he believes the denomination eventually will change on the issue.

“I can guarantee you that change will happen at some point,” he said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, SBC messengers voted to affirm a decision by the denomination’s Executive Committee, with 88 percent voting to deem Saddleback Church not “in friendly cooperation” with the convention’s beliefs and 11 percent voting to allow Saddleback to remain in the denomination. The vote tally was announced Wednesday morning.

The SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message states that “while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

In February, the Executive Committee voted to disfellowship Saddleback, which appealed the decision to messengers. Saddleback has female pastors on staff.

“We received more votes than I anticipated in New Orleans,” Warren said. “We have said since last February that we didn’t expect to win. We made this effort to push a conversation that’s been stagnant for years.”

Warren acknowledged his own views have changed on the issue. He said he spoke up for the “millions of Southern Baptist women whose spiritual gifts, leadership gifts and talents are being wasted.”

“This is not the end of the debate,” Warren said. “But my love for frightened pastors and frustrated women in our churches demanded that I not just slink off in silence. I knew I’d lose friends. I knew it would be a very unpopular position to take in our denomination which has been overwhelmingly complementarian. But I could not sit by while others claimed that you can’t hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and support women in ministry.”

Meanwhile, Texas pastor Bart Barber, who was re-elected to another term as Southern Baptist Convention president, said the SBC’s stance aligns with Scripture.

“We have ancient sacred documents that shape what we do as believers,” Barber said at a news conference. “The governing documents, we can amend and change. But nobody gets to go back and make a motion to amend First Timothy. And so we're shaped by what we read in the New Testament.

“... Our churches are congregationally governed,” Barber added. “And so when it comes to decision-making in our churches, those decisions are made by voting bodies that include women. We have women who served as messengers in this voting body here this week. ... And so unlike some groups, we actually have broad participation [by women] in governance and decision-making in Southern Baptist churches and in the Southern Baptist Convention. It's just that when we read the Scriptures, we come to a conclusion that the office of pastor which also means elder or overseer, that that office is limited to men who are qualified by Scripture.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Paul Morigi/Stringer

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Rick Warren: Southern Baptists Will Change 'at Some Point' on Female Pastors