I’m getting old. I was in the room when the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was formed. I served the church where Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond were conceived; where the Southern Baptist Alliance (now the Alliance of Baptists) met shortly after it was birthed. I lived through the days when “ordained woman Baptist pastor” was, to some, an elongated oxymoron--no way THAT was acceptable in God’s eyes. After my ordination, my father—a devout, educated Southern Baptist pastor—said, “Well, just don’t preach. It’s not biblical for women to preach.” In my 34 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen splits occur over biblical interpretation related to cultural differences like this one. New issue-oriented and denominationally-related entities formed in the wake of these divides; many of which are viable still.
Two of those that I support are AWAB and AOB. One reason I support them is that both work hard to foster openness, acceptance, welcome and full inclusion for all God’s children. I don’t want well-meaning Christians to tell either of my gay sons that they are not able to preach, sing, or offer their many gifts to the church. Been there. Done that. Got that t-shirt. Don’t want my sons to have them. I invest in AWAB and AOB because they don’t either.
As someone who supports several of these groups with time, energy, and money, I know I feel stretched, and sometimes frustrated, overwhelmed, and guilty that I cannot give or do more. I’ve endured many church finance committee meetings where leaders struggle to determine what their budgets can realistically support as incomes flatline or diminish, while needs sky-rocket. Simply navigating their acronyms can be mindboggling: AWAB, AOB, CBF, SBC, NCC, WCC, BWA… the list goes on. How many of these organizations ever sit down and discuss how best to work together? How many compete for necessary operating funds from the same pool of churches, funding agencies, and individuals? How much of their potential volunteer leadership comes from the same pool of people? How do churches and individuals feel when allocating limited budget resources, time, and energy among them, while addressing their own internal obligations?
These concerns are real, the questions significant. Taking full advantage of opportunities for collaboration among groups is integral to our health and our continued viability as progressive Baptist Christians. I’ve been actively involved in helping bring to life the goals of an ARCUS grant received by the AOB to support primarily southern US congregations as they begin to dialogue about and take steps toward inclusion of LGBTQ persons in their congregational life; e.g. how do those conversations begin? For over 20 years AWAB has been working with congregations who are in the discernment process toward becoming fully welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Baptist church. We also know that AWAB has been a critical support for those churches who have made a public statement of their W&A position. Because of that, one of the first questions our grant planning team asked was, “Where does our work stop and AWAB’s work start? We need to make sure we keep our lines of communication open and resist territorialism.” AWAB welcomed this effort, and the conversation has begun. Working together is important for the vitality of both groups and for achieving the ultimate goal we both have.
My hope is that the plethora of diverse entities in progressive Baptist life today—entities that are doing very good work, but struggling on shoestring budgets to achieve their lofty goals —will continue to engage in substantive collaborative conversation as a significant aspect of their individual work. AWAB and AOB are leading the way by working collaboratively, celebrating each other’s successes, proving that when any of us succeeds everyone benefits. It’s time… to ask each other important collaborative questions: What financial and human resources can we share? What overlaps can we identify? What are our common goals? What might we achieve together that we can’t alone? Regardless of the answers, the conversation could foster an environment in which we might grow beyond siloed competitive organizations to develop viable working relationships. Collaboration enables us to resist mimicking the corporate culture in which we are steeped, and provides a way to claim the “one in heart and mind” behavior that is our ecclesial DNA.
Her main professional interests are teaching, leading retreats and workshops, pastoral care, and working with individuals one-on-one as they discover gifts, grow in their relationships with God, and face life transitions and challenges. She is a member of Spiritual Directors International. She has been active in the Greenville interfaith community, and is passionate about religious liberty, equality for all, and social justice. Currently she is serving on the board of Greenville Friends of Jung and the Inclusion Task Force for Greenville Forward. She loves to travel and read. She has taught Bible Study for adults almost weekly since 1989 and is a devoted spiritual seeker and lifelong learner as well as a teacher. She recently participated in the work group that crafted the AOB Arcus Foundation grant.
She was Minister of Education at First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC from 1990 until 2013. Previously, she served Second Baptist Church, Lubbock, TX as Minister to Youth and Families. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University (Bachelor of Science in Family Studies, 1979), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Master of Religious Education, 1981) and Columbia Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality, 2007). Her husband, Rod, is Media Specialist at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville and is an active participant in the Greenville theater community. They have two children, Madison (27) and Bryce (21).