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Saddleback Church ordains woman as campus pastor amidst Southern Baptist female minister debate.

Saddleback Church Ordains Female Pastor Despite Southern Baptist Convention Controversy

Saddleback Church, the multi-site megachurch founded by Rick Warren, has ordained a woman to serve as a “campus pastor” even as the congregation is expected to appeal a recent decision from the Southern Baptist Convention to disfellowship the entity over similar moves.


Officials on the denomination’s Executive Committee voted earlier this year to remove Saddleback, one of the largest churches in the United States, because of its decision to ordain several women as pastors over the past two years. Warren, who maintains a founding pastor role at the California congregation, announced Andy Wood as his successor to serve as senior pastor last year and appointed his wife, Stacie Wood, to serve as a teaching pastor, generating controversy days later at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim.

New Appointment

Saddleback Church Lake Forest, one of more than a dozen Saddleback branch campuses, announced last week that Katie Edwards had been appointed as the body’s new campus pastor. Images posted by the church showed Andy and Stacie Wood praying over Edwards on stage.


The move comes weeks before Southern Baptists are scheduled to convene in New Orleans for the next annual meeting of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, where Saddleback Church will likely contest the disfellowship decision from the Executive Committee.

Churches in the Southern Baptist Convention must adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement, which affirms that “while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Mike Law, a pastor at Arlington Baptist Church, plans to introduce an amendment to the denomination’s constitution at the upcoming meeting in New Orleans to clarify that the Southern Baptist Convention will “only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation” if the congregation does not “affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”


Controversy over the appointment of female pastors at Southern Baptist churches occurs as the denomination sees the largest single-year membership decline in at least a century. Beyond the lockdown mandates, which accelerated broader trends toward diminished church attendance in the United States, several ministers have identified the female pastor phenomenon as evidence of the denomination’s theologically liberal drift.

Warren himself was one of several prominent evangelical ministers to endorse wearing face masks as a fulfillment of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He also affirmed Francis Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health who declared himself an “ally” of the LGBTQ movement and supported human fetal tissue research, as a committed Christian and a “man you can trust.”


The appointment of a female pastor at Saddleback Church highlights the ongoing controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention over the role of women in pastoral leadership. As the denomination faces declining membership and theological divisions, the upcoming annual meeting in New Orleans is expected to be a pivotal moment for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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