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Church News

'Scripture changed my position on this': Rick Warren shares why he supports women pastors following Southern Baptist Convention expulsion

by Kelly Valencia

Renowned US pastor Rick Warren has shared why he believes there's a biblical case for women to serve as pastors and elders following the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) decision to expel Saddleback church over the installation of women as senior leaders.

Saddleback Church, which was founded by Warren, is one of five other congregations to have been expelled from SBC due to the denomination's statement of faith that stipulates the office of pastor "is limited to men as qualified by Scripture".

Speaking to Russell Moore on his podcast 'The Russell Moore Show', Warren said he wasn't surprised by the denomination's decision and said they shouldn't be allowed to remove churches because of "disagreement".

"Everybody in the SBC believes in the inerrancy of Scripture," Warren said. "Now we're talking about the difference of interpretation. Those particular passages from Titus Timothy and Corinthians have hundreds, literally hundreds, of interpretations."

"[The SBC] should be able to expel people over sin, racism, sexual abuse, other sexual sins, things like that. But this over women. We can disagree? Over the atonement? We can disagree over election, and we can disagree over dispensationalism. We can disagree over the second coming. We can disagree over the nature of sin, but we can't disagree over what you name your staff?"

But Warren has not always supported installing women in senior leadership roles. He told Moore he only changed his mind three years ago when reading a study by Anglican scholar David Barret on the Great Commission.

He said nor culture nor "pressure from other people" could change his position on this issue. It was when he "came to confrontation with three scriptures nobody ever talked about that I felt had strong implications about women in ministry".

For him, the biblical arguments for women in leadership are the Great Commission, which is not just for "ordained men, is for everybody", the day of the Pentecost, knowing that women were in the room and were therefore filled with the Holy Spirit as explained by the apostle Paul in Acts 2 and the very first sermon being preached by a woman. 

"The very first Christian sermon, the message of the Gospel of the good news of the resurrection, Jesus chose a woman to deliver it to men. You had Mary Magdalene go and tell the disciples. That clearly wasn't an accident. It was intentional. It's a whole new world. Now he has a woman...He chose her to be the first preacher of the gospel," Warren added.

He also said he understood why people struggled with this issue but urged people to read The Baptist Faith and Message's preamble to realise it is not "binding on any church".  

"But now we're turning it a confession into a creed and we're weaponising it—we're starting an inquisition—and if this now falls into place, any pastor each week can stand up say, I want to kick out that church because they disagree on dispensationalism," he added.

He concluded the conversation with Moore by announcing he would appeal SBC's decision.

"I think I need to stand up for the millions of godly Southern Baptist women whose gifts and leadership skills are being stymied. And so I'm gonna most likely appeal it."

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