The two churches at the center of last summer’s debate over women in ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention have left their respective state Baptist conventions, which have heavy ties to the SBC.
Saddleback Church, previously the largest church in the SBC, was kicked out of the national denomination in June along with Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. Their expulsions were part of a far-right agenda to purge the SBC of any churches where women preach, serve as pastors or carry the word “pastor” in a job title.
Saddleback, located in Orange County, Calif., was founded by Rick Warren and his wife, Kay. Warren recently retired, but he has been the chief spokesman for the megachurch in its battle with SBC complementarians. The church has longstanding ties to the California Southern Baptist Convention — an autonomous body from the SBC — and has been the foremost church-planting congregation in the state.
Nevertheless, California Southern Baptists tend to be conservative and Saddleback this fall resigned from affiliation with the state group rather than create division, messengers to the state convention annual meeting were told in October. A resolution affirming women in ministry was presented at the California annual meeting but failed.
On Nov. 14, messengers to the Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting affirmed a recommendation from its Credentials Committee to disaffiliate with Fern Creek Baptist Church, a small congregation on the south side of Louisville.
Baptist Press reported the ouster “was approved by a show of ballots by a large margin.”
Technically, Fern Creek Church was found to be out of compliance with “the scriptural mandate for the office of pastor as articulated in the Baptist Faith and Message.”
KBC President James Carroll said, “Ending a ministry partnership is lamentable, even when it is prudent. I take no joy in the messengers’ action to disaffiliate Fern Creek Baptist Church, but I support it. Kentucky Baptist churches unite, as we have for 185 years, around a specific set of doctrinal beliefs. While we recognize and joyfully affirm many churches outside our convention, we operate in special partnership with one another.”
Linda Barnes Popham has served as pastor at Fern Creek for 33 years and is a self-described theological conservative.