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SBC’s Expulsion of Saddleback Church Sparks Debate: Examining the Values and Priorities of the SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently ousted five churches across the U.S. including Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of its largest member churches, for allowing women to serve as pastors.[0] This decision has sparked a debate about the values and priorities of the SBC as they consider what pastoral misdeeds warrant censure and which can be accepted as livable differences.[1]

The expelled churches were voted out on the grounds that “having a female… functioning in the office of pastor” indicates that they “[do] not closely identify with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.”[1] Pastor Linda Barnes Popham of Fern Creek Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the expelled churches and she believes the decision is driven by power and male supremacy. “It’s driven by power, male supremacy; and it stinks in the nostrils of God,” she said.[2]

This decision is not without opposition. Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas tweeted “Yesterday’s action by the @SBCExecComm to disfellowship Saddleback was, in my view, both premature and unwise, regardless of one’s view of ‘women pastors.’”[3]

The SBC’s decision to cut ties with Saddleback over the leadership of women sends a powerful message about its values and priorities.[1] While Saddleback founder Rick Warren has been lauded (and lambasted) as an aisle-bridging moderate, his church has forged political associations that, in a different denomination, might have piqued concern.[1] Jane Clayson of Here & Now has obtained the most recent updates from Kate Shellnutt, the news director at Christianity Today.[4]

0. “Southern Baptists expel 5 churches because they have female pastors” WPRL, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.wprl.org/2023-03-01/southern-baptists-expel-5-churches-because-they-have-female-pastors

1. “Saddleback's Ordination of Women Was Final Straw for Southern Baptist Convention — Not Scandal, Sexual Abuse, or …” Religion Dispatches, 27 Feb. 2023, https://religiondispatches.org/saddlebacks-ordination-of-women-was-final-straw-for-southern-baptist-convention-not-scandal-sexual-abuse-or-dalliance-with-dictators/

2. “The Southern Baptist Convention ousts 5 female-led churches” NPR, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/02/1159326721/southern-baptist-convention-ousts-5-female-led-churches

3. “In the SBC, a cord of three is not easily broken: Debates about sexuality, gender and abuse all twist together” Baptist News Global, 27 Feb. 2023, https://baptistnews.com/article/in-the-sbc-a-cord-of-three-is-not-easily-broken-debates-about-sexuality-gender-and-abuse-all-twist-together/

4. “Southern Baptist Convention ousts megachurch for employing female ministers” WVXU, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.wvxu.org/2023-03-01/southern-baptist-convention-ousts-megachurch-for-employing-female-ministers