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Ashley and Joe tying the knot. Photo credit: Kristie JordanAn Open Letter Seeking Support for Equity for Women in the Church
September 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

I’m just returning from a great trip to England and Scotland. My purpose for the trip was to present a paper about the impact on the church of women entering ministry in growing numbers over the last 50 years. The point I argued is in the title, “Living Testaments: How Women’s Ministry Renews Ecclesial Imagination for the Church.” One thing clear from the responses and conversation around my presentation is that the changes are not only significant in the US but also in Europe and Great Britain.

You know me and you know that women called to ministry are among the top concerns in my work. From the seminary classroom to the church house, from to my blog to my personal friendships, I spend a lot of time and energy seeking to understand, support, and advocate for women called to ministry. I’m deeply committed to the learning and lives of all ministers, and I’m especially focused on continuing to interpret the transformation of the church brought by women’s full inclusion as leaders. When women began entering the ranks of ordained ministry three decades ago, churches started to change in significant ways. Fulfilling the promise of those changes in the coming decades – promises for greater gender, race and class equity in the church – fills me with hope and enthusiasm.

Because of these commitments, I’m excited to join about 25 other scholars, ministers, and religious leaders October 25-26 for the “Access and Equity for Women Clergy Conference” sponsored by the Equity for Women in the Church, a working community of the Alliance of Baptists. The Equity Community is sponsoring this historic, ecumenical and multicultural gathering to strategize about expanding the role of women in church leadership. We are hosting the conference at Wake Forest Divinity School.

I’m writing to invite you to spend some of your energy and money to join me in supporting the larger cause as well as this historic event. Would you send some of your hard earned income to help me champion the cause of women’s leadership and multicultural partnership in ministry? Would you pray for discernment and strategies of change among Baptists and beyond? Would you share my request with any other person or group?

Here’s how you can say ‘yes’ to any of my requests:

1)   Give: To support the “Access and Equity for Women Clergy Conference” financially, please send a gift in any amount to the Alliance of Baptists:

* Give online at:  http://allianceofbaptists.org/give/

* When giving online please select “other designations” and add the “Equity for Women in the Church Community”

* Send checks to:       Alliance of Baptists
3939 LaVista Road, Suite E-122
Atlanta, GA 30084

* Mark your checks: “Equity for Women in the Church Community” in the memo line

2)   Pray: To support the leaders who will gather in October begin praying now. Please pray for our discernment and ability to see what strategies will have the greatest impact by being the change, taking next steps, and following the Spirit’s lead for churches in our time. Pray for God’s guidance to show you ways that you might be and bring the change you hope for in the world. Ask your church and other faith communities to add us to their prayer lists, and to pray for the Spirit’s work of equity in the church.

3)    Share: Please feel free to forward this letter (or link to this web page) to anyone who shares these concerns, inviting their partnership as well.

Here’s more about what we hope the conference will accomplish…

Leaders, ministers, theological educators from eight Christian denominations (Disciples, Methodists, UCC, Episcopal, and a variety of Baptists) will gather to plan ways to move women’s leadership beyond the place where we have stalled in the past decade. We will be giving special attention to the interlocking injustices of gender and race. Where women take the lead other important social and justice oriented changes often follow. For example, almost no congregation begins to welcome the LGBTQ community if they have not taken steps to include women more fully in leadership already.

The statement below outlines the purpose of the meeting and the Equity Community with more details. It is exciting that churches in the Alliance of Baptists are leading in the effort to expand women’s leadership and are positioned well to host the gathering. Yet, we still have so far to go in making our vision of shared leadership between men and women, partnership among different racial-ethnic groups, and greater justice and reconciliation for the differences that divide us. Women’s ministry to and for the church is indeed renewing the church’s imagination for how to be the church, and giving new life to that work in the world.

Won’t you join me in this good work?

Peace to you,
Eileen

++++++++++++++++++++

Equity for Women in the Church,

a Community of the Alliance of Baptists

 

Purpose Statement: To advocate and network for clergywomen across denominations and cultures to facilitate access and congregational receptivity so that they find clergy positions in order to transform church and society.

 

Vision Statement: To facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches.

 

Initiatives:

 

  1. The Equity for Women in the Church Community will lead a national discussion via an Access and Equity for Women Clergy Conference, scheduled at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, October 25-26, 2013.Clergypersons, denominational leaders, and seminary/divinity school leaders across the country from various races, genders, occupations, and denominations have accepted the Equity Community’s invitation to participate in this strategy meeting. The Community is currently working to secure funding to pay travel expenses of participants in order to ensure a diverse group. The goals of this historic meeting are as follows:

 

(1)  Assess the progress of women clergy in gaining acceptance in the profession.

(2)  Review issues hindering job placement and career advancement of clergywomen.

(3)  Propose strategies to ensure fuller access for women to more senior leadership roles in congregational ministry.

(4)  This conference has the unique purpose of addressing the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede women’s career advancement.

 

  1. After the Conference, participants will serve as an activist group with the Equity for Women in the Church Community to implement recommended actions to be taken in denominational organizations, local congregations, and academic institutions.

 

  1. The Equity Community will collaborate with Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) and other women-focused denominational entities to identify seasoned/experienced clergywomen and less experienced clergywomen to facilitate mentoring relationships for purposes of continuing education (informal), networking, and possible sponsorship.

 

  1. A proposed initiative is to establish an Equity for Women in the Church Speakers/Preachers Bureau. These speakers/preachers will be available to go to churches to present information and challenge to overcome cultural and/or perceived biblical barriers so that women have increased opportunities to serve in clergy positions.

 

  1. Other specific projects and strategies for increasing access and equity for clergywomen and for transforming churches from single-cultural to multicultural will come from the fall planning Conference at Wake Forest.
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