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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Women In Ministry Conference Or Hot Cookies?

Ok, so BDW has been busy the last few weeks. I've got 2 papers to write, a few books to read, a Final Exam to take and most importantly a thesis to finish. I have, however, made much progress on the thesis front. The words of James Dunn have been flying from my pen!

But on Monday (after a long night of thesisizing), I got up and went to the SECOND semi-annual Women In Ministry Conference held at Truett Seminary on the campus of Baylor University and hosted by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The theme of the conference was "And Your Sons AND Daughters Will Prophesy!" The purpose of the conference is as follows:
Women in Ministry Conference is designed for Ministry students (undergraduate and graduate) from Texas Baptist universities and seminaries, as well as Texas Baptist men and women who are interested in Women in Ministry. The conference will encourage, support, and connect women who sense a call to vocational ministry, and offer a venue for women and men to learn more about working together in ministry.
I had the privilege of hearing BGCT President Joy Fenner speak and then hear Amelia Fulbright Howard, daughter of Ruby Fulbright who is the state WMU director in North Carolina.

My girlfriend Alexis Cooper jotted down the following for me about the event:
There are many different ways to approach the topic of Women in Ministry. If you are a woman minister, you can defend your right to preach, Biblically. OR you can preach biblically.

Amelia Fulbright Howard, ordained Baptist minister from Austin, TX, did the latter on Monday afternoon. She didn't defend her call to preach, but instead looked to Scripture to bring a message to other women ministers about the challenges of being both a woman and a minister.

Her message was one of hope to ministers who sometimes forget the importance of self-care when ministering to others. While love is risky, and may involve pain, she said, pain and suffering is not the end goal, it is the risk taken when taking up one's cross. Howard reminded us that we follow the resurrected Christ, and we cannot understand the meaning of the crucifixion until we accept the gift of the resurrection.

Perhaps some of her ideas were radical- it may have made the men in attendance (about 40%) uncomfortable to hear words such as 'oppression' used in the context of female experience. But for women who have been silenced by their culture, their family, and their religious experience, it was a word that rang true. The sermon was not about being a victim, but how to more fully serve Christ as a woman minister. The whole conference, and the worship service the night before, was entirely about rejoicing together in being a part of God's creation, trusting that when God calls, you answer (whether you are a woman or a man).

This sermon didn't make headlines. This conference didn't make headlines. Perhaps women (and men) meeting together to worship and encourage faithfulness to God's call isn't newsworthy in Baptist life. Perhaps Baptist news sources are afraid of what happens if people find out about that Baptist women have been called to preach and DO IT WELL. Maybe, if Baptists are allowed to hear the Holy Spirit in action, much like the events in the 2nd chapter of Acts, their world will be changed.
Not to sidetrack from Amelia's excellent message as relayed by Alexis. But I want to follow up on Alexis's last paragraph. The ONLY second Women In Ministry conference hosted by the BGCT featured words/messages from George Mason, BGCT President Joy Fenner and many Texas Baptist seminary professors. The conference began Sunday night and ended Monday night. I think it's safe to say that enough time has elapsed that this story ain't getting covered.

As of Thursday morning, no Baptist media outlet here in Texas has covered the rather historic (and always important) event. No mention of the WIM conference on the official blog of the BGCT. That blog has posts that highlight April as "Camp Appreciation Month" and "Homemade Cookies" but no mention of the women who preached at the Paul Powell Chapel on Sunday and Monday.

You'll find more mention of "homemade cookies" on the website of the Texas Baptist Standard. But no mention of BGCT President affirming the calling of an ordained female minister. Check out the Texas Baptist Communication website of the BGCT. No women preaching. But daggumit you'll find more mention of "homemade cookies." You'll also see a couple shirtless fellas known as "Beach Reachers." Kudos to them! But again, no women.

Why? Why does this important and historic occasion not get covered by the Communications Department of the BGCT? I'm curious. Cookies for the Troops and Beach Reachers get lots of attention but women preaching at the flagship Texas Baptist university at an event hosted by the BGCT (don't forget that) receives absolutely no attention from the kind folks in the Baptist Building. I know a few people who are a little peeved to say the least.

In a recent op-ed over at the Baptist Standard, the now former interim Executive Director Wm. Jan Daehnert wrote about the "overwhelming need for all Texas Baptist leaders to continue welcoming those who align with the Southern Baptist Convention." He concluded his column with this sign off - "Welcome, Texas Baptists and Southern Baptists, Welcome."

Perhaps the question should be asked - Are the Women Preachers among us Welcome as well? Or has the PR-arm of the BGCT decided to avoid the reality of an increasing number of Texas Baptist women who are trying to answer their specific call to ministry. And when the BGCT apparently decides that sending homemade cookies to the troops is more newsworthy than only the second Women In Ministry conference EVER - then what does that say? What message does that send to these Texas Baptist women???

How are we going to break that stupid Glass Ceiling as long as Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are more important than women preaching the Gospel, trying to smash and shatter that stupid Glass Ceiling?

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Blogger Bart Barber said...

You want me to see if I can talk The Southern Baptist Texan into covering it? :-)

4:19 AM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

I may have my criticisms about what comes from the pen of Tammi Ledbetter, but at least she knows a news stories when she sees one....

7:19 AM

Anonymous John said...

I normally don't respond to criticism of why this or that isn't covered. Criticism of this sort kind of comes with the territory. And sometimes the critics are right.

In this case, I want to respond. I'm COMMUNICATIONS DUDE. I've got a lot of ground to cover, but I'll try to keep it short.

The simple answer to why the BGCT didn't cover the event is I'm a one person news staff. I have to balance responsibilities. In this case, the event fell on the first day of the new executive director and some other meetings within the building. I felt they took priority over the Women in Ministry conference. Feel free to think I made the wrong choice, but it's the choice I made.

Because I wasn't there, I couldn't blog about it.

What really bothers me more than your disagreement with that choice is you've decided to report a small part of a 45-minute private conversation about a range of women in ministry issues. And you weren't even in the room to verify your reporting. It is irresponsible. I guess in today's world everything is possible blog material, even if the blogger isn't there. I think this blog is better than that.

In the process of the conversation I explained that on the basis of widely accepted news values, the second women in ministry conference is not as newsworthy as the first, which I did cover with a news story and some photos. It wasn't a matter of saying the event wasn't newsworthy. The event simply wasn't the slam dunk for news coverage that you're presenting.

By the way, I did support the event in other ways. I suggested the Women in Ministry facebook page. I wrote a brief advance for the event that ran in the Standard. I worked with the Waco religion writer to see if she would be interested in the event.

Again, you may not agree with the choice I made. I can understand that. I just wanted to share my thoughts on your post. I hope it helps clarify a bit.

9:33 AM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


You're a little testy today, don't you think?

But hey, thanks for outing yourself as COMMUNICATIONS DUDE. That was not necessary.

In case you didn't notice John, those four-lines of dialogue can't be found on my blog. That info went up well after midnight and was taken down at approximately 9:20am, well give or take a few minutes. Granted, my decision to remove the info had nothing to do with YOU nor was posting that info irresponsible. I simply felt that such info would take away from my thesis. So, I removed it, my choice.

Did I mention your name? No.

But since YOU have chosen to out yourself to the few people who saw the dialogue. I'll respond:

First, it's hard to believe that the BGCT Communications Team is a one-person show. Would you really have the readers here believe that an organization with a multi-million dollar budget has only ONE reporter?!? Many of the articles written on the Communications website are authored by staff. Some are authored by You. I've seen a few authored by various other people. Are you trying to argue that STAFF and John are one in the same?

Second, did you or did you not make a decision months ago - before the Executive Director was hired or before you knew the Executive Director was going to be hired - to not cover the Women In Ministry Conference. Didn't you say that the second ever WIM conference was simply NOT NEWS. Did I get my facts wrong?

Third, there is a difference between advertising an event on facebook and actually reporting the event to the Texas Baptist community. At my alma mater, marketing courses were taught in the Terry School of Business and courses on "reporting" were taught in the Grady School of Journalism. I suspect you understand that difference.

Fourth, you could still blog on the event. There were quite a few students present. You should solicit someone else's opinion. Bloggers do that ALL the time. I have an idea. It's genius. Ask YOUR President, Joy Fenner, for a quick synopsis of the event.
Or is the official blog of the BGCT opposed to publishing Reflection pieces?

Finally, I'm not a reporter. But even if I was - did I need to be in the room with you to report on such a conversation? THIS blogger can't really find a more trustworthy source than the source I relied on. Because if my source ain't reliable, I'm really up the creek without a paddle....

Again I'm not a reporter and that 4-line dialogue with fictitious names was only online for a very very short time.

11:46 AM

Anonymous John said...

Honestly, yeah I'm a bit testy today. Maybe it's the weather. I haven't seen the sun all day long here.

I'm OK with naming myself on this.

At this moment I am the BGCT's only person tasked with writing news stories (we have an open position of news writer that also would do this). The Standard could have covered it, but from the BGCT I write the stories. Other people in communications do other things -- design, web stuff, meeting planning, video, etc.

Some of the other authors come from our institutions. We run some of the stuff they write. Every once in a while we use a freelancer. Staff usually means something had to be edited pretty hard and stuff was changed significantly. I could have explored these options further, but didn't because I was hoping to make the event.

I don't remember the exact day I decided I couldn't make the event. It was sometime last week, which didn't give a lot of time exploring other options. I guess I could have tried harder and looked for a student blogger, but didn't.

As for the conversation, what bothers me is you know how to reach me. We may not be friends, but we at least know of each other and have communicated. Feel free to give me a call or e-mail. That's a way to check a conversation. Get both sides. In the conversation, I explained that this women in ministry conference is not as newsworthy as the first. I still stand by that. You got your facts wrong.

On a philosophical level, in today's world, is every conversation blog-able? If so, we're all in a world of hurt.

Again, we're probably not going to agree. I'm OK with that. I know you are too. I'm just trying to give you my perspective.

Thanks again for listening. I feel a bit less testy. Maybe the sun will come out. Talk to you soon.

12:35 PM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...


Don't you know by now that no event for women in the ministry--especially preaching--is newsworthy if your former pastor, Julie P-R, isn't featured?

10:11 AM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Well Cat's Dad,

For once, I'm not disagreeing with you completely.

John has framed this simple blog post into a personal attack on Him. Or so it seems to more than a few of my readers.

First and foremost, this post is about plugging an event that no media organization covered. Second, it's about the sermon delivered by Amelia Fulbright Howard. Pretty good sermon, I might add. And finally, this post is about criticizing ALL Texas Baptist media outlets. If you'll notice, I criticized the Baptist Standard too. But, supposing someone from the Standard even reads my blog, nobody is complaining.

And most importantly, the most complaining that has been done here in this comment thread is about a 4-line dialogue that doesn't even exist.

My criticisms are quite valid. I apologize for nothing. Excuses are a dime a dozen. But, what does the lack of coverage say to the women participants, those who attended and those who supported the event? Those are questions that deserved to be asked. That's the trump card.

How are we going to break that stupid stained glass ceiling and will the BGCT play a role in that effort? Or will the BGCT kowtow to their donors who would subjugate women under the guise of "complimentarianism" ?

12:50 PM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...


With your closing question, you draw quite well a picture of the dilemma the BGCT faces. That dilemma is how to navigate the financial waters made turbulent by the disproportionate power enjoyed by the farthest-left BGCT minority.

Accepting the indictment that I'm stereotyping, and obviously politically incorrect, I'll give you some key buzzwords that characterize this power-holding minority while grinding at the conscience and patience of many BGCT-supporting churches:

New Baptist Covenant, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Texas Baptists Committed, Baptist Center for Ethics, Mainstream Baptists Network, Texas Christian Life Commission, Truett Seminary, Logsdon School of Divinity, Baptist Way Press, WorldConnex, women senior pastors.

There, you have it, my friend. I'm just here to be helpful. The BGCT, under Randal Everett, will have to answer your question.

10:16 AM


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