I’m back at my kitchen table this morning, having a cup of (really wonderful) coffee and getting ready to put tomorrow’s sermon into words, but before I do let me say a word about the annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Greensboro, North Carolina, where I’ve been for the past few days.
On Wednesday night I attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Baptist Women in Ministry at First Baptist, Greensboro. One of the things I’ve appreciated about CBF from the beginning was its commitment to women, especially at a time when many who felt called to ordained ministry were being told they could not fulfill that calling within the Southern Baptist Convention. Nancy Hastings Sehested preached and started with a funny story about sitting on a plane beside a “chatty Texan” (she admitted that she, herself, is a chatty Texan, and that it takes one to know one). This Texan chatted on for some time before asking her what she did for a living. She said, “I’m a minister.” He said, “Really? What denomination?” “Baptist,” she said. He said, “I’m a Baptist, and my pastor tells me there aren’t any Baptist women ministers.” She said, “We’re in the witness protection program.”
We laughed out loud.
And then she said, “For thirty years that’s what Baptist Women in Ministry has been doing: protecting the witness of women.” And I turned to my daughter Catherine, who was there on the pew with me, just to make sure she heard that there was a place among Baptists where the gifts of women were not only acknowledged, but celebrated. Shortly after that Molly Brummett, a brilliant young seminary graduate whom Catherine has known all her life, received the Addie Davis preaching award.
Not that Catherine will become a preacher. She’s getting ready to go off to graduate school in Aberdeen, Scotland, this fall to study anthropology and folklore. But as her father I have always wanted her to believe that she could do whatever she felt called to do, even if she felt called to ministry. I think she got that message throughout the CBF General Assembly. There were lots of young people there being honored and included in everything that was going on. The new Executive Coordinator of CBF, Suzii Paynter, is a woman. And everywhere she went Catherine was getting hugs from people who have known her and loved her since she was born.
We’re back in Richmond this morning, and Catherine is upstairs sleeping in, but as I think about how to bring the KOH2RVA I think how important it is to make a place for women, who have always had a place in God’s plan: Sarah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Lydia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lottie, Annie, Suzii, Nancy, Molly, Catherine, and many, many others.
God bless them, every one.