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  • Inspiring Women: Eileen Campbell-Reed, by Paula Dempsey

    by Paula Dempsey, director for partnership relations 

    Alliance of Baptists' congregational partners have been ordaining and calling whomever they perceived as gifted for ministry, male or female, for three decades. Women pastor nearly 30 percent of Alliance churches. This year’s annual gathering in St. Louis will celebrate the successes, lament the continued inequity, and open up our imaginations for more of God’s diversity in ministry leadership.

    We’re just not ready for a woman.

    We really like you, but…..

    You remind us of a former pastor who made some mistakes.

    If we call a woman, we’re afraid we’ll lose some people.

    Paula Dempset headshot.JPG

    These are among the reasons I was given by search committees when deciding to no longer consider me among the pool of candidates for pastor of their church. That was more than 25 years ago, but these 

    still remain among the reasons gifted and qualified women are denied opportunities to serve as pastors today.

    Across all of Baptist life women fill approximately five percent of the pulpits on Sunday morning. Among Alliance of Baptists congregational partners, the percentage is higher — about 30 percent. There is still much work to be done to eradicate the thick stained glass ceiling for women.

    Many clergywomen in Alliance life have been chipping away at the ceiling. At this year’s annual gathering we will be hearing from and celebrating these women and their ministries. Among them is Eileen Campbell-Reed — practical theologian, teacher, author, blogger, church leader, wife and mother. Eileen has devoted her ministry and research to comprehending and naming the resilience of women in pastoral leadership in Baptist life.

    Last week Eileen and I literally “took N.C. by storm,” dodging rain, tornados and snow! We visited divinity schools and congregations discussing her new book Anatomy of a Schism, soon to be released by University of Tennessee press. In the book she tells the stories of five clergywomen, and through these stories reveals insights into contemporary Baptist life and ministry. More than a symbol or issue, Eileen credits clergywomen as a means by which the practice of ministry is being reimagined and renewed. The book* is a refreshing look into some of our Baptist past which, if but understood and applied, will produce a church more compassionate and whole.

    During our travels I learned about Eileen’s resilience, her dogged determination to follow her calling, and her unwavering support of all women who also have followed Jesus into pathways of service and love. She is an inspiring woman.

    These weeks leading up to annual gathering we will be sharing stories of inspiring women—celebrating their successes, lamenting the continued inequity in the church and society, and opening our imaginations for more of God’s diversity in ministry leadership.

    *To learn more about Eileen’s use of story in teaching and learning, attend her workshop at the annual gathering, Handing on Wisdom: Teaching and Learning in Story Circles. Her book, Anatomy of a Schism, is available to pre-order through University of Tennessee press and/or


    (left) Paula Dempsey

    (right) Eileen Campbell-Reed