WAKE FOREST, N.C. – More than 500 women gathered for the Lifeway Women Symposium at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest because they wanted to know God more deeply through His Word.
Lifeway Women hosted the Oct. 14-15 Lifeway Women Symposium as a celebration and commissioning for the kickoff of Lifeway Women Academy, a platform for online, on-demand courses for women, by women. Lifeway Women Academy is designed to fuel the ministry of women around the world and serve as a next step (or first step) for women to grow and learn in their walks with Christ, according to Elizabeth Hyndman, editorial project leader for Lifeway Women Academy.
“It’s been fun being together with women who are hungry to know how to study the Bible and understand theology more fully,” said Becky Loyd, director of Lifeway Women at Lifeway Christian Resources. “We’ve seen women from across the country come together to focus on learning and developing skills to take back and minister in their own communities and contexts.”
Why are you here?
The Lifeway Women Symposium kicked off on Friday afternoon with teaching from keynote speaker Jen Wilkin. Through three sessions over the course of two days, Wilkin addressed the question “Why are you here?” Each session emphasized a different word in the question: “why,” “you” and “here.”
Wilkin shared with women her personal story of becoming interested in studying and teaching theology. She had seen that theology is intensely practical and brings great help when applied rightly and great harm when applied wrongly. Wilkin saw a need in herself and among the women in her local church to develop a right understanding of God and His Word. But the theological and biblical illiteracy Wilkin saw around her was not limited to that context. Wilkin cited the 2022 State of Theology report, which reveals confusion over theological matters among evangelicals, as she discussed symptoms and causes of theological and biblical illiteracy.
“How high are the stakes for getting the Bible wrong? How great is the reward of getting it right?” Wilkin asked. “Why are you here? My guess is it’s because you saw a need. You saw a need in yourself, and you saw a need in others.”
As Wilkin emphasized “you” in the question, she discussed Luke 10:38-42 and the significance of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. Wilkin reminded women that as disciples of Jesus, they belong in settings where theology is being discussed seriously. Women gathered at the Lifeway Women Symposium to study theology because they are disciples who disciple, Wilkin said. And she highlighted four reasons believers commit themselves to learning about God – so they can worship, remember and endure, change and teach others.
“Why are you here?” Wilkin asked. “Because you belong here. You are a theologian.”
In the final session of the weekend, Wilkin addressed the “here” of the question “Why are you here?” based on Matthew 12:46-50 when Jesus addressed the crowd around Him as His mother and brothers. Wilkin affirmed the goodness and value of relationships among mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers in the church. Studying theology in a group of women should better equip you to study theology in the context of the familial relationships of the church, Wilkin said.
“Why are you here?” Wilkin asked. “Because your contributions are essential and indispensable in the mission of the church.”
The Lifeway Women Symposium offered women opportunities to hear from an array of women theologians on biblical hermeneutics, the cultural context of the Bible and inductive Bible study. Missie Branch, assistant dean of students to women and director of graduate life at Southeastern, led main session panels on handling difficult passages of Scripture and becoming a discerning reader.
Katie McCoy, director of women’s ministry at Texas Baptists; Julia B. Higgins, assistant professor of ministry to women and associate dean of graduate program administration at SEBTS; Melissa Kruger, director of women’s initiatives for The Gospel Coalition (TGC); and Paty Namún, women initiative coordinator for Coalición Por El Evangelio (the Spanish-language version of TGC), discussed how to handle difficult Bible passages and how to seek the truth rather than be derailed by difficult questions.
Mary Wiley, manager of trade books for B&H Publishing Group; Kelly King, manager of adult ministry magazines and devotionals and women’s ministry training events at Lifeway; Courtney Doctor, coordinator for women’s initiatives for TGC; and Lilly Park, professor of biblical counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, discussed how to become a discerning reader and the necessity of reading every book from a biblical worldview.
“I’m grateful we were able to provide a space for women to come together to discuss and learn things that are of a unique interest to them,” Hyndman said. “Ultimately, we wanted to point women to God who has given them these gifts and interests in order to know Him more and to share the truth about Him with those around them.”
Breakout sessions included topics on practical theology, historical and cultural context, inductive Bible study, digital tools in theological study, the trustworthiness of the Bible, biblical languages, the storyline of Scripture and the Bible as a literary text. These sessions were led by women theologians including:
- Courtney Doctor
- Julia B. Higgins
- Melissa Kruger
- Lilly Park
- Courtney Veasey, itinerant Bible teacher, writer and academic instructor
Lifeway Women Academy
The Lifeway Women Symposium marked the opening of registration for the first Lifeway Women Academy course. “How to Study the Bible: Hermeneutics 101” is a 10-session video course taught by Wilkin, Higgins and Elizabeth Woodson.
“We want to give you permission. We want to give you tools. We want to give you confidence. We want to give you companionship,” Wilkin said. “My prayer for you is that you would be driven to be equipped for the work God has called you to.”
Hyndman said: “We know God has given you a desire to study His Word on your own. We pray Lifeway Women Academy is a help to you, equipping you and building confidence in you to study and teach the Bible.” She added that Lifeway Women Academy is designed to equip women in any setting – at home or work, in one-on-one discipleship relationships or church ministry – to faithfully fulfill their call to teach others the character and glory of God.
Loyd said her hope is that Lifeway Women Academy courses will help women study the Bible and theology for themselves.
“Our goal is to help women become both confident and competent in their Bible knowledge and give them tools to be able to teach and equip others,” she said.
For more information and to register for Lifeway Women Academy visit Lifeway.com/academy.