Do Baptist women have to consider a denominational change?

As I have time to take a breath this summer before I start my final year of seminary, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to start looking for church positions that would allow me to use this training I’ve almost completed. I have asked professors and regional connection in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and I’ve been struck by their responses:

I wish I could tell you there were many churches that were ready to call a female senior pastor, but we’re just not quite there yet.

You may have to seriously consider expanding your search beyond baptist churches.

While I appreciate their honesty, I am now wondering if next year is also going to include denominational classes that would enable me to be considered in other denominations who do have openings ready and waiting for women in ministry. Although I consider myself a baptist and hold the foundational denominational doctrine to be freeing and empowering, I have to consider the reality of paying back student loans and supporting myself.

I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience so many different churches by providing pulpit supply, but is there a baptist pulpit out there for me after May or will the practicality of living out my call once my education is completed by delayed again because of my gender?

Merianna Neely

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About the Author
Merianna Neely Harrelson is a third year divinity school student at Gardner-Webb University. She is serving as the Interim Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC. She works as Editor-in-Chief of Harrelson Press in Columbia, SC.

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  • George Bullard

    Merianna, the answer is really pretty simple. Become a church planter. Start the kind of church you feel called to serve as pastor! The benefits are that are really great from a multitude of perspectives. And, you will know from day one that your congregation is excited about and committed to having a called and committed female senior pastor. You will never have to wonder.

    • Merianna Neely


      Thanks for the encouragement! I have to say that has certainly been a part of the my thinking and I am in conversations with some CBF folks, there is interest in having a female church planter. Who knows what’s yet to come!

  • Paul Deane

    We have a lot of female head ministers up here from American Baptist Churches. Check out Community Church of Barrington, IL. Pastor: Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque (2007)

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