Thoughts from an SBC woman in ministry...

by - 10:04 PM

Saved at 13.

Called to ministry at 19.

BA at 25 and MDiv at 35, both in said ministry.

Lifelong Southern Baptist.

Always a woman (cue the Billy Joel).


At 43, I've now been "in ministry" longer than I haven't. 

I've worked as a lay person as well as on paid church staff. I've served as a missionally-minded mental health care worker in the secular world, and I've discipled and biblically counseled within the sacred. I've held parachurch jobs on a Christian camp staff as well as on the high school Bible faculty of a Christian school. I've served as a single woman in ministry, and I've served as a bivocational minister's wife. Throughout the entire lot, I have NEVER felt slighted or sidelined in ANY of my roles due to being a woman.

Amidst the hubbub surrounding the SBC Annual Meeting this year (2023), I found myself scrolling the internet, "Where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular" (originally said of Rome by Tacitus, Annals 15.44...but I find it applies). I read a host of vitriol on Twitter--as, likely, did we all. Argumentation was flying from both sides of the debate: in support of Rick Warren and his affirmation of women pastors as well as against. However, one bright glimmer in the muck and mire was a statement written by Tanya York, wife of SBTS professor Herschel York:

Same, sister. Same.

I hear and read a lot of sentiments in our day about "feeling seen"--usually when it comes to the negative: oppression, abuse, trauma, and the like. And I'm not discounting these kinds of camaraderie, as they were hard-fought and won through suffering. But this--THIS post--made me feel more "seen" than any I've personally viewed in a long while. And it was the good kind of "seen," the kind in which you can bask in the shared experience of blessing. For I, too, have never felt "benched" or "limited" in the scope of the ministry God has given me simply because I don't have the title of "pastor." And I, too, have enjoyed enormous opportunities and ministerial fruit--far beyond my imagination or hopes. It didn't take being labeled a "pastor" to seize these opportunities or to bear that fruit...quite frankly, all it took was submission to God's timing, His opening of doors, and the Holy Spirit's promptings. York then went on to say the following:

I concur. 

Over the past few years, I've heard a boatload of women vying for the position of pastor to be accepted by all as a woman's calling, just as much as it is a man's. It's almost as if having the label of "pastor" somehow lends itself to a leveled-up experience that they can't--nay, necessarily shouldn't--live without. It's as if every call to ministry and every spiritual gift of teaching or shepherding MUST eventually render one the formal title of "pastor."

In those recent years, I have been a part of discussions that have included women in ministry bemoaning their experiences serving in what they deem to be "legalistic," "patriarchal" denominations with the dreaded "toxic masculinity" in their congregational leadership. I want to declare loudly and (dare I say?) proudly that I have NEVER experienced this from the men who have served alongside me and in authority over me. As a lifelong SBCer, I have only had rewarding experiences with the pastors and other leadership around me--men who have championed my gifts and calling and men who have fostered my growth and placement into ministry. 

While I'm never going to cover ALL that needs to be said on this topic, I just want to say that I trust my denomination, and I wholeheartedly support the SBC's stance on women in well as their insistence (alongside Scripture's!) that "while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture" (Article VI, paragraph 1 of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000).

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