Baptist Women: ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

By LORETTA FULTON

The last time the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry held an annual conference, the year was 2020, just before COVID-19 forced such gatherings to go online.

And, the setting was in a very Baptist place–George W. Truett Theological Seminary on the campus of Baylor University. 

This time, things were different. The organization was meeting live again for the first time since February 2020. And, instead of a very Baptist place, the group met Friday, Sept. 16, on the campus of Abilene Christian University, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

Before COVID, the annual conference rotated among Baptist universities in Texas, with Hardin-Simmons University serving as a host several times. But Hardin-Simmons phased out the Logsdon School of Theology and Logsdon Seminary. 

Brenda Kirk, left, visits with Anyra Cano, coordinator of Texas Baptist Women in Ministry, which met Sept. 16 at ACU. Photo by Loretta Fulton

In the aftermath, ACU opened a Baptist Studies Center, led by former Logsdon professor Myles Werntz. The center, now in its third year, offers courses in Baptist polity and history, provides congregational support, and hosts webinars and live programs. 

“We have been looking forward to this moment for a long time,” Ken Cukrowski, dean of the College of Biblical Studies, said in welcoming the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry to ACU. 

A number of men were present for the conference to show support for women in ministry and to learn more about the obstacles they face. Among them was John Whitten, senior pastor of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. Whitten said many of the women leading the conference were friends and he wanted to show his personal support. And, he noted, Pioneer Drive has many women ministers and staff members.

“I think it’s important to do my best to understand their perspectives and how we might meet opportunities and overcome obstacles together,” he said. “Men and women are made in God’s image and God has uniquely equipped both genders for service in the local church.”

Theme for the one-day conference was “Broken. Renewed. Reshaped: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Bob Ellis, left, Meredith Stone, and Anyra Cano at the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference at ACU Sept. 16. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Highlights from the 2021 “State of Women in Baptist Life” report showed that they still have a long way to go, but with hope for the future. The report was compiled by Laura Ellis, project manager for the national Baptist Women in Ministry, with an introduction by Meredith Stone, executive director. 

Both Ellis and Stone formerly were from Abilene. Stone taught at Logsdon Seminary and Ellis’ parents, Bob and Teresa, both are retired from HSU. Bob Ellis was former dean of Logsdon School of Theology and Teresa was the school’s librarian. 

“May you know that in each number on the negative side of a statistic and in each painful anecdote,” Stone wrote, “you can find women who are walking the road of ministry with you out of faithfulness to Christ despite the challenges.”

Photos show vendor booths at the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference held Sept. 16 at Abilene Christian Univeristy. At right, guests are leaving the opening session held in ACU’s Chapel on the Hill. Photos by Loretta Fulton

Some numbers from the report definitely were on the negative side:

  • 82 percent or women in ministry experience obstacles to their ministry because of the their gender. 
  • 59 percent of women in ministry said they are overlooked and silenced in their ministry settings.
  • 72 percent of women in ministry said they had to provide more evidence of their competence than their male counterparts did. 

However, the report, researched and written by Ellis, showed some bright spots, too, and Stone noted those in her introduction.

“May the favorable survey responses in Part I and the increases in the statistics in Part II be an affirmation that your good work and advocacy is making a difference,” Stone wrote.

Featured speaker for the opening session was Lynn Brinkley, associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry. Since 2012, she has been an adjunct instructor in Campbell University’s Divinity School and its Christian Studies Department. The Baptist university is located in Buies Creek, North Carolina. 

Brinkley based her talk on Jeremiah 18: 1-11. The scripture begins with the familiar words, “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”

The potter deftly uses his hands to remove impurities from the clay and to shape it as he wishes. Systems in the United States are broken, Brinkley said, and need to be reshaped with impurities removed. 

“How can we partner with God?” to repair those systems, she asked.

She urged the men and women present to become advocates and partner with agencies that strive to repair brokenness.

“I have the audacity to hope that change will come,” Brinkley said.

The theme of the conference included the question, “Were do we go from here?” Brinkley provided an answer:

“Let’s go to the Potter’s House,” she said.

Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene

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