Thursday, July 16, 2009

Putting Women in Their Place

In an article in last Sunday’s Observer, former President Jimmy Carter wrote, “[The] view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.” The remainder of the article calls on the leaders of all religious faiths to reconsider their sacred texts for a fresh word about the role of women in faith and society.
These are good words from President Carter on an important subject. Although it is always encouraging to have a person of his stature speak up for needed change, what can the average Baptist Christian do to empower women to discover and use their gifts in ministry? Let me suggest several things.

First, support organizations that speak for women. Baptist Women in Ministry has taken a bold step in employing Pam Durso as the organization’s first full-time executive director. BWIM has a solid reputation of connecting, resourcing, and advocating for women in Christian ministry. They need our personal and financial support to continue this important work.

Second, discover organizations that challenge women to a world vision of service, especially those that relate to women and family issues—poverty, maternal care, sexual trafficking and similar concerns. One such organization is Global Women. Cindy Dawson, her staff, and board are making remarkable progress in creating global friendships among women for shared learning and service. They are also providing valuable resources for local churches.

Third, encourage women who are seeking to live out their ministry passion. You will find these individuals locally, nationally, and internationally. One of these people is Becky Sumrall, executive director of Christian Women’s Job Corps of Middle Tennessee. She has built an organization that provides women “a hand up, not a hand out.” CWJC helps women to develop skills and embrace values in order to attain a better life for themselves and their families. Another person who comes to mind is Suzanah Raffield, a young woman with a global vision who recently returned from Tanzania where she helped women of the Kidetete Women's Cooperative to develop a microenterprise that will raise the standard of living for their families through their own initiative and diligence. Suzanah is representative of a number of young women who are making a difference in the world by pursuing their calling to serve and minister.

Fourth, find a young woman in your church who has been called to ministry and provide encouragement for her. One way you can do this is to point her toward places of service where she can discern and develop her gifts for ministry. Passport Camps and student.go offer young women the opportunity to serve in settings that respect their calling and giftedness. Introduce her to college and seminary programs that welcome women who are called to ministry.

Fifth, when your church has a staff vacancy, take the initiative to talk to the search committee or seek the resumes of qualified women as well as men for the position. This includes the role of pastor. I have been fortunate to have had a number of qualified men as my pastors over the years. Each ministered to me in a significant way. Not every one is as fortunate. As a male, I think I can say that I would rather have a competent woman than a mediocre man as my pastor any day! Let’s raise our sights and look at the female candidates who are ready to serve in every leadership role in the life of the church.

Thank you, President Carter, for your positive stance; now, it is time for the rest of us to get to work.


Lia said...

Great post! Thanks for recognizing the power of women in the church.

Ircel said...

And thank you for pursuing your ministry passion.