(RNS) — Southern Baptists have long disagreed over just about everything — from the role of women in the church and which Bible is best to debates over Calvinism and “alien immersion” (whether people who were baptized outside the denomination can be church members).Despite their disagreements, joining the Southern Baptist Convention has historically been relatively easy. And getting kicked out was difficult.
“In Southern Baptist life, basically you are deemed in until you have proven that you are out,” said Adam Greenway, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The issue of who gets to be a Southern Baptist made international headlines this week after the denomination’s Executive Committee voted to oust one of the nation’s largest and best-known churches for having a woman preaching pastor.
On Tuesday (Feb. 21), Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, was “deemed not to be in friendly cooperation” with the SBC for having Stacie Woods — wife of newly appointed senior pastor Andy Woods — as a regular preacher. Her role conflicts with a section of the denomination’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, which restricts the office of pastor to men. Saddleback had previously been reported to the SBC’s credentials committee, which reviews the status of churches, for ordaining several longtime women staffers in 2021.
Four other churches were also removed for having women pastors, including New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Georgia, whose pastor has since claimed the church was never part of the SBC.
Those congregations were the first to be expelled from the SBC on a national level for having women pastors since the ban on women pastors …