Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren made a surprise appearance during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting on Tuesday afternoon and was granted almost seven minutes of microphone time during a 15-minute miscellaneous business slot.
Warren’s appearance came mere hours after the Credentials Committee recommended a study committee into Saddleback’s use of the title “pastor” with regard to female members of its staff. (Read more about what took place here.)
With Saddleback Church’s fellowship with the SBC in jeopardy, its founder and senior pastor welcomed the thousands in attendance to Orange County and said that out of the 149 Southern Baptist churches in the area, 90 were started by Saddleback Church.
“You know, it’s customary for a guy who’s about to be hung—to let him say his dying words,” Warren said standing at one of the floor microphones in the Anaheim Convention Center. “I have no intention of defending myself. I have taught my kids and grandkids for years: I am most like Christ when I refuse to defend myself.”
Warren wrote a “love letter” to the SBC, reading it at what he called “possibly, likely, my last convention.”
“I could have not built Saddleback Church to its size and influence in any other denomination,” Warren said. “I love Southern Baptists.”
Warren, who has served as pastor of Saddleback Church for over 40 years, shared that he is a fourth generation SBC pastor. Saddleback was sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and Warren shared that he was on staff at the California State Convention and on the Texas State Convention when he was a teenager.
“I really am grateful if this is my last convention,” Warren reiterated. He then explained that it was because of Southern Baptist polity that he was allowed to serve one church for his entire life.
“That’s not possible in most denominations,” he said. Saddleback is the single largest church in the SBC.
“Because Southern Baptist gave me a passion for evangelism and missions, we’ve baptized 56,631 new believers,” he said to roaring applause.
“Saddleback Church has also sent 26,869 members overseas to 197 nations,” Warren said, garnering even more applause from the room.