CBF’s new disaster response coordinator brings diversity of experiences to the job

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s new domestic disaster response manager sees a direct correlation between helping communities recover from catastrophes and helping society recover from systemic injustice.

Both missions require clergy, church leaders and congregations to build relationships that transform strangers into neighbors through dialogue and service, said Daynette Snead Perez, a Baptist minister and Charlotte, N.C., resident who replaced Rick Burnette in the CBF position May 1.

Connecting the dots between disaster response and intercultural ministry is no mere academic exercise but a lived experience for Snead Perez, a diversity consultant and author, past chair of the Racial Justice and Equity ministry for CBF North Carolina and former associate pastor at First Chin Baptist Church, a congregation of Burmese refugees in New Bern, N.C. She earned her chops in disaster relief work serving as a local CBF response coordinator after Hurricane Florence in 2018, a function that segued into a disaster relief specialist role with the Fellowship before beginning her current position. She also is a construction and real estate entrepreneur.

“Disaster response and intercultural ministry are opportunities to provide transformational change within the body of Christ.”

“For me, disaster response and intercultural ministry are opportunities to provide transformational change within the body of Christ,” she explained.

With the 2021 hurricane season fast approaching, Snead Perez said she has hit the ground running by meeting with CBF state and regional coordinators about disaster preparedness in their regions. She seeks to connect them with existing preparedness resources online, assessing needs and identifying congregations capable of being host churches for relief groups in future disasters.

Another immediate task has been jumpstarting the flow of church-based volunteer teams available not only for the upcoming season but currently in Lake Charles, La., which was hit by two hurricanes in 2020 and remains an active recovery zone. Teams were unable to visit last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A team from Kentucky recently worked in the city.

“We are working on getting teams to step up, and we are finding churches are inquiring more about how they can get involved,” she said.

Church-based volunteer groups provide vital functions in CBF’s long-term approach to disaster recovery. Depending on the skillsets of individual members, the teams may conduct cleanup and home and church repairs.

“Disaster response is not the transactional relationship of providing a service, then leaving town.”

But response goes beyond physical reconstruction to include post-event spiritual care to help disaster victims recover emotionally and spiritually, Snead Perez said. Visiting teams also are encouraged to engage with the community through worship when possible.

“Disaster response is not the transactional relationship of providing a service, then leaving town. It is a transformational ministry experience for everyone involved, where there is this reciprocal sharing of culture and ministry,” she said. “As we do that, resilience is built within the community and there are lasting relationships as a result of those visits.”

Those encounters can be powerful catalysts for sparking cross-cultural connections, Snead Perez said. “Intercultural ministry — that is what’s happening in disaster response. It’s how we can reach across cultural boundaries, social boundaries, class and ethnic boundaries for Christ.”

This is a topic she tackles in depth in her book, Church: What to Do When Everyone Is Like You, which is due for release this summer.

The volume draws on her disaster response experience, from her time as an African American minister in a Burmese congregation, and from her work through DIASPRA, the consulting ministry she founded to guide clergy, lay leaders and congregations through cross-cultural encounters.

“I wrote this book to show churches how to build relationships with people who are different than they are and to equip congregations to achieve unity in faith,” she said.

Snead Perez said she will employ the principles of intercultural ministry in her new role with CBF. Chief among those: Being the hands and feet of Christ. “In the ministry of disaster response, we are the body of Christ as we show up. Our image of God shows up in our actions and so God shows up when we show up.”

Snead Perez’ combination of skills was a powerful draw in her selection, CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter said in the announcement of her appointment.

“Through her background in business, real estate, pastoral care, intercultural ministry, diversity training and disaster response, the Holy Spirit has equipped her with uncommon gifts to lead CBF Disaster Response alongside our churches,” Porter said

Burnette, who held the position three years, said in the announcement that Snead Perez is beyond capable of handling the task ahead.

“Daynette brings so much to CBF Disaster Response with her practical experience as a local response coordinator … and her involvement with the emerging post-disaster spiritual care initiative. She also brings a pastor’s heart and has had considerable intercultural ministry experience,” said Burnette, who stepped down in order to focus his attention on Cultivate Abundance, a ministry he and his wife, Ellen, founded to serve farmworkers in Immokallee, Fla.


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Reflecting on a Baylor commencement 60 years later

“Oh, what a beautiful morning.” Those words obviously were made famous in the song by that title in the Broadway Musical Oklahoma!, which is my home state. I gladly loaned them to Texas on the morning of May 6 and more specifically to Waco and McLane Stadium on the Baylor Campus.

I was there along with my wife, Linda, and other family to celebrate the graduation of our granddaughter Madison. Sunglasses were as necessary as COVID masks for the crowd entering the stadium. The light of the sun shining in a cloudless sky was dazzling. Because this was the class of 2020 who had their graduation postponed a year because of COVID, the day had brightness to it not caused by the sun. Also since my sermon for the coming Sunday was titled “Jesus the Light,” the words of my Scripture text were at every destination of my thoughts: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not extinguished it.”

“I watched my granddaughter celebrate her future as her grandmother was nostalgic about her past.”

There was a brightness as I watched and listened to two women experience the day. Those two women were my graduating granddaughter and her grandmother, who was a Baylor student in 1960-61. My wife, Linda, had dreamed of going to Baylor even though she lived in Mississippi. To go to Texas then was like going to school across the Atlantic, which was in reality only the Mississippi river. Unfortunately, Linda’s father was struck with a life-threatening illness that ultimately led to his early death. Linda decided to leave Baylor and transfer to Mississippi College, closer to home. However, that one year of “living her dream” made a big impact on the Mississippi girl.

On May 6, 2021, Linda enjoyed Madison’s day in a way that none of the rest of the family could have. I watched my granddaughter celebrate her future as her grandmother was nostalgic about her past. All the while my sermon for Sunday was in the back of my mind: “darkness cannot prevail over light.”

Baylor University President Linda Livingstone presents a diploma to a graduate May 6.

Baylor President Linda Livingstone in her address to the graduates told a remarkable story that illustrated that truth. The story was about a message of congratulations she received from a female alumnus upon Livingstone’s election as president. The woman who wrote the note of congratulations to Baylor’s first female president asked President Livingstone to allow her to run on to the field prior to a Baylor football game. She said she graduated long before women were allowed to do such a thing. Livingstone saw an opportunity to right a wrong or to “let the light shine.” She invited all female alumni to return to Baylor for a game and run on to the field.

The light was very bright on May 6 at McLane stadium in a way even more relevant to the moment. In Madison’s day of celebration and Linda’s day of nostalgia, we were joyously stunned by the diversity of nations of origin and the corresponding skin colors of the new graduates. Linda would later recall to our family while having lunch outside the Student Union Building that when she was a Baylor student there were no Black students.

“We were joyously stunned by the diversity of nations of origin and the corresponding skin colors of the new graduates.”

Also during lunch, Linda shared a memory prompted by the place where we were. Although there were no Black students in her day, there were Black people on the wait staff in the Student Union. She remembered a nice day very much like our day when some of the wait staff came outside for their break. They were enjoying the music coming from the Student Union, and some were dancing.

On the drive home, I recalled the memories of 60 years ago and the memories of the day. Just when I thought my ruminating on the day was over, I was at home in my chair watching the national news on CBS. One of their featured stories was about a graduating high school student who had been offered millions of dollars of scholarships from colleges all over the nation. That student just happens to be Black and female.

So, at the end of the day I thought about light overcoming darkness. I am convinced a suburb in the Dallas/Fort Worth area will not be able forever to conflate racial justice issues with other “disturbing to them” changes that are happening across this nation. I am confident that voter suppression may work for political gain for a while but will ultimately fail.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King obviously knew the Scriptures and particularly the words of John the Apostle as he eloquently wrote of the coming of the Christ, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.”

Gary Cook serves as pastor of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Dallas and as executive director of Gaston Christian Center.

Why the use of masculine God language matters at church

Throughout the English Bible, the normal pronouns assigned to God are “he” and “him.” Many references to God within church practice typically fit into this same assignment. However, when we look at the instances in the Bible where imagery for God is motherly and nurturing, we can begin to see God defying the typical gender of male.

Understanding God to be a man often comes from the tendency to give God male pronouns and traits like “powerful” and “Father,” which can be associated with men’s societal norms. A lot of people don’t remember or know the times where the Bible tells us about a more feminine side of God.

Ashlan Rogers

Passages like Isaiah 49:15, where God is symbolized as a nursing mother; Isaiah 66:13, where God embodies a comforting mother; Isaiah 42:14, where God is compared to a woman in childbirth; Psalm 123:2-3, where God is comparable to a woman; and Psalm 131:2, where God once again is compared to a mother. All these are examples of a feminine side of God.

Many churches have gender and social hierarchies benefiting those who are more like the biased view of God, regardless of theologies that support diversity in God’s image. In church life and polity, men are often viewed as the ones who are most like God both in image and social roles.

In statements from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Southern Baptist Convention, we can see support for this hierarchy. The Danvers Statement is a highly endorsed set of ideologies by CBMW that highlights theological complementarianism — meaning men and women have separate roles communicated through Scripture like marriage and household order. The 1984 Resolution on Ordination and the Role of Women in Ministry is the main source of theological ideas about women in the SBC. It clearly states that women will not be allowed to participate in leadership roles, pastoral positions or ordination.

Statements like these can be dehumanizing and reduce women to sexual beings meant for reproduction and homemaking. The creation story is a foundational passage to begin the argument against strictly male characteristics of God because God created male and female in God’s image, implying that God could not know and create a female in the image of a male. This demonstrates that God transcends any notion of gender constructs and that each sex was created equally and in a mirror to God’s self.

“The creation story is a foundational passage to begin the argument against strictly male characteristics of God because God created male and female in God’s image.”

This cycle of using male language to refer to God has imposed traditional gender roles onto church members and followers of God.

Support for feminine God-language and the results of this may be seen in feminist theological writings like those from Susan Shaw and Molly Marshall, who argue for inclusion and equal treatment in church environments. Shaw, whose writing is featured in Sources of Light, suggests alternative language for God as a task that feminist theologians seek to implement to reverse patriarchal mindsets. Marshall highlights the compassion of Jesus for women in many passages throughout the New Testament that challenge the structures that oppressed women.

The argument here is not for more feminine God language to be introduced into church life and practice, but rather for the retraction of the existing male-dominant images of God that empower patriarchal systems and the subordination of women.

Patriarchal imposition of male dominance is not biblical but rather the result of sin by the dominant group, set up by the hierarchy in biblical times. Today, we do not live in an era where women need men to have a life, and the new millennium has allowed for secular change and progression.

As Christians, we must recognize this progression and display it in church life and practices, beginning with how God is presented and described and then bridging into women’s right to preach and produce divine fruitfulness.

Ashlan Rogers is a student at Wingate University, where she is a double major in religious studies and psychology. She is interested in the psychology of religion and feminist theology. She hopes to attend graduate school for psychology and continue exploring Christianity in an academic setting.


Related articles:

Was Addie Davis’ ordination an anomaly or a precursor for the time? | Opinion by Allison Barbee

How the male-centered image of God marginalizes women and disabled persons | Mallory Challis

I knew the truth about women in the Bible, and I stayed silent | Opinion by Beth Allison Barr

Fox News anchor gives voice to 16 women in the Bible

Fox News anchor Shannon Bream’s favorite portion of her book about women in the Bible is retelling the story of the “unclean” woman found in Mark 5:21.

“We’re told that she comes before (Jesus) trembling and in fear falls down before him to confess everything,” Bream explains. “So instead of Jesus saying, ‘You’re unclean, how dare you be out here? And how dare you reach out to me?’ Even if you didn’t believe he was the son of God, he was an esteemed religious teacher or rabbi. He doesn’t say any of that. The first thing he says to her is, ‘Daughter.’”

She continues: “I love, love, love that because again and again, in his word, (Jesus) shows compassion. He shows acceptance. Even when he’s meeting people who are caught in sin — there are plenty of male examples, but females, too. The woman who was going to be stoned after being caught in adultery, he says to the men there, ‘You without sin cast the first stone.’”

Talking about the New York Times best-selling book, The Women of the Bible Speak, Bream comes across like a Bible teacher as much as a journalist.

She grew up in a Christian home and attended Christian school and later graduated from Liberty University before earning a law degree at Florida State University. That combination of life experiences makes sharing her Christian faith a natural expression.

Her hope for the book — now in its fifth week on the Times bestseller list for advice, how-to and miscellaneous books — is to “expose people who may not pick up a Bible but would pick up this book and hear these stories about these women and find encouragement and hope.”

The volume tells the stories of 16 biblical women, offered in eight pairs. Each chapter includes Bream’s interpretation and commentary on the biblical stories, followed by a few discussion questions.

Women featured include Sarah and Hagar, Rachel and Leah, Tamar and Ruth, Deborah and Jael, Hannah and Miriam, Esther and Rahab, Mary and Martha, and Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The book concludes with a chapter on Jesus and women.

The book is not a scholarly treatment but a popular one, designed to lead readers to dig deeper into the biblical text themselves.

She cites her work as a journalist as motivation for researching and writing the book.

“I think part of it’s the investigating — the wanting to find out more of the story, wanting to find out more about people, about circumstances of the women,” she explained.

“I’m really open about the fact that I’ve had some really dark valleys, but God has been faithful through all of it.”

And through that investigation, she found hope and renewal herself, she said. “I’m really open about the fact that I’ve had some really dark valleys, but God has been faithful through all of it. Whether it was my mistake, whether it was life circumstances, medical, financial, hardships, whatever it’s been, God’s been faithful through all of it.”

Her message of hope is this: “God can still work through our messes. And so all of that just was refreshed and renewed for me in the process in investigating and studying these women.”

She understands that by reporting the news nightly — which she loves doing — she can cut through the pervading despondence and heaviness found in so many news stories with a gentle dose of hope. And she sees her role as a news anchor as being different than other talking heads on the network.

“You know, once you reach the level of screaming over each other, then nobody’s learning anything,” she said. “And certainly not from each other, which is when I know that I have to call technical foul and maybe cut someone’s mic off.”

On her program as well as in the book, she hopes to bring the noise level down and offer insight to her audience and readers.

She preaches a kind of faithfulness that will see anyone through if they decide to give their problems to God. The stories of these 16 women are proof to her that God can turn any story around.

Ethics at the end of life: How medicine and technology have changed the context of dying

As the school year ends and I try to process the many agonies of the annus horribilus COVID year of 2020-21, I will remember many deaths, but most especially the death of my father in late December 2020. These posts, adapted from my forthcoming book, Introducing Christian Ethics, are offered in his memory and shaped by my experience of his death.

Every living thing eventually dies. It is not just the inevitability of death but the nature of our awareness of it that does so much to determine the meaning of human existence. We live toward our own death. We live knowing that everyone we love also will eventually die.

David Gushee

Even in a pandemic, this staggering information is not fully assimilable. Much of the time we try not to think about it. That becomes more difficult as we age, not just because we know we are moving toward death but also because death gradually comes nearer to us in the loss of our family members and eventually our siblings and friends.

Moral questions that emerge at the end of life challenge all ministers and all ethicists. As I look back on my own earlier writing about end-of-life issues, I see my youthful distance from death. The first edition of the Stassen/Gushee Kingdom Ethics textbook came out almost 20 years ago. I wrote the discussion of end-of-life issues in that volume. As I look at that chapter now, it feels abstract and theoretical. That younger me offers the relevant terms and concepts but has little feel for the agony of the dying and of their families.

The four posts I will offer over the next several weeks are written from a different place. Since 2014 I have now buried my mother, father-in-law, mentor, sister, and father. I am beyond grateful that I did not also bury a child, two of whom had near-misses, or a wife, who has had two threatening conditions. Yes, indeed, death has come much nearer to me since 2003.

“Since 2014 I have now buried my mother, father-in-law, mentor, sister, and father.”

I am convinced that a distinctively Christian approach to ethics at the end of life can be identified and must be protected today, at least for followers of Jesus. But I am also convinced that it is vulnerable both to technological advances and the fading influence of Christian theology in Western cultures. I want to clarify what I believe to be some moral red lines and some best practices. This will be my goal in this series of posts.

* * *

Technological advances have fundamentally altered the context in which moderns think about all kinds of moral issues. Consider how much has changed at the beginning of life, as modern birth control, reproductive technology and abortion all represent technological interventions related to human procreation and aimed at maximizing human choice and control. But these technologies have proved only partially successful in giving human beings that desired control.

Something similar — although not identical — can be said about the end of life. Especially in the rich world, dramatic advances in nutrition, lifestyle, medical care, pharmaceuticals, public safety, hospital practices and other factors have dramatically extended the life span. Likewise, medical and technological advances constantly gain victories for life against death, sometimes even defeating scourges like cancer, and certainly extending living — and dying — far longer than our ancestors could have imagined.

These advances have changed the context in which most people in modern societies live their final days. In the United States, despite 80% of people expressing a preference to die at home, only 20% do so. Of the rest, 60% die in hospitals and 20% in nursing homes. The dying process has been medicalized, and so the context of dying has changed from home to institution, mainly the hospital.

“In the United States, despite 80% of people expressing a preference to die at home, only 20% do so.”

I can say from experience that when a family member dies in an institutional setting the family can often experience a profound loss of privacy and control. Strangers intrude during some of the most important, intimate and painful moments in a person or family’s entire life.

These losses are accepted as part of the price of fighting death with the best means available. But it is still true that death wins, 100% of the time. Medicine and technology have proved only partially successful in defeating disease and giving human beings longer lives. They have been and presumably always will be completely unsuccessful in defeating death, until Christ wins the final victory over death as promised in Scripture.

What modern medicine clearly has been able to do, however, is to take over the dying process for most people. This includes offering treatment options for conditions that once would have been considered irremediable. Medicine also can keep people alive who, in the past, would have died far earlier. But also, medicine can go in the opposite direction to offer options for hastening or directly causing death, if that is what is sought. What we ask medicine to do for us at the end of life — if anything — is entirely a human choice.

“The problem is that many times those in the grip of a medical crisis are swept up in a system that dwarfs and overwhelms them.”

That is where ethics comes in, or should come in. The problem is that many times those in the grip of a medical crisis are swept up in a system that dwarfs and overwhelms them. It ought to be a goal of thoughtful Christians today to wrestle back some control over the dying process and some space to make real decisions rather than be swept along by the momentum of others’ decisions.

In the case of my father, although he was not dying of COVID, we learned that because of COVID he was likely to die inaccessible to us if we did anything other than in-home hospice care. Given the horrible alternatives, under intense time pressure to decide, that is what we chose.

Doing home hospice care dramatically altered our experience of my father’s last days. No medical professional and no institution stood between us and the dying process of our father. Indeed, I would say that we received minimal help and often felt terrifyingly alone. And yet, it was for the best. I will say more why I believe this in my next post.

David P. Gushee is a leading Christian ethicist. He serves as Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and is the past president of both The American Academy of Religion and The Society of Christian Ethics. He’s the author of Kingdom EthicsAfter Evangelicalism, and Changing Our Mind: The Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta. Learn more: davidpgushee.com or Facebook.


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We need to talk about dying | Opinion by Brett Younger

‘Will it come like this, the moment of my death?’ Living and dying in a COVID-19 world | Opinion by Bill Leonard

My Coronavirus Summer: Coping with grief and seeking joy | Opinion by Ella Wall Prichard

Largest church in SBC ordains three women as pastors

The largest church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention ordained three women as ministers May 6, sending shock waves through the male-centric leadership of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.

Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, in 1980, announced on Facebook that on May 6 it had ordained three women as ministers in a “historic night.”

On Mother’s Day, which fell three days after Saddleback’s ordination, the Sunday morning online message was given by Kay Warren. Although she is not among the newly ordained, her delivery of the Sunday morning message in worship was sure to further alarm the strictest of male leadership advocates within the SBC, who insist women should not preach sermons to men.

The three women ordained May 6 are Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty and Katie Edwards — all long-tenured staff members within the vast network of the church’s 15 United States campuses and four international campuses. The church counts more than 24,000 members and lists 18 “campus pastors,” all of whom are male.

Because of the massive size of the church spread out over so many locations, no complete staff directory is published online. Petty’s LinkedIn profile lists her as children’s minister at Saddleback, where she has served since 1999. Puffer describes herself as a “minister” at Saddleback Church in both her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Her Facebook profile describes her as a pastor for pastoral care at the church. Edwards serves as student ministries pastor at Saddleback’s Lake Forest campus, where she has worked for 24 years.

Saddleback not only is the largest church in the SBC but one of its leaders in evangelism. The church’s emphasis on evangelism and church growth have been studied and duplicated worldwide. Warren was one of the early advocates for what came to be known as “seeker-friendly church,” meaning a church experience intended specifically to welcome unchurched people and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote about this in a best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church.

A hot issue in the SBC

As the SBC has faced year after year of declining membership — along with every other Christian denomination in America — its leadership has become increasingly dogmatic about certain doctrinal issues, including opposition to women as pastors. This issue was one of the driving factors behind the schism that began in the SBC in 1979 and ultimately led to the creation of two splinter groups, the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

This also caused international headlines earlier this year when popular Bible teacher Beth Moore announced she was leaving the SBC and apologized for not speaking out earlier about the limits placed on women as leaders within SBC churches.

In a question-and-answer section on the SBC’s website, the matter of women serving as pastors is addressed. The site says: “The convention recognizes the biblical language concerning the office of pastor” and points to a section of the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement. That citation reads: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

The SBC’s official explanation adds: “The passages that assign the office of pastor to men do not negate the essential equality of men and women before God, but rather focus on the assignment of roles.” This is in keeping with a theological view known as complementarianism, which teaches that women and men have equal worth before God but must adhere to different roles assigned to them by God in creation.

Complementarians lean heavily on one verse of Scripture, 1 Timothy 2:12, to make their case.

In 1984, as fundamentalists were consolidating control of the SBC, messengers to the SBC annual meeting adopted a highly controversial resolution on ordination and the role of women in ministry. That resolution said the Apostle Paul, in writing 1 Timothy, “excludes women from pastoral leadership to preserve a submission God requires because the man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall.”

Therefore, the resolution stated, “we encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.”

“We encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.”

In recent years, the SBC has expelled churches from membership when they go against the denomination’s stated positions on key issues, such as LGBTQ inclusion. While local Baptist associations have removed churches for ordaining women, the SBC has not.

The Saddleback news, however, could push that issue to the forefront, as some SBC pastors immediately took to social media over Mother’s Day weekend to call for Saddleback’s expulsion.

Denominational leaders respond

Other denominational leaders stopped short of calling for expulsion but made their displeasure clear.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and candidate for SBC president this summer, posted on Twitter a comment from John Broadus, one of the seminary’s slave-holding founders, about why women should not be allowed to “speak in mixed public assemblies.”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., tweeted that Saddleback’s action is “a disappointing departure from the clear teaching of Scripture, the BF&M, & long-held SBC consensus & practice.” He said the teachings of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 “list qualifications, not suggestions. Let’s hold fast to Scripture.”

Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas — Rick Warren’s alma mater — tweeted a quote from seminary founder B.H. Carroll: “The custom in some congregations of having a woman as pastor is in flat contradiction to this apostolic teaching and is open rebellion against Christ our King, and high treason against His sovereignty … Under no circumstances conceivable is it justifiable.”

Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor and also a candidate for the SBC presidency representing the most conservative side of the conservative denomination, tweeted one sentence: “No woman can be the ‘husband of one wife,’ under any interpretation of that phrase.” That is a reference to 1 Timothy 3:2, where the Apostle Paul writes that an “overseer” is to be “the husband of one wife.”

Others welcomed the news of Saddleback’s ordinations while some pointed out that all three women who were ordained had labored as ministers for decades before being recognized as such.

Ashley Easter, an author and advocate for women’s service in the church, tweeted her gratitude for Saddleback’s action, then added: “But don’t forget these women have been with the church since the ’90s. That’s how long it takes for a church to say, ‘Oh, these women are pastoral.’ That’s the hill women have to climb.”

Low-key approach from Saddleback

Other than the social media post announcing the ordination and showing photos from the service, Saddleback issued no public statement on the matter, and no video of the ordination service was made available online.

This fits the long-time pattern of Warren and the church, with a routine focus on outward mission and not internal church workings or denominational concerns. While Warren has been supportive of the SBC, he has refrained from nearly all political or denominational issues.

Rick Warren

After Rick Warren graduated from Southwestern Seminary, he and Kay arrived in California in 1979 with a vision for starting a church for people who weren’t interested in church. He famously went door to door, asking people three questions that opened conversations about faith and the church.

Pragmatism has been a hallmark of Saddleback’s growth from the beginning. While espousing highly orthodox evangelical theology, Warren often has been an outlier on non-essentials, such as worship format, music styles and ministry approaches.

Beginning with a small Bible study in their home, the Warrens quickly grew Saddleback after a public launch on Easter Sunday 1980, when 205 showed up. Most of those in attendance never had been churchgoers before.

More than 200,000 church leaders have been trained in Saddleback’s purpose-driven philosophy, and Warren’s 1995 book sold more than 1 million copies and has since been reissued in an updated edition.

In a world of celebrity pastor scandals, the Warrens have stayed out of the news and have remained deeply involved in the day-to-day leadership of the multi-campus church.

How the decision was made

At this point, little is known about how Saddleback made the decision to ordain women, as the church has made no public explanation. The only public insight appeared in an interview posted on Live Good, the website for a company that sells organic products. There, Cynthia Petty explained how she came to be among this historic group of female ministers ordained at Saddleback.

Cynthia Petty

Petty said she received a call from Rick Warren on Nov. 2, 2020, informing her that “the elders had been discussing for many months the possibility to ordain women as pastors at Saddleback Church.” He told her that group of all-male elders “unanimously voted to appoint me one of the first three women pastors at Saddleback Church.”

Petty said of Warren’s phone call: “He affirmed my leadership and my calling to ministry, and it was a conversation I will not forget.”

Asked about her own sense of calling, Petty said: “I love my ministry to children and students, and I have never doubted God’s calling on my life to do ministry at Saddleback. That calling and leading by God in my life has always sustained me, even in the most difficult of ministry days. Becoming a pastor was never something I pursued. I had always been involved in churches where women could lead, under the authority of a male pastor.  So, this change in philosophy for ‘women in ministry’ was revolutionary. I was honored and felt extremely humbled. And the thing I believe meant the most to me was how this would be groundbreaking for all the younger women ministers on staff who really did have the desire or dream to be a pastor one day.”


Related articles:

Now Beth Moore is taking on patriarchy in the church

Why Beth Moore’s departure from the SBC really matters | Analysis by Mark Wingfield

Beth Moore and a lost Southern Baptist Convention | Opinion by David Gushee

Is the Beth Moore Effect a feminist awakening? | Analysis by Courtney Pace

Rick Warren: Churches aren’t being persecuted by COVID restrictions

Prepare for the uptick in refugee resettlement this year.

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For more information and to register, click the link above.

Bush calls for religious revival to help all Christians welcome immigrants

Healing the divisiveness of immigration in American politics and society requires a view of immigrants as vital cultural and economic contributors and as fellow human beings made in God’s image, former President George W. Bush said during a May 6 webinar moderated by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

“It all depends on where you start your philosophy. I started mine from the belief that all life is precious and we’re all God’s children. If that’s how you view immigration, then you don’t view people with hostility,” Bush said during “Immigrants and the American Future,” a virtual event organized by the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

George W. Bush speaking on the webinar.

It also would be helpful if more churches adopted a humanizing attitude toward immigrants, Bush added. “Until there is a religious awakening to a certain extent, a kind of revival,” it will be difficult to change many Americans’ negative perception toward immigrants.

The webinar continued the 43rd president’s ongoing public efforts to promote a compassionate immigration posture that includes a strong border policy. He pitched both concepts during his online conversation with Moore and Yuval Levin, an Israeli-born American who served in the George W. Bush White House and now serves as the director of social, cultural and Constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Loving doesn’t mean tearing down a border wall. Loving means treating people with respect,” Bush said.

That is the theme of Bush’s new book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants, which framed the webinar discussion. The book is a collection of 43 immigrant portraits painted by the former president and accompanied by stories of their contributions to American life.

The potential role of religion in addressing immigration also came up during the conversation, most notably when Moore mentioned polls showing many Christians oppose immigration.

Bush responded that Moore should recruit speakers to remind Southern Baptists of their calling to help the vulnerable, and that religious groups in the U.S. have become distracted.

Bush responded that Moore should recruit speakers to remind Southern Baptists of their calling to help the vulnerable, and that religious groups in the U.S. have become distracted. “The fundamental question is … are our churches too political? Are they focused on the right mission?”

But he added that anti-immigrant periods have come and gone in U.S. history, and that he is generally optimistic progress can be made on instituting compassionate immigration reform.

A way to begin is by ensuring the future viability of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Bush said.

DACA was created by the Obama administration to prevent the deportation of immigrants brought illegally into the United States as young children. President Trump’s efforts to end the program were blocked by the courts. Legislation related to citizenship is being considered in Congress while a Texas judge is expected to rule on DACA’s constitutionality.

But most Americans can agree that immigrants who arrived as infants or children and were raised in the U.S. are a special case and may help foster cooperation in Congress, Bush said. “Most Americans can see that DACA can be fixed and to me, that’s a good place to start.”

Yuval Levin

Levin added that DACA offers the potential for finding “common ground” on immigration legislation because it illustrates “that what we are talking about is not an abstract set of policy problems, but real human lives and people who have tried to improve their lives and also improve our country.”

That, in turn, could widen support as understanding grows that “immigration can be great for us” because immigrants have been “at the forefront of every field of scientific endeavor, of technology and of industry,” Levin said.

Putting a face on the issue of immigration was the goal of Bush’s new book, he said, pointing to a portrait of an immigrant who helped raise him and his siblings. “She ended up being as tough as my mother — which is pretty damned tough. Hers is a story of hard work and perseverance.”

Another painting presents Levin. “Immigrants have brought enormous brain power to our country, and Yuval was one of the most perceptive in my administration,” Bush said.

The former president said he published the book to “bring a different perspective to immigration” in a nation where many Americans fear it. “We should not fear the erosion of our culture. Immigrants enhance our culture of freedom and our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech.”

“Immigrants enhance our culture of freedom and our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech.”

Part of the “compassion agenda” of the book is that its proceeds will go to organizations that help in the resettlement of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

Levin added that the portraits transform immigrants from enemies into neighbors. “It humanizes an issue that can easily become dehumanized, or where we can … talk about each other in abstract terms” and devolve into arguments around “some kind of technocratic policy.”

Bush’s interest in immigration by no means began with his new book, said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum.

Ali Noorani

Noorani, who introduced the former president during the webinar, recalled Bush’s push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2001 and also his public embrace of the U.S. Muslim community immediately after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“I remember hearing his words and just being so incredibly grateful for his leadership at that critical moment,” Noorani said.

Bush cited a general absence of leadership for the lack of reform today and said he is working to build a coalition at the center to make “bite size pieces” of progress.

“Let’s keep this issue alive,” he said. “Let’s focus on where we can find common ground, here.”

Let’s not forget about single mothers

When I think of the many sounds that came out of my house growing up in Orlando, Fla., I hear my mother yelling at the top of her lungs every morning in praying over my sister and me. In fact, it’s how I started most days.

I have no clue why my mom thought it would be necessary to yell out her prayers. If the point was to get the message across to God to make sure he heard her prayers, I’m sure God heard.

As we celebrate this Mother’s Day, there can be a tendency to skip over the backbone of American culture, single mothers. Many single mothers go throughout our culture hidden at times.

I still remember the day it became clear to me that I would be growing up in a single-parent household. And I also remember the pain that would go along with it. Even as I type the words, I find myself in somewhat of a despair. I can tell you the place, even the brown Toyota car my dad drove, when he made the dreadful decision to disrespect my mother in his car. I can remember sitting hopelessly in the back seat as a small child not being able to do much at all to defend my mother, who at the time, to my recollection, was pregnant with my sister. My parents soon would end up divorcing, not for that reason, but for many others. By the way, that reason alone would have been enough.

For many single parents who find themselves having to raise children on their own, they do so without complaining and at times taking on the shame and trauma of the role that goes along with it. Although attitudes have changed regarding single mothers, the plague that goes along with the title and struggle can be overwhelming.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Kiera Sheard on her new book Big, Bold, and Beautiful. During our time together, she remarked on the difference between condemnation and conviction. I never had heard it explained in this way, but conviction, according to Kiera, is when the saints come alongside you and offer healing and help.

Many single mothers on this day don’t need condemnation. My mom, for example, was fully aware of what she was up against.

“Many single mothers on this day don’t need condemnation.”

In most single-mother households, there are more days than not of waiting on the paycheck to come in. Not to mention that because there’s just one parent, any sick leave has to be guarded for a sick child. There are no days off for single mothers.

I can clearly remember my mother instilling within my sister and me that we weren’t poor but that we had to discipline how we spent money. In reality, this meant we wouldn’t miss out on what most kids would get, but at the same time there wasn’t a lot of room for error. My mom’s answer to everything was that it would have to be prayed through.

Recently, I interviewed former IT cosmetics CEO/founder Jamie Kern Lima on her new book Believe It. I asked her why she felt the need to be so authentic regarding her own struggles, and she said, “If we never share the stories behind the struggle, then people will feel alone.” I think Jamie is right. I’m sharing some of my personal stories because I don’t want any single mother to feel alone and ashamed.

Even for those of you I’ve never met, I want to be clear that single mothers are my heroes. You deserve much respect and should not be forgotten.

“I want to be clear that single mothers are my heroes. You deserve much respect and should not be forgotten.”

My mother knew that although she was my mother she couldn’t fill the role of being my dad, and I’m thankful she found a village of people to surround herself with to step in when she couldn’t fulfill certain roles.

On this Mother’s Day, my prayer is two-fold. If you know a single mother and can help in any way, please step in and offer help. And to the single mothers, be set free of thinking you have to fill every role. During my time with Jamie Kern Lima, she reminded me that for everything we go through, it’s just a step in our journey toward faith.

I believe single mothers, on this Mother’s Day, deserve a standing ovation not just for the faith and faithful service of living and carrying out two roles, but because they often do so in silence, hoping they can just get their kids the fresh start in life they need.

As Kiera Sheard shared with me, sometimes in life we have to pick up the broken pieces and glue them back together again. I believe when my mother was voicing her prayers to God, as she still does now for her grandchildren, she knew God was not only going to deliver but that God heard her. She knew somewhere in her core that she was carrying out her calling in life.

Every one of us has a calling, and it’s what we do with it that will matter in the end. Thank you, single-parent mothers, for carrying out your calling on this Mother’s Day.

Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


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