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Rick Warren Carefully Considers Approach to Women’s Roles in the Church, Criticizes Extreme Interpretations

Rick Warren, the renowned founder of Saddleback Church, has made a significant statement regarding the roles of women in the Church. 

In a thought-provoking video series titled “SBC at the Crossroads,” released ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention, Warren expressed his rejection of both the complementarian and egalitarian views on women’s roles in the Church and ministry. According to Warren, his three-year personal journey led him to discover “unbiblical weaknesses” within both theological perspectives.

“There are biblical alternatives to both complementarianism and egalitarianism,” he said. “And while both of those positions have strengths, they both, in my opinion, have unbiblical weaknesses, and they ignore important Bible verses. So actually, I’m neither. I’m neither one of them, I reject them both.

Now, if you’re honest, you’ll have to admit that Paul often says things about women in Scripture that appeared to contradict each other. So tell me what you want to believe … and I’ll show you the verses you have to ignore or rationalize away.”

In February, the SBC Executive Committee made a decision regarding Saddleback, the church founded by Warren in 1980 and now the largest Southern Baptist church. The committee ruled that Saddleback is no longer considered to be in “friendly cooperation” with the SBC due to the church’s appointment of a female teaching pastor in a role traditionally reserved for male pastors.

In October 2022, Pastor Andy Wood, who succeeded Warren upon his retirement, included his wife, Stacie, in his biography on the church’s website with the title of “pastor.” Additionally, on May 7, Katie Edwards, one of the three women ordained at Saddleback in 2021, was announced as the Lake Forest campus pastor.

Warren and Saddleback Church have expressed their intention to contest their expulsion from the denomination at the SBC’s upcoming Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

In the video message, Warren shared that he was raised with certain “cultural views on women,” but he embarked on a three-year journey of biblical study and exegesis. This involved delving into Greek words, gaining a deeper understanding of the historical and contextual aspects of Paul’s writings, and comparing passages where Paul’s teachings appeared to be contradictory.

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Photo: Screenshot from NPR

Complementarianism is a theological framework that asserts that women have distinct roles in the family and church. It stipulates that women should be prohibited from holding certain offices in the church.

On the other hand, egalitarianism argues that Scripture does not support such restrictions and advocates for equal opportunities for women in all areas of ministry and leadership.

Warren, in his video, suggested that there are biblical alternatives to both complementarianism and egalitarianism. While acknowledging that both perspectives have strengths, he firmly believes that they also possess “unbiblical weaknesses” and tend to overlook crucial Bible verses.

Consequently, Warren explicitly stated his rejection of both views, asserting that he does not align with either of them.

It is noteworthy that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States, adheres to the belief that the role of pastor is exclusively reserved for qualified men as determined by Scripture. This stance has often been associated with complementarianism, which emphasizes male leadership in the church.

Rick Warren’s rejection of both complementarianism and egalitarianism could spark discussions and debates within the SBC and the broader evangelical community.

As a prominent figure in American Christianity, Warren’s views hold significant weight and may influence the ongoing discourse surrounding gender roles within the Church.

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