By Ircel Harrison
A significant trend at the 2014 CBF General Assembly was the emphasis on opening new opportunities for women in ministry. The topic was addressed in multiple forums at the Assembly. One workshop presented a plan of action to address the issue.
Central Baptist Theological Seminary sponsored a workshop that provided the rationale and structure of its Women’s Leadership initiative that will begin in Nashville this fall.
In an opening video President Molly Marshall pointed out that barriers for women in ministry still exist. She acknowledged significant strides, but argued that more can be done. This is a first step in equipping women called to ministry to succeed.
Twelve women will have the opportunity to be part of a fully scholarshipped Master of Divinity program that will not only address traditional seminary disciplines–biblical and theological studies, Christian heritage, ethics, preaching, and pastoral theology–but leadership and spiritual formation issues unique to women. The programmers adapted from the create program for men and women students that has been conducted on the Shawnee campus for five or six years.
Although the women students will take foundational courses with other CBTS students on campus in Nashville or online, courses specific to the cohort will be only for women in the cohort. Sally Holt, director of the Nashville center, explained that these courses in interpersonal relations, leadership, and innovation will address skills especially needed by women to break through the “Stained glass ceiling.”
Eileen Campbell-Reed, who will guide the mentor coaching component, stressed that this is something of an experiment. This has not been attempted in mainline Christian denominations, so much can be discovered about the pros and cons through this program.
This is a bold initiative and one that can provide some insights for Fellowship Baptists to encourage women in ministry.
Ircel Harrison is Coaching Coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is Associate Professor of Ministry Praxis at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. He blogs at http://www.barnabasfile.blogspot.com. His Twitter feed is @ircel.