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Women pastors must pursue calling, ignore opposition, CBF presenter says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–No human authority or creed can remove women in ministry from their God-ordained roles as senior pastors, said Carolyn Hale Cubbedge during a breakout session at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly June 26.

She made the remark while speaking of a Southern Baptist church in Iowa that hired a female pastor despite appeals to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message by the local director of missions.

Cubbedge, senior pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., lead a breakout session on “Baptist Women in Ministry” at the assembly. In addition to her role as pastor, Cubbedge has served as president of Baptist Women in Ministry, an organization that supports and advocates women as senior pastors.

Women pastors should remember, she said, that just as Christ endured the cross, they can endure any hardship or criticism associated with being a female pastor.

“We answer to a higher power, a higher authority than the local association … and I think God will hold us responsible for how we face our opponents, and how we represent the God we say is calling us.” When women pastors find themselves in tough situations, they should serve Christ, “who was in much harder situations than we’ll ever be in,” Cubbedge said.

As women enter pastoral ministry, there are two important matters they need to consider, she said.

First, women pastors must build a network of support. Cubbedge recommended in particular that women in ministry join local branches of Baptist Women in Ministry, which gains most of its members from CBF-affiliated churches.

Baptist Women in Ministry “seeks to nurture and support and serve as a catalyst for women in ministry,” she said. “We often help … with … anything that we can do to link you to people who can help you learn what you need to know or people who can help you in job transition or whatever you might be facing as you seek to answer your call to ministry, whatever that happens to be.”

Women pastors should also contact their local CBF organizations because the CBF often will offer moral and financial support, she continued. In Georgia, for example, the CBF gives money each year to the Georgia Baptist Women in Ministry. Additionally, the 2003/2004 CBF budget allocates $25,500 to “support, advocate and encourage women in ministry by providing operating funds to Baptist Women in Ministry.”

Women pastors also may need to look outside of Baptist circles for backing, Cubbedge added.

“I’m also involved in another women in ministry group that has been helpful to me, and this is a group we call the ‘SWIMers.’ They are the Savannah Women in Ministry group, and we are an ecumenical group. … We find ways to support each other in ministry at an ecumenical level. … We don’t argue denominations or your interpretation of that or the other, but we listen to each other in terms of call, ministry and what we’re trying to do. So there are lots of places you can find support for women in ministry,” she said.

Second, women pastors must make their own families a priority in the midst of ministry. For example, women pastors must talk with their husbands about what the call of God could mean for their marriages, Cubbedge said.

“Before a man would marry a woman who knows that she has been called to ministry, understand what that call on her life is going to be and what that means for family and how you work together,” she said.

Stresses on a woman pastor’s family might include having to relocate to a new state, having to fulfill stereotypical roles as a pastor’s family or dealing with motherhood in the midst of ministry, Cubbedge said.

In the final analysis, Cubbedge told attendees that women in pastoral ministry should not shy away from their unique calling. Rather, they should ignore opposition and proceed with ministry.

She concluded, “Women in ministry have enough antagonists out there, who for whatever reason don’t think that you have a right to be called by God to serve in roles in ministry. But there are an awful lot of people who believe that you do. So expend your energy developing relationships that help your ministry grow, that help you do what it is God called you to do. There’s so much work to keep you busy that we don’t have energy, we don’t need to waste energy trying to deal with folks who want to see you fail.”