Last year, Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch formerly pastored by Rick Warren, made headlines after Warren ordained three women to the pastorate at his church. Warren justified his actions by pointing to Acts 2:17-18 which has nothing at all to do with the office or the function of a pastor or elder in a local church.
Since then, Warren retired and has been replaced by Andy Wood, former pastor of Echo Church—another Southern Baptist megachurch of a similar mind as Saddleback. Like Saddleback, Echo Church also ordained women to the pastorate and as soon as he took over the pastorate at Saddleback, he named his wife, Stacie, “teaching pastor.”
This has led to an uproar by the conservative minority in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over the roles of women in churches. Denny Burk, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said that the SBC had to make a decision: “We can either do what Saddleback wants and declare that female pastors are consistent with SBC cooperation, or we can take the Bible and our own statement of faith seriously and part ways with Saddleback.”
In an article at the Baptist Press, Wood made it clear that he and his church not only had every intention to remain in the Southern Baptist Convention but that he would also continue to allow women to pastor at his church and encourage other women to seek similar roles within the denomination.
“Stacie and I are grateful to be called to serve at Saddleback Church,” Wood told the Baptist Press. “We are not co-pastors but rather have unique roles on staff. I’m serving as the lead pastor and one of our Saddleback overseers while Stacie is serving as one of our teaching pastors.”
“We believe pastoring and teaching are functions and spiritual gifts to be exercised in the church by both men and women,” said Wood told the Baptist Press. “The function of teaching and pastoring is not necessarily synonymous nor exclusive from the office of overseer.”
“While many SBC churches share the same view, we are committed to stay in fellowship and unified with other SBC churches even when we disagree. Saddleback Church has a strong commitment to the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. We believe this approach is biblical and in alignment with the teachings of the New Testament as well.”
Andy Wood’s former church, Echo Church, was funded and supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) while Echo Church, at the time, still had women pastors, including his wife, Stacie, serving in pastoral roles. NAMB has historically been notorious for its entanglements with churches that ordain women to the pastorate.
In 2021, NAMB president, Kevin Ezell held a church planting conference with women pastors. Shortly after, The Dissenter reported that the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) put out a statement denouncing women pastors and stated that the organization would no longer support churches with female pastors.
At this time, it is unclear what direction the Southern Baptist Convention will take but sooner or later, it is likely headed for a split.