Thursday, September 01, 2016

Where Have All the Evangelical Southern Baptist Women Gone?

Last month, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention posted an article by Laura Thigpen that they had gotten from from her post on the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Women Life webpage. The difference in the separate postings is in the title. The original post on the SEBTS website is titled "The Voice of Evangelical Women." The ERLC's title is "Where are the Voices of Evangelical Women?"

I'm not going to address the article for the SEBTS Women's Life page. I understand why they need an article like this because of what happened in the conservative take-overs of the seminary 20 years ago.

But why would the ERLC even decide to post this article? Isn't their leadership the ones that were responsible for these very voices being silenced?

I will tell you that there are more evangelical women speaking out now than ever before. Thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other internet sources, evangelical women have a voice--even if their churches will not allow them to step behind a pulpit or teach men. We are talking. It is just that no one listens. And if they do listen, we tend to get mansplained.

However, for those in the Southern Baptist Convention who are perplexed, here is what happened:

Once in Southern Baptist life, there were strong women leaders. They were in Southern Baptist Churches all over the world. They taught the Sunday School classes; the mission classes; they stood up and prayed during worship; and, yes, they sometimes preached (though it may have been called a speech or something).

In my own life, I was a Southern Baptist girl from the time I was born. I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I was inspired by both the men and women in my church to seek out what God was calling me to do with my life. I went through Mission Friends, GAs, Acteens, and came to the realization that I was called to ministry--though it would be another decade before that ministry gift would be revealed. I did everything that I was supposed to do, but because I was female the SBC cut me out.

On the very Sunday after the "Baptist Faith & Message" was adopted in 2000. I left my SBC church and joined one that was affiliated with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This was due to the one statement, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

And many other women left the SBC because of that very reason. There was no place for them. These are women poised to preach and prophesy, but there was no room for them at the SBC table. They were told to be silent or get out.

One day, I believe that the SBC leaders of that time will have to answer for what they did in silencing the voices of women.

So the ERLC is now asking where the evangelical women are. Did it ever occur to them that there is a reason that SBC evangelical women don't speak out? That there a reason that SBC membership continues to decline? It is selective amnesia at its best: they did it to themselves.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Highest Calling

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." ~Catherine of Siena

Once upon a time, I interviewed for ministry jobs. That's no big deal really. I have a Masters of Divinity degree. And no task ever feels so right as when I am standing in front of a congregation and preaching. I was a youth minister for a summer--just before I got pregnant with my last baby. But that didn't fit quite right.

When people came up to me after I preached a few weeks ago and told me that they enjoyed it, my mouth said thank you but my heart was saying that I was born to do this.

I finished divinity school 14 years ago. I was four months pregnant with my first child when I walked across the stage. It seemed pointless to look for a ministry job when I had a baby on the way. But I did send out a lot of resumes then and in the years that followed. I had a few interviews, never for a pastor position--still waiting on that interview, my own deep calling. But the interviews always ended up with someone telling me that I shouldn't be looking for ministry work. My children were too young; I should be home with them.

Those words still cut me today, and my youngest is now 8. When they were first said to me, they seemed so benign, yet they "tasted" wrong in my mind and in my heart. It took me a long time to realize that not living up to my highest calling was setting a bad example for my sons. So many Christians believe that the highest calling of a woman is to be a wife and mother. The progressive churches I interviewed with--ones that are not on the conservative end of baptist life--still believed that myth: that a woman's highest calling was to be a wife and mother. Why else would they write me off so quick.

However, I am here to say: my highest calling is so. much. more.

Seasons come and go in a woman's life--indeed in anyone's life, male or female. Maybe it was too difficult for a church to see past my babies. Maybe they thought the logistics of running a household would be too much for me (though marriage is a team, right?). Maybe they didn't think of what they were saying at all--at least in a theological sense. But those words have stayed in my mind, replayed every so often, making me feel less than adequate--even though my youngest is 8 now.

So...I reject the attempt to put me in a theological box. I am called to preach the gospel. I am called to be prophetic and thoughtful, to bring theological meaning into this world gone mad. Even if I don't have a church to preach in, I will still prepare as if I do. I will learn even more about my craft; I will read and listen and think.

To the churches that wrote me off, you were wrong.

To the world that says that I should settle, you lose.

To Christians that say motherhood is my highest calling, you don't know my God.

What prompted this post? Jenny Rae Armstrong posted a quote to a Facebook Group I belong to: Biblical Christian Egalitarians. The quote says:

Since last Friday when it was posted, I have been praying about my life and how to be a bit more courageous with my calling. Today, I post this because it is time to shatter non-biblical notions of what I am called to be. I will not bow down to the idols anymore.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Allergy Plans

My youngest child starts Kindergarten in the morning.  They stagger-entry the children, so they only have 4-5 in each day this week.  Then on Monday the whole class will be there.  Which is why I have spent today chasing down forms and meeting for over an hour with the school nurse--because we need a plan to deal with his allergies.

There are many things to consider when sending an allergic child to public school for the first time.  I have to have forms filled out to check the medicine into the school.  I have to tell them if I want the medicine also in the classrooms (I do).  I have to get a special sticker to put in his lunchbox.  I have to discuss how and when he will wash his hands before and/or after he eats, whether he will sit in a special seat for lunch and snack, and what the process is if he has an anaphylactic reaction.  There is a lot of paperwork involved.

But this little child of mine is a good advocate for himself.  His teacher has experience with allergic reactions and is trained to use the Epi-pen if it is needed.  My son knows how to ask if something has nuts in it and to refuse if other children try to offer him food. 

For a mom like me, here is my big adventure--sending my 5 year old off to school despite my anxiety, my worry and fears.  But isn't that what all parents are called to do? 

I have looked at my boys with the idea that I am here to raise them up and let them go.  That process comes through different events.  Already my 5 year old is quite independent in some ways.  I have been freed from the ever-persistent care of a baby.  I don't have to watch my son every minute of the day to keep him out of trouble. 

I am excited about sending my son off to Kindergarten.  He is going to learn so much.  He is on a journey to adulthood with a really big step in the morning.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


When I decided to become a Kindermusik educator three years ago, I had no idea that I would do the teaching myself.  I thought I would just hire some others and just do the marketing for them as business owner.  However, Kindermusik's model is to have all owners also be educators, so I took their semester-long course to be certified as an owner/educator.  When I taught my practice classes, I was surprised to discover that it was a lot of fun.  It was wonderful to interact with the children, and the Kindermusik curriculum was one that helped me to make the most of our 45 minute class times.

As a result, I get to play.  My work is literally child's play.  I plan for times that enrich and teach the children.  We talk about different sounds and imitate them.  We act like wild animals prowling, slithering, and swinging around.  We get to discover the many ways to play percussion instruments or new ways to dance.  These children give me energy--their play makes my day so much better. 

Three years ago, I was coming out of depression.  I had no energy, and I was sleeping a lot.  When I began teaching, I found purpose.  I found energy.  I found a calling to help these boys and girls and their families get the most out of their Kindermusik experience. 

Wow.  Isn't it amazing how some things drop into your life and change you?  Isn't it fun to play?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Secret Ministries

If you belong to a church, you know that a lot of how things get done is not about the church's polity.  It is not about committees or deacon boards.  It is not about any hierarchical structure.

Many things are done because someone sees a need and steps in to do something about it.

At my church, I have two things I do that most people don't know I do.  I keep the children's worship bags ready with paper, pencil, and crayons.  And I keep the women's bathroom stocked with feminine supplies.

I started putting together the children's bags because I have three children of my own, and I know it is a benefit to me when my middle son gets the bag to occupy himself during worship.  Some children take multiple bags.  Some end up taking them home accidentally.  Or leaving them on the seat or floor.  Occasionally someone a little older will use them, but I'm not sure how the crayons came to be melted in one of the bags a couple of years ago.  I find 15 minutes during the week to restock/redistribute the supplies.  Easy job, but I do believe that it would be missed if I didn't do my job.  It is really one of the things you never think about until it doesn't get done.

The other thing I do is supply pads and tampons in the women's restroom.  This involved buying a little basket to put next to the sinks and keeping it stocked.  I end up getting the pads and tampons free or almost free because I use coupons and wait for sales.  The real work is noticing when to bring more in--not really that difficult.  I do this service because when I was about 12 years old, there was a girl who came up to me in church during Sunday School one week.  She needed a pad, but I didn't have one to give her then.  I remember thinking about how frustrating it would be to need something so personal and embarrassing (at that age) and having to go around asking.  And that story has stayed in my mind all these years.  So I work to provide such supplies to the girls and women of my congregation. 

There are many little things in our church that get done on a weekly basis without ever being acknowledged.  The ones doing them don't ask for recognition, but maybe you can notice and offer a word of thanks sometimes.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Long Time, No Blog

As usual, life gets in the way of things that I'd like to do.  I often find myself saying, "I really should blog about ______."  It is usually a topic that matters to me, but I forget it when I sit at my computer.  And I usually get sucked into reading FB posts anyway. 

When I started blogging, the title "Longing for Home" was what came to me.  It isn't about where you live now--it is about that eternal Home--the aching inside you that says that you belong somewhere else.  I know that ache.  When I faced sending my children back to school today, the demands of a husband that thinks I should be out in a career, the longing of my own soul to leave something of myself on this earth to have an eternal legacy, I know the longing for my Home. 

I want to write a good deal more this year, but I didn't make any resolutions.  In the dreary January and February of the year, I focus on survival and dealing with seasonal depression.  Resolutions are better left to springtime and a time of renewal. 

Or I could do the one-word resolution that some of my friends post about.  But I'm not sure what my word would be.  I desire to do the thing I was called to do--which would be ministry, specifically pastoring--but I do not know how to jump back into the search for a place or how to define myself as a pastor from the place I now stand.  Maybe my word is rediscovery.

Rediscovery is internal as I find out who I am in my mid-30s.  How did I become this person I wouldn't ever have recognized a couple of decades ago.  Rediscovery is external as I incorporate the ones I love in this process.  I value my relationships and know they teach me more about the person I am becoming.

Is rediscovery too broad a word?  I feel on the verge of great things in my life, but there is something keeping me from taking the plunge.  I pray that I am able to see who I am to be in this world.

Monday, April 30, 2012