Crescent Hill Baptist Church

History of "Women in Ministry"

Timetable of events concerning ordination of women to ministry

1573 - Maeyken Wens, first of some 525 Anabaptist women martyred for preaching
c.1865 - first woman ordained in America
c.1950 - first woman (Jane Kent, Betty Cook, Gaga Woodward) ordained in Southern Baptist Convention
1973 - three women were first ordained deacons in Crescent Hill Baptist Church
1979 - insidious beginnings of fundamentalist SBC take-over
1979 - first annual Women's retreat at CHBC
1983 - "Women in Ministry" organized in Louisville and began publication of Folio in CHBC office; Mary Zimmer served as Coordinator of Women in Ministry and editor of Folio
1983 - at SBC Convention in Pittsburgh, Women in Ministry organization drew national media attention.
1984 - backlash at SBC in Kansas City resulted in passage of resolution against ordination of women
c.1994 - Women in Ministry office moved to Kansas City at Midwest Theological Seminary
later - Baptist Women in Ministry main office moved to current location at Mercer Univ in Atlanta
(more details to come, thanks to Reba Cobb for preserving much of this history)

Newspaper accounts and other documents

some Folio issues

Essays and dissertations about the history of "Women in Ministry"

Photo section

Links to other resources

Current Baptist Women in Ministry homepage

History of BWIM
(copied from the BWIM "history" website)

Since the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, women have responded to God?s call to Christian ministry. The history of Baptist women in ministry is a continuing story of God opening doors and women heeding the voice of God in spite of formidable barriers constructed by humans.

For some of our foremothers, the cost was immeasurable. Madelyn Wens, an Anabaptist woman burned at the stake for preaching the gospel, was the first of 525 Anabaptist women martyred. The first woman executed in this country was put to death for preaching the gospel. Lottie Moon, who endured censure by the Foreign Mission Board for ?preaching in the countryside,? spoke for all of us when she said, ?How can I help but speak when I have the words of life??

Although physical endangerment is no longer the threat for Baptist women, affirmation and opportunity still is. Doors for the ministries of women continue to close, and women, both lay and clergy, are still devalued by many churches.

In 1983, thirty three women met in Louisville, Kentucky, to discuss the needs and visions of women in ministry. Two entities were formed out of the initial meeting.: Southern Baptist Women in Ministry, and the Center for Women in Ministry. The purpose of that gathering of women? To be change-agents? to empower women to hear God?s call and to have the courage to respond? to bless the ministries of all women? to encourage churches to enter into dialogue and to listen for the discerning voice of God who calls both men and women.

Prophets, male and female, have eloquently articulated the place of women in the church:

?...That resolution (1984 Resolution against the ordination of women, SBC) will no more stop their mothers and sisters from declaring the mighty acts of God, with or without the laying on of human hands, than the tongue screws stopped those daughters of Sara in the 16th century.? (William D. Campbell, ?On Silencing our Finest,? Christianity and Crisis, 1985)

?You can continue your relentless efforts to contain the spirit of God, squelch it, silence it and damage it, but it will not die in us?I pray that we will have the courage to follow our Lord into a kingdom where enemies are loved, where sons and daughters prophesy, even behind pulpits, and where God?s Spirit is poured out on all flesh.? (Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested, from An Open Letter to the Home Mission Board, SBC, 1989)

Baptist Women in Ministry must be faithful in continuing to proclaim the message of these and other prophets of change. The history and heritage of Baptist Women in Ministry must always tell the story of a people whose prophetic courage changed the course of Baptist life and of Christianity.

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Louisville, Kentucky 40206
(502) 896-4425

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