Truett conference examines role of women in ministry

By Meghan Hendrickson

Women may be gaining ground in the business world, but the role of women ministers in the church is an ongoing topic of interest for an upcoming conference at Baylor.

George W. Truett Theological Seminary is hosting the sixth annual Women in Ministry conference sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss issues related to this question.

Dr. Jeter Basden, director of the Ministry Guidance Program and professor of religion, said the conference is designed for any man or woman who is interested in the role of women in ministry. The Ministry Guidance Program has helped publicize the event.

“This conference brings together people who have rich experience and keen interest in vocational ministry for and by women,” Basden said. “Having such a variety of speakers and topics presents students with an opportunity to explore multiple issues all in a one-day conference.

Issues related to the role of women in ministry will be discussed throughout the day in general sessions, panel discussions and breakout sessions.

Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., and former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, is the main speaker for the general sessions at this year’s conference.

Jo Ann Sharkey, assistant director of student services at Truett, has participated in the conference in previous years. She said she is excited about the conversations conference participants will engage in because of the “encouraging and supportive nature” of the event.

“We can talk about the real issues that we are dealing with in our ministries and work together to find healthy solutions to any problems we may be facing,” Sharkey said. “I enjoy meeting women who have more experience than I have and hearing the stories that they can share with me. There is great opportunity for wisdom to be shared and knowledge to be gained.”

Dr. Brian L. Harbour, Winfred and Elizabeth Moore visiting professor of religion and pastor for 45 years, said he is encouraging his students to attend the conference because of the speakers and the topics to be discussed.

One of those speakers, Candy Smith, pastor of spiritual development at First Baptist Church of Richardson, has been a lifelong friend and colleague of Harbour’s.

Harbour said Smith has excelled in every position since she began serving in vocational ministry in the early 1970s and that she is “one of the finest examples of a woman who has effectively fulfilled her calling in a Baptist church.”

Harbour said the issue of women in ministry is an important topic today.

“Among Baptists today, we see a trend to push us back toward a mindset that prevailed in the patriarchal world of the first century instead of pushing forward toward the vision articulated in Galatians 3:28 [when the Apostle Paul writes ‘there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’],” Harbour said. “The leaders of this conference exemplify the best thinking about, and the best examples of, women in ministry today.”

Keller junior Lauren Rivers is a student in Harbour’s Introduction to Ministry course and said she is looking forward to participating in the conference because she believes the role of women within churches is an controversial issue worthy of further “respectful discussion.”

“I consider Mark 16:1-8 and Luke 23:1-11, where the women who loved Jesus were the first to find his empty tomb and tell the other disciples, and contrast it with 1 Timothy 2:12, where women are admonished to remain quiet, not teaching or exercising authority over men,” Rivers said. “I don’t believe that God accidentally allowed those women to become the first evangelists, but I also think that the subject of women in the church is more nuanced than that simple dichotomy.”

Rivers said she is especially interested to attend the breakout session “The Bible and Women in Ministry.”

“I would love to hear what men and women who are wiser than I am have to say about this debate, which is and has been important in my life,” Rivers said, referring to the various career paths she could take as a religion major.

In view of the “Sacred Voices” theme of this year’s Women in Ministry conference, there will be three simultaneous panel discussions from 11 a.m. to noon ranging from recognizing a call to ministry, dealing with struggles in ministry and the male perspective on female ministry.

There will also be 10 breakout sessions in the afternoon covering topics including: discerning one’s call, the next step after one feels called to ministry, enduring in ministry, ministering in a multicultural world and the ethics of ministering across genders.

The two general sessions will convene at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the Paul W. Powell Chapel at Truett. Networking lunches will also be offered in the Great Hall at noon.

The conference cost for Baylor students is $15, but students who receive financial assistance from the BGCT may register without a fee.

Students can register for the conference online.

For non-students, the conference cost is $20.