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The Banner has a subscription to republish articles from Religion News Service. Below are excerpts from two stories, one by Adelle M. Banks and one by Emily McFarlan Miller, both published on June 5, 2023. The introductory and concluding paragraphs, with context for the Christian Reformed Church, have been added.

Facing disaffiliation over different practices from their respective denominations on ordaining women as pastors or affirming LGBTQ Christians, Saddleback Church, connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, and Quest Church, part of the Evangelical Covenant Church, made moves in different directions this month. Saddleback in Lake Forest, Calif., is appealing removal from the SBC, with former pastor Rick Warren advocating for its continued affiliation. The Convention meets June 13-14 in New Orleans. Quest Church in Seattle, Wash., announced its voluntary departure from the ECC on June 5. The Covenant executive board voted to remove Quest from its roster of churches last October. Delegates to the denomination’s annual meeting were set to vote whether to uphold that decision at the denomination meeting scheduled for June 28-July 1.

Rick Warren Campaigns for Southern Baptist Reinstatement of Saddleback Church

Days before the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, former megachurch pastor Rick Warren has appealed to his fellow Southern Baptists to overturn a denominational decision to oust his Saddleback Church because it permits women to serve with the title pastor.

“This should be the moment where 47,000+ autonomous, independent, freedom-loving churches say NO to turning the Executive Committee into a theological Magisterium that controls a perpetual inquisition of churches and makes the EC a centralized hierarchy that tells our congregations who to hire and what to call them,” Warren wrote in an open letter dated June 1.

The SBC’s Executive Committee voted in February to remove Saddleback, approving a recommendation of its credentials committee that determined the congregation was “not in friendly cooperation” because Stacie Wood, wife of Warren successor Andy Wood, had the title of “teaching pastor.”

In May, Saddleback announced it would appeal the decision. Since that time, Warren has mounted a campaign that includes the open letter, a website, and a video series detailing why he thinks the church should be permitted to remain within the Southern Baptist fold.

“Your own family members often hold opposing opinions, but you don’t disown them for that,” he wrote. “You still love them in spite of disagreement.” (Italics are Warren’s.)

Delegates to the annual meeting will vote on whether to affirm or overturn decisions about Saddleback, along with two other churches that have appealed their removals—one for having a woman in a pastoral role and the other for “a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding a sexual abuse allegation.”

In addition to seeking to overturn the February executive committee decision, Warren hopes for a change in the SBC constitution that would override a section first approved in 2014 and voted on a second time and implemented in 2015. It said the denomination would include only churches with “a faith and practice which closely identifies” with the Baptist Faith and Message. That statement of faith restricts the office of pastor to men.

Any change in the constitution that would update that amendment would have to be passed by votes over two consecutive years by the messengers (delegates to the annual meeting).

 ©  2023 Religion News Service

Seattle’s Quest Church Leaves ECC as Church Affirms LGBTQ Christians

Quest Church, an influential Seattle megachurch, is leaving its denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, over its differences with the ECC over acceptance of LGBTQ Christians.

Quest’s move to voluntarily disaffiliate from the denomination comes as the ECC was prepared to vote this summer on expelling Quest and another LGBTQ-affirming congregation, Awaken Church in St. Paul, Minn.

“We have discerned that, to be the body of Christ, we must embrace the fullness of God’s life in all of our members, including our LGBTQIA+ siblings,” said the Rev. Gail Song Bantum, lead pastor of Quest, in a written statement shared June 5 on Facebook.

“This belief emerges from our identity and values as an ECC church, not despite this identity and these values. We leave the denomination grieved that the ECC refuses to recognize God’s work in our midst, and yet hopeful for the ways the Spirit is moving in our community.”

Song Bantum wrote on Facebook that Quest sent a formal letter to the ECC that morning informing officials of its withdrawal from the denomination.

The ECC did not immediately respond to a request for comment by RNS.

The Rev. Eugene Cho—who left the church in 2018 and now leads Bread for the World, a prominent Christian advocacy group dedicated to ending hunger—planted Quest Church in 2001, initially holding weekly services at Interbay Covenant Church.

Song Bantum became the church’s lead pastor in 2015. In the written statement she describes the church’s history of “generosity and radical inclusion in response to the call of the Spirit.” That continued in 2021 when Quest became “fully affirming of our LGBTQIA+ siblings (in theology and practice),” she said.

The ECC, which does not include a view on human sexuality among its essential doctrines, according to a report by Christianity Today, has asked its ministers to refrain from participating in same-sex weddings since 2015.

In October 2022, the Covenant executive board voted to remove Quest from its roster of churches after one of its pastors participated in a same-sex wedding, the report said. Delegates to the denomination’s annual meeting were set to vote whether to formally expel the church from the denomination during this summer’s meeting, it added.

The meeting, called Gather 2023, is scheduled for June 28-July 1 in Garden Grove, Calif.. Quest’s removal did not appear on its agenda June 5, although Awaken’s does.

In 2019, the ECC removed Minneapolis’ historic First Covenant Church and its pastor, the Rev. Dan Collison, from its roster after the church said it would treat its LGBTQ members as equals, allow married gay clergy and be open to officiating same-sex marriages. It was the first time the denomination had voted to remove a congregation from its roster over its position on LGBTQ inclusion.

©  2023 Religion News Service

CRCNA Synod to Revisit 2022 Decisions on Human Sexuality

Discipline for a member congregation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America which was determined at the denomination’s 2022 general assembly to be “outside the bounds of past synodical decisions, procedures, and guidance as well as the CRCNA’s interpretation of Scripture as it relates to same-sex marriage” will be considered as part of the agenda for Synod 2023. Neland Avenue CRC is appealing the disciplinary action called for last year; several other congregations and classes of the CRCNA are asking for it to be upheld. Likewise several formal requests to synod ask for a repealing of the 2022 decision to call the interpretation that unchastity includes homosexual sex “confessional.” (See Guide to the Agenda and Supplement for Synod 2023.) The CRCNA synod meets June 9-15 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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