Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church names 3 women pastors

Is this another example of evangelicals surrendering to the Spirit of the Age?

In a social media post, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church announced it ordained three women as pastors. This is a first for the Saddleback Church. Saddleback is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Yesterday was a historic night for Saddleback Church in many ways! We ordained our first three women pastors, Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty, and Katie Edwards! 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! We’re so grateful to share this moment with you. Our best days are ahead of us!”

This is an important trend in so-called conservative churches—ordaining women to the position of pastor. Even if the position is different from elder as seems the case at Saddleback based on this same post, it seems unwise. Given the egalitarian tug of our time granting women this title regardless of their function, looks like an acceptance of feminist thinking and tossing away the biblical requirements for such a position.

And this sets an important precedent. Saddleback is a huge church with attendance of 23,494—making it one of the largest in Lifeway’s 2020 Outreach survey. What Rick Warren does and what Saddleback Church does will have a disproportionate impact on the evangelical churches in America.

Rick Warren is no stranger to controversy. The author of the Purpose Driven Life has faced criticism from the right and the left. However, one of the most stinging criticisms came from Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama.

In Identity, Fukuyama compared Warren’s approach to Robert Schuler by “downplaying sin” along with anything sounding judgmental and instead focusing on self-esteem.

Fukuyama writes, “If therapy became a substitute for religion, religion itself took an increasingly therapeutic turn. This was true of both liberal and evangelical churches in the United States, whose leaders found that they could reverse the trend toward declining attendance if they offered what amounted to psychological counseling services built around self-esteem. Rick Warren, whose Church Growth Movement has transformed many thousands of evangelical churches in recent decades, has put forth a similar therapeutic message. His trademarked Purpose Driven Life movement emphasizes the importance of pastors attending to the ‘felt needs’ of nonbelievers, deemphasizing traditional Christian doctrine in favor of an overtly psychological language.”[1]

It is fair to ask, what is Warren and Saddleback leadership thinking in naming women to any position with the title of pastor? It hardly seems to comport with what most Southern Baptists and evangelicals traditionally believed the Bible teaches about women in the church.

Again, this looks like yet another sign of Christian capitulation to the Spirit of the Age.

Will anyone report this to the SBC’s Credentials Committee?

And if so, will the committee do anything about this?


[1] Francis Fukuyama, Identity, pp. 99-100.