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Women’s program adds first prof in vote by New Orleans trustees

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary approved Bayne Pounds as the first trustee-elected professor of women’s ministry at a Southern Baptist seminary during their March 14-15 meeting in New Orleans.

Pounds, unanimously elected as assistant professor of the women’s ministry program, currently works with the program and serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Christian education division of the college of undergraduate studies.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to work with so many women who have a heart for women’s ministry,” Pounds said. “Our seminary is giving validity to this vital ministry of the local church.”

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley told trustees, “Many have said Southern Baptists only talk about what women should not do. We want to make a positive statement about the positive influence of women in our churches and want to be an active part in training these women to be the best they can be.”

Idonia Porterfield, NOBTS trustee from Montgomery, Ala., said she is delighted about the women’s ministry professorship because the emphasis in training will allow women to be more effective in following the Bible’s instruction to minister to other women. “It is long overdue,” she said, explaining this ministry had been a heartbeat of hers for the past 10 years.

Rhonda Kelley, director and organizer of the women’s ministry programs and wife of Chuck Kelley, said, “Women’s ministry as a whole was a grassroots movement that developed as a result of local churches pulling different ministries together to meet the needs of women within their congregations. Churches have started doing more with women, allowing them to come on staff or serve as lay leaders of other women.

“Although there were periodic denominational training sessions for women’s leaders, there was no systematic theological training for them,” Kelley said. “That’s why we have created women’s ministry as a Christian education specialization at NOBTS.”

NOBTS has other Christian education specializations, including children’s ministry, youth ministry and adult education. “Trends and needs in churches drive the latest needs in Christian education,” said Steve Lemke, NOBTS provost. “In the 1960s, churches primarily utilized lay leaders in youth ministry, but by the 1970s seminary training was preferred for youth ministers in many churches,” he said. “Needs also arose for seminary-trained leadership in adult education, single-adult ministries and young-adult ministries. Now many churches are desiring to develop a program of ministry to women.”

The hunger for such ministry can be seen by the growing number of women’s conferences across the country. Women of Faith, for example, which features Patsy Clairmont, Barbara Johnson, Marilyn Meberg and others who share lessons of encouragement, has ministered to more than 500,000 women in weekend events across America.

“Women want to learn from other women and take what they learn to the women in their church,” Pounds said. Specialized training in women’s ministry, modeled after scriptures in Titus 2, equips leaders in the local church to be effective in this ministry, she said.

Currently serving on the women’s enrichment ministry council at First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Pounds also has served as director of single-adult ministries at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and as a leader of ministerial liability and youth ministry conferences throughout the United States. She earned her Ph.D. and master’s in religious education degrees from NOBTS.

“Interestingly, finding a person with credentials is difficult because no seminary offers a full-fledged women’s ministry degree program,” Rhonda Kelley said. “Bayne’s varied background gives her the necessary skills to lead this endeavor.”

Recognizing the importance of this specialized training, the women’s ministry program at NOBTS offers three- to five-day courses approximately every three months, as well as during the academic workshop periods between seminary terms. Since beginning as a certificate program in March 1997, the women’s ministry program, now expanded to the associate, baccalaureate and master’s levels, including master of divinity and master of arts in Christian education, has grown to 147 women from 18 different states, Kelley said.

The Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, in conjunction with the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, is starting a women’s ministry training program this summer, modeling it after New Orleans’ efforts. “New Orleans Seminary has such a strong ministry for women that we want to use it as a model,” said Frankie Falkner, coordinator of the Canadian program. Explaining that women’s ministry in Canada is still a new concept, she said their goal is to develop women’s ministry leaders through classes balanced with missions, evangelism and enrichment emphases.

In addition to providing leadership to women’s ministry programs within the seminary, Pounds also will assist in next year’s Women’s Leadership Consultation, a forum for leaders of women’s work in local churches and other ministries sponsored by the SBC seminaries on a rotating basis. Key women primarily from churches in the geographical area of the host seminary are invited to attend to receive information and training. Consultation leaders on the cutting edge of women’s work lead in inspirational plenary sessions and practical workshops tailored to equip women for ministries in churches of all sizes.

Next year’s consultation will be held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 8-10. The theme, “Share Life,” will highlight mentoring, with guest speakers Fern Nichols of Moms in Touch International, who will speak at the Thursday night rally open to the general public, and Janet Thompson from Saddleback Valley Community Church in California. The cost of the 2001 WLC conference will be $65 per person. Persons interested in receiving information about the conference can call New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at 1-800-662-8701, ext. 3260, or e-mail at [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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