Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Al Was Right

I myself am a little tired of the whole woman pastor debate, as it went on for awhile on my personal blog a few weeks ago.

I’m tired of it because debating rarely changes anybody’s mind and because I really . . . really . . . have more important things to do with my time.

But I do realize that I am one of the very few in a large group of Baptist women called by God who has somehow found her way to a pulpit. And it seems lately that I’ve been called on to speak up on this issue whether I really want to or not.

Just call me “Reluctant Activist”.

Two things circulated in my life this past week that brought the issue up again, so here I go again:

First, I chuckled about the recent reports of Southern Baptist criticism for CBF churches because they are not hiring enough women. You can’t win for losing, you know, but this time . . . this time, whether he means to be or not,
Al Mohler is right.

My, I never thought I’d say that.

Yes, while things are picking up for women pastors in Baptist life, it is still ridiculously difficult for talented, trained and called women to find pulpits. Much of this is social mores and just the fact that many folks have never seen a woman in the pulpit; this fact, however, does not excuse more moderate folks from working harder to open ministry opportunities to women, especially those who want to pastor.

Second, I have now staying in my basement a former intern whom I would consider to be an exceptionally talented young minister. She’s one of the good ones, you know, one of those who is really going to make an impact on Baptist life. She’s smart, articulate, driven, committed, faithful . . . all the things you’d want your pastor to be.

Having recently graduated from Duke Divinity School and determined to stick within Baptist life, it’s a sad but true statement that if she were a man she would have numerous opportunities to pastor. Numerous. But now she is still interviewing, hoping to relocate to the area in a ministry position that will allow her to use her considerable gifts and excellent education. (Read her funny blog entries: The Pastor Goes to Ann Taylor.)

As I watch her wait and struggle, this one who is exceptionally qualified and vastly talented, I remember the pain of wondering whether I'd ever get a chance, praying for clarity and hanging on for dear life to the conviction that God had some business with my life and would never let me rest until I started participating (I haven't yet told her that once you actually get a chance sometimes the expectations of 100%, every moment, overachieving excellence are a little bit . . . wearing. That's another entry . . .).

The women I admire, pastors to God's people, they are women who just want to be pastors, not activists. But somebody’s got to give us a chance to try our hands at the helm of ministry, carefully manicured though they may be. And just because Al Mohler said it, don’t dismiss it. Let’s show him that we practice what we preach, that we really believe God can call whomever God wants. Shall we?

As an act of faith I declare here the witness of three women I know to be exceptional pastors: Dorisanne Cooper, Julie Pennington-Russell and Amy Jacks Dean. Leave your links here in the comments as the beginning of a list we can compile together so that perhaps sooner rather than later we can declare with conviction, "Al was WRONG!"


Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Well, on the negative side, my wife, Rev. Kate Westmoreland-White, is an excellent minister who was removed during pregnancy leave so that a supposedly progressive church could go back to having a man preach! She hasn't been a pastor in 5 years and hasn't had a ministry position in 2.

On the positive end, I declare the following excellent women pastors: My pastor, Rev. Cindy Weber, of Jeff Street Baptist Community @ Liberty, Louisville, KY (Alliance of Baptists); Rev. April Baker & Rev. Dr. Amy Mears, co-pastors of Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville; Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested (first woman I heard preach, back in '86), currently co-pastor in a three-person pastoral team @ Circle of Mercy, Asheville, NC and also serving as chaplain to a prison; Rev. Laura Fregin, pastor of CityChurch in Dallas, TX, an Alliance of Baptists/American Baptist congregation.

Every male pastor who believes in women in ministry should invite women to preach every time he goes out of town and to lead revival meetings, etc.

8:25 AM  
Blogger A. Lin said...

I hope to make your list someday, Amy.

This past Sunday our pastor preached on how our church will ordain the ones called to ministry, both male and female. A couple walked out about 2/3rds the way through the sermon. They made sure to make a show of wiping the dust from their feet, too.

I had given my testimony about my call to ministry earlier in the service. If they had walked out then, I would have probably been quite shaken.

My testimony is on my blog if you are interested.

If I was single, I may ask to stay in your basement, too. As it is, I am incredibly blessed to have a husband with a job that can support the entire family (as I still search for a ministry position in this fourth year after divinity school).

3:52 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ok, honestly. What is stopping these women from planting a church? It could be argued that them going into an existing church would be the equivalent of putting new wine into old wine skins. So really, what is stopping them from advancing the Kingdom? We desperately need new church starts anyway. The church us loosing market share by the truckload. Maybe it's time for a new breed, and gender, of church planters out there.


11:43 PM  
Blogger Musings said...

While I respectfully acknowledge your opinion, I have to disagree with your thoughts here as I see your comments as sexist.

As I see the gospel, Jesus provided a whole new way of seeing the world when he called aside women as his ministry partners, appeared first to them at the tomb, and empowered their presence alongside him in a culture which traditionally belittled them. This new vision of women then flowed into the New Testament when we find Paul speaking of our oneness in Christ with no regard for gender.

In light of these important distinctions in the gospel, to say that women who don't have ministry jobs should start their own churches is one of the most insensitive things a male pastor like you could say. It lets you off the hook to take responsibility for the gospel work of supporting all of God's children called to ministry. It assumes that God in general has called the entirety of women to plant churches when this particular ministry job might be in fact your or your male colleagues’ calling.

Furthermore, your suggestion is like throwing bread crumbs to women from your table of a multitude of ministry of opportunities. Being a male means you are likely to be considered for almost any ministry job you want, while I’m not simply because my name is Elizabeth. Some of the best pastors I've known have been women who diverse every opportunity to sit in the positions of denominational and community leadership, so to say "Oh let the women be church planters" is like what was said in many Baptist churches in the 18th and 19th century: "Oh, we'll invite people of color to our churches, but only if they sit in the back and take a servant position to our white leadership."

My comments to you may seem harsh, but if the tide of support toward women is EVER going to really change in Baptist life we can not say "Let them be church planners."

8:08 AM  
Blogger A. Lin said...

I appreciate your comments, Elizabeth.

Make no mistake, women are planting churches (I am going to attend the first service of one such church this coming weekend). But women shouldn't be forced to plant churches if it is something they are not called to do. What is needed are churches that prayerfully seek out the best candidates for positions and are unafraid to call a woman to pastor if she is that candidate.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Chas said...

In responding to Amy's comments on the words of Al Moler. Just an observation from the last few years and the formation of the CBF. In the early days of the CBF women were ecsatic about the new freedom they and and spoke out and that was great. A couple of years ago I went to a CBF meeting in Tampa and found myself in group and noticed that there were a number of young women ministers in the group. It was so exciting to me to see that these women didn't feel that they had anything to prove. They were bright, knowledgable, committed, and faithful. It was great. Keep on keeping on. someday the church will learn what the Lord alreay knows that He calls each of us and gifts us to serve and we are not limited by man's prejudices.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Tim said...


You have no clue about me and what I do for women in ministry.

You have no idea, only assumptions about the "tone" of something written. It's is easy to play the "sexist" card. People do it all the time. Don't speak to me about fairness, or what people deserve. We all deserve Hell, period. Grace and Mercy are our answers to what we deserve and what is fair.

Again, to imply intention to me is grasping for a rope out of thin air to hang your criticism on.

Now, to clarify as to the "why" of what I wrote.

Churches all over western civilization are dieing. They haven't met any significant spiritual need within society for hundreds of years.

At the same time, it seems that one of the "best" ways to reach people is with new church plants. Why even waste your emotional energy over a system (institutional church) that is rotten/dieing at the core, when you can follow the Spirit into new uncharted territory?

Jesus didn't just clean the temple. He didn't just clear out the sellers and money changers. He spoke of the complete and utter uselessness of the temple system, itself. Why not go and start that fresh community of believers without all the crap that comes with institutions that are set in their ways?

What is the point? Promoting God's Kingdom, or making sure we all have comparable jobs?

Now Musings... If you are willing to know me, who I am, what I believe, and how I act out those beliefs in general - send me an email. I'll even give you conact info of ladies in my life that have a better understanding of my view/actions in accordance with those views/of women in ministry.

You will find that I'm not the enemy, nor as hard hearted. But, I refuse to be lumped in with catagories that don't even scratch the surface of who God has made me to be.


2:10 PM  
Blogger Jorge Zayasbazan said...

When I was at NOBTS, Ray Bakke spoke at a chapel service. He observed that most seminary graduates would not be able to get paying jobs (even if they were male). He said that the need was great but the money was lacking to plant the number of churches we needed to turn the decline of Christiany around.

I took up that challenge and became a bivocational church planter. That was part choice and part circumstance.

We need men and women to step up and use their gifts to plant more churches everywhere. I see seminary students and grads who cluster around the bigger churches rather than serve a needy congregation.

Everyone has to make their own choice but we can use a hand in the North Central Cooperative Baptist fellowship regardless of gender.

4:11 AM  
Blogger lifelonglearner said...

Way to go Jorge. I am right there with you!

10:47 AM  

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