▶ Watch Video: Southern Baptists expel California megachurch for having female pastors

New Orleans — The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday upheld a decision to expel two churches — including Southern California megachurch Saddleback — for ordaining female pastors.

The approximately 13,000 representatives — known by the SBC as messengers —  also overwhelmingly voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would require that only men be employed as qualified pastors at member churches.

The vote at the annual convention in New Orleans was met with cheers and was praised by “messengers” like a Sunday sermon. 

“It puts us all on the same page about what a pastor is, and who a pastor is: a biblically qualified man,” Mike Law, a pastor at Arlington Baptist Church in Texas, said Wednesday of the amendment in an address to the convention.

The amendment will need a second vote by a two-thirds margin at next year’s convention in Indianapolis before it would take effect, according to the Baptist Press, the news service for SBC.  

The conservative SBC refused to reinstate Saddleback Church, a megachurch in Lake Forest, California, founded by the now retired Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” 

The SBC’s Executive Committee had voted in February to expel Saddleback, and Wednesday’s member vote upheld that decision.

Prior to the vote, Warren made a futile appeal to the messengers.

“I’m not asking you to agree with my church,” Warren told the convention Tuesday. “I am asking you to act like a Southern Baptist.”

FILE — Pastor Rick Warren at Roma Downey’s star ceremony held on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on Aug. 11, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

In total, five churches have been expelled from SBC for having women pastors. Also expelled Wednesday was Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

“This is a sad day for Southern Baptists because they are losing gifted and talented and called women of God, as we continue to proclaim the gospel. Why they want to get rid of folks like us, makes no sense,” Fern Creek pastor Linda Barnes Popham told CBS News, adding that the message the expulsion sends to millions of female members of SBC churches is that “you are not valued.”

SBC is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with more than 13 million members. However, it has seen its membership drop 9% over the past three years.  

The SBC was also rocked by a bombshell report released in May of 2022 which found that its Executive Committee mishandled allegations of sex abuse and stonewalled survivors.