Sign on now if you support women in ministry.
This week I’m taking a break from one important issue to address another. I’ve just returned from a meeting of the American Baptist Women in Ministry Advisory Team–a small, highly talented and inspired national denominational group with a passion for supporting women in ministry. If you’ve read my “writings” page (see link above), you know that gender discrimination in our churches is an important justice issue for me. The mission of American Baptist Churches Women in Ministry (ABWIM) is to educate on behalf of women in ministry, advocate for full recognition of women in ministerial leadership, cultivate and nurture women who are called to ministry and celebrate women’s gifts for ministry. Check out the ABWIM website for more great information about our organization and our work.
Some American Baptist churches have been supporting women’s ordination and full recognition for women’s leadership in our churches for many years. Others, not so much. While ABC-USA has been supportive of women for many years, I am sad to report that women comprise only about 10% of the pastors in ABC local churches.
Baptist tradition historically gives high importance to individual religious liberty and freedom (local autonomy) of the local churches. Many people don’t understand that because the most vocal of the baptist groups in the United States, the Southern Baptists, exercise more control over member’s beliefs and churches than is consistent with baptist tradition. If you’d like to learn more about American Baptists, the ABC-USA website has a good short history. So, as baptists, we who celebrate the freedom of individual belief must deal with the intolerance of women’s gifts in our churches not by command or coercion, but by education and compelling persuasion.
It is also sad that the basis for this discrimination against women is generated by how the bible is interpreted. I love the bible. It is my source of strength, renewal, faith, and hope. Without the biblical witness sharing who our God is and what God calls us to do, I don’t know how I would have come to love God so much. It hurts my heart to see so many being misled by a human interpretation of the biblical word that is inconsistent, in my viewpoint, to the great love that God and Jesus share with women.
Having grown up in a church that did not discriminate against women (African Methodist Episcopal), when I felt God’s call to ministry, I had no clue that any person would try to tell me that my call was not true. Before I was called, I had joined a baptist church that thankfully was supportive of women’s calls. So it took me a while to realize how deep was the prejudice against women, especially in the African American baptist churches. Because that prejudice is biblically based, I had to dig deep into my understanding of the bible to be able to respond to it. You’ll see some of that research in the article referred to on my “writings” page. The ABWIM website offers more information on biblical support for women’s leadership in our churches.
So, because you’re reading my blog I’m hoping that you support women in ministry. If you do, then what our team wants you to do is to sign on. We’ve created a letter of support on which we hope to get 10,000 signatures in support of women’s ministry. We’re doing this to encourage those who are unsure to seek further information. All you have to do is to click on this link, sign on, and tell somebody else to do the same.
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” Acts 2: 17.