Saddleback Church 'in violation’ of SBC doctrine by ordaining women pastors, Al Mohler says

Rick Warren
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren speaks at the Closing Gala of Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California |

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler says Rick Warren's California-based Saddleback Church is in "direct violation" of denominational teaching for ordaining three women pastors and is calling for the denomination to reaffirm its teaching. 

“This past week, Saddleback Community Church in California ordained three women as pastors. In a development described by the church as ‘historic,’ the church posted a photograph of the ordinations with the text: ‘Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren and others pray over the first three women the church has ordained as pastors,’” Mohler wrote in an op-ed published on his website Monday. 

Al Mohler
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. delivers a chapel address at Southern Seminary on Oct. 15, 2019. |

Citing a Live Good interview with Cynthia Petty, one of the women ordained as a pastor by the largest church in the denomination, Mohler said that there is "no doubt" that the women were promoted to an office traditionally reserved for men.

“There is no doubt that these three women are considered to serve as pastors and in the teaching office. Southern Baptists are clear, through the Baptist Faith & Message, that this is contrary to Scripture,” Mohler stressed.

“This is no longer a point of tension and debate. These moves represent an attempt to redefine and reformulate the convictional foundation of Southern Baptist faith and cooperative ministry. The theological issues have not changed since the year 2000 when Southern Baptists spoke clearly and precisely in the Baptist Faith & Message. More importantly, the Holy Scriptures have not changed and cannot change.”

Saddleback Church
Saddleback Church ordains its first three female pastors: Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards, on Thursday, May 6, 2021. This even though their denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, restricts the pastorate to men. |

Mohler, who is vying to become the next president of the SBC, argued that an increasing number of SBC churches like Saddleback have promoted women as preachers or pastors. He said the denomination needs to make the standards of denominational cooperation clear for all affiliated churches.

“In an increasing number of cases, it is now clear that some churches, including quite large and well-known churches, are placing women in the office of pastor in direct violation of our confession of faith. Further, a number of churches that are at least listed as Southern Baptist welcomed and advertised women preaching in the morning service,” he stated. 

“The Southern Baptist Convention must not be unclear about our theological convictions and the ground of our cooperation. We cannot afford to be. Attempts to deny the issue will not work. Right now, Southern Baptists will decide if we will redefine the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not believe that Southern Baptists will allow this to happen. I do not believe that Southern Baptists will retreat from the truth.”

The Christian Post reached out on Monday to inquire if Saddleback plans to remain a part of the SBC. However, a response was not immediately received. 

Mohler noted in his op-ed that the push to ordain women preachers isn’t new. He stated that the issue was roiled the SBC since the 1970s until the convention’s Conservative Resurgence “clarified the question conclusively.”

“There never was a moment when more than a handful of women served as pastors of SBC churches, but the mainline Protestant denominations were rushing headlong into the ordination of women as pastors and (Episcopal) priests, driven by two major energies — first, the demands of second wave feminism and, second, the impulses unleashed by liberation theology,” he argued. 

“In both cases, the main obstacle was the Bible, but, already compromised by theological liberalism, these denominations deployed revisionist arguments to defuse any argument from Scripture. The strategies of biblical subversion also took two basic forms. The argument was proffered that either the Bible was misread by Christians for nearly 2,000 years or the Bible is just hopelessly mired in patriarchy and oppression and the biblical authors were flat wrong.”

Mohler argues that denominations that have adopted liberal theology have brought about the “feminization of liberal Protestantism,” which has been like the “kiss of death” for them.

“Put bluntly, there are just not that many males left,” he added. “Actually, there are not many people left in those churches. Liberal theology is the kiss of death for any church or denomination. Little remains but social justice activism and deferred maintenance.”

Jason Keith Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the Saddleback ordinations a “disappointing” departure from Scripture.

“This is a disappointing departure from the clear teaching of Scripture, the BF&M, & long-held SBC consensus & practice,” he tweeted Sunday. “I Tim 3 & Titus 1 list qualifications, not suggestions. Let’s hold fast to Scripture.”

Pastor Dwight McKissic, who leads Cornerstone Baptist Church in Texas, argued on Twitter that Scripture is not as clear on the topic as conservative pastors say. 

“Rick Warren has written the best selling book in Christendom & is a SWBTS graduate,” McKissic wrote in response to Allen’s tweet. “Billy Graham affirmed women preachers. If the Scripture is ‘clear’ as you say, then Ghrahm, Warren, & whoever let a woman preach in SWBTS, wouldn’t have done so.”

“My point is, the SBC has never, ever declared Saddleback’s, Billy [Graham] or the Texas pastor where Beth Moore preached yesterday, wrong. Therefore, it’s technically not true, thus, inaccurate for Dr. Allen, or anyone else to claim the SBC officially forbids a woman frm preaching.”

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