In light of the SBC’s harmful actions taken against women in ministry in June and the heinous tactics used to justify the actions in the preceding months, Baptist Women in Ministry is raising the level of our advocacy.
The SBC’s amendment to disfellowship churches that affirm, appoint, or employ women in pastoral roles of any kind passed a first reading last month, but a second reading and affirmative vote in June 2024 will be required for the amendment to be put into effect.
During these 12 months between readings, BWIM will be advocating among Baptist denominational groups where churches are “allowed” to be called to all ministerial and pastoral roles. Our desire is that these Baptist organizations no longer only allow, but will boldly affirm women in all ministerial and pastoral roles and take action on that affirmation. After the pain that has been caused by the SBC, congregations and women in ministry need to know that there are Baptist spaces where they are valued.
We are so grateful that the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship have already made strong statements of affirmation and are putting action behind them.
For the past three weeks leading up to the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) Annual Meeting, I have been in the process of advocating for the convention to affirm women in all ministerial and pastoral roles.
I presented a motion that the BGCT affirm women in all ministry and pastoral roles, and that the Executive Board be instructed to have staff create programs, resources, and advocacy initiatives to assist churches in affirming, appointing, and employing women in ministerial and pastoral roles.
The Committee on the Annual Meeting considered if the motion could be presented to the messengers and decided it would be ruled out of order. However, they gave me options to revise the motion which they would consider in order.
The next day I presented a revised motion to the Convention and offered these words in support of the motion. Several others spoke in favor of the motion including Rev. Hannah Coe, Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Rev. Jill Hudson, Coordinator of Texas BWIM, and Rev. Brandon Hudson, Senior Pastor of FBC Abilene.
Ultimately an amendment to the motion was offered which included changes that removed the word “pastoral” from the motion and exchanged it for “leadership,” and which indicated that the BGCT already had strategies, resources, and advocacy initiatives for women in ministry and leadership. The amendment passed and subsequently the motion passed as well.
While we are hopeful that some good will come from the action that did pass, we are grieved that women who serve as pastors of all kinds and who have been targeted by the SBC were not included in the BGCT’s actions of support.
But what you will find in the public record about what happened this week is not the full story of what advocating for change looks like.
We want to give you this “behind the scenes” look into our advocacy work because we know that it is reflective of what women in ministry face on a regular basis. We want women to know that when these micro- and macro-aggressions happen to them, it is not acceptable. Women have the right to name that these actions are wrong and hurtful.
The official record often reflects the perspective of those who remain in power. We want you to know that we see you, hear you, and believe you when your perspective reveals a different story.
So here’s the rest of the story:
Advocacy for Baptist women in ministry looks like being told that a group of male pastors and leaders had already decided what would be best for women in ministry and the convention.
It looks like receiving emails attempting to bully you into not making a motion because you would “force a dividing line where none needs to exist.”
It looks like being told that an institution’s autonomy to make decisions is more important than the autonomy of women to follow God’s call.
It looks like watching as those in power assist men in their efforts and ignore you.
It looks like sitting at the middle of a board room table surrounded by around 20 people (mostly men) who repeatedly tell you all the ways that you are wrong, even though an attorney has affirmed you are right. Men who tell you that while they respect your passion for “this issue,” culture change just takes time.
It looks like being told that the freedom of women will just have to wait.
It looks like having to listen to men go to microphones to compare you and your sisters to a serpent and Satan, and call you evidence of the church’s rebellion. Having to listen while people clap for this man’s angry and insulting name-calling, and watching as no one rebuked him. No one called him out of order. No one reprimanded his unkindness. Having to see the tears that were shed by women who felt completely devalued and disparaged by his words. Recognizing that while you and your sisters are offering pastoral care to women who felt personally attacked by the men who are being celebrated by the crowd, other men are offering and supporting an amendment that tells women it’s ok if we stay neutral about you.
It looks like being told that women in ministry will be solved by a supply and demand problem. When we run out of male clergy, then the church will turn to women.
Sisters and those who support us, we are not “only good enough when there are no more men”. They are not justified in insulting us and comparing us to Satan. Our voices and our perspectives are worthy of being heard when what is best for us is being discussed. We are not divisive, we are seeking to be faithful to God’s call.
We are not divisive; we are seeking to be faithful to God’s call.
If you want to join the advocacy effort in Texas, here are some suggestions:
- Find a Texas Baptist church where women are serving in a role with pastor in their title and email them a word of encouragement despite the actions of the BGCT. Let them know there are Baptists like you who support and value them.
- If you are connected with Texas Baptist leaders, encourage them with ways that the BGCT could fully live into the motion that did pass.
- Follow Texas BWIM and their efforts in supporting and advocating for women in ministry in Texas.
BWIM and I are especially grateful for the circle of partners and friends who supported and worked together with us on this effort, and that circle included men. Though I generalize “men” in a few of the statements above, I want to clearly state that some of the men who we came into contact with were kind and respectful, even if they disagreed.
While our efforts were not fully successful with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and while they attempted to destroy our resolve, we will not be deterred.
Women in ministry should be wanted, not just permitted.
Women in ministry should be celebrated, not just tolerated.
Women in ministry should be able to thrive, not just survive.
We will keep working toward this vision and look forward to keeping you updated as our efforts with other Baptist denominational groups continue.