"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


women in the sbc

Ethics Daily today runs an excellent blog post by Emily Hunter McGowan that I've been meaning to post on for a few days now. It's about the role of women in ministry, and, to put it bluntly, the fact that we don't have time for cop-outs.

As I go to a non-SBC church that has ordained at least four young women to the ministry in the time I've been there, this isn't really a huge issue in my immediate life. But, as the sister of a Truett graduate and the friend of many more women in ministry, I know it's a huge issue even in moderate Baptist life, where the fight about whether women can be pastors is over. Instead, the problem that so many young, talented, female ministers face is the fact that so many churches that profess to affirm their callings are reluctant to actually go through with that commitment and hire them. The Baptist Women in Ministry report for this year is encouraging, yes, but there are far too many capable women in ministry who can't get jobs in churches for no other apparent reason than the fact that they are women.

Hunter McGowan is right: this is a hill on which to die. If you're going to deny that God calls women to ministry, you need to be clear about why it is that you believe you know better than God whom he can and cannot call to a specific task. If you believe that God calls women to ministry, then you'd sure better be doing something concrete about it.


Anonymous Jenny Clark said...

I find your post here a bit troubling…

“if you're going to deny that God calls women to ministry, you need to be clear about why it is that you believe you know better than God whom he can and cannot call to a specific task.”

First, Complementarians believe that God absolutely does call women into ministry, we also we believe God would never call someone to do something that is contrary to his word. As such, God will not call a woman to be a pastor, since this is contrary to what Scripture teaches on the role of the pastorate.

Complementarians are open and willing to defend this stance from scripture – thus we are not saying that we “know better than God whom he can and cannot call to a specific task” rather we are saying that God would never call a person to do contrary to his word.

Second, no one is denying that God calls women to ministry, the issue is whether or not God calls women to minister as pastors. Thousands of women are called into ministry each year, some even attend Seminary and are educated “along with the boys”, such as myself (I am currently studying at Southern Seminary and will graduate with an MDIV next fall – NOTE: I am not planning to be a pastor!) Is the ministry that we have been called to somehow less important because it’s not the pastorate? The many women that study with me here at Southern would argue surely not!

Further, your statement, “the problem that so many young, talented, female ministers face is the fact that so many churches that profess to affirm their callings are reluctant to actually go through with that commitment and hire them.” A church should be able to affirm a woman’s call to ministry, without having to hire them as a pastor! As I said above, thousands of women are called into the ministry each year, and its no less of a calling just because its not the pastorate. It appears that again you are minimizing the calling of women to ministry that is other than the pastorate.

Monday, June 16, 2008 1:22:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Anon, it is definitely NOT my intention to minimize the call of women who are called to offices other than the pastorate. My sister is among them. I have many friends who are chaplains and missionaries, and who serve in other ways.

BUT, I also know women whom God has clearly called to preach, and it is about them that this post is intended to point. This call has been confirmed in the same ways that Baptists have always confirmed calls in the lives of men who are called to preach: through a process of education, careful discernment, and, most importantly, affirmation by the body that is the local church in association with other local churches.

As I'm sure you're well aware, our difference in position on this has to do with basic stances on Biblical interpretation. I am obviously not a literalist, and I do believe that it's not appropriate to not use the minds God gave us to read the Bible in of context in which it was written (namely, in a society in which most women were illiterate, and in which women who had a prominent role outside of the house were often women of ill repute). I also believe that you have to read specific verses in the Bible in context with the whole, and the whole clearly shows women in positions of authority and leadership.

I also don't believe that it's an accident that women were last at the cross and first at the tomb. Jesus came with a message that radically altered existing social norms, and part of that was making it clear that in baptism, there is neither male nor female - we are all equal under Christ's blood.

Anyway, others have fought these battles long before us, and we're unlikely to change one anothers' minds. Do know that I affirm and am grateful for your calling, as I do the same for those women whom God has gifted and chosen to preach.

Monday, June 16, 2008 1:35:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

PS Jenny, for some reason it said "anon" when I was posting. Sorry for not using your name above; I just now got to see it.

Monday, June 16, 2008 1:35:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Things are slightly better in American Baptist and Alliance of Baptist circles than with the CBF--and definitely with the super-sexist SBC. But even though I am married to a Baptist minister and my pastor is a woman and know numerous female Baptist ministers from around the world, I still know that the numbers are far too small.

I believe that future generations will see the opposition to women pastors (and the misuse of Scripture to justify that nonsense) will be seen in the way that we now view the Baptist defense of slavery in the 19th C. I also believe that the ban on gay marriages and gay ordination will be seen the same way--although that will take longer.

Monday, June 16, 2008 6:46:00 PM

Blogger CharlieMac said...

I suppose this question is for Jenny, but of course anyone can answer.
When a male is called to the ministry SBC churches usually ordain them. Does your church ordain females who answer a call to the ministry?
Charlie Mac

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 7:08:00 AM

Anonymous Jenny Clark said...


Just as I argue that the head spiritual role of leader in the church is for a man, so only the man should be ordained – although it is a formality and practice that is not necessarily required to affirm a call. Ordination is really an entirely different issue than female leadership in the pastorate (ie: is it required for ministry confirmation or not) because many people have different views of ordination and what it means.

If a church called a woman to be a pastor in a role, then it would be hypocrisy to not ordain her, however, I do not believe a woman should be a pastor, thus, they should not be ordained either.

In general, people don’t absolutely need ordination to be affirmed in their call for ministry. My church will affirm my call to missions, but they don’t need to ordain me in order to do so. Further, my call to ministry/missions is no less legitimate as a woman because I am not ordained.

Hope this answers your question.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 12:34:00 PM

Anonymous Jenny Clark said...


I thought I replied but for some reason it didn't post - here is my reply again!

Thanks for your comment above to my comment. You are correct that our difference in opinion is based on Scriptural interpretation. I would also agree with you that both of our opinions are obviously formed on this issue through careful scholarship and prayer, and as such, it is true that it is unlikely either of us will move in our position.

I must say that it is my desire for you and others that over time, your opinion on this issue would change - as of course I believe that supporting women in the pastorate is an absolutely crucial issue in the church today, one which will have negative lasting effects on the church and family for years to come.

One of the main reasons for my reply was to make sure that both sides of this issue are adequately represented, as often we only hear one side of the issue, the side we agree with! I also wanted to address some concerns I had with your original post with regards to women who are called to ministry - but not the pastorate.

Your reply addressed this concern and I am glad to read that you do not think women who are called to ministry, but not the pastorate, are experiencing a "lesser calling".

Thanks again for you time and allowing me to present my comments.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008 1:27:00 PM

Anonymous Sister said...

Emily is a friend from seminary, and I think she received the outstanding preaching award this past year. I'm glad to see her published. She's a smart cookie!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 6:53:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...


Of course. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I write on these issues every now and then, so I'm sorry that my comments here weren't more in context.

Although I doubt either of us will ever change our minds, it's my hope that we can do a better job than did those who came before us of maintaining civil dialogues and not slandering one another. It can't be pleasing to God for Christians to hate one another, and I genuinely believe that what unites us is far stronger than what divides us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 9:13:00 PM


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