Five Percent by Eileen Campbell-Reed


Five Percent

The number of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches currently pastored by women?

Five Percent.

Eighteen hundred churches. Ninety women.

You do the math.

This is good news. But somehow laying out the starkness of that figure . . . well, it doesn’t exactly add up to great news. Let’s explore the numbers a bit more. And then let’s explore the questions they raise.

The Numbers

To get a picture of where women are, I’ll give you four key sets of figures: seminarians, pastors, chaplains, pastoral candidates. I’ve written a much more comprehensive report for the Review & Expositor, which be published in Spring 2013. For now, the following figures will give you a snapshot.


Before ministry? Most often it’s seminary. When totaled up, women make up over 40% of the enrollment in master’s level programs in more than a dozen CBF-related seminaries and Baptist Houses of Study.  This figure is above the national average of schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada (ATS), where women made up 30% of the MDiv enrollment in the Fall of 2011. Total enrollment in CBF-related schools is down in the last seven years, as is the total number of U.S. students enrolled in seminary, but the percentage of women keeps growing for Baptists and overall in U.S. schools.[1]


Last month Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, gave us a count of women pastors and gave us something to celebrate! In August of 2012, her list included 150 women serving as pastors in the moderate-to-progressive constellation of Baptist churches. The number of women serving today has grown more than ten-fold since Addie Davis was ordained in 1964.

Women serving as pastors[2]

1984     14
1993     51
1997     85
2005   102
2006   117
2007   113
2010   135
2012   150

In late July, Paula Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, reported to me that the number of churches affiliating with the Alliance of Baptists is 139. Women are serving as senior pastor, solo pastor or co-pastor in 43 of those congregations.

That’s, 31%.

That’s great news!


The number of women endorsed for chaplaincy is growing. In fact every agency I surveyed this summer has had an increase in both the numbers and the percentages of women over the last seven years, since Pam Durso and I began surveying them for the State of Women in Baptist Life. The increases are as high as seven percentage points.

2012 Chaplaincy Statistics[3]

Group Total # Women Percentage
Alliance of Baptists 155 91 59%
American Baptist Churches (USA) 645 214 33%
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 658 229 35%
Southern Baptist Convention 3,567 362 10%
Baptist General Convention of Texas 727 152 21%

Also great news!

Pastoral Candidates

Last week Clarissa Strickland, reference and referral guru at CBF, held 85 active resumes for women in her files. More than a third of them (36) are looking for pastorates. But of course they are open to other positions as well. The others (49) are searching for a variety of church staff and ministry jobs.

A Few Questions

The numbers offer a quick snapshot of the landscape of Baptist women’s leadership in ministry. There are many important stories behind the numbers. For now, I’ll raise and respond to several questions prompted by the numbers.

1. Why is the change so painfully slow?

The first three decades after Addie Davis’ ordination (1964 to 1994) might be considered a time of innovation. Less than 2.5% of Southern Baptist churches adopted the new idea of women becoming pastoral leaders. When Baptist Women in Ministry began in 1983, theAlliance of Baptists formed in 1987 and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship got started in 1991, the new organizations were part of a major turning point for Baptists. From their beginnings, all three organizations affirmed women’s gifts for ministry and encouraged women’s ordination and place of service in churches and other ministries. Declarations of support, however, do not make social or theological change into reality. They are important – even essential – ingredients for changing the recipe for women’s full participation in the leadership of ministry.

In the last 15 years the change has accelerated. We are living in a time when early adopters are increasingly open to the change of fully accepting women’s leadership. The stories are multiplying and continue to make the rounds in Baptist news outlets and social media networks.

2. “How long will women pastors be news?”

Recently seminary student, Molly Brummett asked: “How long will women pastors be news?” She wrote about her frustration and disappointment with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship over the track record of calling women as pastors.

Baptist women being called as pastors still make the news several times each year. They are newsworthy, even after more than four decades of change in Baptist life. Women pastors in Baptist churches are still novelties. Even American Baptists who think of women ministers in a much more normative way, only count 485 women pastors among the 5,134 total in 2012. That’s 9.4% of the total number of pastors.[4]

Molly said, “more CBF churches ordain than call women.” She’s right. CBF sends its young women to college and seminary with a blessing. They even ordain them for ministry, but they are still moving slowly to extend a call to pastoral leadership.

One response to Molly’s question is that women being called as Baptist pastors will continue to make news until the idea gets past the innovators and through the early adopters. We’ll have to break the 16% mark and start reaching the early majority of churches. (This is where many mainline denominations are currently.) Somewhere in that time we might stop thinking of women entering Baptist pastorates as either novelties or worthy of headlines.[5]

3. What needs to happen to reach the ‘early majority’?

To move Baptists beyond the “early adopters” group of churches, and into the “early majority” is by the observation of many social scientists a matter of getting across a gap. Part of what makes the gap so hard to cross is that those in the “early majority” need structures of support and a sense of security to really adopt an innovation. Women’s entry into ministry is one of the single most dramatic changes to Christian ministry in two millennia. We are still in the first 50 years of change in a 2000 year history. Taking the long view, this is no simple shift to make. Growth in seminary enrollment, ordinations and service through other ministries are important to the structures of stability that a wider majority needs to risk the gap.

Many of you who read this post will be among the “early adopters.” You are the leaders who will inspire the “early majority” of churches to embrace the pastoral ministry of Baptist women. So let me speak to you as one leader to another . . . Here are some suggestions for making a case to those who are looking to you. Here’s how we might turn some really good news into some great news.

First, invite them to stop worrying about the laggards who will never join this movement. Expending energy trying to overcome their arguments or converting them to another way of thinking is not a good use of resources. They will exhaust your efforts, so don’t spend time and energy fighting with those who openly disagree.

Second, if you are going to expend some energy on leading the innovation of women’s pastoral leadership, then put it into countering the objections of those who say, “I have no problem with women in ministry, but our church is not ready.” How to counter this message?  With the good news: “We’ve taken the plunge and things are working out fine! Great in fact!” Or your personal story of seeing and receiving the ministry of a woman. Or try, “Look at all these churches where women’s pastoral leadership is underway. They may not be perfect, but neither are we, and neither is men’s pastoral leadership.” And you might even try this: “Yes, you are ready! You simply need to take a small risk and lead your congregation to give women’s pastoral leadership a try.” Invite them to start with Martha Stearns Marshall Preaching Month in February. Tell them about “Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy.”

Finally, share the numbers. For some in the (potential) early majority, they need to see the growth, read the news, and hear the stories of change and women’s leadership. They need to hear Molly Brummett’s question: “is there a place for me as a senior pastor within the future of Cooperative Baptist life?” Tell them about the five percent. Send them a link to this blog. Tell them about how the growth has come slowly over four decades. Tell them there is still time to join the early adopters group – we’ve got room for a few more!

And by all means, thank God for the good news of women’s pastoral leadership. Thank God we may live to see this good news turn into great news. Thank God we are part of this story!


[1] The enrollment numbers were collected in a Leadership Survey of Baptist schools, agencies and governing boards conducted by phone, email and web search by Eileen Campbell-Reed with assistance from Klem-Mari Cajigas Chimelis between July 1 and August 10, 2012 (hereafter, Campbell-Reed, Leadership Survey, 2012).

[2] While there has been no formal listing or registry for Baptist women as pastors, Sarah Frances Anders in the 1980s and 1990s and Pamela R. Durso from 2005 to present, have kept informal lists and published them regularly. See Campbell-Reed and Durso, State of Women in Baptist Life (SWBL), 2005; SWBL, 2006; SWBL, 2007; Pamela R. Durso and Amy Shorner-Johnson, SWBL, 2010. The 2012 numbers come from Pamela R. Durso, “Baptist Women in Ministry List of Women Pastors and Co-Pastors, 2012” unpublished list. Also see Bob Allen, “Historical Mo. church calls woman pastor,” Associated Baptist Press..

[3] Campbell-Reed, Leadership Survey, 2012. The number of women endorsed by the SBC rose from 195 in 2005 to 362 in 2012. Alliance-endorsed women rose from 46 in 2005 to 91 in 2012. CBF-endorsed women rose from 138 in 2005 to 229 in 2012. See also Campbell-Reed and Durso, SWBL, 2005.

[4] ABC-USA Professional Female Summary, August 7, 2012.

[5] There is not a one-to-one correlation of numbers between how many churches are open to calling women and how many actually employ them as pastors at a given point in time. Lip service to openness is not the same as taking the risk of innovation. And genuine openness will be to both men and women.

Eileen R. Campbell-Reed is co-director, Learning Pastoral Imagination Project, Nashville, Tennessee. Her blog is titled Keeper of the Fire.

Is it Mold? No, It Can’t be . . . Can it? by Aimee Day

I recently moved into a new apartment. In the first month of living there, I have not been feeling so great. I have been to the health clinic twice. I have tried antibiotics to no avail. I have popped every over-the-counter decongestant and have downed my weight in cough syrup. I have now placed my hope in antihistamines. We shall see in a few days if my symptoms have been caused all this time by an allergic reaction. If that is so, the question remains, “A reaction to what?” Given that the seasons are changing and that I have had fall allergies in the past, the idea that it could all simply be allergies is not far-fetched. The severity of my symptoms in the last few weeks, however, has been worse than ever before.

In the quest to find the cause, my fiancé started to question whether an evil, allergy-monster was lurking behind my walls. Mold? No, it can’t be. I just moved in, got unpacked, and am starting to feel settled. Mold means I may have to pack a suitcase and move out for a few weeks at best, or pack up everything and go through the moving process again in a new apartment, at worst. Mold? No, it can’t be . . . can it?

In our lives, do we have mold growing behind the walls we have built for ourselves? I started thinking about how often I ask this question about my own life and then, without much critical or prayerful thought, allow myself to be appeased with the answer, “No, it can’t be.” We all have sins and struggles that we tried to hide behind our “good” façade. As ministers, we are often held to an unattainable standard of living. And we sometimes feel (at least I know I sometimes feel) that if we do not live up to the standards that other people have placed on us then we have not only failed them, but we have failed to live up to our calling. So we say, “Sin? No, it can’t be.” But, maybe it is. And, maybe it’s okay.

The process of tearing down walls and cleaning out the unwanted invasion can be painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But, it is the only way to get rid of it. The good news is this . . . we are not failures!  It is ok to admit that our lives are not perfect. God already knows, and God is full of grace ready to be received!

So, could it be mold?  Maybe. But, if it is, it’s okay. I won’t have to get rid of it alone.

Aimee Day is executive assistant, Baptist Women in Ministry, and a second year student at McAfee School of Theology.

“Do It Again” Fatigue by Tammy Abee Bloom

As the Sunday school activity concluded, the children called, “Do it again!” Usually this request for a repeat makes me feel pleased the children enjoyed the activity. However, on this Sunday, I was worn out with the activity. During the week I had purchased materials, created a mock up to make sure it would work, and practiced giving the directions. Doing it again was not appealing to me. I had worked all week to get it done the first time!

“Do it again” is a constant call in our lives. My mom friends and I lament how the dishwasher and laundry machines are forever in states of load and unload. It is a constant cycle of “do it again.”  My minister friends and I confide that sermons are always in the state of written and to be written. Prayers for the local business lunches, Bible studies for Wednesday night, and newsletter articles are always coming full circle asking to be done again. Yes, dirty dishes and whirling dryers remind us that we have loved ones who we cherish. And unwritten sermons remind us we have congregations to serve. However, “doing it again” can become cumbersome and unappealing.

There are weeks when I don’t feel like doing it again. My creativity is tapped out by taking care of the details. My quiet time gets usurped by unquiet family and friends. I reach the point of not wanting to write another sermon or prepare another Sunday school lesson. I succumb to “do it again” fatigue.

Yet, I must prepare for Sunday and I have to wash the load of laundry with the favorite shirt in it. I have two coping skills when faced with “do it again” fatigue.  First, I find ways to do less. I forego the Sunday school activity requiring hours of preparation. I wash the glasses that must be washed before dinner. I read the scripture for my sermon and let it rattle around in my head while I ride my bike or make a quick grocery run. I release some of the must dos and do less. And second, I persevere. My favorite writer, Annie Lamott, says the secret to writing is “butt in chair.” Even if I am uninspired and do not want to think about next Sunday, I read the scripture for the sermon or Bible study on Monday. Procrastination heightens my lack of creativity and energy, so when I have “do it again” fatigue, I still get started on the task but give myself permission to do less.

Most days I love what I do. I enjoy the creativity of writing prayers and creating activities for children’s Sunday school. I feel honored God has chosen me to serve God’s people. Yet, there are weeks when doing it again elicits a cry of “No! Not again! I just did that.” When this happens, I remind myself to put one foot in front of the other and to lighten my load as much as I can.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

A Trip to the Doctor by Pam Durso

I have been sick now for an entire week. I thought it was a cold or maybe a reaction to the high ragweed count. My throat has been so sore. I cough and cough–and am now addicted to cough drops. My voice has been raspy and hoarse, and a few times I have had no voice at all.

Even when I was most miserable, I did not slow down. (I am one of those people who doesn’t “do” sick very well. I just keep going to meetings and working–hoping to push through the worst with only over-the-counter medication). But Sunday night I gave up pretense that this problem would go away on its own, and I decided I would go to the doctor. I got up Monday morning and headed to the walk-in clinic near my house.

I, of course, didn’t know the doctor, but he was thorough, asking lots of questions and checking my throat and ears.  He listened to my raspy voice and told me that I had a sinus infection and a very swollen throat, and he prescribed three medications and a nasal spray. And then he asked that dreaded question: So what do you do?

I never quite know how to explain my role as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry to total strangers. Explaining being Baptist is hard enough, but then I have to talk about women ministers, the work of networking and advocating, and the running of non-profit organization . . . and all that explaining just seemed too complicated. So I said, “I am a minister.” And I hoped he would just say, “Great. Here are your prescriptions. Go be well.”

But instead he said, “About twenty years ago I thought about being a preacher,” and he preceded to tell me stories about some really unpleasant experiences he had had in Nebraska churches where he did a preaching tour. I sat, smiling (I hope), trying hard to suppress my coughing.  And then he said, “Ministry can really be hard, and I imagine that women face even more challenges than I did.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door. His nurse had a question. When she left, the doctor turned back to me, held out both his hands, and said, “Let’s pray.” And so he prayed. He prayed for me, for my family, and for my work. He prayed for my return to good health. And then he prayed, “Jesus surely didn’t believe or treat women as if they were second-class citizens. Bless Pam’s work with women who are called to be ministers and provide them places of service. Bless their ministries.” The doctor pronounced his “Amen,” and then he opened the door and led me to the check out desk.

I walked out of the clinic stunned and a little teary eyed, realizing that I had just been blessed by a total stranger, a man who values the work that I do, a man who is not afraid to say a prayer with his patient. I am already feeling some better, but mostly I am feeling grateful for words of affirmation, which often come when I least expect them and perhaps when I am most in need of them.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Reflecting Her Story: Miriam by Nikki Finkelstein-Blair

“Reflecting Her Story” is a bi-weekly series of reflections on the stories of biblical women and the ways they model lives of character, boldness, faith and ministry for women today.


“Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’” (Exodus 15:20-21)

From girlhood, Miriam seems to have been attuned to the workings of Yahweh. She watched her mother shaping the watertight basket with papyrus and mud–learning by observation, as we all do, what it means to take care of another, what it means to trust the Lord, what it costs to love beyond hope.

She followed along the river’s way as the baby’s basket took its course, and she was ready with a confident word of help when the unprepared princess lifted the squalling Moses from the reeds.

But then, through the next fourteen chapters of Exodus, Miriam virtually disappears. She is apparently behind the scenes as Moses marries, encounters the I AM of the flaming shrubbery, joins up with Aaron to confront the Pharaoh, performs some signs and wonders, ushers in the plagues, gives the first Passover instructions, and leads the Hebrew people out of slavery.

Yet, it is hard to believe that Miriam was actually silent all that time. When she reappears in the scripture’s account–after the Israelites have escaped slavery and crossed into freedom, after the Egyptian army has been stopped in its watery tracks–Miriam isn’t just the eldest daughter or the big sister anymore. She is given a title: prophet. The little girl who watched over her baby brother’s aquatic journey is now grown up, now a herald of God’s work in the world, now a leader of the community of women, now a cantor lifting her voice in praise of the Most High.

Daughter. Sister. Guardian. Yes.

Silent partner? Perhaps.

But finally: Musician. Liturgist. Prophet.

Even in our times of silence, even when we sense that we’re waiting behind the scenes while all the “real” action goes on without us, we are being shaped to step up into place. Our story goes on (even if the chapters that are written don’t mention it), and even through the so-called silent times we grow up, and grow into prophets. We grow into pastors. We grow into leaders of praise to the One who sets us all free.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in San Antonio, Texas. She blogs at One Faithful Step and Ordinary Times.


Crooked is Okay by Tammy Abee Blom

I made a promise over the summer. I promised I would iron appliqués on the girls’ backpacks to celebrate the new school year. The girls and I shopped for the appliqués, and I stored them in the pockets of the backpacks and promptly forgot about them. Then I had sinus surgery and spent the week before the start of school recovering. On the day before school began, I pulled out the backpacks, and Audrey announced, “It’s time to put on those patches. I want to go first!” I was horrified. I was functioning on pain meds, and the world was blurry. But I had promised so I heated the iron. Soon I learned that holding my head down to focus on ironing the fabric caused drainage as well as searing pain. I looked up from the ironing board, and Audrey, my first grader, inquired, “Are you doing that right?” At that point, the task became a challenge, but I persevered until the butterfly and stars were ironed into place . . . crookedly.

I like my work to be done with attention to detail. The butterfly was listing to the side somewhat near the center of the pocket. I was annoyed with myself. I had spent all that energy and effort to iron appliqués on crookedly. I found myself brainstorming solutions for how to get that appliqué off and then sew it on, or to ask my husband to purchase another on his way home from work. Then I decided, crooked is okay. Audrey and Eve were pleased with their newly embellished bags so why was I obsessed about whether or not it was perfect?

I recalled a summer morning when I was sitting on the beach just in the edge of the surf. I was hypnotized by the rhythm of the water ebbing and flowing. My fingers were worrying some pebbles I had found in the sand. The pebbles were perfectly smooth. I thought, “I want to be like this pebble. I want some of my rough edges to be smoothed away. I want to be okay letting things be and not always striving to do more and be more.”

Recovering from sinus surgery rubbed off some of my rough edges. I learned I can’t always give my best effort to every task, and even more importantly, not every task necessitates my very best effort. To me, the appliqués had to be done with precision, but for my girls, it was just that Mom needed to keep her promise. As I continue to recover, I find myself slipping into that rough-edged person who reads every single word on all the back-to-school papers. I am trying to hang on to that person with the smoother edges. I want to relax into letting crooked be okay . . . at least sometimes.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.