Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM).. Advocating, Connecting, Networking Fri, 21 Jul 2017 20:26:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Judith Myers Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:00:54 +0000 Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Judith Myers.

Judith, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
It took me a really long time to claim my call story. I grew up in a different world than most clergy women. From a young age, I knew I was going to be a minister of some kind (it was only a little later that I narrowed that down to pastor). From a young age, my church fully supported and encouraged that call. I didn’t know what it meant to be told that I couldn’t do this ministry. I didn’t know what it felt like to be redirected or to think that God was a God that didn’t call women into holy spaces like a pulpit.

I’ve served with several churches in a variety of roles- lowly internships that taught me about lock-ins, camps, and VBS, residencies that formed my gifts in preaching and pastoral care, and now pastor with a community of faith that loves one another with everything they have. I’m grateful for each community that has walked with me on this journey of realizing, accepting, and appreciating this call. They each have a part in tilling and watering the soil that allowed me, the seed, to grow and flourish. Thanks be to God for churches that encourage these calls.

How are you learning to navigate your new role as a pastor? How do you stay sane and healthy?
The biggest transition so far is the preaching. My congregation is getting used to hearing me preach every week. I’m getting used to hearing me preach every week. Sundays come much more quickly these days and my congregation is full of grace-filled folks.

Speaking of grace, being a pastor is hard. But, I do the best I can and depend on the Spirit to lead me and my congregation to do what we’re called to. I’m a naturally anxious person, so I try to stay calm. I’ve learned well how to be a non-anxious presence. But when that doesn’t work, I practice grace. I practice letting go of things that I don’t need to control as a bi-vocational pastor. I practice Sabbath and giving my body and mind what it needs—usually space to be alone, which typically happens Sunday after church.

As far as staying healthy, I like to think that I run. I signed up for a half-marathon, mainly for the t-shirts and fleece blanket. Running is good for me—it helps me think less about my stuff and forces me to focus on my breathing, my heartbeat, the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and the sights. It’s very therapeutic. Then I go home and binge-watch Parks and Recreation. I channel my inner Leslie Knope daily.

What are your greatest joys in ministry?
I’m often reminded by all the holy grounds I get to stand on. I’m humbled by the people who choose to be vulnerable with me. Along with my love for serving with Emmanuel, I also work in hospice. I wear many hats in that job, but my favorite hat is the one that allows me to simply sit with the patients and their families. They talk, I listen. They talk about their life, their families, their vocations, their hobbies, their faith. I say a prayer and am reminded of the holy ground I’m privileged to stand on as they redefine their last phase of life.

My church has a few seasoned ministry folks. One was in chaplaincy for several years. Her stories are inspiring. She is also a Baptist and remembers the “big split” well. Every time I hear her stories as a fellow clergywoman, I’m reminded of the beauty and freedom that came out of some despair. Resurrection does certainly happen. And when you see it happening, you realize you’re standing on holy ground. My greatest joy in ministry is listening and being reminded that I’m constantly standing in those sacred and vulnerable spaces.

What is the best ministry advice you’ve been given?
Remain you. Through the ups and down of ministry, I’m reminded that God called ME, exactly as I am. I’m young, single, and female. I have some odds stacked against me when it comes to pastoral authority or trying to see over the pulpit (I’m also 5’2”). But, God called me. I recall the type of leader I am, my personality, my quirks, and strengths—take a deep breath, say a prayer, and step into this calling with an open heart, mind, and spirit.

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No Longer a Newbie: Reflections on Becoming a Mentor by Bianca Robinson Howard Thu, 20 Jul 2017 10:00:06 +0000 When I first heard about the mentoring program with Baptist Women in Ministry, I was excited to think I could be a part of a group and continue to grow as a minister. But when I was asked to lead a group, I felt hesitant and insecure.

I didn’t think this “young” minister had enough experience to be of help to other ministers. I considered myself new in the game compared to other seasoned women who had more experiences and more education. But as I talked to a person I consider a mentor, Pam Durso, she assured me that I had many attributes and experiences that could encourage someone else. She saw something in me I had yet to see in myself. I am glad I took that leap of faith to mentor through BWIM and I’m thankful for the foresight of another women in ministry who saw I could do it.

It has truly been a joy to come together with other women in ministry and share our experiences together by encouraging and learning from one another. Our group feels like family to me, and I have felt a great level of comfort with them from day one. The timing of our group coming together was truly God sent. It’s been a blessing to have others praying for and with one another during times of seasonal life changes—and there have been many life changes in our group in a short time we have been together. It was obvious to me that the groups formed by BWIM were put together with much prayer and consideration, because our mentoring group been a perfect match for us.

Through this year as a mentor, I have recognized I am not the newbie in ministry I perceived myself to be. Before I began mentoring, I didn’t recognize all that I had gained in ministry experiences or all the accomplishments and the wisdom I have received over the years being in ministry. It has been a great time of reflection for me about who I was as a minister and who I have become.

I have begun to see myself differently, more positively and more self-assured—something I have struggled with before. It wasn’t about me having all the answers as a mentor but putting a mirror in front of myself to see where I could grow and be stretched into the person I am meant to be.

As I reflect on my experiences and growth, I now recognize the real newbies coming behind me. There are woman watching me now, and I am not so new anymore. This cycle doesn’t stop here. It’s important to know and see that more woman are coming behind all of us. And as a woman who has been doing this for a while, or at least a little longer than a few, it is exciting to see the legacy of women in ministry continuing. I hear all those who led me and supported me in this journey saying, “it’s time to support and encourage those coming behind you.” In order for this great legacy of women in ministry to continue, mentoring is needed.

I am grateful and humbled to be a part of a legacy of women in ministry helping other women in ministry. I pray this cycle of mentoring will continue for the good of more strong, bright, and experienced female leaders in ministry.

Bianca Robinson Howard serves as associate minister and the full-time children and youth pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

Applications for 2018 Baptist Women in Ministry mentoring cohort will be available on August 1. For more information, visit the BWIM mentoring page.

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Dear Addie: A Question and a Confession by Pam Durso Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:39:10 +0000 The past few weeks I have talked with several recent seminary graduates who are searching for their first full-time ministry position. July has been a hard month for them. Graduation is now history, two months have passed, and the cloud of unemployment or underemployment hovers around them every day. Waiting is so hard. Rejection is painful. The roller coaster of emotions is unsettling. Talking about the feelings seems to help–and so in these conversations I mostly listen.

The one feeling that we as ministers are slow to confess even to ourselves during the search process is jealousy. We surely don’t want to confess that we are envious or resentful. That doesn’t sound very ministerial. But the truth is that jealousy is often our close companion–as we look for a new ministry position and sometimes even when we are not looking.

Back in March I preached at the Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina Convocation, and I told a story that struck a nerve with many of those present. It went like this:

When I became executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry eight years ago, one of the first things I did was to launch a blog. We started slow but over the years the BWIM blog has grown into a weekly enterprise with two or three posts each week.

A few years back we ran a series that we titled “Dear Addie.” People emailed us questions about finances, job searches, surviving deacon’s meetings, and we had several seasoned, wise women ministers who answered those questions—we called those wise women Addie . . . after a woman most beloved in BWIM circles, the first woman to be ordained to the gospel ministry by a Southern Baptist church: Addie Davis.

One of the questions we received was this:

Dear Addie,
In the last few months I have watched as women ministers that I know and that I love have been called by churches, and I am so happy for them. But I am also so jealous of them. I love my current ministry position and don’t want to leave it, but I keep thinking… “That could have been me. I could do that job. I am as qualified as they are.” I didn’t even put my name out for these church positions, and to be honest, I don’t really even want to have those positions, and yet I feel so jealous. I hate feeling this way! What should I do?
-Signed Green with Envy

A honest woman minister confessing her jealousy. Sound familiar? Well the question sounds very familiar to me, because . . . I wrote it! Yes, I wrote this question to Dear Addie. I was green with envy. A friend I knew and loved had been called as pastor of a church—and instead of rejoicing, I was resentful and angry and jealous.

Maybe the question sounds familiar to you as well. The truth is that we all struggle with jealousy at times, even ministers! But I think jealousy is especially problematic for Baptist women ministers. The pool of ministry positions open to women in Baptist life is still too small, and women all too often compete against other women for those few prized church opening. In so many ways we as Baptist women ministers are set up to resent each other, to be jealous—because our sisters are our chief competitors.

That day at the BWIM of North Carolina Convocation, I confessed my struggle with envy out loud to all those in the sanctuary. It was a freeing moment in many ways. But also left me feeling vulnerable and exposed. Near the end of my sermon I made another confession: I wrote that question to Dear Addie, and then I wrote Addie’s answer. (Yes, I occasionally was Addie).

Here is the advice I gave myself:

Dear GWE (Green with Envy),
Your honesty is refreshing. We Baptist women ministers too often do not admit, even to ourselves, that we are envious or that we struggle with anger, and even fewer of us will speak about those feelings. But I suspect that most every woman who serves in ministry has experienced such feelings. So what should we do with them?

Acknowledging the dilemma is a great place to start. Realize that we live in a competitive society. From childhood, we were taught that winning, achieving, and succeeding are valued. We learned and were often told that “beating out” others somehow made us better. Those lessons are not easily forgotten—even if we are now adults and are called to be ministers of the gospel who are expected to love everyone, to work for justice, and to treat all others with kindness.

Add to the already disturbing complexity of living in a competitive society is the reality that in our Baptist world positions available to women are more limited than they are for men. As women, we often compete against each other—sometimes against our closest friends—for the few spots that are available, and because of the smallness of our Baptist community, we generally know exactly which women are applying for the same positions for which we have applied. We know the names of the other women “on the short list.” Whether it is fair or not, whether it is healthy or not, we are pitted against each other to vie for those coveted places of service. While this reality is true for Baptist men as well, their opportunities tend to be wider and deeper than those of Baptist women.

So some practical advice:
Give voice to your feelings. Admitting to yourself and perhaps even confessing to a few close and trusted friends will help you begin to more readily recognize these feelings and be able to understand what is happening when jealousy creeps up unexpectedly on you.

Refocus your jealousy into positive thoughts and actions. Refocusing will help you slowly move away from those feelings. Remind yourself that you are HAPPY, that you are CELEBRATING with your women friends who have been called to new positions. Tell your friends and colleagues the news. Say it out loud, “I am so thrilled for her. She is a gifted minister, and this church will be blessed by her leadership.” Send her a note, an email, a text—expressing your support.

Cultivate habits that preempt jealousy. Become a strong supporter of your sisters in ministry by encouraging their work. Be proactive in sharing good news about their accomplishments, their successes. Offer to be a reference for those seeking a position. Write letters of gratitude for your women minister friends to their supervisors or congregations. Speak out on their behalf when you hear critical words or jealous words from others.

Finally, hold on to the truth that to be the body of Christ in all its fullness, we need each other. We need our sisters in ministry. They are a vital component of our journey, and jealousy robs us of healthy relationships with them.

Blessings on you in your journey!

Somewhere in the midst of confessing my jealousy to Addie and writing Addie’s advice to me, I found peace. My jealousy didn’t fade completely but telling Addie helped, and searching for practical ways to address my own resentment also helped. “They” say that confession is good for the soul. If that is true, my soul is good for a while.

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

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Lightning McQueen, Homework Assignments, and Crying in the Dark by Pam Durso Wed, 12 Jul 2017 04:10:27 +0000 In the twelve years, I have been friends with LeAnn Gunter Johns, she has encouraged, advised, and nudged me a good bit. But this past month is the first time that she has ever given me a homework assignment. It went something like this:

 Text conversation, Saturday, June 17

From LeAnn to Pam

Cars 3 should be required viewing for ministers, especially BWIM folks. Go see it. I’m not kidding.”

From Pam to LeAnn

“Alex won’t go see it with me. She wants to know why you think I should go. She saw the preview. She also wants to know if you think I am being phased out by younger, hipper women.”

From LeAnn to Pam

“Haha! It’s about believing in yourself, mentors, confidence.”

From Pam to LeAnn

“I may need to borrow Parker and Patrick from you so I can go!”

From LeAnn to Pam

“They would go again.”

Phone conversation, Monday, July 3

LeAnn to Pam

“You HAVE to go see Cars 3, and you HAVE one week to complete this homework assignment.”

Text conversation, Sunday, July 9

From Pam to LeAnn with a photo of the Cars 3 movie poster

“Following directions”


Spoiler alert: Some details of the movie are included in the following paragraphs so if you plan to see Cars 3 but haven’t yet, you might want to skip this blog.

A few things you might need to know to understand the conversations above. Alex is my twenty-year-old daughter, who likes most Disney movies. She, however, had a limited appreciation of the first two Cars movies, and she flat-out refused to go see this new one with me. My friend, LeAnn, has two sons: Parker is six, and Patrick will soon be four. They LOVE the Cars movies and have watched Cars and Cars 2 dozens and dozens of times. I would have loved to see the movie with them, but they live ninety miles away, and their mother gave me a tight deadline. So last Sunday afternoon I went alone to the movie theater, sat in the dark with eight other people (half of whom were under the age of ten), and completed my homework assignment.

Then the movie reviewing began—a new and very detailed text conversation ensued with LeAnn about Lightning McQueen, car racing, ministry, mentors, legacy, and calling. I promise not to give away too many of the movie’s details, but LeAnn is right. It is a movie that BWIM folks should see, but it had a different effect on me than she thought it would.

So here goes:  the premise of the movie is that the famous and successful race car, Lightning McQueen, enters a new racing season with high hopes only to be beaten repeatedly by a rookie car named Jackson Storm. By the end of the season, Lightning’s fellow veteran friends begin retiring. Some are fired by their sponsors. They can’t keep up with the faster and technologically-improved newer generation of cars, but Lightning isn’t ready to retire. He wants to decide his own fate, so he trains hard over the off-season, working with a new coach, Cruz Ramirez. Cruz is a young dreamer, who has long wanted to be a racer, but she never thought she was good enough or fast enough, and she finally blurts out to Lightning, “No one ever told me I could.”

The rest of the movie introduces stories told about Lightning’s mentor, Doc, stories told by Doc’s friends. Beautiful, funny stories of days gone by. Stories of encouragement and support—stories highlighting the depth and richness of giving one’s self, sharing one’s wisdom and gifts with the next generation. By the end of the movie, Lightning realizes that he has much happiness ahead and great fulfillment—not as a racer but as a mentor.

This part of the movie is when LeAnn cried . . . she cried because she knows the stories. She remembers. LeAnn has been part of the BWIM family since her days in seminary. She joined the BWIM Leadership Team when she was in her mid-twenties, fresh out of seminary. She sat with early BWIM leaders. She listened to their stories. She learned about the value of mentoring the next generation, and she herself benefited from and had opportunities because many of those women mentored her.

But I didn’t cry during this part of the movie. Like LeAnn, I value the role of mentors in the BWIM world. I love hearing the stories of early founders, who gave life to this movement and nudged BWIM into being. But I didn’t cry.

I was too numb. I all but stopped paying close attention to the movie dialogue the minute that Cruz said, “No one ever told me I could.”

“No one ever told me I could.” That is my story. “No one ever told me I could.” Growing up I had this dream, one I was never brave enough to say out loud, one I couldn’t even confess to myself. I felt called to be a pastor. I was twelve-years-old when I first felt called, and I spent my teenage years struggling to understand that calling. Deep in my heart, I knew that someday I wanted to preach, to pastor, to minister in a church. But “no one ever told me I could.” In fact, a good number of people told me I couldn’t.

Because I am stubborn and resourceful, I found other more “acceptable” Baptist ways to serve. I concluded that teaching would be my ministry, so off to graduate school I went. I finished my Ph.D. in 1992, and crossed my fingers, hoping that someday I would find a college or seminary that would hire me. That is a long story for another day, but in 1999, I finally made my way to the classroom and began teaching. Yet buried deep within me was still this hope to pastor, a hope that I continued to be reluctant to speak out loud.

In 2005, I joined the BWIM Leadership Team, and that same year, I began work with Eileen Campbell-Reed on the first State of Women in Baptist Life report. In that report, we shared some history of Baptist women called to ministry, and we presented the numbers—the number of women ordained, the number women serving as pastors, the number of women students in seminaries. We shared and reviewed all the statistics we could gather. The next year, Eileen and I produced another report and updated all our numbers. We presented the new report during a workshop at the 2007 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly held in Washington, D.C.

At some point during that General Assembly, Baptist Women in Ministry hosted a reception. Eileen and I attended. We stood near the back of the room, chatting with a few other women. I have a clear memory of that day. I remember drinking syrupy punch, and I remember saying my truth out loud—“I feel called to be a pastor. I have always felt called to pastor.” And then, not knowing what my future would hold, I said, “I haven’t been able to live out that calling, and I doubt I ever will. But I have decided to do everything in my power to ensure that the next generation of called and gifted Baptist women will have the support and encouragement they need. I am going to give my life to this work–so that there will be more open doors, more opportunities for Baptist women to pastor.”

Two years later, almost to the day, I began my tenure as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry. My commitment to mentoring—and to working for change in our Baptist world has been a ten-year journey, one that has brought much fulfillment and deep joy.

But much, much longer has been my journey with “No one ever told me I could.” For over forty years, I have lived “No one ever told me I could.”

So, LeAnn, my friend, sitting in that dark movie theater on Sunday, I didn’t see myself in Lightning McQueen. I was not moved to tears by the memories of those older race cars, telling stories about the gift of mentoring. On Sunday, I was Cruz. I was that young woman who desperately wanted to race but didn’t believe she was good enough or fast enough, because “No one ever told her she could.” That is when I cried.

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

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THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Stacy Nowell Fri, 07 Jul 2017 10:00:17 +0000 Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Stacy Nowell.

Stacy, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I became a Christian as a teen, and almost immediately I felt called to ministry. This sense of call was confusing to me for two primary reasons.

  1. I was a new Christian and didn’t feel “good enough” to be a minister. Most of my friends had grown up in the church and knew all the right words as well as the secret handshake. I had to look up and practice the Lord’s Prayer at home in order to not look like a fool when everyone else recited it perfectly from memory. Surely one of them was better qualified.
  2. I was a young woman. And God wasn’t allowed to call women to the ministry, was He?

When I went to college, my life ambition was to become a pastor’s wife, since it still seemed absurd to me that I might become the pastor. My roommates even purchased me a guide to being a pastor’s wife as a gift. I still keep it on my office bookshelf as a memento.

To make a long story short, God simply wouldn’t let me go. I studied religion, began serving in my college ministry, attended seminary, and ultimately came to the conclusion that the greater disobedience for me was not to enter the pastoral ministry.

On the journey, I have served as a singles minister, hospital chaplain, youth minister, associate pastor, and I am now serving in my first call as a senior pastor.

What have been your greatest sources of joy as a pastor?
I love leadership, and I love affecting change. Whether one-on-one in a counseling session, coaching a staff member, preaching a sermon where I can visibly see the lightbulbs coming on, or guiding the congregation through a challenging transition, I love to facilitate moving a person or group from point A to point B. This makes measuring success difficult, as life change is slow and usually under the surface, but the occasional text, phone call, or card that says, “you made a difference because …” make it worth it.

What have been your greatest challenges as a pastor?
The death of perfectionism and people-pleasing has been a painful one. It would be so lovely to do all the right things at all the right times, wouldn’t it? But I simply can’t, and coming to terms with that in order to maintain my sanity has been key. Accepting that I will disappoint people regardless and therefore choosing which expectations I will not meet has been a learning curve. I like being liked, and criticism sucks. But I like being healthy and strategically effective even more.

How do you stay healthy, physically and spiritually?
I should probably say “pass” on staying healthy physically, as I could and should do a lot better. But I will say that I prioritize sleep. My evil alter-ego comes out when I’m overly tired, so I go to bed whether it’s all finished or not.

As for spiritually and emotionally, I also guard my “me time” pretty fiercely. My little secret is that my children still go to daycare on Fridays, even though I have the day off. Some might say it makes be a terrible mother, but I say it makes me a better human.

The last thing I’ll say is that I try to remember that I’m a worshipper on Sunday mornings, not just the pastor. This is hard to do, but I believe it’s an important discipline that helps me remember my identity as a disciple first and a pastor second.

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Sarah Frances Anders and Record Keeping Tue, 04 Jul 2017 15:24:49 +0000 Baptist Women in Ministry lost a prophetic leader and a significant advocate on June 8 with the death of Dr. Sarah Frances Anders. She was ninety years old.

Anders, SarahIn the early 1980s, Sarah Frances called for the formation of a network of fellowship and support for Baptist women ministers and insisted that a mechanism be created and maintained for the collection of data about women in ministry. She made that challenge to her fellow Southern Baptists and then she answered her own call! Sarah Frances was instrumental in forming the organization that is now known as Baptist Women in Ministry. She also stepped in and became the record-keeper of this new movement, gathering ordination and employment information about Southern Baptist women ministers and providing analysis of that information. She continued in that work for twenty years and used her scholarly skills and strong passion to advance the ministry opportunities for Baptist women called and gifted by God.

As part of her work, Sarah Frances tracked the number of women serving as pastors in Southern Baptist life. In 1983, the year that Baptist Women in Ministry began, she discovered that there were fourteen women serving as Southern Baptist pastors. By 1993, that number had grown to fifty-one. Sarah Frances documented the slow but steady advancement of women into Baptist pulpits.

In 2005, I took over the role of record-keeper, picking up where Sarah Frances had left off. I gathered names that year of all the women pastors and co-pastors I could find in churches that affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, the Baptist General Association of Virginia, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and I soon learned what Sarah Frances had known all along. Record-keeping for Baptists is hard work.

Because Baptists historically have maintained congregational polity and voluntary association among the churches of their conventions, societies, and conferences, few Baptist national bodies consistently collect, maintain, or publish reliable statistical information about their ministers. Thus assembling an accurate and coherent reporting about the state of women in Baptist life is a difficult task. So in my new role as a record-keeper I felt more like a detective than a statistician. I sent emails and made phone calls to denominational national and state leaders. I read Baptist newspapers and websites, and I cheered the advent of social media, when suddenly my job got a lot easier. Facebook became my friend!

Here are the numbers I have collected:

2005    102

2007     113

2012      150

2016     179

As of today, July 3, 2017, there are 188 names on my list. Since January 1, I have added twelve new names–twelve women have been called this year to pastor or co-pastor Baptist churches. Three of those women were called by churches on June 25. Sadly, I always have to delete some names as well. This year four women have retired, left their churches for other ministry positions, or passed away. So we have a net gain of eight in the last six months.

Women are being called. Baptist culture is changing. But if Sarah Frances were here today she would remind us that there is more work yet to be done. While the numbers are growing, the list is getting longer, the percentage of Baptist churches pastored by women is still low, too low. At BWIM’s annual gathering on June 28, we passed out small pins that read: 6.5%

6.5% is the percentage.of Cooperative Baptist churches that are led by women pastors. That percentage has been steadily increasing in the past ten years—there is much to celebrate!! But there is more work to be done. And that work needs to be done by us all–by clergywomen, clergymen, lay women, lay men, teenage girls, teenage boys, and even by girls and boys. We need everyone’s voice, everyone’s support as we work to move 6.5% to 10% and then to 20% and beyond. My friend, Tracy Hartman, acting vice president of academic affairs and dean at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, suggested that what we really need to do is move the decimal over! Instead of 6.5%, we need 65%.

Our hope in sharing these pins was to stir up conversations. We hoped that curious people would ask about 6.5%, and our BWIM friends would tell them, tell them our shared commitment to greater equity in ministry, tell them that we can all be louder, stronger advocates for women pastors and women serving in ministry, and tell them that it is time to move forward together as allies and advocates for women called and gifted by God for ministry.

This week I have so wished that Sarah Frances was here with us to see the progress we have made. I know she would insist that we keep on working, that we do better! We owe much to her leadership! With strong passion and unfailing grace,  Sarah Frances Anders served faithfully as our prophet, our pioneer and our advocate, and we give thanks to God for her life and her leadership.

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


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THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Linda McKinnish Bridges Fri, 30 Jun 2017 10:00:50 +0000 Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Linda McKinnish Bridges.

Linda, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served.
Born into a Baptist pastor’s home in the mountains of western North Carolina, my life was centered around the church. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night—all of the traditional Baptist holy hours. I was always at an instrument. If the church had no musicians, I was on the organ stool or the piano bench before my legs were long enough to reach the pedals. I would leave Friday night high school football game early, race to the revival meeting, change out of my cheerleader uniform in the church bathroom, and proceed to the piano before the announcement of the second hymn.

Choosing a major in Religion at Meredith College seemed a natural fit. Studying with special mentor and Religion professor, Dr. Ralph McLain, only fanned the flame of living and working abroad. After classes were concluded for the day, I went to his office regularly where we talked about missions, international travel, and the global history of Christianity. We studied not only the missionary history of Africa but also the flora and fauna of our chosen country, Madagascar. I did not ever live, or even travel, to Madagascar but I did go live and work among the Mandarin-speaking people in Taipei, Taiwan. And Dr. Mac’s approach to sharing the gospel was always in my mind. The focus was on listening and learning, not doing a lot of talking and telling. “Learn the culture, appreciate the culture, explore the culture, appreciate the people,” were lessons learned from Dr. Mac. And those years, both in Dr. Mac’s office and also on the field provided direction for my life.

Seminary education was the next important step. A little too early or maybe too late, hard to tell, but I arrived at The Southern Baptist Seminary in the early 1970s for Master of Religious Education (the only degree offered to women at that time) and then returned in the mid-80s to complete the Master of Divinity, followed by the PhD. Many women were struggling at that time to make their calling work among a sea of male professors and students and a tightly-fit stained glass ceiling. Often made to feel as if we were strange and second-class citizens for even considering a seminary degree, I found a safe, scholarly harbor with New Testament professor, Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, who continues to this day to be my mentor and friend. The study of the Gospel of John became for both of us a mutually edifying meeting place for both our hearts and minds. I learned from Dr. Culpepper that scholarship was stewardship, that one could be academic and spiritual, that the Bible was to be enjoyed rather than endured, that professors could be ministers.

I wanted to stay there forever—to be buried among the SBTS holy relics in the local cemetery. But the dissolution of the Southern Baptist Convention and the harsh position of women leaders in the church would lead me elsewhere. With our eighteen-month-old son, I followed my husband to Richmond, Virginia where he was called to live out his calling as Minister of Education. I searched for teaching jobs, combing the paper and calling friends. I boldly knocked on the door of Union Theological Seminary and asked for a part-time teaching position. I became the Summer School Greek professor for three summers and then taught adjunctively in New Testament during the academic school year. And then the conversation about a new Baptist seminary began.

I was in process of preparing for Presbyterian ordination exams when President Tom Graves, the founding president of BTSR, called. I was not going to wait for a Baptist church to call me, so I was heading in another direction. President Tom Graves asked me to consider teaching New Testament for the new school, to help shape a presence for women leaders in the newly configured Baptist landscape. I said yes, and decided not to take the Presbyterian ordination exams. And there I spent a decade trying to do just that—to create a path for women in the church.

And now after sixteen years later, with various positions in higher education, an MBA, experience in corporate business life, and opportunities in international education, I am returning to the place where I began. With thankful heart and a mind filled with mysterious wonder, I return to Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond to help lead her into the future. I am both humbled and honored.

Tell us about your new calling as president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond.
I would not have been ready to assume the presidency of BTSR at any time except for this time. These years have provided opportunities to explore the world of higher education in offices of academic dean, provost, trustee, student recruitment and admissions, department of religion and school of divinity. I wanted to learn more about the world of business, financial models, and profit margin, thinking that someday I would be able to apply that knowledge to the world of higher education. I completed an Executive MBA from the Wake Forest University School of Business. I joined an international company, Shorelight Education, a start-up headquartered in Boston where I shaped an even greater commercial understanding of education. Traveling the globe as Managing Director of The International University Alliance gave me an even larger vision of the power of learning, the need for international connections, and the ability to create sustaining programs for financial growth for institutions both here and around the world.

All of those experiences, once having seemed far away from my original calling of ministry, while I played the Hammond organ in that little mountain church in western North Carolina, now seem to be part of the plan for these years of my life—to lead BTSR as their third president.

What are you most excited about as you take on this new role?
I look forward to helping shape the future of theological education. We are at a crossroads. We cannot look back, and most of the time we cannot even look to the side, either right or left. We must look to the future. I ask myself daily, “What is the role of theological education for this moment in time?” Certainly, to prepare ministers for the church. Is there yet another role that this particular kind of educational community might be able to offer the world, to the marketplace? The answers are not yet completely clear, but the questions are absolutely necessary! I am most excited to be able to ask questions. Having lived and worked these years in higher education and in business, I have a lot of questions for theological education. And we all know that questions sometimes are just as important, and maybe even more important, than the answers. I am called to BTSR, to theological education at this very moment in time, to ask really good questions. May God give me the power to fulfill that calling.

What ministry advice would you give to a teenage girls contemplating a call to ministry?
Learn all that you can. Do all that you can. Know that you can be a minister while learning to code, while being the CEO of the local bank, while negotiating a huge real estate transaction. Understand that God’s calling on your life is for your whole life, not just a role with a ministerial title or a job in a church with a salary. Walk into your life with confidence because many women and men have paved the way before you. The stained glass ceiling is slowly beginning to shatter. Now let us go to work, for there is much to be done.

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Annual Awards Honor Baptist Women Ministers Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:00:58 +0000 National organization recognizes a supporting church and women ministers for excellence in preaching, leading, mentoring

For Immediate Release
Contact: Pam Durso: / Cell: 404-513-6022

STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA – A Baptist congregation and Baptist women ministers, including two seminarians and a university professor, were recognized for excellence in ministry by a national organization that advocates for and supports Baptist women serving in ministerial roles.

At its annual worship service on June 28, Baptist Women in Ministry presented awards for leadership in pastoral ministry, excellence in preaching, and distinguished mentorship. The group also honored a Baptist church that supports female ministers.

“Baptist women serve in a variety of ministry roles, including as pastors and church leaders,” said the Rev. Dr. Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM). “Each year, men and women from across the country gather to honor and support these women gifted and called by God.”

Awards presented by BWIM are named for those who broke the glass ceiling in Baptist life, including Addie Davis, the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained to the gospel ministry in 1964, and Frankie Granger Huff, a pioneering minister who began service on a church staff in 1968.

Genetta Williams is the 2017 recipient of the Addie Davis Award for Outstanding Leadership in Pastoral Ministry. A 2017 graduate of Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, Williams serves as an associate pastor at Friendship Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Williams is and is known for her commitment to ministry that extends beyond the walls of the church building, and she is president of the Young Adult Department of the Women’s Baptist Home and Foreign Missionary Auxiliary of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “She is a high-energy, dutiful, and dedicated servant,” said Michael G. Cogdill, founding dean and professor of Christian ministry at Campbell Divinity School. “She loves Christ and the church, and this love radiates from her spirit. She is known joyfully by all here at Campbell as ‘Madam Servant.’”

Demi S. McCoy is the recipient of the 2017 Addie Davis Award for Excellence in Preaching. A 2017 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, McCoy directed the school’s musical ensemble, “Lift Every Voice,” and served as preaching intern at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. “Demi is a passionate and exciting preacher who offers God’s Gospel Word with energy and insight,” said professor, Jill Crainshaw, who teaches preaching and worship at WFU Divinity School. “She has done this excellent homiletical work while cultivating other religious leadership skills—skills that support and expand the overall formative and transformative influence of preachers.”

Beulah Baptist Church in Devereux, Georgia, is the recipient of the 2017 Church of Excellence Award. The small, rural church embodies big-hearted, selfless generosity and a welcoming spirit. At 225-years-old, the church has long been a financial supporter and encourager of women serving in ministerial roles in Baptist life. Their most recent pastor, the Rev. Genie Hargrove, frequently opened her pulpit to women ministers of all ages and experience levels, and she encouraged their callings and giftedness. Hargrove passed away on July 14, 2016, after a battle with breast cancer, but her legacy of support lives on through the church and the many women and men who experienced her love and kindness. “When I preached at Beulah Baptist Church, the welcome and encouragement that I received from the congregation made my stepping into the pulpit for the first time feel like I was coming home instead of jumping into something scary and new,” said Ashley Robinson, a first-year seminary student who preached her first sermon at Beulah Baptist. “I will forever be grateful for Genie’s invitation and Beulah’s kind affirmation.”

Dr. Nora O. Lozano is the recipient of the 2017 Frankie Huff Granger Distinguished Mentor Award. As a professor of theology at the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas, she has nurtured the academic growth and faith development of hundreds of women and men, many of whom now serve in churches and ministries throughout the world. “She provided me the vehicle that allowed my journey to move away from the oppressive theology of my youth to liberation and acceptance of my ministerial call and acceptance of my role as pastora,” said former student Veronica Martínez-Gallegos.

Lozano is co-founder and executive director of the Latina Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “identify, develop, and empower Christian Latina leaders.” In the past 10 years, more than 250 women have received leadership training at the three Latina Leadership Institute sites in Texas, North Carolina and Monterrey, Mexico.

“The awards Baptist Women in Ministry presents each year are an affirmation of the recipients but are also an acknowledgment of the unique gifts, voices, and strengths of the thousands of women who currently serve and minister in Baptist life,” Durso said. “God is using gifted women to advance the work of the gospel in communities large and small.”

Founded in 1983, Baptist Women in Ministry seeks to bring renewal and change within congregations and institutions so that women called by God can live fully into their callings. The organization releases a report “The State of Women in Baptist Life,” every fifth year, detailing the progress of women ministers. For more information, visit their website at

The 2017 awards were presented during BWIM’s annual gathering, held this year at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Photos of the event are available upon request.

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The Table is Set by Pam Durso Wed, 28 Jun 2017 09:47:30 +0000 Today is the day. It is finally here. Baptist Women in Ministry’s Annual Gathering!

We plan all year long for this day. We ask a church to host our gathering, hire a caterer, arrange for childcare, look at transportation options, and work with our designer, printer, and videographer. We have conversations with our preacher and worship leader. We enlist communion servers and offering collectors and program distributors. We make list after list after list (we like details in the BWIM office).

We plan all year.

We also pray all year … we pray for those who will lead worship, those who will attend, those who aren’t able to be with us this year. We pray all year, but we pray hardest on the day before when all those last minute details are coming together or not coming together.

Yesterday we worked all afternoon at Smoke Rise Baptist Church, where the Annual Gathering will be held today. We finalized plans and prepared spaces. And we set the table.

I set the communion table–arranging the chalices and patens, placing the candle in the center of the table. The communion table is set. Then Ashley Robinson, Meagan Smith, and I spread table clothes on our lunch tables. Ashley cut flowers and arranged them. Meagan and I put those flowers on our tables. The lunch tables are set and ready.

Today is the day. It has finally arrived. Friends, old and new, will gather for the annual Baptist Women in Ministry worship service and lunch. We are excited and eager to see you. We are ready for worship and celebration. The table is set.

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

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THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Ashley Gill Harrington Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:00:19 +0000 Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Ashley Gill Harrington. 


Ashley, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.  
As a young teenager, I felt a very strong call to ministry. Even though I was in a church tradition that did not believe in women serving in certain roles, I was surrounded by strong women like my mother who were ministering everywhere but behind the pulpit. Not until college did my calling to the local church begin to become clear. My home church asked me to come intern one summer and through that experience that grew into a permanent position, along with a supportive female campus minister, I knew that this was where God was leading me. I fell in love with the Church. I loved helping this particular congregation connect to one another and to God in new and familiar ways. I loved what I was doing and knew that this was the type of ministry where God was leading me.
My time at Truett Seminary and serving as children’s minister at Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas was incredibly formative for me to not only explore my call, but to fully accept it, too. Thankfully I have only found great support and encouragement in churches that I have served since. University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was the best place for any fresh-out-of-seminary minister to land. They loved me fiercely, ordained me, and gave me space to fully grow into my role as an associate pastor and even begin to dream dreams of being a pastor one day. Though I was only an interim for children’s ministry for a year at First Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, the experience with those good people solidified that my calling was evolving to pastoring, particularly with my husband, Brian.

Tell us about co-pastoring with your husband. How do you divide the ministry task? How do you keep your marriage sane and healthy?

Even in our early dating days, my husband Brian and I dreamt of how our two callings might one day merge. We prayed and hoped for what might one day be, wondering if a shared ministry model might work well for us and a congregation. Learning from others who have blazed this trail, we have modeled our ministry on other co-pastors’ years of experience. Ideally, we have what we’ve identified as six main areas of ministry divided between us, but as we’re barely into our second year at Starling Avenue Baptist Church we have yet to fully divide those responsibilities as we’re still learning the church and they are learning us. Right now we go back and forth preaching and leading adult Bible study week to week, respond to pastoral care needs either together or individually, and while Brian sees to the important, day-to-day administration needs I often am looking ahead and helping us see the big picture. Thankfully our congregation in Martinsville, Virginia has been overwhelmingly gracious to us as we figure out just how this works best day-to-day for us and for the church, too. The rhythm that works well now may look different even in a year, and Brian, myself, and Starling Avenue Baptist are trying our best to be flexible to where the Spirit might be leading all of us.
While there are many wonderful things about co-pastoring, the hardest thing for us so far has been building and maintaining good boundaries. I am known to bring up a church issue as we’re laying down to sleep and we both struggle at times with how best to untangle our personal and professional life. Our nearly one-year-old daughter has been a great help in this as we work hard to make our time with her focused on our family. We try to be away from time to time, even for a day and visit a neighboring town to simply help us take a breath and see life beyond our ministry. Though we’ve only done it once so far, a day retreat to a neighboring retreat center has been one of the best things we have done for our work and marriage. We hope to make this a regular part of our rhythm to help us be better pastors, partners, and parents. 


What are your greatest joys in ministry?  
I love helping to build community. It always amazes me that even in smaller churches, people who have been around for years still don’t know one another. Because they are a part of a different class or sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary, their lives never seem to intersect even in a small crowd. One of the greatest joys for me is helping people build connections with each other because I believe it only makes our faith experience richer. Whether gathering around a table together or working alongside each other for a day of service, this community building helps the church better open itself up to those who are different and what we can learn from one another. I especially love intergenerational opportunities as too often in the church we are siloed in aged ministries and we miss so much. Children and youth have much to teach us about curiousity and mystery just as senior adults offer wisdom and experience. We learn more about God as we learn about each other.


What is the best ministry advice you have been given? 
During my ordination council, one of the ministers told a story about a pastor. When the pastor died, the refrain over and over again was “he was always there.” My ministry colleague said that too often we applaud one another and are applauded in ministry for always being there for people, but he is always mindful of the other side. Because that pastor “was always there” for his congregation, he missed countless recitals, celebrations, dinners, soccer games, etc. with his own family and even time for himself. My friend encouraged me to always remember to live carefully within the tension of the pulls of church and home as the work at both is never “done.”