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Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors – SBC

Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors - SBC

Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors – SBC

Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors – SBC

The Saddleback Church has appointed its first female pastors, despite being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which specifically prohibits women from being ordained.

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“Yesterday was a historic night for Saddleback Church in many ways!” said Saddleback in a Facebook update posted on Friday, May 7. “We ordained our first three women pastors, Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards!”

At present, little is known about what each of the women’s roles will entail, including whether their responsibilities involve preaching in front of the whole congregation.

Saddleback Church Makes ‘Historic’ Change

Saddleback Church is a megachurch based in Lake Forest, Calif., and is led by “The Purpose-Driven Life” author, Pastor Rick Warren. The church lists 15 national and four international campuses on its website and has over 23,000 members.

One of the newly ordained women, Cynthia Petty, shared in an interview with LiveGood how being selected for the new position has impacted her. “I had always been involved in churches where women could lead, under the authority of a male pastor,” she said. “So, this change in philosophy for ‘women in ministry was revolutionary. I was honoured and felt extremely humbled.  And the thing I believe meant the most to me was how this would be groundbreaking for all the younger women ministers on staff who really did have the desire or dream to be a pastor one day!”

Petty learned she had been selected as of the church’s first female pastors in the fall of 2020. She said Warren called her on Nov. 2 and told her “that he and the elders had been discussing for many months the possibility to ordain women as pastors at Saddleback Church.” She said, “He told me that the elders unanimously voted to appoint me one of the first three women pastors at Saddleback Church! And that it would be announced in the staff meeting that afternoon! He affirmed my leadership and my calling to ministry, and it was a conversation I will not forget.”

Saddleback Church Ordains Its First Female Pastors – SBC

According to Petty’s LinkedIn profile, she went to Golden Gate Seminary and has been serving as a children’s minister at Saddleback for over 22 years. Her new title will be NextGen Ministries Pastor. Based on the responsibilities of Saddleback’s NextGen Pastor Kurt Johnston, described here, it seems likely Petty will be pastoring students.

Liz Puffer’s LinkedIn profile says she attended Rockbridge Seminary and lists her as a “Minister at Saddleback Church,” where she has served for over 27 years. Katie Edwards is currently serving as Lake Forest Student Ministries Pastor at Saddleback and has been doing junior high ministry for 21 years.

The Saddleback Church and the SBC

Saddleback Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and is among the largest churches in the denomination—which takes a clear stand against women being pastors. An SBC resolution from 1984 states, “We encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.” Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) 2000 says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Several prominent SBC leaders commented on Saddleback’s decision on Twitter. Dr Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, tweeted a quote from his seminary’s founder, B.H. Carroll:

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Kansas City, Mo.) president Jason Keith Allen tweeted, “This is a disappointing departure from the clear teaching of Scripture, the BF&M, & long-held SBC consensus & practice.”

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, critiqued Saddleback’s decision with a quote from John A. Broadus, a former president of his seminary—and a former slave owner.

Saddleback Church, One of the Largest in the SBC, Ordains Its First Female Pastors

Several people slammed Mohler for quoting from a slave owner to support his position. Charles Holmes Jr., HBCU College Director at The Summit Church (pastored by SBC President J.D. Greear) in Durham, N.C., retweeted Mohler’s post, saying:

Somehow this guy was able to see the “error” of women preaching in church worship, but wasn’t able to see his own error of owning slaves in church worship!!??? Get out of here man. The hypocrisy baffles me. Also I’m not taking theological lessons from someone who owned people.

Tom Buck and Dwight McKissic, both pastors in the SBC, responded to the Saddleback’s news very differently.

Phil Vischer and Beth Moore saw the irony of posting tweets critical of women on Mother’s Day, and they pointed this out to Greenway and Mohler, respectively. Moore recently left the SBC for a variety of reasons, one of which was the denomination’s posture toward women in ministry.

Saddleback Church Carries On

As of this writing, Saddleback Church has not issued a formal statement about its decision. On the day when Petty, Edwards, and Puffer were ordained, the church also celebrated the commissioning of three new male elders, as well as the appointment of Pastor Johnny Baker as the new global leader of Celebrate Recovery. Baker’s father, John Baker, was the founder of Celebrate Recovery and passed away in February of this year.

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