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Saddleback Church leader’s wife Stacie Wood serving as ‘teaching pastor’ despite SBC doctrine

Stacie Wood
Stacie Wood of Saddleback Church preaches a sermon in October 2022. The church labeled Wood as "teaching pastor" although the Southern Baptist Convention's 2000 Baptist Faith & Message prohibits females from holding the office of pastor. |

Saddleback Church identifies the wife of its new lead pastor as a "teaching pastor," even though the influential megachurch's denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, restricts the office of pastor to men in its official statement of beliefs. 

Pastor Andy Wood, who recently succeeded retiring pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren at Saddleback, lists his wife Stacie as a "pastor" in his biography on the prominent California megachurch's website.

"Pastors Andy and Stacie Wood started their ministry in California as church planters in the Bay Area," states the online leadership entry, accessed by The Christian Post on Tuesday morning. "They began Echo Church in 2009, and it eventually became one of the fastest growing churches in the area."

Earlier this month, Stacie Wood preached a sermon titled "The Courage to Slow Down" at the Lake Forest-based church, being identified as a "Teaching Pastor."

In a statement earlier this year about their departure to members of Echo Church, Stacie Wood said she would serve alongside her husband "as a Teaching Pastor." She held the "teaching pastor" role at Echo Church as well. 

In an interview with the Associated Press published on Monday, Andy Wood said he wanted Saddleback to empower "men and women to lead" and said the Bible "teaches that men and women were given spiritual gifts by God."

"The church should be a place where both men and women can exercise those spiritual gifts," he told the AP. "My wife has the spiritual gift of teaching and she is really good. People often tell me she's better than me when it comes to preaching, and I'm really glad to hear that."

In May 2021, Saddleback drew scrutiny from some within the SBC when the church ordained three women — Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty and Katie Edwards. The ordinations come even though the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the convention's official statement of beliefs, says that the "office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

Many Southern Baptist leaders, among them Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler, argued that the ordination went against the Bible and SBC rules.

"The theological issues have not changed since 2000 when Southern Baptists spoke clearly and precisely in the Baptist Faith & Message. More importantly, the Holy Scriptures have not changed and cannot change," wrote Mohler last year.

Critics wanted Saddleback, one of the convention's largest congregations, to be disfellowshiped since other churches have been kicked out for ordaining women as pastors.

In his interview with AP, Wood said he is grateful for Saddleback's partnership with the SBC and hopes that it will continue. 

"I'm not looking to engage in denominational battles," Wood said. "I'd really like to be a unifier of people — to help, love and support pastors in the SBC."

The SBC Credentials Committee, which determines if member churches are abiding by the convention's standards, announced at the SBC Annual Meeting in June that it would delay a decision about whether to disfellowship Saddleback.

Committee Chair Linda Cooper said at the annual meeting that they were "not yet prepared to make a recommendation on Saddleback," recognizing there are "differing opinions regarding the intent of the office of pastor as stated in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000."

"We feel it is very important for you to know that it is the unanimous opinion of the Credentials Committee that the majority of Southern Baptists hold to the belief that the function of lead pastor, elder, bishop or overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture," she stated.

"[However, we have] found little information evidencing convention beliefs regarding the use of the title of pastor, for staff positions with different responsibilities and authority than that of lead pastor role."

Warren, who led Saddleback Church for over 40 years before he retired in September, spoke at the SBC annual meeting. 

"As Western culture grows more dark, more evil and more secular, we have to decide are we going to treat each other as allies or adversaries?" Warren stated. "Are we going to keep bickering over secondary issues, or are we going to keep the main thing the main thing?"  

The Credentials Committee initially called for the creation of an SBC study committee to "provide clarity regarding the office of pastor." But after pushback from attendees at the annual meeting, the committee rescinded that recommendation. 

Weeks after the annual meeting, Mohler, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley and Richard Land, the president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission from 1988-2013, issued a joint statement clarifying the Southern Baptist understanding of the word "pastor." The men had previously been tasked to write a study guide for the new 2000 Baptist Faith & Message Confession. 

"[I]t is important to understand that the word pastor was chosen precisely because of its clarity among Southern Baptists," the joint statement reads. "The statement carefully affirms that both men and women are gifted for service in the church, but the role of pastor is biblically defined and is to be held only by men as qualified by Scripture," the men stressed in the statement." 

Earlier this month, trustees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky unanimously approved a resolution stating that "men alone [are] reserved for the office and function, and thereby title of pastor."

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