Rick Warren Says Scripture, Not Culture, Led Him to Change on Female Pastors

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated Mar 15, 2023
Rick Warren Says Scripture, Not Culture, Led Him to Change on Female Pastors

Author and Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren says in a new interview that Scripture, and not the culture, led him to change his mind on the issue of female pastors.

"I'm a Bible guy," Warren, who retired as Saddleback pastor last year, said during an episode of The Russell Moore Show.

Warren says he understands "why people get upset" about the issue of female pastors, saying he "believed the way they did until three years ago."

"And I actually had to change because of Scripture," Warren said. "Culture could not change me on this issue. Anecdotes could not change me on this issue. Pressure from other people would not change me on this issue."

In February, the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee disfellowshipped Saddleback Church, citing the congregation's hiring of a female pastor as conflicting with the denomination's statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message. That statement of faith says, "while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." Last year Saddleback Church hired Andy Wood as the successor to its founding pastor, Rick Warren. Andy Wood is the lead pastor, and his wife, Stacie, is a teaching pastor.

Warren said Saddleback will appeal the decision to the SBC messengers this summer. He mentioned three Bible passages that changed his mind on the issue of female pastors.

The first passage was the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

"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," Warren said. "... Who authorized women to teach? Jesus"

The second passage was Acts 2:17-18, which describes the day of Pentecost.

"On that day, at Pentecost, we know women were in the upper room. We know women were filled with the Holy Spirit. We know that women were preaching in languages that other people couldn't hear to a mixed audience," Warren said. "... Everybody gets to preach, everybody gets to prophesy."

The third passage was John 20, which involves the story of Mary Magdalene witnessing the risen Christ.

"I noticed that the very first sermon, the very first Christian sermon, the message of the gospel of good news of the resurrection, Jesus chose a woman to deliver it to men," Warren said. "… He had Mary Magdalene go and tell the disciples. … Now, that clearly wasn't an accident. It was intentional."

Warren asserted that the issue of female pastors is a secondary issue.

"I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I do not believe in the inerrancy of your interpretation, nor of mine, for that matter, which is why I have to say I could be wrong. We have to approach Scripture humbly, saying, 'I could be wrong.'… A conservative Baptist believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, [and] a fundamentalist Baptist believes in the inerrancy of their interpretation. That's a big difference."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Paul Morigi/Stringer

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.