Warren Responds to SBC Vote to Uphold Disfellowship of Saddleback Church

Following Pastor Rick Warren’s appeal from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting in New Orleans earlier this week, shortly after the results of the vote were announced he gave his response and fielded questions from credentialed press at a 75-minute Media Availability, that resembled a “Master Class” in SBC history, polity and hermeneutics.

Having challenged more than 12,000 voting Messengers to overturn a ruling to disfellowship the Church he pastored for 43 years the tallied ballots were not in Saddleback’s favor. The final count totaled 9,437 “Yes” in support of the Executive Committee ruling and 1,212 “No” to overturn it in support of Saddleback Church, signifying majority opinion of Convention attendees feel that the Church “is not in friendly cooperation with the SBC.”

Streamed live and available now at www.SBCStand.com, Warren opened his press statement by saying, “We received more votes than I anticipated in New Orleans. We have said since last February that we didn’t expect to win. We made this effort to push a conversation that’s been stagnant for years.”

Further addressing the reasons he chose to defend the Church he founded, Warren explained, “I wanted to speak up for the millions of Southern Baptist women whose spiritual gifts, leadership gifts and talents are being wasted.”

The best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and Coordinator of the global Finishing the Task coalition, acknowledged that the decisions made at the Annual Meeting only represent those who attend, and asked the media and his denominational peers to keep certain things in mind about the vote:

• It wasn’t unanimous. “To think that all Southern Baptists will now adhere to a single vote at an annual meeting, as if that is a fiat on the role of women, is nonsense. Baptists are far more independent than that.”

• The Convention is aging. “The average Southern Baptist is 56 years old and the average age of a Convention attender is higher than that. These are good people, but they’re aging. The next generation of Southern Baptists are not here to vote. They couldn’t care less about Roberts Rules of Order, arcane procedures or political infighting. Change will happen at some point. Truth inevitably triumphs over tradition, but it takes time.”

• Not everyone is able to attend. In reference to the 16,000 SBC pastors who responded to a letter Warren sent them a week ago, he said, “The number one response received was, ‘I wish I could be there.’ I understand why they couldn’t. If you’re in a single staff church or a church planter, it’s difficult to leave with no one to care for it, or to afford travel across the country just for a national business meeting that has little impact on your ministry.”

• It’s important to remember why the voters are called Messengers, not Delegates. “They only represent themselves. They cannot and do not represent every voice in their own church. Messenger resolutions and votes only represent those Messengers.”

Questions from the press yielded thoughtful and thorough answers from Warren, who expanded on the results of the three-year study of Scripture which ultimately changed his mind about women in ministry. Admitting regret that he didn’t seek a deeper understanding sooner, he referenced passages that he believes support the Great Commission ministry of women and noted that the singular word “pastor” cannot be found in any English translation of the New Testament.

Warren shared that his greatest frustration about the two years following the initial complaint against Saddleback Church, was closed door meetings to which he was never invited to express the logical, theological and exegesis of Scripture that explain his perspective. While opponents were given ample opportunity to make their case against the Southern California Church, Warren never received responses to his emails and phone calls to the Executive Committee.

“This is not the end of the debate,” Warren concluded. “But my love for frightened pastors and frustrated women in our churches demanded that I not just slink off in silence. I knew I’d lose friends. I knew it would be a very unpopular position to take in our denomination which has been overwhelmingly complementarian. But I could not sit by while others claimed that you can’t hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and support women in ministry.”

The ballot at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the SBC was the first time in history for the Messengers to vote on whether to disfellowship a church from the Convention.

To learn more about the nature and background of Rick Warren’s appeal, its implications and the reasons he is advocating for renewal, revitalization and revival within the SBC, visit SBCStand.com.

About Pastor Rick Warren
Rick Warren is the founding Pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, which grew to more than 30,000 weekly attendees across 19 locations, including four international campuses and via streaming online, hosting listeners from around the world.

(SOURCE: A. Larry Ross Communications via Christian Newswire)

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