By CBF Communications
DALLAS — For the first time since 2019, Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) hosted its Annual Gathering live and in-person June 28 at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. The Annual Gathering is traditionally one of the first events of the CBF General Assembly and includes a luncheon to honor BWIM award winners followed by a worship service.
BWIM Executive Director Meredith Stone acknowledged in her opening remarks that the occasion comes at a moment of great tension for people across the country and in CBF churches.
“I know that many of you came here this morning, living in the tension,” Stone said. “You’re navigating the tension of ministering at a time with a divided and polarized Church in a divided and polarized world. And you’re seeking to pastor and lead people who may seem world’s apart, people who are traumatized, fearful, hurting, confused, angry, controlled by fear and who are struggling to figure out the best ways to be followers of Christ in this day,”
Stone addressed tensions that exist for many women in ministry, illustrated by BWIM’s recently released “State of Women in Baptist Life: Report 2021” and highlighted some of the more significant findings of the survey of 555 women in the BWIM community:
- 86 percent of women in ministry experience obstacles to their ministry because of their gender.
- Of the obstacles listed—things like leadership style, adequate resources, and work hours—women of color said they experienced them more often than white women.
- 1-in-4 women reported that they have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault in their ministry settings.
Stone added that while the report indicated that the percentage of women serving as pastors or co-pastors in CBF went up from 6.5 percent to 7.4 percent since the last survey, taken in 2016, the percentage actually reflects that 12 fewer women are pastoring in CBF as there are fewer CBF churches than there were seven years ago.
“In this day and age, the church must do better for women. All women.” Stone said.
To that end, Stone shared some of the new initiatives that BWIM is launching, including a mentoring cohort of 20 women, representing seven Baptist denominations across 12 different states, that will begin this fall.
BWIM will also debut the third installment of a documentary series on women pastors in partnership with Good Faith Media that will feature Rev. Danielle Bridgeforth of Arlington, Va. BWIM is also beginning a partnership with Baptist News Global to increase the presence of women’s voices and perspectives for that publication, Stone said.
The luncheon concluded with a celebration of BWIM’s annual awards:
- Cheri Mills, a church administrator at St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and a student at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, received the Addie Davis Award for Outstanding Leadership in Pastoral Ministry.
- Angela Zimmerman, a student at Central Baptist Seminary, and the minister of music and associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Danville, Va., received the Addie Davis Award for Excellence in Preaching for her sermon, “The Lowly Mustard Seed.”
- Dr. Sophia Steibel, professor of Christian education and spiritual formation at Gardner-Webb Divinity School, Boiling Springs, N.C., received the Frankie Huff Granger Distinguished Mentor Award.
- Glendale Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., was recognized as the BWIM Church of Excellence for its role as a teaching congregation, mentoring more than 24 seminary interns in its history.
The BWIM Annual Gathering concluded with a worship service in the sanctuary of Wilshire Baptist Church. The Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart, senior pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., and president of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Missionary Society preached to a near-capacity sanctuary on the story of the “bent over woman” who was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath.
For Stewart, the woman in the story is an apt analogy for the struggles many women face in ministry, saying, “We know about systems that rob us of our power and our agency. We know what it means to be bent over.”
Register for free to virtually attend the 2022 CBF General Assembly, June 28-29, at http://www.cbf.net/assembly.
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.