Women in Ministry

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from Mission Summit Conversations (June 2013)

  • Insights
    • Women in Ministry face both overt and covert discrimination.
    • They are often victims of bad theology.
    • We see “cultural schizophrenia” in the church (women lead in industry and government but comply without question when told to sit down and shut up in church).
    • When women are called to serve professionally they are often victims of economic injustices.
    • The primary barrier to the calling of a woman to the pastoral role in most congregations is cultural bias or theological misunderstanding in the pew.
    • The real victim of these barriers is the church of Jesus Christ itself, which is deprived of the gifted ministering of God’s called and gifted servants, who sit underutilized on the sidelines.
  • Challenges
    • How can we consider new and innovative models and venues for mission and ministry that include women in ministry?
    • How can we overcome cultural and theological biases toward women in ministry?
  • Experiments
    • Overcoming the cultural bias can be ameliorated by strategically introducing women into pastoral roles such as pulpit supply and interim ministry.
    • Overcoming the theological misunderstanding is a more delicate process best approached from multiple directions starting with the pulpit.

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the Mission Table (November 2013)

  • Insights
    • The real strength rest in telling the story of our woman in the past and present serving God faithfully in every type of leadership role. A strong arm or in your face argument does more harm than good.
    • What really makes the change in attitudes is relationship.
  • Challenges
    • The deepest challenges of continuing to lift up women in ministry are often cultural. Many of our churches have been taught a view of the scriptures that rests on the surface without much regard for the context of what is being said.
    • Do we need to be looking at this differently for different generations?
  • Experiments/Projects
    • A clear biblical teaching concerning women being used by God in all kinds of ministry is needed.
    • For search committee work, focus on the match between the gifts of women in ministry and the needs of the congregation.
    • Lift up historical images of women in ministry such as Helen Barrett Montgomery.


Continued Day 2 – Summary (November 2013)

  • Insights
    • 57% of seminarians are female, but only 9.8% of employed ministers
    • Many lay women put up barriers to other women in ministry
    • Our polity and our autonomy can be hindrances to women in ministry
  • Proposed Projects
    • Could the next theologians conference focus upon men and women in the church?
    • Through IM, our team will seek to reproduce, “A Biblical Basis for Equal Partnership”
    • IM will seek to identify which partners and other entities around the world that are ordaining women and publish an honor roll.  There are also implications for this in the U.S.
    • The women in ministry task force will propose a resolution on Women in Ministry and ask all regions and program boards to affirm it
    • The resource, “Calling an American Baptist Minister” is already gender neutral, but the task force will review current materials and suggest additions that might open search committees to women
    • Make contact with the affirmative action officer

Read the full notes:

Mission Summit Conversations:

Mission Table:

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the National Leadership Council Meeting (April 2014)

Current Activity and Next Steps

  • We have distributed a survey regarding women in ministry. Let us know if you would be willing to distribute the link to this survey.
  • As part of an ALT experiment we are developing a mentoring network for women in ministry.
  • We are building partnerships with AB Women’s Ministries to discuss barriers to women serving in ministry
  • We are updating the print piece on an equal partnership with women in ministry
  • We need to attend to the celebration of gifts through the telling of stories
  • IM is creating a list of groups around the world who support women in ministry
  • AB Women’s Ministries is taking a group of clergy and lay women on a Spiritual Pilgrimage with Georgian Baptist lay and clergy women to explore partnerships

Views expressed are the sole opinion of conversation participants. They do not express the views of American Baptist Churches USA, or individual American Baptist churches. Conversation notes and summaries are shared to allow American Baptists and friends to easily review and use these Mission Summit Conversations and the Mission Table learnings as they wish.