A month ago, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) excluded Saddleback Church, the megachurch founded by retired Rick Warren, from its ranks. In question, the appointment of several women to pastoral functions while the statutes of the umbrella organization reserve this role for men. The case continues to cause theological turmoil.
It was May 6, 2021, the ordination of three women as pastors of Saddleback Church had earned an article at Rick Warren's Church in the Washington Post. Members of the leadership team for more than 20 years, Katie Edwards, Liz Puffer and Cynthia Petty became the first women pastors of the Church created in 1980 in Lake Forest, California. “A historic evening,” the church announced on Facebook.
If the activities of the three women have not fundamentally changed (respectively the teaching of future pastors, an informal pastorate and teaching at Sunday school), they now have the title of pastors. Ordinations similar to those of other Southern Baptist congregations, but at odds with the 1984 SBC position and reaffirmed 23 years ago in the document "Baptist Faith & Message 2000".
In October last year, the SBC-affiliated Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reacted to women's ordinations at Saddleback Church and unanimously endorsed a document declaring that the courses are open to both men and women. women for ecclesial service, but that only the first can have the function and the title of pastors.
This statement came on the heels of the SBC's annual meeting in June where participants discussed the definition of the pastorate. On this occasion, Warren had taken the floor to implicitly ask the organization not to focus on the question of women's ministry, secondary according to him, but to "keep the essential as being the main one". The new president of the SBC had expressed his gratitude to him while noting that they had “different opinions on pastoral complementarism”.
However, on February 21, the Baptist movement disaffiliated the Saddleback Church and four others in the same situation, stating that they were not in a "friendly cooperation" situation, shortly after Pastor Andy Woods and his wife Stacie took over from Warren.
The declaration of 2000 reaffirms the principle of equality of theological equipment between men and women, and that of 1984 distinguishes between ministries accessible to both sexes and ordinations only accessible to men.
The latter mentions the importance of women in the Church and cites two female figures praised by the Apostle Paul for their commitment to the Church, Priscilla teaching with her husband and the deaconess Phoebe. However, the text is based on a verse of the first epistle to Timothy saying that the woman cannot lead a congregation (1 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 12).
According to the authors of the declaration, the doctrine and practice of Christians should not be influenced by "modern cultural, sociological and ecclesiastical trends or by emotional factors". Warren, however, explained on Christianity Today's The Russell Moore Show that his decision was not based on cultural ambiance, but on scripture.
Claiming to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, Warren cited three passages where women are implicated. It is based on the verses concerning "the Great Commission" which is the call of Christ to his faithful men and women to evangelize, baptize and teach (Matthew, chapter 28, verses 19 and 20), on the account of the Pentecost concerning both sexes (Acts chapter 2, verses 17 and 18) in which women announced and that of the Gospel of John (chapter 20) in which Mary Magdalene is the first to announce the resurrection of Christ.
Excluded congregations will be able to appeal at the SBC's annual meeting in June in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Image credit: AFP/ Robyn Beck