The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee on Tuesday disfellowshipped Saddleback Church, citing the congregation's hiring of a female pastor as conflicting with the denomination's statement of faith.
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." Last year Saddleback Church hired Andy Wood as the successor to its founding pastor, Rick Warren. Andy Wood is the lead pastor, and his wife, Stacie, is a teaching pastor.
Saddleback, one of the nation's 10 largest churches, can appeal the decision at the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans this summer.
It was one of five churches the Executive Committee deemed "not in friendly cooperation" with the convention.
"These churches have been valued, cooperating churches for many years, and this decision was not made lightly," said EC chairman Jared Wellman, according to Baptist Press. "However, we remain committed to upholding the theological convictions of the SBC and maintaining unity among its cooperating churches."
Saddleback's membership was debated at last year's SBC Annual Meeting after the congregation ordained three women as pastors.
Warren himself appealed to SBC messengers last year to allow the church to remain Southern Baptist. He is best known for his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
"You're never going to find another Baptist who agrees with you completely on everything," Warren said then. "… As Western culture grows more dark, more evil, more secular, we have to decide: Are we going to treat each other as allies or adversaries? … Are we gonna keep bickering over secondary issues, or are we gonna keep the main thing the main thing?"
Warren was a 25-year-old recent graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when he founded Saddleback in 1980 in California. He preached his final sermon at Saddleback last year.
Rick Warren Preaches Final Sermon after 43 Years as Saddleback Pastor: 'It's Been My Privilege to Love You'
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.