Southern Baptist Convention expels churches over female pastors

In a move that highlights the conservative shift within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), two churches have been expelled due to having female pastors. Delegates at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans voted overwhelmingly against the appeals of Saddleback Church in Southern California and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The decision showcases the SBC’s unwillingness to adapt its stance on women’s roles within the church. Critics argue that this stance is reminiscent of a previous era when women were exclusively reserved for domestic roles.

The debate surrounding diversity and equality within evangelical groups has been present for decades. However, the SBC’s decision underlines its commitment to maintaining that the role of pastor is solely for men.

Saddleback, which is the country’s second-largest Southern Baptist congregation, had appointed a husband-wife leadership team after the retirement of its founder, Rick Warren. The church had also ordained three other female ministers in 2021. Fern Creek, on the other hand, had been led by female pastor Linda Barnes Popham for nearly three decades.

Until recently, the SBC had overlooked the presence of female pastors in its churches. This changed when its executive committee expelled five churches in February for having female leaders, citing a lack of “friendly cooperation” with SBC rules. Fern Creek and Saddleback chose to appeal the decision, leading to Wednesday’s vote.

The SBC, comprising approximately 47,000 churches and 13.7 million members, is a convention that allows each church to manage its internal policies and practices. Around 12,700 delegates attended the New Orleans meeting.

In the lead-up to the vote, Warren expressed his regret on Twitter for not doing more to support Christian women in the past.

“I held them [women] back from using the spiritual gifts and leadership skills that the Holy Spirit had sovereignly placed in them. That breaks my heart now, and I am truly repentant and sorry for my sin. I wish I could do it all over,” his post reads. “Christian women, will you please forgive me?”

Fern Creek pastor Barnes Popham addressed the crowd in New Orleans, saying, “We believe the Bible allows women to serve in ways in which all of you do not agree, but we should still be able to partner together.”

However, following the vote, the pastors expressed disappointment at the result. “Messengers voted for conformity and uniformity rather than unity,” Warren stated during a news conference on Wednesday. “We made this effort knowing we were not going to win.”

The controversy surrounding the SBC’s decision follows a 2022 report exposing efforts to cover up allegations of sexual abuse within the group, further tarnishing its reputation.

World News


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