During Easter weekend this year, my social media feed was filled with posts about women preaching on the first Easter.
The main theme of the posts was that if we want to be biblical, then women should be preaching the Easter sermon and sharing the good news that Jesus is alive just as they did the first Easter morning.
Without knowing women preachers would trend on Easter, I wrote an Easter blog with this theme to close out Baptist Women in Ministry’s devotional series following Wilda Gafney’s A Woman’s Lectionary for the Whole Church. Additionally, earlier this year Baptist Women in Ministry named its monthly donor family, the Salome Community, after one of the first Easter preachers.
Truly, Easter is a time to remember and honor women’s roles in furthering the story of Jesus.
However, I don’t remember seeing this phenomenon about women preachers on social media on previous Easters. I’m not sure what sparked the boldness in 2022, but I am grateful that so many people also chose Easter as a time to support women in ministry.
I have to admit, though, something about how popular these posts were felt inharmonious with the reality in which we live.
There is a great contrast between what was said in the posts and what the majority of churchgoers in the U.S. experienced on Easter Sunday with the voice of a man proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
There is dissonance between so many people seemingly standing up for women in ministry and the painful stories I hear from women in ministry themselves.
Still, however discordant the truth is with the reality where we live, we must speak out. And we must continue to speak out often.
Baptist Women in Ministry also recently closed out a book club in which we were reading Candace Marie Benbow’s Red Lip Theology, and the author herself was our special guest at the final meeting.
As our group was discussing ways in which we face embedded patriarchy in the church, Benbow brought up the Easter women preachers social media trend. Her comments hit the nail on the head and powerfully struck a resonant chord with the dissonance I had felt.
“There is dissonance between so many people seemingly standing up for women in ministry and the painful stories I hear from women in ministry themselves.”
She said, “Until the men and women who made these posts are willing to risk something to make it a reality, then they don’t truly believe it.” (Or at least that’s the way I heard what she said.)
What are we willing to risk for the sake of making these prophetic words about women preachers a reality?
For those of us who are women in ministry, we risk something every time we dare to believe that God has called us. We risk belonging in our faith community. We risk rejection and dismissal. We risk being called divisive and troublemakers. We sometimes even have to risk our relationships with our families and friends.
Many churches and church leaders also have risked much to show support for women in ministry. They, too, have risked belonging in denominational groups, congregational conflict, and some even risked their livelihoods.
Without discounting the cost of bold prophetic witness made for women in ministry in the past, we cannot deny that mostly men stood in pulpits across the world this Easter, and especially in Baptist pulpits. So there are still risks to be taken.
However, there’s good news! Not only will Easter come around again next year, it’s still Easter!
“There’s good news! Not only will Easter come around again next year, it’s still Easter!”
The liturgical year celebrates Easter for seven Sundays until Pentecost (June 5) ushers us into Ordinary Time.
So now is the time to go ahead and ask a woman to preach the Easter sermon at your church in 2023, or to encourage your pastor/personnel committee/pulpit committee to make this ask.
But for the next few Sundays you also can honor the first preachers of the gospel by taking one of the following steps.
- Sponsor a woman missionary or a missionary whose work supports other women.
- Pray for and find a tangible way to encourage the women who serve as chaplains in various fields such as the military, health care and other settings.
- Provide a week off or an additional professional development opportunity to women on your church staff.
- Advocate for a title change (for example, move a “director” to “minister”) or salary increase for the women ministers on your church staff.
- Discuss the ordination status of women ministers in your church.
- Advocate for a woman to be invited to join a denominational or community board of directors.
- Give a scholarship for a woman in ministry.
- Start a book club with your church staff or Bible study group about the obstacles women still face in everyday life (if you need a suggestion, feel free to contact BWIM).
- Schedule sexual harassment, misconduct and assault training for your congregational leaders.
- If you are a male pastor or minister, find one opportunity you have been given that you might be able to share with a woman instead of accepting it for yourself.
Engaging in resurrecting advocacy and encouragement for women in ministry is a more than appropriate way to celebrate Easter, and, frankly, any other time of the year as well. Although these steps may involve risk and cost, the far greater price is paid by doing nothing.
2,000 years is far too long to wait in between Easter sermons preached by women.
Meredith Stone serves as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry.
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