The Conversation No One Wants to Keep Having

Today, the Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) came out with its annual report on the state of women in Baptist life at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting in Tampa.

In it, they reported that there have been some positive changes of women accepted into Baptist pastorates in the last year, yet the numbers are still staggering. While Baptist churches are willing to call women to second chair positions (not that there is anything wrong with associate positions as long as the woman is called to this job), few are still willing to accept women into solo pastorates or even co-pastor positions.

The recent study found that in 2010, there are only 135 women across the country who are leading Baptist churches. I feel blessed to be one of them and upset that it has to be such a big deal. There are so many sisters of mine who are willing, able and ready to be in positions like mine.

I’m not one who is normally on the “women in ministry train” because my thoughts are that when women work hard and just do a really good job at what they are called to do, the right doors will open themselves in due time. Our preaching and leadership abilities will speak for themselves. And, talking about the difficulty  just makes “us” seem bitter, and no one is served well by this.

But hearing this report today reminded me again, that the conversation of women in ministry is one that needs to continue to occur. There is much progress still to be made and many churches who have the power to make greater strides in letting there be no distance between what they believe and what they do. 

I look forward to the day when no young woman feels any discouragement toward entering ministry based solely on her gender.

I look forward to the day when young female seminarians aren’t told the only way they can be pastors is to “start their own churches.”

I look forward to the day when women in pastorates don’t serve churches in fear– believing that if this doesn’t work out, no other church will ever consider them– for there aren’t second chances for them.

I look forward to the day when organizations like BWIM don’t have to write annual reports about how amazing it is that a couple of more women got pastorates in the past year.

Though it is the ridiculous conversation that I can’t believe we are still having within the Baptist family of faith, I believe it is one that we MUST keep having if we want to be open to the voice of God in our pulpits– not just the male voice but the female voice of God too. This collective voice is what our ongoing becoming needs if it desires to speak a prophetic word to the faith seekers of today and tomorrow.

5 Comments to “The Conversation No One Wants to Keep Having”

  1. Great words. I share your vision for that day. We have moved forward but to slowly!

  2. I look forward to the day when young women seeking positions as pastor are hired before they lose their idealism and become bitter about the whole process.

  3. Very well said. I dream with you of the day when these discussions will be unnecessary, but we have a long way to go yet.

  4. Thank you, Elizabeth! I hope all of those things, too (as I think you know). I’m quickly realizing that I can’t stay in my own state, stay a Baptist AND be a pastor. We were thrilled to have 14 churches participate in Martha Stearns Marshall Month this year — up from 5 the year before. I mourn this regularly — and may be nearing the bitterness camp because I WANT to serve the Baptists — they are the group who have served me and formed me and introduced me to God. But there seems to be no place at the table… I’m so thankful that women like you have found a place and are helping more folks to see that a woman in ministry is just that — a woman ministering. Not a power trip. Not a tool of Satan. Not a lightning strike waiting to happen.

    I pray that in our lifetime this will all seem a nonissue. “Your kingdom come…”

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