The Vocare Spring 2011 was in my mail this morning. Thumbing through this issue brought to mind events from 1980. A small group of women at Southern Seminary and Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, were talking, meeting, thinking, and evaluating the changes needed in Southern Baptist life for women in churches and for women called to ministry. This small group evolved into a formal meeting that was in Pittsburgh at the 1983 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. (That 1983 gathering was the first meeting of the organization now known as Baptist Women in Ministry).
The Spring 2011 issue of Vocare has a two-page list (small print) of churches participating in the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching! Such changes in three decades!
I recall the bravery and the anxiety felt by many of the women examining and calling for drastic change. Could women preach?
Should women teach men? Should churches ordain women? How did pastors and pastor’s wives work out individual callings?
After I returned to Chattanooga, Tennessee, following the 1983, I began meeting with women from three or four churches for lunch at First Baptist Church of Chattanooga. Nervously one woman observed, “Let’s be careful and not rock the boat.” Another promptly asserted, “It is long past the time. Let’s do rock the boat.”
In the intervening years in Chattanooga, First Baptist Church and Signal Mountain Baptist Church ordained women as deacons and eventually ordained women to ministry. Those churches called women to serve on church staff and to fill other leadership roles.
Enjoying the most recent issue of Vocare causes me to celebrate and to give thanks, but I am also reminded of what remains to be done. I cheer for Baptist Women in Ministry and the work of yesterday, today, and the work of tomorrow!
June Holland McEwen is one of the thirty-three founding mothers of Baptist Women in Ministry. She lives in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.