NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Messengers to the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention have upheld the Executive Committee’s decision that Fern Creek Baptist in Louisville, Ky., Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla., and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., are not in friendly cooperation with the SBC.

Registration Secretary Don Currence reported the results to messengers on Wednesday morning:

Vote to sustain EC actions –

Fern Creek Baptist:

  • For – 91.85% (9,700)
  • Against – 7.63% (806)

Freedom Church

  • For – 96.46% (9,984)
  • Against – 3.31% (343)

Saddleback Church

  • For – 88.46% (9,437)
  • Against – 11.36% (1,212)

Fern Creek Baptist Church

The SBC Executive Committee deemed the Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., not in friendly cooperation with the SBC in February, based on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000’s statement that Scripture reserves the office of pastor for men.

Fern Creek interprets the Scriptures used in limiting the pastorate to men – chiefly 1 Timothy 2:9-14, and 3:1-15 – differently than the BF&M 2000, according to church leadership.

Linda Popham has pastored Fern Creek full-time since April 4, 1993, after a near three-year term as interim pastor.

Freedom Church

Freedom Church was deemed not to be in friendly cooperation because the church failed to cooperate to resolve concerns regarding an abuse allegation. Freedom Church has denied the charge to Baptist Press, saying the matter was investigated and resolved by the Anglican Church of North America. However, the Executive Committee stands by its decision to oust the church, saying the pastor admitted to sexual misconduct and pointing to the fact that the local Baptist association and the Florida Baptist Convention have also removed the church.

Saddleback Church

Saddleback Church was deemed the church not to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, due to “the church continuing to have a female teaching pastor functioning in the office of a pastor.”

The committee specified the teaching pastor role of Stacie Wood, the wife of Warren’s successor, Andy Wood. Since then, Saddleback announced May 7 that Katie Edwards would become the new campus pastor for its Lake Forest campus. Edwards was among three women ordained with the title of pastor at Saddleback in May 2021.