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Rick Warren Pleads for Messengers To ‘Act Like Southern Baptists’; Al Mohler Rebuts Saddleback Appeal

Rick Warren
Rick Warren appealing Saddleback Church's SBC removal at the 2023 Annual Meeting. Photo credit: Jesse T. Jackson

For 178 years, the SBC has been a blend of at least a dozen different tribes of Baptists. If you think every Baptist thinks like you, you’re mistaken,” said Rick Warren in an appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in New Orleans Tuesday afternoon.

Standing at a microphone in front of over 12,000 messengers, Warren defended his view that Saddleback Church should not be disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention. Saddleback was the third church to appeal being disfellowshipped Tuesday afternoon and the second to appeal being disfellowshipped over having a female pastor.

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Rick Warren: Keep Saddleback in the SBC

The Executive Committee (EC) of the SBC ruled in February that Saddleback was not “in friendly cooperation” with the Convention due to the church’s decision to ordain women as pastors. The church appealed the decision by the deadline of May 15, and messengers voted on the decision Tuesday afternoon after Warren gave a defense for the appeal and Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to Warren’s remarks.

In the weeks leading up the annual meeting, Warren has posted extensively on social media and on the website “SBC Stand,” defending his view that women may in fact serve as pastors.

During a time reserved for “Miscellaneous Business,” Warren spoke to the messengers regarding his view that Saddleback should remain in the denomination.

Warren’s primary argument was that Southern Baptists do not have to agree on every matter of doctrine so long as they agree on the essentials of faith, such as authority of Scripture. “I’m not asking you to agree with my church. I am asking you to act like Southern Baptists,” said Warren.

Referencing a 2013 controversy in the SBC over Calvinism, Warren said a split in the Convention was avoided as messengers “agreed to disagree.”

“Will we treat the egalitarian Baptists with the same grace we showed the Calvinists?” he asked. Warren said there are many types of sin that it makes sense to divide over, including sexual, racial and financial sin. “But the 1,928 churches with women on pastoral staff have not sinned,” he said. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM) contains 4,033 words, said Warren. “Saddleback disagrees with one word…Isn’t that close enough?” he asked.

Messengers responded with murmurs of “no” and other signs of disapproval.

Warren then mentioned Mohler by name, taking issue with Mohler’s interpretation of what the BFM says about women pastors and questioning why Mohler “gets to speak twice and do the rebuttals.” This was in reference to the fact that several minutes earlier, Mohler had rebutted the appeal of Linda Barnes Popham, pastor of Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and was also the person set to rebut Warren’s defense. 

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