We, who are citizens of Orlando, sympathize with the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand. We are all too well aware of the tragedy that befalls a community with this kind of event. As Christians who represent the love of Christ, and as Baptists who uphold religious freedom, our hearts are broken by the loss of over 49 lives in New Zealand. Our thoughts and our prayers are with those in Christchurch today. I hope you will join us in praying for a nation and a city who is in mourning, just as we in Orlando were 3 years ago.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has designated February as Baptist Women in Ministry Month. The purpose is to celebrate the role of women, especially women preachers, in the life of the church. Last Sunday our Minister of Worship, Marlo Wright, preached the Sunday’s message. Saying she did well would be an understatement. She received a spontaneous ovation in the contemporary service. What surprised me was not that Marlo preached so well or COTD’s positive response. What surprised me was the thought that there are churches and denominations where women are not permitted to preach.
Thirty years ago I thought the barriers in churches and denominations denying full access to women’s gifts would be few and far between. Even though Jesus included women as equals in his ministry, God gave women the responsibility of first proclaiming the resurrection, and Paul, yes, Paul, declared the end to class, racial and gender barriers in Galatians 3:28, still women are denied full expression of their gifts. What a shame.
Last week I was in North Carolina and reconnected with a young woman who began her ministry when I was in Chapel Hill. She’s seeking to discern a call to church planting. Yesterday, I spoke with my former associate pastor who is now a Senior Pastor outside Charlotte. She will be preaching one of the sermons at the North Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship annual meeting and was just accepted into Duke Divinity School’s Doctor of Ministry program. Other women who began their ministry at churches I pastored are serving Christ as a college professor teaching youth ministry, a minister of education, and a hospice worker.
Imagine for a moment the loss to the Kingdom if these gifted, capable women had been barred from ministry, which brings me to my closing point. COTD is unique in its openness to women in ministry. Marlo was not the first woman to preach at COTD nor the last. Our last three Chairs of Deacons have been women. Many of our committees are chaired by women. Some hyper conservatives might say that’s a sure sign the church is liberal. I would say that’s a sure sign Christ is present and being male or female does not determine giftedness. Folks, COTD’s got this one right. Are we perfect? Not by a long shot. Yet, I believe we’re in God’s plan for the church on this one. My encouragement is that we stay there.
If you’re reading this blog looking for a church home where women may fully utilize their gifts and talents in service to the Kingdom, COTD may be a church you will want to consider.