April 28, 2017
By Carrie McGuffin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — “Now is the time to push forward…to use our collective power as CBF women to create a tipping point. Let’s co-create with God and change the future for women all around us. Will you join me?”
This was the challenge of Carol McEntyre, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., to the 120 Cooperative Baptist women gathered Thursday for day two of Leading Women, a three-day gathering, April 26-28, hosted by First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. and sponsored by CBF and Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM).
Reflecting on her story of calling and story of finding a pastorate, McEntyre emphasized that while women can be pastors in the Fellowship, it takes courage and strength to follow that call.
“You are not a mistake,” she said, looking back on a moment of clarity in her journey. “I realized up until that point that I was thinking God must have messed up. You are not a mistake.”
McEntyre’s story of calling was echoed throughout the final two days of the conference as 18 women shared LEAD talks around the topics of mentoring, leadership, learning, advocacy, finance and self-care from their unique perspectives. LEAD talks served as opportunities to hear the journey of lay leaders, ministers, theological educators and denominational leaders and to dialogue with them.
Anyra Cano, youth minister at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, Texas, reflected on the challenges of finding mentors and leaders that look like her, and how she found a home in the Latina Leadership Institute. Colleen Burroughs, Vice President of Passport, Inc., shared about the intentional choice of including women in leadership roles at PASSPORT Camps, and Charity Roberson, field strategist and ministry placement coach for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, spoke about the challenges of creating a network of women ministers when there is an undercurrent of competition for women’s ministry roles.
Jackie Baugh Moore, vice president of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation, noted the challenges of aligning a Foundation with work in the spirit of Baptist freedoms, and Lori Irons-Crenshaw, CBF Global Missions personnel selection manager, shared about the women field personnel of CBF serving in hard places around the world because of their calling. Stacy Blackmon, executive director of Global Women, focused her talk on the challenges of storytelling with integrity and giving voice to those whose perspectives are not heard.
These voices and more all represented the strength of women in leadership from across the Fellowship, across the country and around the world.
Alongside the sharing of journeys, attendees had the opportunity to engage with a panel centered on being women leaders in our current social, political and cultural climate. Panelists CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter, Molly Marshall, President of Central Theological Seminary and Ellen Di Giosia, associate pastor of faith formation at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, represented the denominational, educational and pastoral perspectives.
In the present climate, Paynter suggested that attendees should focus on advocacy born out of love, but not push for 100 percent of a group or church to engage.
“Bless the few that do,” Paynter offered. “In any areas of advocacy that come from our life together, the goal is not for 100 percent of our congregation to do anything.”
She challenged the women gathered to find the few passionate people around particular areas of advocacy and put them to positive action.
Attendees were given time to fellowship together and share insights on the LEAD talks they engaged at a banquet in the heart of Knoxville. Here, they gathered for food, fun and stories, as they heard the story of five women called to different areas of ministry across the Fellowship.
Women were also asked to engage in a prayer exercise, offering a prayer of affirmation of the calling of each woman at their table. Together the group focused on positive action, lifting one another up in the challenges that a call to ministry present.
The conference concluded Friday with a message from Raquel Contreras, general director of Baptist Spanish Publishing House, where she offered the affirmation: “God is always there,” as she shared the challenges of her life and journey to her current ministry.
“My leadership journey has been very strange,” Contreras said. “That is why I wanted to start with these song lyrics: when I hug you, I hug you with my story.”
The stories and journeys of all the women attending the conference brought them to the Lord’s Table together, as the group shared in a final service of worship, singing the words of affirmation that were the anthem for the week: “For everyone born, a place at the table.”
Read about day one of the conference here.
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