Like the crippled woman of Luke 13, Female clergy know what it means to be crippled by sexism, patriarchy and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse, Gina Stewart preached at the Baptist Women in Ministry worship service June 28 in Dallas.
The sin and pain that stems from systemic bias “has created suffering and keeps us in bondage and helplessness,” said Stewart, senior pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and president of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society. This latter position made her the first woman to lead a major black Baptist institution in America.
The service at Wilshire Baptist Church was part of BWIM’s annual gathering – its first in-person meeting since 2019 due to the pandemic – held in conjunction with this week’s Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. The assembly included lunch and an awards ceremony before culminating in worship which included communion.
It also featured a fiery sermon by Stewart who inspired many standing ovations amid his calls for women in ministry not to lose hope because they, like Luke’s crippled wife, are nothing less than “daughters of Abraham”.
This is the term Jesus used to describe the woman bent down with sickness for 18 years before she met him in the synagogue. While others saw her as something to be ignored and whose healing could wait, Jesus looked on her with compassion and healed her on the Sabbath, which infuriated the religious authorities.
The woman in the story, like those gathered in Wilshire for worship, had too often been told to wait for restoration and justice in their struggle to free themselves from disenfranchisement and marginalization, said Stewart. “’One more day won’t kill you,’ they say. But Jesus saw his healing as essential. And he didn’t blame or castigate her.
By rebuking the rulers of the synagogues, Jesus referred to woman as the daughter of Abraham, thereby acknowledging her and calling her equal value to men in Jewish society and faith. Women should not be seen as inferior because they are created “in imago dei… preach and pastor and use their gifts for the kingdom of God,” Stewart explained.
Stewart called on women not to cower in the face of hierarchy and those who doubt and disparage their appeals. To serve boldly, she says, is to be healed like the woman in the synagogue. “In God’s economy, any time is a good time to be free. Arise, daughters of Abraham.
BWIM Executive Director Meredith Stone echoed a similar theme at the previous luncheon program: “We value the gifts, callings, freedoms and leadership of women. And we need more.
But Stone also acknowledged the path for women in ministry continues to be rocky. She quoted the new BWIM publication Status of Women in Baptist Life report. It says 86% of Baptist women in ministry say they continue to face barriers to ministry, 72% say they have to provide more evidence of competence than their male counterparts, and 25% report sexual assault or harassment in the setting. of their ministry.
Although there are causes of grief for women in ministry, Stone said, BWIM continues to work on their behalf. “We see you. We appreciate you. We are for you.”
During the award ceremony, Cheri Mills received the 2022 Addie Davis Award for Outstanding Leadership in Pastoral Ministry. A student at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Mills is a church administrator, ecumenical leader, and author.
Angela Zimmerman received the 2022 Addie Davis Award for Excellence in Preaching. Zimmerman is a student at Central Baptist Seminary and a music minister and associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia.
Sophia Steibel, teacher of education and spiritual formation at Gardner-Webb Divinity School in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, received the 2022 Frankie Huff Granger Distinguished Mentor Award.
Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee received the 2022 BWIM Church Achievement Award.
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