Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Courtney Stamey.
Courtney, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I did not grow up Baptist. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, I chose to be Baptist as an adult. After growing up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, and feeling a distinct call to vocational ministry, I floated around for a bit. By the time I began Divinity School, I had visited many denominations. There were some Baptist churches in that mix, including serving a brief stint as a summer youth and children’s minister at a small Baptist church in rural South Carolina. But, I decided to be Baptist for two reasons. First, I believed in Baptist founding principles. They were something that I could dig into and ground myself in. Principles like religious liberty, soul freedom, and the priesthood of all believers were things that resonated with who I was becoming as a Christian and as a minister. Second, I fell in love with a particular church. At First Baptist Church, High Point, North Carolina, I felt needed, welcomed, and loved. It was the place that would later identify, support, and bless my ministerial gifts. It was the place where I was ordained, in an interim nonetheless. I was ordained by the people, what’s more Baptist than that?

Upon the completion of my MDiv at Wake Forest University, I was unsure of the next step in my call. So, I intentionally took a year of discernment as I completed a CPE Residency in a hospital with a very active trauma service. It was not the quietest place for discernment, but it was a place that shaped and formed me into a more self-aware, more holistic, and more courageous minister. It was during this year that I felt more of a calling to congregational ministry. So I began my search process and I was informed of the opening for the Pastoral Residency at First Baptist Church of Greensboro in partnership with Peacehaven Community Farm. I was not sure how the “farm thing” would work. I knew nothing from farming aside from the 6’x3’ garden my family kept for a couple years. That little garden patch had since gone fallow and so had my green thumb, but the position made sense. Our world is growing continually divided, and our churches smaller in number. Yet, here was this position, a “bi-vocational” pastoral residency. This position realized that ministerial work does not exist solely in the church, and it recognized that collaboration with an existing church mission partner need not be only money or an annual event where the church goes. The position seemed to be aware of the current challenges of our world and the opportunities of our future.

Functionally, it plays itself out in this way. I spend two of my days at the farm working in a non-profit chaplain role. The majority of my time there is spent in an accompaniment role with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I also do things like group reflection with caregivers, one-on-one pastoral care, and sometimes even picking vegetables. Peacehaven Community Farm is just as much about growing relationships and an alternative worldview as it is about growing spinach and squash. Three days a week, I spend my time at the church. I participate in worship leadership, co-facilitate a young adult small group, visit the homebound, and work on a couple of projects that I have chosen (like a revamp of our Wednesday Night Activities). More than anything, at both places, I get to be creative. I get to try new things, stretch myself, and further discern my call.

This is what I hope I can have the courage to do when my two year residency is finished. I hope that no matter where I follow the call of that mysterious, and sometimes mischievous, Holy Spirit that I will be creative, try new things, stretch myself, and continue to discern the call.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
One of my greatest sources of joy in ministry are the one-on-one conversations. These may be with homebound members, patients in the hospital, or Core Members at the farm. I think that these are some of the most sacred of moments, when we sit in the presence of another and try our best to see the image of God in them. What makes it so joyful is that in those moments I really feel like a pastor and there have been moments in my life when that felt like something I could not be because of my gender. It is joyful because when I exercise my vocation in this way, I feel whole.

What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
What continues to be a challenge for me are unrealistic expectations. I place most of these expectations on myself. This was a challenge for me before I entered into ministry, but it feels even greater sometimes. Have I put in enough hours? Am I doing enough justice work to confront the systems of our world? Am I equally invested in both halves of my bi-vocational ministry? I think that the expectations feel greater because in ministry all sorts of folks place expectations and project their own images of what a minister could be or should be on their ministers. Communicating expectations with my supervisors and seeking from support from places like my BWIM Mentoring group have made this a more manageable challenge. Ultimately, what I am working on is offering myself the grace that God has already given me

Who has inspired you along the way in this ministry journey?
So many wonderful people have inspired me in ministry. First, my spouse Michael, who is my biggest support and advocate, day in and day out. Then there are my professors and mentors from Gardner-Webb University, Wake Forest University, and my growing community in the Triad of NC. Also, my peers, particularly the women who are following their call in ministry even when the road is particularly rocky and narrow.

However, the most influential person in my ministry journey in particular, and my life in general, was my maternal grandmother, Anne Bradford. She passed away last year, but her legacy and the lessons she taught me carry me through. She had the ability to stop you in your tracks with a one-liner. And these were not mere platitudes but deep wisdom from decades of walking with Jesus. No matter how well I knew her, she always seemed to surprise me. She was the one who led me to Christ, she was one of the first to completely affirm my call, she was the one who I would practice all my sermons on, and she was the one who challenged me to always follow Jesus. As I was considering my current position, it meant that my spouse and I would be at different churches for the first time, worshipping under different steeples on Sunday. So, I called my mother (who always puts it on speaker) and asked her opinion. My grandmother piped up in the background and said, “Tell Coco (her nickname for me), that I need to talk with her tomorrow.” I usually knew that kind of request came with an opinion that was different than my own, so I was nervous when I called the next day. But when we talked she simply said this, “Coco, keep following Jesus, he hasn’t steered you wrong yet.” When the way forward looks foggy or it seems like I have lost my way, I remember that line, “Coco, keep following Jesus, he hasn’t steered you wrong yet.”

Leading Women: Our First Day by Pam Durso

There are really no words for what happened yesterday in Knoxville as women gathered for worship, conversation, laughter, and beautiful music. What a day. From LEAD Talks by our favorite leading women: Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, and Suzii Paynter to a powerful service of praise and worship led by Ossie McKinney and Meredith Stone. There are no words . . . but there are lots of pictures. Selfies. We began our time by making new friends, celebrating old friends, and taking selfies! And we used the hashtag #leadingwomen2017. Among my favorite selfies from the day are these:

selfie DihanneSelfie JackieSelfie Robin SuziiSelfie Marjorie RachelSelfie Robin Ashton PamSelfie Tonya DixieSelfie Taryn and TambiSelfies


Leading Women . . . Today by Pam Durso

Today. Finally. After a year of dreaming and planning and preparing, Leading Women begins today. And I am ready! For those of you who weren’t able to make it to Knoxville, follow our gathering on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Facebook Live, or follow us on twitter and Facebook at #leadingwomen2017.

Among the leading women who will be with us in Knoxville are Raquel Contreras, Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, Carol McEntyre, Ossie McKinney, Suzii Paynter, and Meredith Stone. THIS IS WHAT LEADING WOMEN LOOK LIKE!

Raquel ContrerasKasey Jones 2Molly Marshall headshotCarol McEntyre headshotOssie McKinney higher res 1Suzii









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

Destructive Walls and Healthy Boundaries by Micah Pritchett

To draw attention to the ever-present and devastating reality of clergy sexual abuse and to provide resources for churches, lay members, and ministers, the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force formed jointly by Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will sponsor an ongoing blog series featuring informational articles, helpful sermons, and relevant materials.

The Resurrection and Pentecost are this divine explosion in our world that propels the early church outward breaking down wall after wall after wall. Acts is the story of the early church trying to race to keep up with this rush of the Spirit that is destroying every barrier and dividing wall of hostility.

The appointing of the first deacons is the breaking down of the wall between Palestinian Jews of the Jewish homeland and Hellenistic Jews from outside of the homeland who were more Greek in language and culture. Peter and John’s affirmation of Philip’s ministry in Samaria breaks down the wall between the Jews and the Samaritans, who were of mixed Jewish and Gentile descent. The conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch breaks down more walls of exclusion. Peter’s vision and encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius breaks down the wall between Jew and Gentile.

The early church is racing to keep up with this outward movement of the Spirit. In the midst of all of this, there is this one rather disturbing story.

A Christian couple, Ananias and Sapphira, follow the example of others in the church and sell a piece of property. They bring part of the proceeds to the church leaders, but they lie and say that it is the total value of the property.

They didn’t have to sell the property. No one forced them to. They didn’t have to give the total amount to the church. They could have given part of it to the church and said we want to keep the rest for ourselves right now. That would have been okay. But that’s not what they did.

They sold the property and brought part of the money, but lied about it and said it was all the money. They wanted the best of both worlds. They wanted acclaim and admiration for their generosity and self-sacrifice, along with the security of having a little money in the bank.

Their behavior threatened the well-being of the church. Instead of being filled with the Spirit of God, Peter says their hearts were filled with Satan. The early Christian community was built upon love and trust, and their actions were lies. Their actions were a threat to the health of the church.

Peter, as a leader of the church, didn’t ignore their behavior. He confronted them and publicly named their behavior. Then in a very dramatic way, they experienced the consequences of their actions. God struck them dead. Fear seized the whole church as it was clearly communicated that this type of behavior is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated. (How we make sense of God striking someone dead is a sermon for another day so try not to get hung up there).

The early church was an open community, but it still had boundaries that said certain behaviors are counter to our mission and who we are and those behaviors won’t be tolerated here. A healthy individual, a healthy organization, a healthy church has to have healthy boundaries.

Boundaries provide safety, structure, clarity of roles, and expectations. Boundaries clarify what behaviors are permitted and appropriate and what behaviors are not. In a church, healthy boundaries are about creating a safe environment for people to make themselves vulnerable and open themselves up to God and to one another. (reference not available)

Now we have to be very careful about the boundaries we create. Boundaries can become walls. We can find ourselves recreating the very walls Jesus sought to tear down. We live in a tension here. We want to tear down walls of division while maintaining appropriate healthy boundaries.

Duke Divinity School professor Dr. Richard Lischner wrote a wonderful autobiography of his first pastorate entitled Open Secrets. He was a newly minted Ph.D., but with no experience when he took a position as the pastor of a small Lutheran church in a rural farming community in New Cana, Illinois.

One day a twenty-year-old young woman showed up in his office for counseling. He was pretty sure her parents had strong-armed her to come in the hope that he could straighten her out. She was in full rebellion against something. She was trying to make some sense of her life but going about it in ways that would only bring her more pain and heartache. Her first act after turning eighteen was to legally change her name from Harriet to Heather. She was trying to find an identity of her own.

Now she was having a very public affair with a married man with three children. As the pastor, Lischner was supposed to make her come to her senses. But to her, he was just another authority figure trying to tell her how to run her life, and she was going to have none of it.

He asked, “What about his wife and children?” She professed not to care. “What about your parents?” She claimed to care even less. It was a painful conversation.

Until finally, with no premeditation or forethought, he said, “Well, as long as you continue to see a married man, I don’t think you should take communion.”

He meant it as a way to get through to her . . . to communicate to her the seriousness of what she was doing, to emphasize the harm her actions were causing to herself and everyone who was touched by them.

He wasn’t prepared for her response. The color drained out of her face. She physically recoiled and drew up into herself. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. She said several times, “It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.” Then she simply got up and left.
He had cut her off, banished her from full participation in her community and from the sacrament that nourished her even in the midst of her confusion and sin and pain.

In retrospect he wondered, what was it about her sin that led him to create a wall and bar her from the table? He thought about the man in his congregation who made racist comments and jokes every time he ran into him. He told the man he didn’t agree with him, but it never crossed his mind to bar him from the table.

Years later Lischner wrote:
Why not? Did his routine racism pollute the body of Christ any less than Heather’s adultery? Or does sex, especially when it is brandished by a defiant young woman, still rule in the Christian hierarchy of sins?

We have to be cautious about what sins we get up in arms about and what sins we accept and turn a blind eye to. Who gets labeled with a scarlet letter? And why? We can create walls that prevent a person from experiencing God’s love and grace, walls that exclude those who desperately need to experience the love of God and the love of a Christian community. Walls can be dangerous. We have to be careful. As a church, we want to be a place where walls come down and people can experience God’s love and grace. A place where people know they are accepted and loved just as they are.

But we also know there are those who would take advantage of our acceptance and trust and use it for their own selfish purposes to abuse and violate others. Without healthy boundaries, appropriate walls, we can become a place that fosters and allows evil to grow and take root.

The most obvious, well-known example is the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in which bishops and church leaders failed to enforce healthy boundaries and allowed the evil of sexual predators to find shelter and protection. They lacked appropriate walls to protect the innocent from exploitation and harm. But let’s not kid ourselves into pretending that sexual abuse is just a Catholic problem. There are survivor networks for every denomination.

The late Dr. Diana Garland was the dean of the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University. She did extensive research on clergy sexual abuse. Her work focused, not on pedophiles who abuse children, but on church leaders, whether they are a minister or staff person or deacon or Sunday School teacher, who misuse their position of trust and authority to exploit vulnerable adults to fulfill their own sexual desires. (

In her writing, Dr. Garland described how churches struggle to respond appropriately when sexual misconduct and abuse occurs. It’s not that anyone wants to protect a perpetrator. It’s just that confronting the abuse and dealing with the situation is hard and painful and messy. No one wants to believe a beloved church leader would betray trust and be an agent of harm instead of healing.

So we ignore warning signs. We overlook and ignore things that don’t feel quite right because we don’t want to risk embarrassing or angering or hurting someone. We want to be nice.

Because of a person’s position as a church leader, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We respect them. We trust them. We don’t want to believe it could happen here so when it does we struggle to respond.

Sadly when accusations are made, churches often turn on the victim. Too many times the focus turns to protecting the perpetrator and protecting the church. Certainly, due process should be afforded to anyone who is accused, but often the focus is on simply making it go away. It’s a natural human response.

Abuse is an unpleasant thing to think about, and dealing with it pulls us deeper into that unpleasantness, and so the desire is often simply to make it go away. No one wants to take responsibility for addressing the issue. No one wants to be the one asking the hard questions. No one wants to be the person who holds the perpetrator accountable. No one wants to be the “bad guy.”

It’s easier to blame the victim. What they wore. How they acted. Make them out to be the seducer and the church leader the victim of their temptation. Blame them for raising the issue. If they didn’t make a stink about it there would be no more problem. Why can’t they just keep quiet? Why can’t they just forgive and move on? The Christian concept of forgiveness becomes code for “shut-up and go away.”

For the church and church leaders, it’s easier to pretend it didn’t happen. To just move on. Out of sight and out of mind. But not for the victim. Often the church’s response ends up revictimizing the victim.

Judith Herman wrote in her book Trauma and Recovery,
“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

We must be willing to share the burden of pain with the victim. To take action. As a church, we are supposed to be a place of justice. Justice involves hearing and acknowledging the victim and taking their experience seriously. It involves responding with compassion and protecting the vulnerable. Proving them with support and the resources they need to move toward healing.

Justice involves due process for all involved. Investigating to find the truth, and then telling the truth. Acknowledging and not hiding what happened. We can maintain appropriate confidentially and privacy while being committed to not covering up or minimizing the harm that occurred.

Justice also involves accountability. The abuser is confronted and faces the consequences of their actions. They are removed from positions of authority that would allow them to abuse again and put others at risk. (Broken Trust: Confronting Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Baptist General Convention of Texas)

None of these things are easy to do. The process of ensuring justice is difficult and painful, but that does not excuse us from seeking to do justice when we are called upon to do it.

We call this place a sanctuary. A sacred place. A safe haven. It’s a place we gather to meet God. A place where we become vulnerable and open up our hearts and our lives. A place where we confess our sins and pour out our deepest sorrows. We laugh. We weep. We love and serve. Profound things happen in this place.

People need what happens here. We dare not erect walls that separate and divide. Walls that keep people away from God’s love and grace. We want to be a church that welcomes and invites people in. A church where people can experience grace and acceptance and love, and where lives can be changed.

But because of the power that this place holds in our lives and the vulnerability that we bring to it, we must have boundaries that ensure that this sanctuary remains a sanctuary. That it is always a safe and sacred place. That requires boundaries that protect the vulnerable. Boundaries that prevent destructive behaviors from occurring. And a commitment to ensuring justice when those boundaries are broken, even when it is hard.

There is a tension between healthy boundaries and destructive walls. I pray that God might give us the courage and wisdom we need as a church to live in that tension, and to do it well. That like the early church, we might be a sacred and a safe place. A place where all people can feel safe to open themselves up to experience the love and grace of God and be changed by it.

Micah J. Pritchett is pastor of North Broad Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia.


Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Anna Holladay.

Anna, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
Vocational ministry was never on my radar growing up, but not because I was lacking female ministerial role models (I realize now how exceptional my experience was). Every Sunday I saw women in robes and stoles leading in worship, but I simply never imagined myself as one of them. I felt the divine nudge to some sort of ministry late in college. It has been a slow and thoughtful journey from then on.

I was a youth ministry intern at my home church, Highland Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky, the summer after my junior year of college. This was my first taste of vocational ministry. I loved my experience but wasn’t convinced congregational ministry was right for me. After graduating from college, I served at CLUE Camp in New York City through Student.Go, CBF’s student missions program. After that summer, I immediately flew to Bucharest, Romania to live and work for three months at Project Ruth. I loved it so much that I went back for the next summer to run a day camp for the children at the Ruth School. During this time I began to sense a call to ministry. After rich missions experiences and a call I couldn’t quite place my finger on, I started Divinity School at Wake Forest University. The summer after my first year, I served again through Student.Go at a Children’s Home in India. All of these experiences set me on a path of community ministry, of witnessing to God’s work in the world, and being committed to personal and communal flourishing.

After graduating from Divinity School I moved to Chicago and served a year in the Episcopal Service Corps. I worked in a local Episcopal church, St. Mark’s, as their Community Engagement Director. It was there where I was allowed the space to really ask how God was calling me. Every day I was able to chip away at the barrier between the sacred and secular by working with organizations who were concerned with our community’s thriving, just like the church was. I was able to embody my belief that a life of faith propels one out into the world. I realized I loved being able to walk with church members as we navigated life and its big questions.

Could there be a full-time role for me in congregational ministry which allowed me to focus on collaborating with God in bringing God’s kingdom of kindness, acceptance, equality, and justice here on Earth? This was the question on my mind as I began searching for a full-time ministry position. Last year around this time, I was in conversation with Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, where I currently serve, for their position of Pastor of Missions and Communication. I was (and am) so glad that I found a place where I am able to live out what God has placed in me.

What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
A constant challenge in ministry has been living in the tension of “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be”. I believe wholeheartedly in the dream that God has for this world, (“the world as it should be”). We serve a God who created the world and saw that it was good; a God who has placed a spark of the divine in each of us; a God who proved that love is stronger than death. God dreams of a world where no one goes hungry, where everyone has safe shelter, and where all know their worth and are able to give and receive love.

At the same time, ministers must face the awful realities of the world we live in- a world that is too often dominated by manipulative and oppressive power instead of God’s liberating power. Authentic ministry means acknowledging “the world as it is”. We must be willing to see the personal prejudices and public policies that have shaped our world, and we must testify to where the Church has participated in injustice. It takes humility and courage to lean into this tension.

Another challenge is learning that self-care must be balanced with self-sacrifice. The thread of self-sacrifice in our Christian tradition is an important one, but often times we are not aware of the dangers that it can pose. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency and productivity to the point where being overworked is glorified. Pair that with the call to deny yourself, and one can quickly conclude that having healthy work-life boundaries and taking care of yourself is selfish and lazy.

When self-sacrifice is exclusively lifted up as the right way to live, we end up thinking that our own lives do not hold any worth. If I recognize that others are beloved children of God while denying that to myself, I am not living fully. If I refuse to take a vacation because there is too much to be done I deny that rest, relaxation, and play are part of a holistic life. It is difficult to balance following Jesus, who rightly shows me a life of sacrificial love and the truth that self-care is necessary for a healthy, thriving life.

What are the best lessons about ministry you have learned that you would want to share with a teenage girl who is discerning a call to ministry?
Be authentic and don’t settle. God has created each of us with a call. You will be happiest and healthiest when you figure out what that call is, even if it’s just one step in the right direction toward your calling. Your true self, who God has created you to be, is already inside of you. Sometimes we must brush off all of the dirt our soul has collected throughout the years to really let it shine. Our soul tends to get muddled by societal expectations and well-meaning advice from others. Once you are convinced you know what God has called you to do, don’t settle for anything less. Perhaps you are called to a ministry role that hasn’t even been created yet. There were some who told me I would never find a church who would hire a full-time pastor of missions. While I appreciate a reality check, had I put that limit on myself I would not be where I am today.

Learn to take up the space you deserve. Yes, it is something you must learn to do because our society will not afford you that privilege as a woman. You will be told, directly or indirectly, to sit still and look pretty. That is when you must hear Jesus saying, “Get up and don’t be afraid”. And if you sit, let it be the kind of sitting that Mary did at the feet of Jesus, assuming the posture of a disciple. This radical type of sitting and listening to God will make it harder for the voices of doubt and fear to make it to your ears. As Frederick Buechner says, “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” Never forget you are a gift to this world. You do not have to shrink in order to make space for others. At God’s table, there is room for all.

Who has inspired you along the way in this ministry journey?
I learned from an early age that ministry was not confined to the church. My dad is an ordained Baptist minister and has directed a non-profit ministry his entire career. It was from him that I learned ministry is first and foremost about compassion, justice, and seeking the good of the other.

I strive to emulate Emily Hull McGee, my minister, mentor, and friend. She came to be the minister to young adults at Highland Baptist when I was in college. She inspired me to be authentic, to name my questions and doubts as well as my beliefs. Her ministry of fierce love and acceptance has been a guiding light for me as I make my own pathways in ministry.

I have also been inspired by the CBF Field Personnel that have guided me in missions: Ronnie Adams in NYC, Ralph and Tammy Stocks in Romania, and Eddie and Macarena Aldape in India. It was from them I saw that God cares for the whole of a person; their body, their mind, and their soul. It was from them I learned to see the face of God in everyone I met, no matter their race, sex, age, or nationality. I was able to experience firsthand the diversity of God’s creation, and that has been a defining part of my formation.

Lastly, although I’ve never met him, I’ve been deeply influenced by Parker Palmer, a Quaker author, activist, and overall marvelous human. The way he weaves together spirituality and social change to form an authentic faith has been a great gift to me. The deep wisdom he offers on vocation and discernment has given me the much needed freedom to look inside myself to hear the voice of God.

By What Authority Do I Preach: The Words of Nancy Sehested by Pam Durso

Three weeks ago, I sat at my desk, looking over my lecture notes. My Baptist History class at McAfee begins at 1:30, and it was THE day we were scheduled to discuss twentieth-century developments. That class day always includes watching a 1987 PBS video, featuring Bill Moyers. The video is titled “Battle for the Bible,” and it is an overview of the controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1980s. About half-way through the video, Moyers interviews Nancy Sehested, who in 1983 helped found Baptist Women in Ministry.

I have met Nancy several times, and we email occasionally. She is one of my heroes of the faith. As I scanned my class notes that morning, my Inbox chirped, and I looked up to see that an email had come in from Nancy. I responded and told Nancy that my students on that very day were reading the sermon she preached at the first BWIM worship service in 1983 and then they would hear would be hearing her words from 1987 interview with Moyers. And Nancy responded, “Spirit mischief!” I love that thought. The Spirit is at work–with joy!

Attached to  the email from Nancy were the remarks she had made in 1987 to the Shelby Count Baptist Association. Her words were powerful and need to be heard in 2017–thirty years later. Thanks, my friend, Nancy, for your prophetic voice, your courage in speaking truth, and your legacy of faithfulness! 

On October 19, 1987, the Shelby County Baptist Association held its annual meeting at Audobon Park Baptist Church. Some weeks earlier a group of pastors meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church had assigned the Credentials Committee to investigate the “doctrinal soundness” of Prescott Memorial Baptist Church for having called a female pastor, Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested. The Committee reported to the annual meeting that its investigation revealed that Prescott had been able to give both historical and Scriptural bases for its decision, and that in view of varying practices among member churches it would be unfair to single out one church for action. The messengers rejected the Committee’s report, and a motion was made to withdraw fellowship from Prescott for “irregularities that may threaten the fellowship of the Association.” The motion carried. While the motion was being debated, Rev. Sehested rose to speak, and a motion was made to cut off debate. After some confusion she was permitted to speak. She walked to the pulpit so she could face the audience, which was largely hostile, and made the following extemporaneous remarks:

I am Nancy Hastings Sehested, messenger from Prescott Memorial Church, pastor of Prescott Memorial Church, and servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am a full-blooded Southern Baptist. My mother is a Southern Baptist deacon. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister for 70 of his 93 years. My dad is a retired Southern Baptist minister for 50 years of ordained ministry. My four siblings were the creative ones in our family, choosing creative careers. But me? No. I decided to follow in my dad’s and granddad’s footsteps and become a pastor.

By what authority do I preach?  That question you ask of me. It is not a new question. It is a question that was asked of our Lord Jesus Christ on a number of occasions. He had not the authority of the religious establishment, not the authority of the state. By what authority did he minister? By the authority of none other than the Holy Spirit that moved in his midst. And so by what authority do I preach and bear witness to my faith? By the authority of the Southern Baptist Convention? By the authority of the Shelby County Baptist Association? By the authority of Prescott Memorial Baptist Church? No. No, my brothers and sister. By the authority of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, becoming a servant. And following in his footsteps, as a servant of Jesus Christ, who took the towel and basin of water and exemplified the kind of servanthood that each one of us is called to live under, I found a towel with my name on it. And each one of us has a towel with our name on it.

And who was it that taught me this wonderful freedom of the spirit? My Sunday School teachers. My pastor. My Southern Baptist church, who nurtured me and said, “God calls each one of us, so listen! Listen, Nancy!” And so I listened. They never said, “God calls each of you and with God everything is possible, remember, except to be able to stand behind a pulpit. Women can’t do that.” They never said that. They said, “With all things—God is able to do all things.” The winds of the Spirit blow where they will. And we do not know whither they come and whither they go. No, you’re right. It is not the autonomy of the local church that is under question here. It is not the autonomy of the Shelby County Baptist Association that is under question here. What is facing us is whether or not we will once again say that the freedom of the Holy Spirit is acting among us to call each one of us in whatever way we can to serve our Lord and witness to his light.

And while we are in this place debating about who can or cannot stand behind a piece of wood, there’s a world out there. And the cries of that world are growing louder. There’s a world that is desperately in need of all of us, a hurting world that is desperately needing each one of us to offer a word of healing and hope and the light that we carry within us. Are we going to say to that world that not all things are possible with God? Are we going to say to that world, “No, not all things are possible. A woman cannot preach!” But as you know, all things are possible with our God. And so, what will we do tonight? How will the world hear us tonight? Peter and John were questioned—by the religious people! They wondered, “How can uncommon and ‘irregular’ people like you preach and heal?” And what did they say? You’ll remember that what they said was, “Whether it is right in the sight of God, you must judge. But I cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge. For I cannot but speak of what I have seen and heard of a loving God, of a God who reaches out to each one of us, of a God who calls all kinds of “irregular” people like a murderer like Moses; to be a leader of people; and a persecutor like Paul, to be a leader of the early church; and women and men of all kinds of backgrounds: He transformed their hearts.

Are we going to say no to this incredible God who calls each of us? You’ll remember that Jesus was questioned about his Biblical interpretation—in his own home town by his people at his church, who wondered if he was reading Scripture right by his interpretation of Isaiah 61. And you’ll remember that they did not like his interpretation because he included people who they thought needed to be excluded. So I leave you with my testimony.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

because God has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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


Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Natasha Nedrick.

Natasha, who has inspired you along the way in this ministry journey?
When I first sensed my call to ministry in 2011, I thought I would serve in a university teaching seminary and religion students. My bachelor’s degree was in economics so I had no clue what my next step should be. I reached out to a minister at my home church who taught religion classes at a local college. He politely listened to me talk about my sense of calling and then proceeded to strongly urge me not to peruse Ph.D. studies because there were barely any full-time positions for the vast number of students that completed Ph.D.s. Practically speaking, I would likely end up with a low-paying adjunct job. I was completely discouraged but kept smiling to be polite.

As I walked away, I heard someone quietly calling my name. It was Rev. Cleve Tinsley who was the minister of Christian education. I walked in his office, and he told me to shut the door. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I overheard the conversation. Ignore everything he just said. If you feel called, nothing else matters.” Cleve was the first person to affirm my calling. He quickly pushed me to look into seminaries and introduced me to young ministers who were serving at our church. If he hadn’t called me into his office, it’s very likely I would still be working in corporate America.

Tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
Shortly after sensing my call to ministry, I spoke with my pastor, Ralph Douglas West Sr., to get some advice. The conversation was brief. He said, “I know you. You need to go to Truett.” I took his advice and moved to Waco, Texas. While in seminary I quickly joined Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church. The congregation was warm, the praise team was awesome, and Pastor C. J. Oliver was a great servant leader with a wealth of experiences. I knew I could learn from him. After a couple of short months, I was tasked with starting small groups. After successfully launching M.O.R.E Small Groups, I was promoted to director of Christian education. In 2016, Pastor Samuel J. Doyle licensed me to preach.

Simultaneously, I began working for the Family Abuse Center as a Community Educator with a focus on African American congregations. My proudest moment was organizing the Remembrance Day Service. Every year FAC remembered victims who died from domestic violence in McLennan County, but we never reached out to their families to tell them about the service. Thanks to online newspaper articles and Facebook, I reached a young lady who lost her mother earlier that year. She drove up from Houston, to attend a fifteen-minute service that honored her mother’s life. I’ve never seen anyone so grateful to know her mother wasn’t forgotten.

For the past five years, I have served on the board of EES Ministries, a ministry dedicated to addressing delicate and sensitive issues that women and families face. I have also had the opportunity to intern at two thriving mega-churches. The first at my home church, The Church Without Walls in Houston, where I served in the Christian education ministry. The second was the House of Hope Atlanta, where I created training processes for the minister of hope. After graduation, I served on the pastoral staff at One Fellowship United Methodist Church until I was offered my current position at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as the executive assistant / project specialist for Global Missions. I am very grateful to work in my first full-time ministry job in Global Missions where we cultivate Beloved Community, bear witness to Jesus and seek transformational development. After a much longer church discernment process than last time, I have recently become a member of Greenforest Community Baptist Church.

What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
By nature, I am a planner. I need order. I don’t go through life without a plan. However, I am not a preacher’s kid. There were no ministers in my family. The truth is that I had no clue how to navigate myself in ministry. I defaulted on the one thing my parents drilled in my head, “you need an education.” I started Truett a year after being called to ministry and the questions soon started. “Do you preach?” “No.” “Are you a dual Social Work student?” “No.” “Then why are you in here?” What I was thinking in my head, “Because I feel called to ministry.” However, I knew that wouldn’t shut people up so I always added, “I think I want to get a Ph.D. in New Testament and teach at a seminary, but I also want to work in the church vocationally.” It seemed no one in the church really understood my calling, and it didn’t help that it often felt like it was shifting.

By the time I left Truett, I knew I was a preacher and teacher who has a heart for people who are hurting, but I didn’t always know that. I think it might have been easier if God gave me a burning bush experience to explain the totality of my calling in one moment, but instead, my calling came and still comes piecemeal. The greatest challenge in ministry has been to accept this and ultimately accept that everybody doesn’t have to understand, agree or affirm God’s calling on my life.

What are things you wish you would have known at the beginning of your journey?
Don’t allow titles to define the totality of your ministry. After being in ministry a while I have met a lot of pastors and ministers who are simply burnt out and miserable. Work-life balance is hard enough in our culture, but especially hard in ministry. I have seen ministers who get so caught up in their day-to-day responsibilities that they lose sight of God while doing God’s work. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, especially being a single minister, so here’s my advice. Set boundaries. Schedule time to hang out with friends. Go to the doctor. Turn off your phone, watch your favorite TV show, and don’t you dare feel guilty about it. Your spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental health is important. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

Faith and Hope Triumphant by Pam Durso

Holy Week.

Remembering all the events that seem crammed and overflowing into that last week in Jesus’ life. Pondering the words he spoke, the conversations he had, his teaching in those last few days. Thinking about the conflicting emotions–anxiety mixed with confidence, fear mixed with courage, certainty mixed with doubt. Walking with him into familiar places and new situations. And then that slow journey to the cross. The slow journey to death.

Phillips-Brooks-718x1024I never want to rush past this week straight to Easter morning. Yet this morning as I was pondering the lessons I am learning during this Holy Week, I remembered my favorite Easter carol. We don’t talk much about Easter carols, but there is one I love, written by Phillips Brooks.

Brooks is best known for composing the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He is also known to have been a caring mentor, a faithful rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia and then Trinity Church in Boston, an extraordinarily gifted preacher, and a professor of ethics at Harvard. Perhaps his least known claim to fame is that he resides on a distant branch of my family tree. We both descend from the Phillips family, who sailed to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 aboard the Arbella.

Of all these accomplishments (not being my relative but the others), what I wish Brooks were known for is his Easter carol. The first verse is the best:


Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right.
Faith and Hope triumphant say,
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

These words have always spoken to me, but this year, even more so. Life is strong. Stronger than dark. Stronger than wrong. For indeed, Christ will rise!

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

Making a Healthy Congregation: Conversations about Clergy Sexual Abuse by David Pooler

To draw attention to the ever-present and devastating reality of clergy sexual abuse and to provide resources for churches, lay members, and ministers, the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force formed jointly by Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will sponsor an ongoing blog series featuring informational articles, helpful sermons, and relevant materials.

Churches and congregations have responsibility for people’s wellbeing including teaching spiritual principles, forming character, creating opportunities to serve others, and helping people contribute to the greater good. People involved in congregational life expect safety, nurturing, and freedom to grow and flourish in that environment. However, in the United States and around the world people in congregations are sexually abused by trusted leaders. And to be precise, 3 percent of women who regularly attend church in the U.S. reported being the object of a sexual advance by a church leader after the age of eighteen (Chavez & Garland, 2009).

Upon reading this, please do not think to yourself that it could never happen in your congregation because any church where this has happened or any survivor I have spoken with believed the same thing until it did happen. I have also learned that perpetrators of abuse can be gifted, knowledgeable, endearing, and highly effective leaders, making any detection ahead of time very difficult and the aftermath challenging to comprehend.

When church leaders abuse people it is devastating, but it is far more tragic when congregations have no idea what to do or how to support or help victims, or each other. And what I can tell you from my research, most churches do not know what to do and quickly get overwhelmed. Blaming people is the easiest way that people in congregations try to discharge the pain of the betrayal, but it is the least effective way forward and by its very nature cannot promote conversation, healing, or offer solutions. The reality is that clergy are fallible and can abuse congregants and talking openly and acknowledging the possibility is critically important.

I would like to offer some ways for churches to frame this issue so that they can work to prevent it and respond effectively when it happens. The conversation about preventing abuse can be nested in a larger discussion about healthy congregations, safe spaces, and flourishing. Being a part of a congregation should be life giving with dialogue focused on transformation, healing, and growth. But it should also be grounded in the reality of what is broken and untransformed and that all people, clergy and laity alike, can have problems that are not obvious at first glance. Christians need to work to be intentional, deliberate, and nuanced in describing what is healthy and what is not. Health must be juxtaposed against the lack of it; therefore churches need to know what constitutes abuse and call it abuse in order to create a healthy environment.

Clergy Sexual Abuse happens when a person with religious authority intentionally uses their role, position, and power to sexually harass, exploit, or engage in sexual activity with a person. This involves sexualizing conversations (including on the phone, through social media or email), asking for or transmitting unwanted sexual images, touching or hugging people who do not want to be touched, pushing for sexual involvement, creating pressure and hostility when boundaries are set, using sexual language and jokes, pressing or rubbing up against a person, or invading personal space. The sexual activity can include but is not limited to touching sexual organs (over or under clothing), kissing, oral sex, masturbation, intercourse, and rape. Clergy Sexual Abuse is primarily about the misuse of power by the perpetrator and the inability of the victim to provide consent because of that power differential. The person with more power is always the one responsible for both setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries with people.

Next, churches need to develop and refine a trauma sensitive lens through which they view victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and frame healing. When abuse occurs it will be damaging and hurtful, and there will primary and secondary victims (i.e. the person abused and members of the congregation who are most affected by it). Trauma occurs when an event overwhelms a person’s ability to cope and leaves them fearing annihilation or harm. The circumstances commonly include abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, and helplessness.

Early recovery from trauma should focus on safety and stabilization of the victim. The most effective way a congregation can facilitate this is through believing the victim and validating their experience by calling what happened abuse. An unbelieving and unsupportive first response will cause further trauma. Second, ensure that the survivor is kept within circles of support and not excluded from congregational life in any way. This includes clear honest communication and referral to other professionals when appropriate. Lastly, meet the survivor where they are; allowing them to grieve, protest, and be angry.

We are living in a time when our society needs a powerful witness of love, care, and transformation more than ever. One of the most tangible ways congregations can foster a powerful witness along these lines is to identify and train a point person(s) to whom members can go in crisis: an advocate. The advocate should be objective, trauma informed, knowledgeable about exploitation, abuse, interpersonal violence, and cognizant about clergy sexual abuse. This person should know church policies as well as community resources. Broken people are drawn to spaces and places that live and respond to life as it is, not as we wish it would be.

David Pooler is associate dean for academic affairs, Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland’s School of Social Work, Waco, Texas.


Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Christy Foldenauer.

Christy, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I began in ministry as a lay-leader years ago, serving primarily in the area of worship leadership. However, as time passed, I began to feel a call to teach—and then to preach. As I grew into this part of God’s call on my life, I also felt called to seminary. I had such a wonderful experience at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, where I began a degree with a pulpit supply ministry in mind. By the time I finished my MTS, it was clear that God was calling me to shepherd a specific flock as a pastor.

Phil Faig at Gayton Baptist Church was the first to extend me an opportunity to serve as vocational minister to adults. I joined Gayton as Discipleship Pastor in 2014, and served there for several years in this capacity. During that time, I began to sense a call to lead a church as a senior pastor, but I didn’t see the right opportunity as I explored openings in the area. Then, one day, as I was praying about what might be next, my phone rang! (Yes, it really is one of those stories!)

The call was from Tomahawk Baptist Church, and they were looking for a new senior pastor. My name had been given as someone they should consider. We began to talk, and by the second call, I remember thinking, “this is the place.” I felt a strong assurance that God was calling me to Tomahawk, and when they felt the same, I was overjoyed. I’ve been serving at Tomahawk since November of 2016, and I absolutely love the role of senior pastor.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My favorite part of ministering is what I call the “aha” moments—those moments when someone understands or sees something in a new way. Sometimes, “ahas” come while I am preaching, and I can see a face light up in recognition of a new idea. Sometimes, “ahas” come in private counseling sessions, where I am able to speak directly to a situation in someone’s life. Sometimes, “ahas” come when I am not around, and then I get the joy of hearing those stories. To me, this is what ministry is all about: helping others experience the joy of God’s Kingdom today, in the now.

What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
The first challenge was in finding the right place. I have never actually done that – the right places have found me. I believe that is God’s leading, and I am grateful for the way God has opened the right doors at the right times. Beth Moore once said something like this, “I never want to walk through a door I have to open for myself – it probably means I’m not ready for what is behind it.” Those words have really stayed with me. God has a way of bringing the right opportunities in the right time. I’m learning to trust God with each step of the journey – but that has been more difficult in some seasons, particularly where I felt underutilized in a role.

Now that I have this wonderful opportunity at Tomahawk, I’d say that leading change is never easy! I’m so grateful for several partners who will mentor me on a moment’s notice as I seek to faithfully lead Tomahawk to the place God is showing us. On my wall right now is a business model for ADKAR (a change management process I am working to employ), models for discipleship, and ideas about vision and necessary conditions as we seek to move forward into the next chapter here. This work is heavy! I take it home with me, because I’m all in here, and I want so much to see Tomahawk thrive. In this way, balance can be elusive. I’m focusing instead on rhythm – finding the ebb and flow of ministry life.

What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in ministry?
Be true to your call. God gifted you in specific ways – believe that God can accomplish His purposes through your life. Have tenacity about pursuing what God lays on your heart! Listen for God’s voice and strive to please Him alone.

I’d also encourage women to find mentors – both women AND men – who are ahead of them and who will be honest with them about opportunities and challenges along the way. In my own ministry, there are definitely women who speak truth into my life. I’ve also found invaluable support through three male pastors from different church contexts whom I trust and can turn to for advice and direction. Each of these men helped me in different ways between Tomahawk’s first phone call to ask me to consider this opportunity and the actual call to come to Tomahawk and serve. I am so grateful to have both men and women cheering me on in ministry. Identify these people early on, and make this a two-way partnership: there are things you uniquely understand and skills you bring that you can use to help a mentor.