by Mark Wingfield, Baptist News Global, 5/10/21.
The largest church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention ordained three women as ministers May 6, sending shock waves through the male-centric leadership of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, in 1980, announced on Facebook that on May 6 it had ordained three women as ministers in a “historic night.”
On Mother’s Day, which fell three days after Saddleback’s ordination, the Sunday morning online message was given by Kay Warren. Although she is not among the newly ordained, her delivery of the Sunday morning message in worship was sure to further alarm the strictest of male leadership advocates within the SBC, who insist women should not preach sermons to men.
The three women ordained May 6 are Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty and Katie Edwards — all long-tenured staff members within the vast network of the church’s 15 United States campuses and four international campuses. The church counts more than 24,000 members and lists 18 “campus pastors,” all of whom are male.
Because of the massive size of the church spread out over so many locations, no complete staff directory is published online. Petty’s LinkedIn profile lists her as children’s minister at Saddleback, where she has served since 1999. Puffer describes herself as a “minister” at Saddleback Church in both her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Her Facebook profile describes her as a pastor for pastoral care at the church. Edwards serves as student ministries pastor at Saddleback’s Lake Forest campus, where she has worked for 24 years.
Saddleback not only is the largest church in the SBC but one of its leaders in evangelism. The church’s emphasis on evangelism and church growth have been studied and duplicated worldwide. Warren was one of the early advocates for what came to be known as “seeker-friendly church,” meaning a church experience intended specifically to welcome unchurched people and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote about this in a best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church.