Former Saddleback Church pastor and founder Rick Warren recently shared three Bible passages that led him to believe it’s acceptable for women to serve as pastors.

Saddleback Church, the California-based megachurch founded by Warren in 1980, was recently expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for having a woman fill the teaching pastor role. The church plans to appeal the decision later this year. Since Warren’s retirement in 2022, Andy and Stacie Wood have led the church.

In a podcast interview with Russell Moore, the former SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President, Warren said he thinks that he should approach scripture humbly and the church was at its best at its birth. Warren said, “This is not a battle between liberals and conservatives. All the liberals left a long time ago. Everybody in the SBC believes in the inerrancy of scripture. Now we are talking about a difference of interpretation.”

The best-selling author shared three scripture passages that led him to conclude that it was acceptable for women to become pastors three years ago. First, Warren cited Matthew 28:19-20. This passage involves Jesus telling His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Warren argued, “We claim that we believe that the Great Commission is for everybody, both men and women are to fulfill the Great Commission.” He continued, “There are four verbs in the Great Commission: ‘go,’ ‘make disciples,’ ‘baptize,’ and ‘teach.’ Women are to go. Women are to make disciples. Women are to baptize, and women are to teach, not just men.”

The second passage he cited was the day of Pentecost, as explained in Acts 2, in which the Holy Spirit came down upon the early church, with those present speaking in foreign tongues.

“We know women were in the room. We know women were filled with the Holy Spirit,” said Warren. “We know that women were preaching in languages that other people couldn’t hear to a mixed audience. We know women; it wasn’t just men; women were preaching on the day of Pentecost.”

Warren noted that, in the passage, when the Apostle Peter told the crowd what was happening, he quoted the Old Testament verse of Joel 2:28, which states, “on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

His third verse of evidence was John 20:17 when Jesus told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples about his resurrection, noting that Jesus “chose her to be the first preacher of the Gospel.”

Warren added that while he supported women becoming pastors, he stressed that “it doesn’t bother me if you disagree with me,” noting, “I have to say, I could be wrong.” He continued, “For 2,000 years, the Church has debated the role of women in culture, but to make it a litmus test for ‘are you a Baptist or not?’ is nonsense.”

Warren was asked if Saddleback would appeal the expulsion at the SBC Annual Meeting in June. He replied that while he just wanted to “walk away from it,” he also felt he had to do so. Warren told Moore that while he believed that churches should be expelled from the SBC for “sin, racism, sexual abuse, other sexual sins, things like that,” having a woman serving as a pastor should not be one of them.

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