For three years, Emily Hull McGee served on our Baptist Women in Ministry’s Leadership Team, and all of us who sat at the table with her learned to expect Emily to ask one simple question . . . What is “The Why?” Emily helped us think through, articulate, and live into “The Why” of all that we do as an organization. She asked, “Why do we sponsor Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching? What is the purpose of the annual gathering? What is “The Why” for giving Addie Davis Awards?” She nudged us in her beautiful way to ask “The Why.”
Emily rotated off our Leadership Team in the summer of 2014, and we miss her terribly at our table, but her question has stayed with us, with me. I now frequently ask myself “The Why” of Baptist Women in Ministry. Why after thirty-two years does this organization still exist? Is there a need for BWIM? What is that we are doing today that is meeting needs, making a difference, bringing change.
A few weeks ago, I read a sentence that gave me a new perspective on “The Why” of BWIM.
“Human progress never rolls in on the wings of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and women] willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of forces of social stagnation.”
These are words from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. While King’s reference was to the need for racial equality in this country, the underlying principle is true for all advocacy work. Change will not happen if we simply sit and wait on it to roll in.
In my work, I have learned and am learning that progress, especially in the Baptist world, requires tireless effort. Change is not inevitable. The affirmation, celebration, and employment of all Baptist women called and gifted for ministry will not just happen if we sit back.
I am also learning and seeing that change is possible. More and more Baptist churches and institutions are recognizing the treasure we have among us and are welcoming women into leadership positions, calling women as pastors, and offering women a place at the table. There surely is more work to be done, but I am more hopeful today than I have ever been about our future as Baptists.
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.