|The column, Right or Wrong, is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology and is published weekly in the Baptist Standard, both in its print edition and on its website. Each column features a question posed by a reader, and a guest columnist offers feedback. This column appeared in the October 7, 2010 issue and is used with permission.
I am a woman who heard God’s call to pastoral ministry. But I’m hesitant about following that call and attending seminary, because so many Baptists oppose women pastors. I’m not interested in changing denominations. What do you suggest?
Your hard question calls for some hard truths and honest words. If you decide to attend seminary and pursue God’s call, you will discover it is very difficult to find a Baptist church that will call you as pastor. Southern Baptists have passed resolutions against women pastors, and only a handful of Southern Baptist churches currently have women serving in that role. And even the Cooperative Baptist and American Baptist churches are hesitant to call a woman. Less than 5 percent of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and about 9 percent of American Baptist churches are led by women. In Texas, only about two-tenths of 1 percent of Baptist churches have women pastors. That is the hard reality you face.
But the flip side of this hard reality is that today more women are serving as pastor of churches than ever before in Baptist life. Hundreds of Baptist women now lead churches, both here in the United States and around the world. In this country, nearly 500 women are pastor of American Baptist churches, while 125 women pastors, co-pastors and church planters lead congregations that affiliate with moderate denominational bodies. And those numbers increase each year. Slowly, ever so slowly, a shift in Baptist life toward more openness to women pastors is occurring. So, this also is your reality—after 400 years of existence, more and more Baptist pulpits are being filled by women on Sunday mornings. Chances are better than ever that a Baptist church will sense your calling and your giftedness and call you as pastor.
So, given those two realities, what do I suggest? First, seek God’s leading, study the Scriptures, pray alone and with wise leaders and supportive friends, and discern what you understand about God’s call for you. Ministry is a challenging vocational path, and ministry as a Baptist woman is an even more challenging vocational path. I suggest your sense of calling needs careful self-examination, lots of prayer and reflection, and outside guidance and encouragement.
My second suggestion is for you to be faithful. You were not called to ministry by your church, your denominational body or your Baptist heritage. You were called by God. Thus, your calling is not based on whether denominational bodies or local churches are following God’s leadership. Your calling is not given with assurances of vocational fulfillment. Your calling comes with no guarantees. But your calling comes with promise of God’s presence. So, my best suggestion is that you be faithful, allow God to lead and get ready for an exciting journey into ministry.
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry.