Finding a Ministry Position, Part 5: An Interview with Craig Janney

For those of you searching for a ministry position, you need to know Craig Janney, the new congregational reference and referral specialist at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Get to know Craig–and learn more about his work! Read this recent Baptist Women in Ministry “interview” with Craig.

Craig, tell us a bit about yourself–your education, calling, and ministry experience. 

I hold degrees from Chowan University (a B.A. in religion) and Gardner-Webb University (an M.Div. in pastoral studies). I was called to ministry in 1997 while attending Vinton Baptist Church as a youth and was ordained in 2009 by the First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, North Carolina. During my time in divinity school, I served as a youth and music minister at a church plant in Polkville, North Carolina. The fluidity of my calling also extended to my undergraduate alma mater, where I served after seminary as an associate campus minister, instructor in religion, athletic chaplain, and “admissionary” (read: Admissions as an extension of my calling). From 2010 to 2015, I served as the bi-vocational pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Seaboard, North Carolina.

You began work with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in April. Tell us about your new role and your contribution to CBF life.

My job is to connect churches with individuals seeking ministry positions throughout the Fellowship and to equip search committees with resources for filling their church staff positions. Recruiting and retaining churches and clergy to CBF is my job. Every church searches for ministers differently; tailoring my work to each congregation is refreshing and rewarding.

For those who aren’t familiar with LeaderConnect, could you tell us how it works?

CBF’s reference and referral ministry uses a proprietary virtual relationship matching database called LeaderConnect. Churches and candidates fill out profiles. While search committees post open ministry positions, candidates upload a resume and occasionally a general “Dear Search Committee” cover letter.

After a search committee has posted an opening, I review their profile, ask any questions to clarify the position, activate their profile, and run a matching query (using on fourteen criteria). Once the match is run, I will send the church targeted resumes for their ministry opening based on ministers’ experience, preference, compensation, geography, and philosophy. Typically, churches receive between five and sixty resumes depending on how many they would like and how far along they are in the search process.

What are other resources do you personally or CBF as a “denomi-network” provide for ministers looking for a position?

Many people are sympathetic to churches actively involved in searching for a new minister and rightfully so. Discerning a ministry transition for clergy is equally taxing to her/his spiritual life and family. Keeping a balance of professionalism and anticipation for the unknown next often yields those dreaded “dark nights of the soul” as one pastor reminded me recently. One resource I provide is compassionate, pastoral care to ministers in transition. The sacred work of holding these stories confidentially is similarly vital to celebrating new places of ministry.

Beyond pastoral care, I take time each week to look over resumes and cover letters to make sure ministers are providing the right information to search committees in an attractive, user-friendly way. Coaching our clergy about how to interview over the phone, via Skype, and in person is another offering I provide.

Developing relationships is one of the great benefits of our denomi-network! LeaderConnect is a high-tech algorithmic database and CBF is a high-touch beloved community. Every minister and every church using reference and referral receives encouraging, prayerful, and intentional service.

What resources do you provide for churches and other “searching” organizations?

Our mission at CBF is to “serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.” Reference and referral is committed to assisting churches in their search for a leader who will serve the unique mission of a congregation.

Many search committees use our targeted match-making ministry to supplement their search efforts. A few churches enlist us to be their sole avenue for receiving resumes and profiles, which brings uniformity to their process and levels the playing field for the ministers–among Cooperative Baptists, this phenomenon is gaining traction.

Our website has a list of articles and resources search committees have found useful to frame their work. While these resources are by no means exhaustive or cookie-cutter, they do provide guidance for churches doing the hard work of defining, searching, vetting, and calling a new minister.

Candidates would do well to browse through these resources to help them understand what information search committees are using to inform their process.

What are some of your dreams about the future of CBF and how your work contributes to that future?

Along with the LeaderConnect system, which helps with leadership matching for churches and applicants, the vision for reference and referral is to create, provide and curate a wealth of resources for church search committees, recent graduates, individuals seeking church positions and those looking to employ all levels of church positions.

Ruth Perkins Lee, director of ministries at CBF, and I are going to be visioning this August for what the reference and referral ministry will become. Expanding Ministers on the Move at General Assembly, offering workshops around reference and referral to equip ministers and churches with best practices, and expanding our reach while maintaining bespoke attention are among our priorities.

What is the best advice you have given or received when it comes to the search process?

Getting a job is a job. Approaching the search process as your job requires an investment of your time. As one who has hired and has been hired, nearly every interview has the same skeletal questions:

Q: “What can you tell us about yourself?”

A: Write a paragraph–because you’ll have to write copy for your new employer’s website eventually–and commit it to memory. Practice it every day to make it natural.

Q: “What do you know about us?”

A: Describe the church/organization in fourteen seconds or less. Define their niche, reinforce their brand, and build excitement for the future. Some churches have a robust “About” section on their website; if not, ask a state coordinator, former professor, associational director, or city administrator how they would describe the church/organization.

Q: “Why should we hire you?”

A: Demonstrate your awareness of the key skills, expertise and experience required to do the job and give concrete examples (read: narratives) that prove you possess those skills. Bullet point the things that energize you about that particular job.

Q: “What questions do you have?”

A: Prepare three good questions that begin with the word “What . . . ” During your interview another question might arise; write it down, but always start your question with “What . . . ” to keep their answer open-ended. The more a search committee talks, the more you learn.

Change always makes people stressed; and stressed spelled backwards is desserts, so choose your flavor. Also, if you’re ever passing through the Atlanta metro region, or see me at General Assembly, let’s get together and talk over . . . you guessed it, desserts!

When I Am Called Out on My Privilege by Ashley Robinson

ashleyshorthairI can’t help but get squirmy and defensive when someone calls me out on my privilege. . .

because I have an overwhelming, embarrassing amount of pride (the bad kind).

because it’s so easy to confuse privilege with a lack of work ethic.

because I have struggled and sacrificed while grabbing – usually aimlessly – at my piece of the American dream.

because I have been taught for years that as a white, educated, middle class American at the top of the privileged pecking order that there is so much that I can give and so little that “they” can give me in return.

because most people, myself included, forget what it really means to be privileged.

because it’s so easy to be on your team but it’s hell to be in your shoes.

because I often think that I know what others need without stopping to truly listen.

because I refuse to admit that I have physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual needs.

And yet I know, like Jen Hatmaker said, that:

“We stand at the intersection of extreme privilege and extreme poverty, and we have a question to answer: Do I care?”

Yes. Yes I care. I care deeply. But I am afraid. Mostly I am afraid that by offering my hands and heart to service that I will have to admit that I am in need of something too. I am terrified of getting hurt – or worse – disappointed. I am stubborn and often unwilling to receive blessings and help from others. The ability to receive blessings – that’s the biggest thing that my privilege (and my pride) has taken away from me. I am constantly overwhelmed by just how tiny my little ripple seems in this vast pool of need.

But do you know what is more constant than my fear? That voice. The one that – without judgement or coercion or manipulation – whispers into the deepest part of my being. The voice that cuts through all of the screaming and protests and finger pointing and taps into the tiniest part of me – the part that still believes in something – and says, “This love never runs out. There is plenty to go around.” And then that pesky little voice waits, and without saying a word asks, “So what are you going to do?”

I don’t know. Most of the time I just don’t know.

But for now, I’ve decided to try to live through the fear with my hands wide open – ready to give and receive.

Ashley Robinson is the executive assistant at Baptist Women in Ministry. This post first appeared on her blog, Clothesline Confessional.

God Is (Still) Waiting for You by Eileen R. Campbell-Reed  

eileen cr 2014God is still waiting for Baptist churches to right the wrong of barring women from ordination and to embrace fully women’s pastoral leadership.

Tomorrow, Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina, will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first ordination of a woman in a Southern Baptist church. On August 9, 1964, Watts Street ordained Addie Davis to the gospel ministry. A recent graduate of Southeastern Seminary, Davis was ready to begin her first pastoral call at First Baptist Church, Readsboro, Vermont.

On Sunday of this week, the preacher at Watts Street is Dorisanne Cooper, the first woman called as pastor by the congregation earlier this summer. After half a century of ordaining women, Baptists have come a long way in welcoming women’s pastoral leadership, but the gender gap remains woefully large.

A new book of sermons by Baptist women, The World is Waiting for You, published in June, celebrates the fifty-year anniversary of Davis’s ordination. It includes two sermons by Davis and 25 sermons by winners of the “Addie Davis Awards” for preaching and pastoral leadership, granted to Baptist seminarians over the last 16 years.

In a 1988 sermon Davis issued a gospel call to action still needed on this day fifty years after her ordination: “If you dedicate yourself to following God and allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit, you will be amazed what you can do. What takes place in the church, what is done for missions, what is accomplished in our world, I believe, is up to us. The choices we make help determine the outcome. God is waiting for us.”

As a practical theologian who studies ministry, and pays special attention to the roles played and contributions made by women in the church, I think churches need first to recall the changes brought by women in ministry. Then I think churches need to ask themselves: Are we the ones God and the world are waiting for?

Half a Century

 A lot has happened in the five decades since the ink dried on Davis’s ordination certificate. She served out her career in American Baptist and ecumenical congregations, but she hardly set a trend. Baptist historian Leon McBeth, in his 1979 book Women in Baptist Life, lists fifty-eight women ordained between 1964 and 1978 by Southern Baptist churches, mostly after 1973. Between 1979 and 2000, Southern Baptists fractured into multiple groups over various biblical and theological differences, including a disagreement over women’s ordination. Despite the schism of the nation’s largest Protestant group, individual churches continued sending women to seminary, ordaining them for ministry, and calling them to serve as ministers and pastors.

In 1995 sociologist Sarah Frances Anders, who collected names and data about Southern Baptist women in ministry, estimated 1,130 Southern Baptist clergywomen. Groups formed out of the schism in the SBC, like the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, attracted churches, which support women in ministry, and the number of ordained women rose sharply through the 1990s and into the new century. In 2006, Pamela R. Durso and I estimated over 1,800 ordained Baptist women. Today a modest estimate sets that number at more than 2,200 women ordained by Baptist churches currently or formerly affiliated with the SBC.

In marking this anniversary of women’s ordination, it is clear that Baptists have made measurable changes in welcoming the gifts and graces of women. However, Baptist churches are still a long way from a full embrace. Women pastor five percent of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s 1,800 churches, less than 10 percent of the 5,200 American Baptist Churches, and nearly 30 percent of the 150 Alliance of Baptists churches.

Davis preached in her 1988 sermon: “There is much work God still needs us to do. Not everything that has been done that needs to be accomplished in order to right the wrongs in our churches and in ourselves.” God is still waiting for Baptist churches to right the wrong of barring women from ordination and to embrace fully women’s pastoral leadership.

Still Waiting

Women already make up more than half the membership of nearly all churches in America. They supply far more than half the volunteer labor force, which carries out the day-to-day ministries of those churches. In many moderate Baptist seminaries women make up between one third and one half of the student bodies, yet they remain less than 20 percent of the faculties. What would it be like to imagine half the paid leadership roles, half the pastors, half the ordinations each year, half the endorsed chaplains and counselors, half the seminary faculty and presidents, half the elected boards as women? Are you the one for whom God is waiting to make this vision a reality?

I hear this concern regularly: “But our church may not be ready for a woman pastor.” Over the years I’ve made a consistent response: I think churches are ready for women to be their pastors. But it takes someone in the congregation with the courage to lead, the willingness to take a risk, the vision to see God’s call. Is your congregation the one that God and world are waiting for?

On this day, Davis deserves the final word: “Remember you are unique; God has made no two of you alike. And remember this is your day. Now is your turn. The world waits to see what you will do, and God waits expectantly for you.”

Eileen Campbell-Reed is co-director of the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and newly appointed mentoring, coaching and internship coordinator for Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s create program for women in Nashville, Tennessee. This article was first posted by the Associated Baptist Press

A Tribute to Anne Thomas Neil by Nancy Sehested

Anne Thomas NeilIn this sanctuary fourteen years ago, when Anne was eighty years old, we affirmed the call that propelled her all of her days. We confirmed her life and ministry with a service of ordination. She never sought ordination. She never thought she needed it. She was right. She didn’t need it, but we did. We needed to rise up as one body and call her “Blessed.” We needed to be the church, to go public with our experience of knowing Anne, to bear witness to her life shimmering with the courage to speak, the power to love, and the imagination to dream. In a glorious moment we were united as the church of Jesus Christ, doing what we can do best…bless, bless one who blessed us.

It was a community of deep appreciation who gathered that day. We recognized that the Holy Stirrer-Upper of Hearts had ordained her call when she was a child. Certainly there was the life-long unfolding of what that call meant, as with anyone who keeps their ear close to the Divine Whisperer of Unfurling Revelation. Whether the call took her across the ocean to far-off Africa, or whether it took her to close-in places like this one, Anne never wavered or retired from her holy work of being pastor, teacher, mentor, and friend.

Anne’s life was luminous with what the Psalmist called the intersection of God-good life, where “steadfast love and faithfulness embraced, and righteousness and peace kissed.” (Psalm 85: 10) On her ordination day I called it the day of the Great Heart Opening. And so it is again. Our hearts are open to the full measure of our sadness for the loss of our beloved Anne. Our hearts are also stretched to their maximum capacity to speak our love and gratitude for the gift of such a breathtaking life. It is good to gather to be the church once again, to be the church who bears witness to a faithful life that challenged us, changed us, deepened us, and emboldened us.

There is really no easy explaining how a young girl from a Southern Baptist church in South Carolina got a fire lit in her for justice, love, and mercy. That fire flamed within her all her days. Her global understanding of the world began in that church, encouraged by missionaries and a community who prayed for people in every part of the world. Her sense of justice and fairness and “gospel-good-news-ness” took root from the rich soil of her family and church. Her sensitivities were heightened by living in a segregated South. Anne knew Jesus and followed him, the one whose mission was to bring good news to the poor, to offer release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. Jesus’ mission became Anne’s mission.

When Anne went to the mission field with her husband, life-long partner, and champion, Lloyd, she discovered within her “a terrible superiority complex” as a missionary. She was humbled by her experience. “I thank God that I was permitted to have my pride crushed. The African people became my teachers.”

Anne became one of the early proponents of the idea that people from under-developed countries should send us missionaries. She said, “There are religious conferences in our own country with the theme “Lift High the Cross” but then complain about lacking cushions for the church pews.”

Anne had a great love for the church and as with many great loves, it can be accompanied with disappointments.  She was an unwavering voice for the transformation of the soul of the church. She took us to the ancient story, the story of Christ crucified—and called us to be in solidarity and hope with the crucified people of the world, the ones she called “the harassed and helpless”.

After twenty-seven years on the mission field, Anne returned to the United States.  An ever-expanding call emerged. She became a relentless advocate for economic justice, social justice, ecological justice, and justice for women worldwide.

Our Divine Master of Disguise has a fun sense of humor to have chosen Anne for so many daring missions. She was disguised as the ultimate sacrificial missionary with grey hair, a high voice, and modest dress. In Southern Baptist life, who could be more revered?

She was camouflaged as tame and reasonable. But then she would stand regally in a pulpit and say something wild. When Anne called for equity in pay for women missionaries, the air was sucked out of the room, and her camouflage was revealed. She suffered ostracism and ridicule from the very same community that had embraced her.

Then she got mixed up with the rowdy bunch of Southern Baptist women in ministry. Oh, heck, she didn’t just get mixed up with us. She was our leader!

Anne was convinced that women could be God’s agents in bringing new life to the church. She steadfastly refused to be banished to the roped-off land of “women’s concerns.” Anne was heard to say, “If you are a woman, or if you love a woman, or if you are born of a woman—what concerns women is your concern.”

As the first president of the newly formed group called Southern Baptist Women in Ministry, Anne was a wise counselor to us as well as a fierce advocate. But I can tell you that she expected a lot of us. She called women in ministry to task for any sign of our acquiescing to religious institutions that would try to name us and define us. She warned us that our longing for affirmation from the church could entangle us in the snares of accommodation and appeasement—to our peril and the church’s loss.

She insisted that we never forget that our efforts for parity in the church was crucial, but not the end of the work.  With a position in leadership, the deep transformative work commenced. Anne wanted us to use our gifts, voice, positions, and authority to call the church to its true mission of living the radical love and justice of Christ for the damned of the earth.

Some days quite a few of us got tired. We were ready to give up any hope of equality for women in the church. Anne and several of us women found ourselves in meeting after meeting with men who were baffled by our insistence…good men, supportive men, clueless men. Sometimes we were called “shrill” or “strident.” But most of the time we were simply ignored and dismissed. Some would ask, “Don’t you women have anything else to talk about?” Sure we did. “If you’ll step aside, we can take it from here.”

I can remember one frustrating meeting in particular. Susan Lockwood said, “Come on, women, let’s go talk.” Lynda Weaver-Williams and I flanked Anne and headed to the women’s room. Over the restroom sinks, we did sink in despair.  “Anne, they are never going to get it. Let’s just forget about this mess. We’re tired of trying.”

Anne acknowledged that we had every good reason to move on. But then she said something close to this, “But wait. Don’t leave yet. Yes, it is hard, but this is how history changes. We have to go through this trouble. It is not going to be a smooth process. We are adding our voices to the new growth of a fig tree that looks barren right now. But God will do something with it. So, we must keep on….not because it will be perfect, but because this tree has our name on it. And it needs our voices to help it bear fruit for future generations. The church is already forever changed by our voices. There is no going back now. When are we going to understand what this is all about? This is about the gospel. The story has been forgotten. Faith is not a comfort station. It is a radical re-envisioning of our lives together. It is claiming our God-given power to use our gifts for gospel. It will take us through the cross before we ever know resurrection.”

Some of Anne’s best sermons were begun in passionate proclamations in women’s rooms. And those of us who heard her were saved again…saved from despair…saved for hope.

When I had another sinking spell, I wrote to Anne. I told her that I was ready to leave the church. Anne responded in a letter with these words: “I could never have been about the concerns to which I’ve given my life these past years had I not had the time, space, and opportunity to come home to my true self—to find the hope, the courage, and strength to live out of my own center. So we don’t need to fret about words and recognition. We just need to celebrate that in spite of many choking restrictions we have found enough space to lift our voices. That’s much more than I had ever had before. It is not enough, but the Spirit is moving, and life situations in and outside the church will never be the same again. I live by that hope with faith believing.” (Letter dated March 27, 1992)

Anne’s great heart opens to us still—with a love without end—and an encouragement to live fully by that moving Spirit, in and outside the church, to live by that hope with faith believing. Thanks be to God for our beloved Anne.


Nancy Hastings Sehested, one of the founding mothers of Baptist Women in Ministry along with Anne Thomas Neil, spoke these words of tribute during Anne’s memorial service on June 21, 2014, at Millbrook Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. 

(Note from Nancy: For these memories, I relied on my notes, letters, and published material that I kept in my “Anne” file over these years of our friendship. I also gleaned from the wonderful book co-authored with Anne and Karen L. Caldwell and Karen S. Moore. In 2007  Journey Without a Map: Words of Hope for Changing Times was published by Trafford Publishing. Karen and Karen have given us a sustaining gift of many of Anne’s articles, sermons, addresses and reflections. Included in the book is Anne’s story in her own words. This book is an enduring treasure for us all.)


Another Room in God’s House by Jane Hull

Jane Hull WatkinsvilleJane HullJane HullAfter more than forty years as a Baptist pastor, the well-known and beloved John Claypool left the Baptist world to become an Episcopal priest. When quizzed as to why he would do such a thing, he responded, “I am just moving to another room in God’s house.” While in no way equating myself with John Claypool, I now find myself in the same situation. In less than two weeks, I will become the pastor of Union Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Watkinsville, Georgia. Leaving behind sixty years of being a Baptist, I find myself “moving to another room in God’s house.”

A few Sundays ago I had the privilege of attending the Episcopal ordination of a dear friend, Mary Bea Sullivan. Mary’s husband is the son of a Baptist pastor, is a former Baptist pastor himself, and is now an Episcopal priest. Sitting two rows in front of me was another Baptist minister friend who, years ago sang an original song as hands were being laid on my husband during his service of ordination as a Baptist pastor. As the service progressed, familiar words that were sung at my own ordination by my Baptist minister daughter, Emily, were being sung by the congregation:

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

Why the history lesson? As I sat in the back of the sanctuary, the memories that were flooding over me helped me arrive at a clearer understanding of this ministry to which we are all called. It does not matter in which “room” we serve. What matters is that we listen to God’s call and follow that call wherever it may lead. Today I am thankful that my new experience is a “both/and” and not an “either/or.” Both my sixty years of Baptist heritage and ministry and my new calling to the Disciples of Christ are joining together. I am still a Baptist Woman in Ministry and a Disciples of Christ pastor. God is good!

Jane Hull will begin service as pastor of  Union Christian Church, Watkinsville, Georgia, on June 2, 2014. 

Closing the Gap by Eileen Campbell-Reed

 eileen cr 2014Despite progress, the gender gap among Baptist pastors remains persistent.


In recent weeks two prominent progressive Baptist churches moved to call well-known Baptist pastors. Notably in both calls the pastors are women. Riverside Church in New York City is set to call Amy Butler, and Watts Street Baptist, Durham, N.C., called Dorisanne Cooper.

Calling women to larger, more prominent congregations signals another shift in the 50-year history of women’s growth in pastoral leadership in the United States. Baptists have lagged behind the trend, yet Baptists are also slowly closing the gender gap.

Among the most significant changes to religion in America in the past 50 years is growing leadership of women as pastors, priests, rabbis, CEOs of religious nonprofits, theological educators and denominational heads. Fifty years ago virtually no women were pastors of congregations in America.

In 1964, Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained to ministry. Her ordination came from Watts Street church, where Cooper is set to begin as pastor this summer. Davis served most of her career among American Baptists, who ordained women earlier, but did not begin calling women as pastors in any substantial numbers until the 1960s. That trend is similar across other mainline churches. Today the number of female pastors in mainline denominations stands between 20 percent and 30 percent.

The impact of women’s religious leadership in America has not yet been sufficiently analyzed. Several studies are currently underway, including an ecumenical andlongitudinal study of ministry that is tracking 25 women (and 25 men) from seminary through first-call and beyond. To understand the impact of women’s leadership in American churches, however, a good first step is to understand more about the gender gaps and why they are so persistent.

Gender gap

A survey of women’s leadership, pay and advancement in business and the professions today reveals an ongoing “gender gap.” The gap remains significantly larger in religious leadership than other professions. Reasons for the gap are numerous and interlinked with other subtle and overt forms of discrimination based on race, class and sexuality. Digging into two persistent factors will help illuminate why closing the gap is so challenging.


The gender gap is fueled by what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg calls the “ambition gap” and results in lower pay and slower (or no) advancement for women. This ambition gap is not merely the lack of desire by women to accomplish, succeed or lead, however. The gap is also connected to the often-studied (and contested) social difference in likeability between successful men and successful women.

Several studies find that the more powerful and successful men are, the more they are liked. Conversely, the more powerful and successful women are, the more they are disliked. Successful women work against this bias in a variety of ways, building likability by building trust and showing genuine concern. Successful women also navigate the inevitable resistance to their leadership. Men face similar challenges, yet they are penalized less for their success. Often the likeability gap leads to fewer promotions or career advancements for women. In churches, this means moving to a second church assignment or moving from associate to senior pastor are steeper challenges for women than men.

Promise vs. accomplishment

Women are hired and promoted based on their accomplishments. Men are hired and promoted more often based on their promise or potential for accomplishment. An often-heard argument in pastor search processes: women are not “ready” (experienced enough) to be hired by big churches. Yet those same churches will hire a man in his early 30s with less experience because he shows promise of good leadership.

Women overcome large social and psychological barriers — jumping the likeability gap and the accomplishment gap — when they move successfully into leadership. In ministry settings the move is even more daunting because the gender gaps are more deeply entrenched. Gender bias is bolstered by scriptural interpretations, the long history of women’s roles as supporters (rather than leaders) and the inertia of institutions. Churches and religious institutions are designed to resist innovation, and women’s pastoral leadership remains an innovation in many churches, even progressive ones like Riverside and Watts Street.

Closing the gap

Many of the social and psychological barriers that create the gender gap remain hidden, unconscious or implicit. In other words, such barriers are not easy to see or correct. This point was driven home to me recently when I took a short quiz at Project Implicit, an ongoing Harvard study of hidden biases. Despite years of working on issues of women’s leadership in religion and my conscious belief in equality, I still came up “moderately associating” women with family and men with work. I demonstrated gender bias. The online test highlights how implicit bias rests outside our observable awareness by measuring in milliseconds how we react and make associations.

The only known pathway to change implicit gender bias is to see and experience more women in leadership, allowing visualization and normalization of women’s leadership as pastors. The power of visualizing and normalizing successful or effective women leaders challenges bias across all professions. Failing to see women’s work of ministry keeps the gender gaps in ambition, pay and advancement in place for churches. In other words, news coverage of stories like Cooper’s and Butler’s are essential for changing implicit gender bias in ministry.

Among moderate and progressive Baptists, Cooper and Butler, and others, are already leaders, widely-known and well-networked, preaching at Baptist meetings, blogging and serving in denominational roles. A growing ecology of networked connections is also key to advancing beyond a first pastoral call for women in Baptist life.

For nearly a decade Pam Durso and I have continued to track trends in women’s leadership in moderate and progressive Baptist circles. Durso’s list of pastors stands at 160, expanding more than 10-fold since 1986, when there were 14. Women currently pastor just over 5 percent of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregations, nearly 30 percent of Alliance of Baptist congregations, and almost 10 percent of American Baptist churches.

To be sure, Butler likes to tell a story of an early defining moment in her ministry when she was advised that she could either make her work about women’s advancement in the pastorate, or she could just do her work as pastor. She says, “I try not to be defined by my gender.” Although she prefers to defocus on concerns over women’s progress, she, Cooper and scores of others are the inheritors of women’s advocacy in the last five decades. They are also the leaders, who by their very presence, are closing the gender gap and changing the way we see the pastorate.

Eileen Campbell-Reed is co-director at Learning Pastoral Imagination. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

This article appeared originally as a commentary at the ABPnews/Herald.

Why Martha Matters to Me by Kristy Bay

Kristy BayIn preparation for leading a student disciple now weekend that dealt with how our faith sees us through the hard times, I sat down with some of my old journals for a little trip down memory lane. Yes, some of it made me cringe, some entries elicited giggles, and some entries stopped me in my tracks.  You see, it was in junior high when I first began to write about my calling “to be a pastor’s wife.” At the time, this was all the vocabulary I had to express God’s call on my life. It wasn’t until much, much later that I would begin to have the language and worldview necessary to see this for what it was: my earliest inklings of a call to vocational ministry.

In a twist of irony, I actually AM a pastor’s wife. But simultaneously, I am a pastor. Since my middle school ramblings about calling, I have grown up, gone to college and seminary, spread my ministerial wings, been ordained, and preach/teach at various ministry events. This past Sunday, I was given the honor of being the Martha Stearns Marshall preacher for my newest faith community, First Baptist Church of Middlesboro, Kentucky. A beautifully intentional faith community nestled into a crater in Appalachian Kentucky. The lectionary text for last Sunday was about the worst I could have picked . . . the Sermon on the Mount section about adultery, divorce, cutting off sinful appendages, and the fires of hell. Not exactly inspirational. That is, until I really dug into this text and realized that Jesus’ formula here was intended to paint a wide picture of what the realm of God could and should look like: a place where the bearers of said Kingdom are those of integrity, who honor their commitments, who value truth and compassion, and who seek reconciliation above retribution.

And yet, these are but a few of the passages of scripture that are still misinterpreted in our day. And they are not alone. Far too many Christians choose portions of scripture to interpret “literally” whilst creatively bending other passages. 1 Timothy and Titus come to mind as a few used to “keep women in their rightful place.” As someone who has felt the sting of exclusion based on literal interpretations, it was a breath of fresh air this week to grapple with these texts. Jesus came not to abolish “the law,” but to put into place the overarching law of love. And this is hard for those who love the law to deal with. But time and time again, Jesus valued the intent behind the law over the literal letter of it. And what was the intent? To bring about the realm of God in which all of God’s children are afforded love, justice, reconciliation, and a place to belong.

Martha Stearns Marshall matters to me because it is the legacy of some faithful disciples who decided to value the law of love over the historic love of the law. It matters to me because it widens the Kingdom of God to include all of God’s children. And it matters to me because time and time again, I have been blessed by congregations who choose to walk in that legacy . . . because they follow Christ’s legacy. Congregations who repeatedly open their hearts, their arms, their doors, their baptisteries, and even their pulpits and say, “Who is welcome here? YOU. All of you, because you are all children of God.”

Kristy Bay is a minister, pastor’s wife, writer, musician, and friend to teeangers. She and her husband, Zach, live in Middlesboro, Kentucky. 

DEAR ADDIE: Does It Fit?

PrintDear Addie,

My seminary life is coming to an end, and I’m starting to interview for ministry jobs.  What are clues to discovering the place where I need to be?  Will I “just know” whether or not it is a fit?

Almost, M.Div.


Dear Almost, M.Div.,

Congratulations! As you start this new chapter of ministry life, try to enjoy the interview process, not just endure it. Each interview is an opportunity to learn something new. Take a deep breath, and recognize this as a chance to talk with those around the table about why ministry matters. Share your vision, hopes and dreams, and ask for theirs. Learn what the needs are in their church and community. Think together about the gifts that best address those needs, and whether or not this particular position has your name on it. Ask God to help you discern what the conversation tells you as you choose your responses and hear theirs.

What may help most in the discernment process is asking about the needs that the church hopes your ministry would address and listening carefully to what they say.  As you listen, also pay attention to your own responses to what you hear.  Ask yourself:

* What gifts do I have to offer in these ministry situations?

* Could I imagine new ways to involve others in serving here? What do those look like?

* Do these needs baffle me, paralyze me, or make my ideas flow?

* Does the possibility of this work make me feel more alive, or exhausted?

* Do I picture Christ’s presence with me in new ways if I commit to this work?

* How would this ministry help me grow spiritually?

* Would this work involve leaps of faith to make me humble and dependent on Christ?

So many concerns can distract us in the discernment process:  how we like the town or the climate; restaurants where we would love to eat; search committees that are made up of potential best friends. If the committee sounds like a Chamber of Commerce trying to sell you  their location before you sense a call to the work, stay focused. Keep asking about purpose, needs, and gifts.

Whenever I consider a new ministry, I remember this quote from the author Madeleine L’Engle:  “The largest part of the job of the artist is to listen.  To listen to the work and go where it tells you to go. And that involves faith. Letting go of your own control and having faith in something you do not control.”

Ministry is an art that asks us to listen to the work and go where it tells us to go. Sometimes this call makes us uncomfortably aware of our deep desire to be part of God’s response to the world’s hurt. Sometimes our gifts seem made for this work.  Listen to the needs for ministry—and your reactions to those needs. If you focus on the work that is needed, you will have better clues about where you need to be. May you ask good questions, listen well, and recognize the place where your gifts fit the needs for which God made them.

Happy interviewing,



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Getting What You Want? by Tammy Abee Blom

Tammy Abee Blom preachingAs I prepared quesadillas, I was listening to a PGA game. The golfer who began the round as the clear leader missed several putts and now was falling far short of winning the game. As he prepared to putt the 18th hole, the commentator remarked, “Well, he got some experience today. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

I think all ministers can relate to this adage. Often we know exactly how and where we want to serve, but the opportunity doesn’t open up, so we find ourselves involved in ministries that we had not anticipated.

When I graduated seminary, I expected to be a full-time youth minister at a Baptist church. I went through the process of application. I interviewed and accepted a call from a church.  The role and church appeared to be just what I wanted. As I was packing boxes for the move, however, I received a call from the church’s search committee. The pastor had resigned unexpectedly, and the committee had decided to suspend my call. They thanked me for my time and wished me well, but I would not be serving as a full-time youth minister at that Baptist church.

I was without a job and housing, but I did have a church family: Bridgewater Baptist Church, where I had served in various roles while a seminary student. Once news got out about my loss, a Bridgewater member visited me to, in her words, “Just to hug you.” Neither of us knew my future, but she knew that I did not have to face it alone. Another family provided the upstairs of their house so I would have a place to live. Soon the church offered me a position working with the preschool children’s ministry. I was tasked with developing sensory motor children’s worship for ages birth through five years old. Along with the programming, I learned volumes about interacting with parents and recruiting volunteers. I had not planned to serve in children’s ministry, but in that role, I received loads of experience serving on a church staff and working with ministry teams.

As this new role unfolded for me, I was grateful for the support from my church family but I was also fighting the bitterness of not getting the ministry role that I had wanted. A friend and fellow minister, also a member of the Bridgewater family, invited me to lunch. While I shared openly and honestly about my hurts and disappointments, she listened. And then she said, “You are building cabinets. Jesus was a carpenter long before, and for longer, than he was doing his ministry. Jesus built cabinets, attended worship at the synagogue,and lived as a brother and son for many years. Building cabinets is not in lieu of doing ministry, it is what you do while you wait.”

Whether I consider myself “getting experience” or “building cabinets,” the concept of doing what I know to do–in the community that I am in at that time–gives me direction and peace.  At this stage in my life, I had not anticipated being the at-home parent and church volunteer. I expected to be serving a church or religious organization in a professional ministry role. Yet roles as worship leader, Sunday school teacher, blog writer, homework helper, classroom volunteer, and dishwasher are where I find myself. And since I remember building cabinets in the children’s ministry of Bridgewater Baptist as the foundation of so much of my subsequent ministries, I am content with my current role. I’ll keep building cabinets until the next part of my ministry reveals itself.

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.


Calling the Powers by Brittany Riddle

Brittany and the sculptureRecently, while taking a day of personal Sabbath and walking one of the greenways in Roanoke, Virginia, I came across a sculpture that is titled, “Calling the Powers.” It is part of a memorial sculpture garden in memory of Ann Davey Masters, who was the executive director of the Roanoke’s Clean Valley Council from 1996-2009.

In my imagination, the sculpture depicts a woman who, after reaching the top of a mountain, falls to her knees and reaches to the heavens in awe of her surroundings.  The sculpture captured my attention on many levels. I came across it on a beautiful day full of views of the mountains, sunshine, and a light breeze.  In those moments of peace and rest, I could imagine myself in that same posture, reaching up to the heavens, soaking up the sun and soaking up those moments of grace as time seemed to stand still.

I was also reminded of how I feel when I am doing what I’m called to do as a minister—arms open wide to God and the people around me in awe of the beauty of life and creation, knowing the joy of journeying alongside people in the ups and downs of life and faith, sensing the freedom of being present in the moment while resting in God’s grace, experiencing an openness to the possibilities that lie ahead.

I remember the days when I was exploring a call to ministry and was not able to take this posture.  I even remember when the “This Is What A Preacher Looks Like” t-shirts came out when I was in college. I bought one, knowing that I felt called to ministry, but not daring to wear a t-shirt that claimed this truth. It took me a couple of years before I would even put that shirt on in the comfort of my own home.  Those were days of uncertainty about my calling and insecurity that God could or would ever call ME to serve in full-time ministry. Even when I began serving in my first ministry position out of seminary almost two years ago, I remember struggling to use the title “minister” when I introduced myself to people.  I was sure God had called me into ministry, but I was unsure of myself and what I had to offer. Those were days when my posture was not one of reaching upward toward the heavens and outward toward other people, but instead my posture arched inward, toward myself. I still have those days sometimes. But I find that the daily routines of ministry help me to slowly chip away at those thoughts of insecurity, which enables me to reach up to God, living into God’s calling in my life, while extending open arms to those with whom I minister. It is not an exact science, but a constant challenge and exercise in grace and love, each and every day.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” This sculpture reminded me of this truth in my own journey. We open ourselves to vulnerability on a daily basis as we call on the power of God, step into the messiness of living in community, and remember that we are deeply connected to each other and to the One who created us. And embracing these vulnerabilities to experience love, belonging and joy and to live into our callings is worth every ounce of risk.

Brittany Riddle is minister to adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.