ABILENE—With the formation of Texas Baptist Women in Ministry, Texas joins nine other states in creating an organization to encourage women who serve in Baptist churches and advocate for expanded ministry opportunities for women.
Texas Baptist Women in Ministry Conference at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary.More than two-dozen Texas Baptists participated in the group’s organizational meeting at First Baptist Church in Abilene, held prior to the annual
The group elected Ellen Di Giosia, associate pastor of faith formation at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, as chair of the interim steering committee.
Others on the committee are Mary Alice Birdwhistell, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco; Deidre LaNoue, writer and conference leader from Valley Ranch Baptist Church in Coppell; Jewel London, assistant to the pastor at Church Without Walls in Houston; and Taylor Sandlin, pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo.
“We talked about our hopes and dreams. One of the main things that emerged was the desire to continue the Women in Ministry Conference,” Di Giosia said.
“It is important for women who serve in Baptist churches to have a place to get together, encourage each other and share our stories. We also want to be able to help students as they discern a call to ministry.”
For nearly a decade, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has sponsored an annual statewide conference, held alternating years at Logsdon Seminary in Abilene and at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary.
Meredith Stone served on the BGCT Executive Board staff as women in ministry specialist until she became an instructor and director of ministry guidance at Hardin-Simmons.
The group that met in Abilene agreed to form a volunteer-led nonprofit that would work in cooperation with the national Baptist Women in Ministry organization but function as an autonomous entity, Di Giosia said.
“We recognize there is wide diversity among Texas Baptists in terms of how they feel about women in ministry—from churches where women serve as senior pastors, to churches where women don’t pray in public, to everything in-between,” she said.
“We want to be a strong voice of advocacy for women in ministry. We believe in the fullness of God’s plan, men and women are equally gifted. We want to encourage churches to recognize that and do something about it.”
Pam Durso, executive director of national Baptist Women in Ministry, spoke to the organizational meeting of the Texas group. The national organization estimates about 2,200 ordained women in churches affiliated at one time with the Southern Baptist Convention, but most serve in a role other than pastor.
Five years ago, the group identified 135 women serving as pastor or co-pastor of a church affiliated with the BGCT, Baptist General Association of Virginia, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or Alliance of Baptists.
“Reflecting on God’s Image” was the theme of the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry Conference.
“By acknowledging God’s image within us and also within others, we are able to collaboratively join with one another and with God in the important work of ministry,” Stone said.
Christians are called to reflect the image of Jesus Christ—imitating but not impersonating him, said Cheryl Kimble, pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church of Austin.
“Be who you are, but imitate Christ,” she said. “Love others, accept others, embrace others and allow others to be who they are also.”
Kyndall Rothaus, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, echoed the same theme.
“Be you. Spend your life being you,” she said. “Spend your time doing the work you were called to do, and don’t look back. To minister out of the image of God means we embrace who we are, male and female.”
With additional reporting by Cheryl Sawyers of Hardin-Simmons University