by Patricia Green
In 2007, the organization Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) invited Baptist churches to become involved in Martha Stearns Marshall Month of preaching by having a woman preach during the month of February. This month of preaching was named after an eighteenth-century Separate Baptist woman, Martha Stearns Marshall. This year BWIM enlarged that circle to recognize three other important Baptist preachers: Ella Pearson Mitchell, Helen Barrett Montgomery, and Edna Lee de Gutiérrez.
As many of you are aware, historically women have been denied access to the pulpit for various reasons in the Baptist Church. Part of me is frustrated by this special month in which Baptist churches recognize that women can be gifted in preaching as well as men. Perhaps that is why I let it slip my mind this year. Why must it be only one month a year? My soul cries out for the day when we won’t need a particular month in which women are encouraged to preach because it will be the norm to have women preaching every week in Baptist churches. My spirit longs for the time when Baptist congregations fully accept that God calls women to be pastors and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ regularly from the pulpit. My heart yearns for the time when one’s female gender will not be viewed as a hindrance but an asset. I hunger for the day when scripture will not be fiercely used to deny but lovingly used to welcome and bless that God’s calls women and men to preach. I long for the day when I and other female Baptist pastors won’t be questioned about our ability to minister because of gender – it will be enough, more than enough, that God called and we responded.
We have made great strides in the past years in the Baptist world. I am grateful to be a part of a Baptist congregation that not only allows me to preach but welcomes me to their pulpit with open arms. I am humbled to know that so many of my parishioners trust me as person and pastor. I am eternally thankful that so many of them don’t see me as a good pastor despite my gender but that they realize (at least subconsciously, I think) that my gender helps to make me who I am and positively influences my ability to pastor.
Though we have made great progress, we have so much further to go in Baptist circles. So until the day when it is the norm, I will celebrate Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. And always, I will give thanks for Martha, Ella, Helen, and Edna and the countless other women who have helped and are helping pave the way for young girls and women to preach. I give thanks for congregations that fully bless the gifts of women, as well as congregations that are willing to take a chance and invite a woman to preach once a year in February. Hopefully, that practice at the very least will stretch them, and perhaps, just perhaps make them think about whether there might be something to the idea that God calls all. Perhaps God gifts women to preach too. With all my heart, I believe God does.
And let me also add for all those Baptist churches out there that fully endorse female ordination, that while you are special and unique and beautiful because you welcome women to your pulpit and believe in our gifts of preaching and ministering, there is always room for growth. Be courageous. Be willing to stand up for what you believe in. Take chances. Have eyes and hearts that are not afraid to envision a better day, and then actively work toward helping to make that day a reality.
And in the meantime, know dear ones, always know, that you are Beloved and that God is at work.
Guest Blogger is Rev. Patricia Greene who is the Associate Pastor/Minister to Families at First Baptist Rockingham, North Carolina. A 2009 graduate of Campbell University in Buies Creek, Patricia majored in Religion. Following her undergraduate work in NC, Patricia furthered her education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia and received her Master of Divinity in 2012. Prior to beginning her ministry at First, Rockingham, Patricia completed a one-year chaplaincy residency at Wake Forest Medical enter; she has been in her role at First, Rockingham since 2014.
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