By Heather Burke
Well, my knee-jerk response is to say, “The SBC wouldn’t have me.” I’m a woman ordained to the gospel ministry. I don’t like other people telling me who God made me to be. God and I have talked, and I’m pretty clear on my calling. I am a minister. I happen to be a minister to children. But that’s not because I thought it was the theologically correct place for my gender. I work with children because that is the area of ministry God called me to, and God has a sense of humor.
I didn’t mean to work with kids. In fact, I was pretty adamant until my last year of seminary that I wouldn’t work with kids. I didn’t mean to be a CBF Baptist either; it just kind of happened. Happy accidents and the Divine sense of humor.
I grew up in a fantastic SBC church. I went to all the programs; I spoke the language; I wanted to be Lottie Moon. I mean, I dressed up as Lottie Moon for a 1st grade school project in public school. Ministry was always my life-plan.
CBF wasn’t on my radar until my late college years. I was a Religious Studies major at a (mildly) SBC university. Several years of college angst and painful self-reflection led me to realize that I was not going to be the next Lottie Moon. I found, however, that I rather liked the academic pursuit of religion. I liked questioning my faith and combining heart and head to really dive into scripture. I discovered this word “inerrant,” and realized I thought it was a load of malarkey.
That’s about the time I had to become some other kind of Baptist. I didn’t see many options for me in the kind of church I grew up in. I’ll always love and appreciate my background. My childhood church formed me as a person and as a person of faith; I couldn’t accept a call to ministry without it. But I think you can call a place home, knowing it’s time to say goodbye.
So I said my goodbyes and filled out an application to a CBF seminary. All I really knew about CBF was that they were ok with women preachers and didn’t jump on the inerrancy bandwagon. That sounded pretty good to me. Plus, McAfee felt like a place I could call home.
The CBF world has become a home for me. As I have grown to know this new home, I have learned that the CBF identity goes way beyond the “women issue” or even the denominational disagreements out of which we were born.
CBF Baptists are about partnership. If you share our vision of serving Jesus in the world, we can be partners. We don’t have to agree on all the doctrine, and we don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to do ministry in the same way or in the same places.
We come together to share experiences and vision, resources and expertise, with the same prayer that God would use this network of ministry to further the Kingdom work of each individual ministry around the world. It’s like I tell my students: There’s only so much we can do on our own. When we work together, our resources multiply, and we can do so much more. CBF is a pretty small world, but I especially love how our size hasn’t limited our vision of what God can do when Christians work together.
Heather Burke serves as Minister to Children at First Baptist Church Conway, S.C. This column is part of a yearlong series sponsored and hosted by the Baptist History & Heritage Society, one of the Fellowship’s partners, exploring and celebrating why young Baptists identify with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Keep up with this “Voices of Young Baptists” series throughout 2015 by signing up to receive the Baptist Studies Bulletin, the free monthly online journal of BHHS providing articles, editorials and book reviews on Baptist history and issues of importance to Baptist individuals and congregations.