Andy Wood, formerly lead pastor of Echo Church in San Jose, CA, recently took the lead pastor role at one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) largest churches, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, after its founder, Rick Warren, retired at the end of August. Warren had served as Saddleback’s lead pastor for over 40 years.
In the spring of 2021, Saddleback Church made SBC headlines after it ordained three female pastors during one of its services. Although it was a first for the church in its 40-plus year history, it was an act that may have been prohibited by the nation’s largest evangelical denomination.
On June 2, Warren announced Wood and his wife, Stacie, as his successors at Saddleback Church. Like in their previous church, Andy serves as the lead pastor, and Stacie as a teaching pastor. Saddleback Church’s website states their pastors are “Andy and Stacie Wood.”
The SBC’s Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) 2000, which serves as the denomination’s statement of faith, says, “[The church’s] scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Saddleback Church’s ordination of women was a hotly debated topic at this year’s SBC annual meeting after messengers voted in 2021 for the Credentials Committee to investigate whether Saddleback Church should be disfellowshipped from the denomination.
However, the Credentials Committee’s report led to more confusion, after it recommended the formation of a study committee into Saddleback’s use of the title “pastor” with regard to female members of its staff.
One SBC messenger who voiced concern with this recommendation was Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, who was also a member of the BF&M 2000 Study Committee that was formed in 1999.
Standing at one of the messengers’ designated microphones, Mohler told the Credentials Committee, “My concern as a churchman, a theologian, and someone who loves this Convention—as I know everyone in this room does—if we eventually have to form a study committee over every word in our confession of faith, then we’re doomed.”
“We say what we believe in specific words that are in the Baptist Faith & Message,” Mohler continued. “The moment we start to, of necessity, have study committees decide what the words mean—the words mean what Southern Baptist said in the year 2000. At that time, the word ‘pastor’ was used by the committee and adopted by the Convention, because we were told, that is the most easily understood word among Southern Baptists for pastoral teaching leadership.”