Posts Tagged preacher

Preach Like a Girl – Susan Sparks – Madison Avenue Baptist Church

I knew I was called to be a preacher at six years old. While there were many signs, the clearest was my weekly Saturday night ritual of lining up an audience of stuffed animals so that I could do some preachin’ based on the Sunday School lesson for the next day. The animals seemed to love it.  My Southern Baptist Church home, however, did not.

It all came to a head one hot July day when our Vacation Bible School teacher asked our class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I flung up my hand and quickly announced that I was going to be a preacher. The teacher sighed, looked over her reading glasses, and curtly spit out the message that literally changed the trajectory of my life: “Susan, God only calls men to preach.”

What else can you do at six years old when you hear such words?

You change your dream.

So, I decided to become a lawyer (same job as a preacher, just different clients).

I spent ten years as a litigator, but the voice from that tiny preacher kept circling back and eventually became too strong to ignore. At age 38, I joined the American Baptist Church, a denomination that ordains women, and entered seminary.

Yet here in 2018, after ten years as a trial lawyer, two graduate degrees, an honors thesis in seminary and twelve years as the Senior Pastor of a historic Baptist congregation, I am still not allowed to preach in that Southern Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I grew up.

Why?

Because I’m a woman.

As a lawyer, I can’t help but scratch my head at the logic. The Southern Baptists have no problem with women on the U.S. Supreme Court. They are happy to send a woman into space as an astronaut. Heck, they would have put Sarah Palin in the White House (bless their hearts, as we would say in the South).

But a woman preacher—in a pulpit?

No. Way.

Their argument is that scripture excludes women from ordination and leadership. Of course, all those who interpret that scripture within the Southern Baptist Church are . . . men. So, how does that work?

Their position hangs on a literal interpretation of passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in which the Apostle Paul writes, “Let the women keep silent in church.” Of course, a literal interpretation of this passage would also mean that women may not sing or verbally praise God in worship. Anyone who has attended a Baptist service knows that is a manifest impossibility.

Paul makes a similar statement about the need for male authority and female silence in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Even if we set aside the historical context of this scripture (his words were directed at marital issues and not ministry), there is the larger problem of selective enforcement. This same passage forbids women to wear gold jewelry or pearls, but we don’t hear much about that section. I guess the Southern Baptists decided that would be too much to enforce on us bling-lovin’ Southern sisters.

We also don’t hear much about Romans 16:7 where Paul describes Andronicus and Junia (a woman) as “outstanding among the apostles.” (Not surprisingly, some later translations changed the female name “Junia” to the male “Junias.”)

If you want to adopt a literal interpretation of the Bible, consider Acts 2:17-18: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”

As I used to say in my prior legal career, “I rest my case.”

In one of his most famous parables, Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is like the landowner who entrusted his three workers with certain talents (money). Two invested the talents, doubled their value, and were rewarded. The third worker was punished, because he buried the money and barely returned what was given.

The Southern Baptist Church is burying the divine gifts borne by over fifty percent of God’s children. It is wasting these talents.

We can no longer afford this unjust denial of vocation.

We can no longer afford to stifle God’s call.

Given the broken nature of our world today, I say we need all the help we can get—Supreme Court Justices, jet pilots, preachers, and all.

Postscript: This week, thanks to multiple revelations of abuse, including sexual misconduct conduct, by leaders of the Southern Baptist Church, the denomination is meeting to discuss a resolution acknowledging that, throughout the church’s history, male leaders and members of the church “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women.” While acknowledgement of this horrendous conduct is long overdue, shockingly, there is no inclusion in this resolution for the women who are “wronged and silenced” by being forbidden ordination, leadership, and/or the right to preach. This column is dedicated to them.

— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian and ordained minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. To find out more, visit her website, www.SusanSparks.com

 

 

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Thankful Thursday – The Rev. Dr. Linda M. Bridges

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the gifts that the Rev. Dr. Linda M. Bridges brings to my life. I first heard her at Chautauqua as the chaplain of the week in 1996. Because she, Joan Lipscomb Solomon and I are all South Carolinians we got together for lunch at the Athenian Hotel, the oldest wooden hotel in the United States still in service. Joan was a classmate at Furman and wrote a religion column for the Daily Chautaquan. Linda is a delightful person. Her father was a mountain preacher in the areas around upper Greenville County. She is one of the women forced out of her position at Southern Seminary, (Women should not teach men.) where she received her Ph. D. Linda had a profound influence on me that week with her preaching and living example of, “Grace upon Grace.” What a wonderful explanation of our lives. No one else has captured the meaning or the words of explanation that Linda did. She was a founding faculty member at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond where she taught New Testament, Greek and Women’s Studies.  She published, The Church’s Portrait of Jesus, in 1997 and, A Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, in 2007. She is now at Wake Forest University where she is Associate Director of Admissions. I will be forever grateful for the gifts that Dr. Linda Bridges brings to my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the gifts of someone special to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad you did.

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“An Invitation to Becoming – Guest Post

“An Invitation to Becoming”  by Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson, Senior Pastor, Flat Rock Baptist Church, Mt. Airy, NC

There is nothing more difficult than realizing that you have been called to do something, or perhaps be something, that will most likely bring the disapproval of others.  As a young girl I loved visiting the community pool and playing with my friends, though I did prefer one game that might have seemed a bit unusual to other children.  While some kids played games of tag and water basketball in the deep end of the pool, I could be found in the shallow end.  You see, that was the only place where my feet would touch the bottom and allow me to stand up straight as I baptized each one of my friends.  Yes, I was the girl who spoke aloud the words she had heard her pastor speak so many times before, “I baptize you now in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in a new kind of life”.  I have to admit that my “candidates” were not always cooperative, or even willing, but I was preparing for what I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life.  I was certain that God had called me into ministry, though I did not yet have the language of pastor and preacher.  I only knew that I was meant to help people, love and care for them, and share the story of Jesus as it had been shared with me.  It was simple……but not for long. 

I have recently seen my calling come into full fruition, as I was called as Pastor of a small church in Mount Airy, NC (yes, the real Mayberry).  The road to Flat Rock Baptist Church was filled with great success and affirmation, as well as pain and rejection, as I struggled alongside sisters in the ministry to find my voice and place of service.  I was called every name in the book, and assured time and again that I must certainly be “misinterpreting God’s call”, so when I found myself standing in front of a congregation and with tears in my eyes accepting their invitation to serve them as their pastor, I once again felt the way I did in that swimming pool.  The spirit of God poured out on a daughter, knees shaking at the task before me, yet overwhelmed with joy at the thought that I was receiving an invitation….an invitation to become.  

Sadly, there are those that would seek to drown out the voice of the Holy beckoning to me, and replace it with the sounds of hate and oppression.  My church, for being willing to call a person and not a gender, was quickly ousted from the local Baptist association.  Signs proclaiming, “Women cannot be pastors, according to God’s Law”, went up at in town churches, while other pastors decided to preach sermons railing against my presence as a “devil sent distraction” meant only to destroy “biblical purity”.  With all this static, how could anyone expect to hear, much less interpret, the voice of God?  

Luckily for me, the voice of the God who calls came through loud and clear in the form of church members who proudly proclaimed me as a beloved friend and pastor, as well as countless e-mails and phone calls from clergy and laity around the world expressing support and affirmation.  Our church is not just surviving, it is thriving, and as for me…..well, I remain confident in the knowledge that I am called, and by the grace of God, still becoming.

 

 

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Thankful Thursday – Dr. Arthur Caliandro

            On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the contributions of Dr. Arthur Caliandro to my life. Carol and I listened to him on the Hallmark Channel for many months before we heard him in person at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. When we met him after the service we were delighted that he was just as warm as we imagined him to be. When he came to Charleston with wife Sandy for the Hamrick Lectureship, a group of us went for dinner at Magnolia’s. Everyone said that it felt like a family reunion. Of course, his lectures were filled with spiritual insights on how Christians are to behave, treat one another and treat nonbelievers. He stressed that Christianity is incompatible with a negative attitude. He reminded us that we can never be sure that others will hear our words the way we intended them to be heard. Every minute we spent with him was a blessing. He told me on the telephone, “If I get to heaven and they are having a meeting, I will know that I went in the wrong direction.” When he left we felt that we had made a friend for life. He has since retired and divides his time between New York City and his beloved Maine. I am thankful for the contributions of Arthur Caliandro to my life.

            Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to your life. Let him or her know of your gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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