“Nonsense,” the disciples exclaimed as the Spirit-filled women ran from the empty tomb to preach, “He is not dead, he is risen!”
I am a preaching woman too. I am so glad that prophecy had it that the Spirit will pour out on all flesh and that sons and daughters would proclaim.
I just left New Orleans, having attended the Woman’s Missionary Union SBC Missions Celebration. In the hotel, I met and had the best conversations with people I knew were there to attend the Southern Baptist Convention as messengers, and many planned to vote against supporting women in pastoral leadership.
I am convinced we don’t fight against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. Historically, people in power don’t relinquish their power, and therefore the “powerless” must fight. History bears true with any movement that “the fight” is not against individuals but against a system that seeks to oppress.
“Our Christology must trump our cultural baggage and culturally biased biblical interpretations.”
As an associate professor of sociology, I understand the impact of family and cultural context on one’s perspectives. As a born-again believer in Christ, I also embrace the reality of continued transformation to see more clearly and to love more dearly. I contend that our Christology must trump our cultural baggage and culturally biased biblical interpretations.
As an African American woman, I recognize this argument against preaching and pastoring women echoes the sentiment of those in power who sought to maintain the enslavement of Black people for the capitalistic gain of white Southerners. We all know this argument was settled theologically with a Baptist split that resulted in the American and the Southern Baptist churches.
I am no biblical scholar, but perhaps if we read exclusively the writings of Paul, one may be able to justify the status of the enslaved peoples and the inferior status of women. If the church of Christ embraced the argument held in Paul’s writings as gospel truth, then perhaps American slavery would still exist.
“If the church of Christ embraced the argument held in Paul’s writings as gospel truth, then perhaps American slavery would still exist.”
Fifteen years as a church and community missionary with the North American Mission Board was a wonderful opportunity to live out my call of meeting basic human needs, teaching Bible studies to men and women alike, raising money for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, leading people to faith, and even preaching the gospel each Thursday morning in our nontraditional worship services at the former Hillside Baptist Center of the Richmond Baptist Association.
It was there that my now best friend came to the Lord after five years of mentorship. She was featured in the “Start Something New” Annie Armstrong promotional video.
Hillside Baptist Center also was where I witnessed to my now husband. He testifies of his transformation process: “I came struggling to make it up the hill. It was like I was crawling on my hands and knees. It was there that she laid hands on me, gave me a word from the Lord and a white and blue paperback Bible. I left the center and walked down the hill. I walked with my head up high and the Bible in my hand.”
Today my husband, Eldridge Smith Jr., is a licensed minister in seminary and is being mentored by our pastor, Herbert Ponder, current president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
Our national WMU is committed to supporting the missionaries and affirming the current statement of faith of the SBC as we celebrate 135 years of making disciples of Jesus who live on mission. Next year, Virginia WMU celebrates 150 years.
That many years ago, I would have been present with the Virginia women only for the purpose of cooking their food, caring for their children and slopping buckets of waste. I am so grateful for women who did not shrink back in the face of an oppressive system, but instead dared to take a prophetic stance for change.
It was in 2004 that the WMU of Virginia board of trustees developed a Dignity of Women Statement. So it is in this rich history that I remind the world, the position of the WMU of Virginia to the current statement of faith of the SBC and to the position of national WMU is as follows:
- We affirm the autonomy of the local church as rooted in Baptist polity and practice.
- We affirm the call of God on a woman’s life in whatever way a woman discerns and answers the call.
- We affirm our commitment to the work of the denomination and other partners as co-laborers together with God.
So, from New Orleans to my office in Virginia, I go to prepare materials for our Alma Hunt Offering for Virginia Missions. Like all other WMU state offices, soon thereafter we will be preparing for the distribution of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering materials we will send to our churches.
As executive director/treasurer of the WMU of Virginia, I want the world to know we support missions and those preaching and pastoring women too!
Valerie Carter Smith serves as executive director and treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia.