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SBC President JD Greear calls Saddleback Church's decision to ordain women 'disappointing'

Pastor JD Greear
Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Pastor J.D.Greear, lead pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, speaks at a news conference at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, on June 12, 2018. |

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the California-based Saddleback Church’s decision to ordain three women was “disappointing,” and urged the denomination to “stand on the bedrock of God’s Word — whether the issue is the role of pastor or any other issue.”

In a development described by Saddleback as “historic,” the church, founded by Rick and Kay Warren, announced that they ordained their first three female pastors, despite being affiliated with the SBC which prohibits female ordination.

“We ordained our first three women pastors, Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards,” Saddleback Church said in a post on their Facebook page Friday. “We commissioned three new elders, Anthony Miller, Jeremiah Goley, and Jason Williams! And we appointed Pastor Johnny Baker as the new global leader of Celebrate Recovery!”

In a post on his blog Monday, Greear, who also pastors The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, said that while he has “long respected Saddleback’s ministry impact and heart for getting the gospel to the nations,” he disagrees with their decision to take this step, and even finds it “disappointing.”

He then paraphrased a post by Pastor James Merritt, saying it’s possible to affirm "both (1) that God calls men and women to vital ministry in the church and (2) that God’s Word clearly reserves the office of pastor/elder/overseer for qualified men." 

Summit Church, he said, is “unashamedly and uncompromisingly complementarian” and considers the complementarian position “not merely a box to be checked, but rather a biblical truth to be celebrated.”

“Equipping and platforming women to thrive in ministry is not a passion we share because of personal opinion or preference," Greear added. "We are convinced that there is no such thing as a healthy church in which the men flourish and the women do not. Thus, by cultivating an atmosphere where our sisters can thrive, we cultivate an atmosphere in which our brothers will thrive as well.

"Above all, we believe that God’s Word is good and trustworthy, and that his design for the church will stand throughout time and prosper the church, now and always.

“We need godly, strong women to step up and use the gifts God has given them. We need these women in the home, speaking courage into their family’s lives. We need them in ministry, calling us to give and pray and go and sacrifice. We need them in society, leading with wisdom, courage, and faith. And may we stay faithful to stand on the bedrock of God’s Word—whether the issue is the role of pastor or any other issue.”

Greear is not the only Southern Baptist leader to criticize Saddleback’s decision to ordain women. 

On Twitter, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, wrote: “I strongly oppose the ordination of women pastors as clearly taught in the Scriptures and practice NT churches. It is a big deal I assure you and a growing problem in the SBC.”

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that a number of SBC churches like Saddleback have promoted women as preachers or pastors. He said the denomination needs to make the standards of denominational cooperation clear for all affiliated churches.

“In an increasing number of cases, it is now clear that some churches, including quite large and well-known churches, are placing women in the office of pastor in direct violation of our confession of faith. Further, a number of churches that are at least listed as Southern Baptist welcomed and advertised women preaching in the morning service,” he stated. 

“The Southern Baptist Convention must not be unclear about our theological convictions and the ground of our cooperation. We cannot afford to be. Attempts to deny the issue will not work. Right now, Southern Baptists will decide if we will redefine the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not believe that Southern Baptists will allow this to happen. I do not believe that Southern Baptists will retreat from the truth.”

Bible teacher Beth Moore, who made headlines when she split from the SBC earlier this year, sparked controversy in 2019 when she argued that while complementarian theology does not necessarily cause abuse in the Church, having too few women in power has directly contributed to the sexual abuse crisis in churches.

 She also suggested that the SBC has placed too many restrictions on women's roles in churches, and that obsessing over the subject ultimately impedes the furtherance of the Gospel. Moore later apologized for her role in elevating complementarian theology to a "matter of 1st importance."

The Christian Post reached out to Saddleback Church on Monday to inquire if the church plans to remain a part of the SBC. However, a response was not received by press time.

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