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Saddleback, the SBC, and the Truth about Egalitarians

Saddleback and I differ on the role of women as lead pastors/elders. I hold that women can and should be permitted to lead in every ecclesial office and that the church flourishes better when it is stewarded by men and women together (a case I make in chapter two of Your Daughters Shall Prophesy). However, the egalitarian tent is big enough to include folks like me and folks like Warren.

3. Egalitarians Prioritize Scripture.

A common misconception levied at egalitarians is that we have a “low view of Scripture” and that our ordaining of women is a capitulation to culture and a harbinger of more capitulation on social issues to come.

Except that egalitarian evangelicals don’t ordain women in spite of Scripture. We ordain women precisely because of Scripture. When we ordain women, it is in the tradition of the first preachers of the resurrection—women—who ran from the empty tomb to share the good news that the Messiah was alive. It reminds us of the ministry work of women in Paul’s sphere, including the Junia, Phoebe and Prisca. It is inspired by the prophetic ministry of Esther, Anna, Philip’s daughters, and the women at the church in Corinth. 

Egalitarians take seriously the biblically-attested fact that the resurrection of Jesus reverses the curse of humankind’s rebellion in Genesis 3: 

…[T]he victory won by Jesus was complete and all-encompassing. Along with death, hell, and the grave, patriarchy was one of the victims of that victory. No longer is man to rule over woman. Rather, in Christ, those patriarchal bonds have been broken and woman is liberated to assume her rightful place—as co-priest, alongside man, stewarding the gospel in every place she goes….

Genesis 3:16 was undone by John 3:16.3

Egalitarians ordain women because we prioritize Scripture. Because we believe Jesus has broken the curse of patriarchy.

4. Egalitarians Are Paving the Way of the Future Church

I agree with Warren’s sentiment that for the SBC to flourish in the next century, it must overturn its tradition-dependent restrictions on women. If it doesn’t, it will continue to lose exceptionally gifted women to egalitarian denominations that may better steward them and the men who desire to see women flourish in their callings. I have my reservations as to whether it will be the “next generation of Southern Baptists” as he predicted, but I will choose to be hopeful.

But the simple truth is this: Jesus is on the side of women. He desires to see them treasured not just tolerated. He desires to see them elevated not kept in a corner. He desires to see them walk in their calling, alongside men, to steward his missionary Church to reach the world with the truth of the gospel. He desires that their voices be amplified, not silenced. 

It is up to us whether we choose to partner with Jesus or oppose him in that work.


While there are a host of wonderful egalitarian denominations from which Saddleback and Rick Warren might choose (and I think they should!), we do have our own set of patriarchy problems in egalitarian spaces that must also be reformed. Sometimes our theology can act as a cover for unresolved patriarchy. We have work to do as well, as it pertains to women.

The crucial need of the hour is for us to move beyond a passive support for women in ministry toward a passionate advocacy that actively seeks to remove the barriers we have placed in front of women. We need both our sons and daughters to fully take up the mantle given to us by the Spirit to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. It’s time to get out of the way and let the daughters of the Church lead as the Spirit has intended all along. Truth triumphs over tradition.

3 Korpi, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy, 15.