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  • The Stained Glass Ceiling, by Paula Dempsey

    by Paula Dempsey, director for partnership relations 

    Paula Dempset headshot.JPG

    As a young pastor I committed to the Alliance of Baptists, for among the founders were mentors and faculty from my seminary days. But among the primary reasons I remained committed was the principle found in the Alliance covenant: “ordain whomever, male or female.” 

    Being in Alliance circles was the only place I felt fully welcomed.

    I soon learned that the pledged covenant was not always present among our congregations, as I heard the sting of “We really like you, but….” from search committees reflecting the thick stained glass ceiling for women in the church. 

    My gratitude abounds for Anne Thomas Neil, Karen Smith Moore, Lynda Weaver-Williams, Susan Lockwood, Nancy Hastings Sehested, Nancy Ammerman and others whose tenacity in our early days provided a prophetic voice and witness to our congregations.

    That witness and commitment has now borne fruit! Approximately 30 percent of Alliance of Baptists' congregations are now led by women. More than half the students in preaching classes at seminaries and schools of theology are women! If you haven’t heard a woman’s voice in the pulpit where you are—well, it’s coming! Or, should I say, “She’s coming!”

    This year the Alliance is celebrating the gifts, presence and impact of women in ministry. Despite continued resistance, we’re standing in solidarity with women whose call to minister is unfulfilled. And we’re continually imagining a renewed church and world where female voices of all races and ethnicities will usher in God’s household on earth.

    Join us prior to our annual gathering in St. Louis as we give encouragement to young women at our Festival of Young (Women) Preachers. Be present at Kirkwood Baptist Church as we celebrate, lament and imagine women’s leadership. Read about our early commitments and ongoing impact in Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists. 

    Make a gift and keep our witness strong and vibrant.

    Who knows? One day many churches may share the struggle present at Grace Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., a congregational partner whose ministerial staff is all women. According to Wanda Sauley Fennell, they are always inviting men to preach because “making sure the children understand that men can preach is a big concern of ours!” May it be so.