Complementarianism,  Egalitarianism,  Theology/Bible

The New Pastor of Saddleback Makes the Case for Female Pastors

Over the last week or so, Rick Warren and his successor at Saddleback Andy Wood have made public arguments in favor of women serving as pastors. I addressed Rick Warren’s remarks in an article last week, and some readers have asked me to weigh-in on Wood’s remarks as well.

Wood recorded a video explaining Saddleback’s decision, and there is a good deal of clarifying information in it (transcript here). To date, it’s probably the fullest explication of Saddleback’s view that I have seen, so that’s good. It’s also good to see that Wood wishes to affirm the authority of Scripture, to reject the transing of the culture, and to lay all his theological cards on the table. At least formally, their position is not full-on egalitarianism in that they still wish for a husband to be the head of his wife and for the office of elder to be held by qualified men only. Nevertheless, their church structure is still functionally egalitarian because it ends up with women serving as pastors.

And here is where the problems start. As I wrote last summer, it is clear that Saddleback does not view the office of elder and the office of pastor as the same thing. At Saddleback, Elder is an office while pastoring is a gift. This all by itself is out of step with the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M), which across its three iterations has treated elder and pastor as two different ways of referring to the same office. So Saddleback’s errors are first of all an ecclesiological problem before they are a gender problem. (For my full explanation of this, please read this essay from last June.)

Nevertheless, there is a “gender problem” in that Andy Wood goes through a litany of Scriptural texts in which he embraces what are in essence longstanding egalitarian interpretations of key scriptures. For example, Wood says,

The question to wrestle through is in the New Testament. Were there both men and women who had the apostleship gift, the pastoral gift, evangelist, shepherd, teacher? And undoubtedly when you studied the New Testament of the Scripture, almost every theologian would argue “Yes, there are men who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, teacher.”

This is an extraordinary statement to make because it’s just objectively not true. While no one disputes that women in the New Testament prophesied, it is an enormous distortion to say that “almost every theologian” agrees with the claim that women served as apostles and teachers—at least in the sense that egalitarians claim women served as apostles and teachers. Indeed, these are precisely the points that are in dispute between complementarians and egalitarians with the BF&M expressly coming down on the complementarian side of things.

But Wood’s exposition clearly does not come down on the complementarian side. Indeed, on all of the key texts, he lands decidedly on the egalitarian side.

Wood takes the reference to Aquila and Priscilla in 1 Cor. 16:19 to indicate that they were both serving as pastors. He takes the reference to Andronicus and Junia in Rom. 16:7 to indicate that Junia was an apostle, not just a missionary sent by the church. He understands Phoebe in Rom. 16:1 not merely as a “servant” but as a “teacher,” not only of women but of the entire church. Most importantly, Wood regards the prohibition in 1 Tim. 2:12 not as a permanent ordinance rooted in the created order but as a narrow restriction on woman assuming or usurping an undelegated authority for themselves within the congregation.

Again, these are all pretty standard egalitarian readings of these texts, and it’s why Saddleback allows women to function as elders even if they won’t allow women to have the title.

The bottom line is that Saddleback allows women to serve as pastors, they know that their beliefs differ from the BF&M on this point, and they appear to be getting ready to force the issue with the SBC in June. In my view, the right thing for Saddleback would not be to force this division upon the SBC but to recognize that they can no longer cooperate with the SBC and voluntarily withdraw.

But the path of peace is not the one that Saddleback appears to have chosen. They want to remake the SBC into their own image when it comes to women serving as pastors. So messengers need to be ready when they arrive in New Orleans this June. Will we follow Saddleback, or will we hold the line on what we believe the Bible teaches? I think it will be the latter, and we will find out for sure in June.