Rick Warren, the founder of Saddleback Church, said in part one of a video series posted online ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention that he has felt compelled to reject both the complementarian and egalitarian views of a woman’s role in the Church and in ministry after a three-year journey that led him to realize both beliefs “have unbiblical weaknesses.”
In the video released as part of his four-part series titled “SBC at the Crossroads,” Warren weighed in on complementarianism, the theological framework that says women have distinct roles in the family and church and are forbidden from holding certain offices in the church, and egalitarianism, which contends that Scripture does not warrant such restrictions.
“There are biblical alternatives to both complementarianism and egalitarianism,” he said. “And while both of those positions have strengths, they both, in my opinion, have unbiblical weaknesses, and they ignore important Bible verses. So actually, I'm neither. I'm neither one of them, I reject them both. Now, if you're honest, you'll have to admit that Paul often says things about women in Scripture that appeared to contradict each other. So tell me what you want to believe … and I'll show you the verses you have to ignore or rationalize away.”
The SBC holds to the belief that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
In February, the SBC Executive Committee ruled that Saddleback, which Warren founded in 1980 and has since become the largest Southern Baptist church, is no longer in “friendly cooperation” with the SBC due to “the church continuing to have a female teaching pastor functioning in the office of a pastor.”
In October 2022, Pastor Andy Wood, who succeeded retiring Warren at Saddleback, listed his wife, Stacie, as a "pastor" in his biography on the prominent California megachurch's website. And on May 7, Katie Edwards, one of the three women ordained at Saddleback in 2021, was announced as the Lake Forest campus pastor.
Warren and Saddleback Church plan to challenge expulsion from the denomination at the SBC's Annual Meeting next month in New Orleans.
In his video message, Warren said he was raised with “cultural views on women” but underwent a three-year process of biblical study and exegesis. He said this involved studying Greek words, understanding the background and context of Paul's writings and comparing passages where Paul seems to contradict himself.
“It was a difficult journey to have my biases and cultural traditions blown away by the Word of God. But when I was confronted with the truth, I had to humbly repent, no matter what my friends would think of me,” he said.
Warren said the turning point for him was Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees, who were known for their strict adherence to traditions and rules.
“They loved making rules. They loved being legalistic. They loved protecting traditions, and they loved judging others, and they come to Jesus and they said, ‘Lord, why do you break the traditions of the elders?’ And Jesus asks them a question … ‘Why do you break the commands of God for the sake of your traditions?’ Well, that did it for me. That was the thing that pushed me over.”
Warren said he will further address the role of women in the Church in the third installment of his series, titled “New Testament Case for the Ministry of Women,” but admitted he “doesn’t expect to change many minds.”
“Honestly, it took me years of Bible study,” he said.
Warren and Saddleback Church also reportedly plan to release several videos making their case for inclusion in the SBC, according to Baptist News.
The pastor told the outlet that Saddleback is not challenging the Executive Committee’s ruling for the church’s benefit, but for five specific reasons he said “would benefit others we care about,” including a desire to “spark the thinking of messengers regarding the direction of the SBC.”
“We’re challenging the ruling on behalf of millions of SBC women whose God-given spiritual gifts and leadership skills are being wasted instead of empowered for the Great Commission,” he said. “We cannot finish the task Jesus gave us with 50% of the Church forced to sit on the bench. Great Commission Baptists believe Jesus authorized every woman to go, to make disciples, to baptize and to teach — just as he authorized every man.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org