By Nora O. Lozano
On Feb. 28, many CBF Baptists rejoiced for Dr. Pam Durso’s ordination to Christian ministry. Since the initial announcement, I followed the news with great interest because Pam and I share some similar experiences. We both had a conservative Baptist upbringing, followed the academic ministerial life and now direct organizations that promote women in leadership/ministry. In addition, we had both not been ordained.
Since I could not attend the ordination service, I followed Facebook to catch a glimpse of the event. As I looked, I found this picture posted by Central Baptist Theological Seminary and taken by Robin Sandbothe (used with permission).
I decided to share the picture on my Facebook timeline with these words: “What a powerful picture! It brought tears to my eyes! This is how we change history: by having two little girls observing the ordination of a respected woman leader, and thus showing them that dreams do come true! Blessings to you, Rev. Dr. Durso! Thanks for modeling what a minister looks like!”
Later, as I looked at my post again, I asked: “Is this enough to change history?” In addition to modeling, prayer is crucial, of course, but what else can be done?
Share knowledge. Many of us have been blessed with the gift of education. In the Bible, when someone received a blessing, it was to bless someone else (Gen. 12:1-2). Thus, if we have received this gift, we should consider ways to share it with others.
Ten years ago I had the privilege of speaking in a women’s leadership conference in Hyderabad, India. As soon as I finished teaching the first session (“Reading the Bible as Women”), a woman, with broken English and a painful expression, approached me with one of the hardest questions I have ever heard: “Why did not God bless women?” Attempting to gain some clarity, I asked why she was asking me this. She proceeded to carefully describe how women in India are threatened even before they are born, and how this treatment continues throughout their lives. After listening to her answer, I told her that God had given women a special blessing, too, and that we would talk about it the next morning. I urged her to come back!
As I reflected on her question, I realized that her oppressive story was also my own, and the one of many other Christian women around the world where the Bible has been used as a source of oppression. While our lives’ details were different, I remember feeling her same pain and anxiety.
The woman did come back, and after listening to the second study (“Women Created in God’s Image”) she approached me again and said: “God sent me an angel to explain this to me, now I understand that God indeed gave a blessing to women.” That day the Bible became good news for this woman as she discovered that God is for her and not against her, that God is not the cause of her suffering but the source of hope, peace and abundant life.
When we share knowledge through speaking or writing, we are planting a seed that God will unexpectedly multiply. Last summer, I received an email from a young Indian woman telling me that she had searched for me all over the Internet. She shared that she was 13 years old at the time of the Hyderabad conference, and that her life had been forever changed. She was empowered, went to school, and now works in the medical field. Insistently, she urged me to return again to teach a new generation of Christian Indian women. I promised her that I would do whatever was in my power to return.
While it is true that many Baptists around the world have become progressive regarding women’s issues, including women in leadership/ministry, there is still much to do as this advancement is scarce and fragile. Unfortunately, within the last year I have heard reports about how the Bible continues to be used in oppressive ways toward women here in the United States, and also in Mexico, Latin America, Europe and Africa.
So, those of us who have received the gift of an inclusive theological education should consider the idea of sharing the treasure of a solid, liberating biblical interpretation that promotes abundant life for women. You do not have to go to India, or to the other side of the world to do this, I am sure there is a woman in your own town/state who needs to hear the gospel’s good news. Once she is transformed/empowered, a ripple effect will start in her church/community.
Contribute to causes and organizations that promote women’s welfare. Producing publications, sponsoring conferences and promoting other activities concerning women’s wellbeing and women in leadership/ministry require financial resources. Thus, please consider supporting organizations dedicated to such purposes.
Do whatever is possible in your circle of influence to promote equality. If you are a leader of a church/organization, consider adopting practices and establishing programs that promote women’s well-being and equality. If you are a parent, I am convinced that you are the main generator of self-esteem/empowerment for your kids, both boys and girls, followed by grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, pastors and other authority figures. Use your unique position to promote equality for women and men.
I love so many things about this picture. I love that the two girls are embracing each other in what seems to represent a strong bond. Even though the image shows two girls, it could have also represented a girl and a boy. So, acknowledging that many Baptist brothers are also concerned about this issue (and oppressed by sexism, too), this invitation is extended to both men and women.
While progress has been made, there is much to do. We cannot rest until all women and men are liberated from the weight and curse of sexism. Thankfully, we are not alone changing history; I truly believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are passionately involved in this struggle, too!
Nobody is free until everybody is free.
— Fannie Lou Hammer