Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When Baptist Women Go Wild

I am an ordained Baptist minister, chaplain at a women's college, mother of two, and I am a Jesus Feminist
(a community sourced Facebook project of Sarah Bessey )

I've been a pretty committed rule follower for most of my life.  I loved school with its structure and predictability, and the rewards that came with doing what was required.  My mom would tell you that I never gave her any trouble as a child, and although this isn't quite true, she did try to encourage me to rebel, telling me that I had earned a little fun.  But I found comfort in meeting expectations (mine and those of others), and liked the accolades that came with it (it was the consolation prize for not earning the popularity I truly desired).

It's no surprise that I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church where rules and roles meant so much.  Going to church, learning my memory verses, and helping out earned me gold stars and praise.  Church was a place of connection for me, so I was there often and fell naturally into leadership roles--teaching, singing in the choir, and leading Bible studies.  My volunteering was encouraged, especially as women did most of the work of the church, but without receiving much acknowledgement.  Men were the ones in the official positions of power and leadership (pastor, committee chairs, and deacons). I never thought much about it as it was the only thing I knew, but my mom would tease me about how I would have to learn to be a submissive wife one day.  

Who would have thought that my big act of rebellion would come in going off to college and studying science?  My church had a slight anti-intellectual bent (being Bible based and Spirit-led) and science was posed as being anti-God.  Although my research career didn't pan out, I discovered something even better: ministry.  My call to ministry was the first thing that truly made sense, a connection to my passion and my background of church service.  My family was church, not so much.  It seems that women can't be called to true leadership roles in the church based a literal reading of 1 Timothy 2:12--"I [Paul] permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."

This affected me about as much as my mom's comments about how a man should be the head of a family: I ignored it.  I had not yet learned about the context of the scriptures that were being thrown at me in rebuttal of my calling, but I knew deep down that the still small voice had called me to something greater.  That calling had clicked in my head and my heart, bringing a sense of peace and contentment that I had not felt before.  With each step towards my new vocation (seminary, ordination, internships), my gifts were affirmed and my faith grew even through the challenges.  I began to lean instead on verses like Galatians 3:28--"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

Fast forward 14 years and I am an ordained minister (in the tradition that tried to deny me), the wife of an ordained minister turned coin dealer and stay at home dad, the mother of two (a feisty little girl and a strong-willed boy), and the chaplain at a women's liberal arts university.  The feminism that excluded me in my home church is now practically a job requirement as I mentor young women and prepare them for the challenges ahead.  I am a member at a Baptist church that has a female senior pastor and many women deacons, and yet I know there is still much work that needs to be done.  The reminder comes every time I share my occupation and there is a moment of shock or disbelief.  It is having to explain that I am not "that kind" of Baptist.  But sometimes, I revel a little in the rebellion of doing something I'm not "supposed" to be doing and still feeling God's gentle acceptance and affirmation.

I look forward to reading Sarah Bessey's new book Jesus Feminist because I believe that the all-inclusive love of Jesus looks beyond gender, bringing us all into acceptance and service in the family of God.

This post is part of a synchroblog at


  1. Well said. Me personally I have always been rebellious, Only recently have I acknowledged I am a feminist.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. And more importantly, I am so glad that we are fellow pastors.

  3. This is encouraging to me! I didn't know Baptists would even ordain women (and I am Baptist now - though much of my life I have been Assemblies of God).

  4. This is so encouraging! I love reading this and am honoured to be on the path with you!

  5. I am an ordained minister as well, and grew up in the Church of Christ. Your story is similar to mine, and I appreciated reading about your journey! Like you, finding out I could be a minister made lots of things in my life finally make sense. Thanks again for a great post.