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Women’s roles draw concern from Illinois ministers

BENTON, Ill. (BP)–Several Illinois Baptist pastors and two associational directors of missions have raised concerns about the role of women in the proposed staff reorganization of Illinois Baptist State Association.
Nine ministers in the southern-Illinois Franklin Baptist Association signed one letter to the editor of the Illinois Baptist newsjournal, and a central Illinois DOM sent another one.
The concerns center on IBSA Executive Director Bob Wiley’s plan to place women in two positions in a proposed new state convention staff structure.
Wiley has announced plans for Janet Craynon to be associate executive director and for Evelyn Tully to be facilitator for the service/ministry team. Craynon currently is director of the convention’s resource management department and Tully is director of Woman’s Missionary Union services, a position she would continue to hold in the new structure.
Citing verses in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Timothy, the ministers’ letter from Franklin Baptist Association states women are not to be in authority over men. In an interview with the Illinois Baptist, two of the men, Jim Endsley and Jim Kerley, said that injunction applies to ministry situations, not other areas. And they said they believe the proposed new IBSA structure puts Craynon and Tully in positions of authority over male ministers.
“We are people of the Book,” said Endsley, pastor of North Benton Baptist Church, citing the relationship of Baptists to the Bible. “We need to remain people of the Book, and the Book says in many places that women are not to be in authority. I don’t know that I like that, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t change the Scripture.”
“I agree with Brother Endsley,” said Kerley, director of missions for the Franklin association. “This is a scriptural issue. This is not a preacher issue.”
Both men stated laypeople in the association also have expressed concern over the plans for women to serve in the new IBSA positions.
Wiley said Craynon and Tully would not have authority over men. “The whole purpose of the restructure is to take away positional authority,” the executive director said. “The purpose of the restructuring is to flatten the lines of authority,” to put in new ones.
In the proposed new structure, “actions can be taken by one’s own decision without upline approval, as within policy of the board,” Wiley said. “My commitment is to teams, where each member of a team has as much influence over the direction of the team as anyone else.”
IBSA’s staff currently is organized into two divisions, two departments and the Baptist Children’s Home. In the proposed new structure, there would be five teams, each with a facilitator, plus an associate executive director. The children’s home would have a separate board of trustees.
Draft documents for the reorganization have said the associate executive director will be involved in team coordination, budgeting and accounting.
The facilitator’s role is spelled out in a “suggested role specification” prepared by the executive director. It says facilitators will “guide team members in defining their mission” within the vision and objectives of IBSA. They also will “assist team members” in group relationships, as well as “coordinate, arrange, and secure effective follow-through of team meetings and plans.” They will be accountable to team members and the executive director.
The people in the positions in question have “no right to command,” Wiley told the Illinois Baptist. “There is no power of decision over. There is no positional power that places a female in a superior role over anybody else.”
In various public settings, Wiley has stated the team facilitators will not be leaders or supervisors of their teams.
The letter from ministers in the Franklin association dismisses that stance. “This is a ridiculous use of semantics,” the letter states. “Call this person what you will, they will be meeting with the director and passing directions to the team. They will be supervising the flow of information and instructions from the director to the team and vice versa.”
If the facilitator is used as a conduit for communication, Endsley told the Illinois Baptist, “that automatically will make that person the team leader.”
Wiley responded: “This assumes there is a vertical line of authority. There is no vertical line of authority. That’s what the whole restructuring is trying to get rid of.”
The letter’s criticism “assumes there is authority given” to facilitators, Wiley continued. “It assumes that I will limit my contact. It assumes that I’m putting in place a group of people that will save me effort.” But he said those assumptions are incorrect.
Wiley said he intends to train facilitators for their role but not use them to “pass responsibilities to the team.” Staff members will have equal access to the executive director.
Endsley also said the fact that facilitators will receive a financial stipend “automatically makes them a team leader.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Wiley responded. “What you do with a stipend is you acknowledge extra work but not extra authority.”
The letter from Franklin County also asked the question: “Who will take charge if something would happen to the executive director?”
“That’s a process for the board to decide,” Wiley said. IBSA would “have to look at how the board has responded in the past.”
After previous Executive Director Gene Wilson became ill in 1995, a “management team” of five IBSA staff members provided leadership for a time. Then the board of directors selected Keith Stanford as acting executive director.
“I don’t think we can assume that the board will take certain action,” Wiley added.
Endsley and Kerley repeatedly told the Illinois Baptist their opposition has nothing to do with the two individuals named to the positions — Craynon and Tully. “We are not dealing with personalities here,” Kerley said, “because the people who are appointed are both well-qualified in what they do, and no one is questioning that at all.”
They also said this is not an attack on the executive director. “We’re not fighting Bob Wiley,” Kerley said. “We respect him.”
The two Franklin County ministers said the scriptural statements regarding authority and headship should be applied to IBSA because it helps churches do their work.
“IBSA is not a church, but it helps the church in its ministry,” Endsley said. Because it helps churches provide ministry, some of its activities are ministries, he said.
Wiley drew a sharper distinction between the church and IBSA.
“We don’t do their ministry,” the executive director said. “That’s the problem. The perception has been that the state does the work. Our job is to resource. Our job is to help them discover. Our job is to help them be equipped. …
“We’re trying to turn the church back to its responsible position,” Wiley continued. “The state has been doing the work of the churches, and it’s not right. The churches ought to be doing the work. They’re the called ones, the sent ones. … The state association is not the church and has no authority over the church, cannot have authority over the church, must not have authority over the church. …
“To assume that the state association is an extension of the church is to create hierarchy in the denomination,” Wiley said.
Kerley said it is his hope and prayer Wiley “would change his position” regarding placing women in the two positions, “because the one thing we do not want” is conflict. “If something is going to create a great deal of conflict then the best thing for us to do is to reevaluate what we are doing and maybe go in a different direction. And so if this issue is going to create a great deal of conflict then I am sure Brother Wiley would want to reexamine what he is doing and make different appointments,” Kerley said.
Wiley told the Illinois Baptist he is “going to be sensitive to their concern, and to the best of my ability we will not create a position where there is assigned authority.” He defined such authority as “any responsibility delegated from the director over another person or group.”
“I want them to know they are being heard,” Wiley continued. “But at the same time, I don’t see where I’m making any violation of this understanding of leadership, of a woman over a man. I do not see that in what we are doing. I can see where it could become that if you’re not cautious and careful, but we’re going to work at it.”
Wiley is continuing to hold dialogue sessions around the state. After they are completed, the board’s Futures Task Force “will make adjustments as we deem necessary,” he said.

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  • Ferrell Foster