I was wrong last week. When the young woman who is playing the role of the preacher in our youth Easter drama asked the question as to whether she should dress like a man or woman for her part, I just assumed that she was raising a theological question. She was not. Her concerns were theatrical, not theological. She was looking for comedic impact, not ecclesiastical permission. There was no question in her mind as to whether or not women could preach. She had seen them do it.
I am grateful that there are Baptist churches where boys and girls can grow up to be women and men who understand that God does gift and call women to be preachers. What troubles me is that God seems to call so many Baptist young women to be pastors in Methodists, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ churches. When I meet a woman who is pastoring a church in one of those denominations, there seems to be at least a one-in-ten chance that she used to be Baptist. The ratio may not be accurate, but nonetheless there are a good number of women who have had to seek places of service outside of Baptist life in order to fulfill their callings.
What that means is that our practice has not yet caught up with our beliefs. Yes, God does gift women; and yes, God does call women. Yet, in the context of our particular locality there are pragmatic issues that must be considered. Will she be accepted by the church, by the community, by her peers? What impact will calling a woman pastor have on the life of the church? Since most Baptist churches have not called a woman to be their pastor, these kinds of questions are answered with speculation and uncertainty. Faith is the crucial element if more Baptist young women are going to serve the Lord in the spiritual tradition that birthed them. To call a woman to be the pastor, a Baptist church has to have enough faith to believe that God will make it work.
When I look at the children and youth growing up in our church, male and female, my first thought, my first hope for each of them is that they grow up to live lives wholly and completely yielded to God. My hopes for each of them is that in their growing up years, as they experience the presence of Christ in their lives and consider the abilities and interests that God has given to them, that they would always consider first how they can best use those abilities and interests in serving the cause of Christ. What I pray for is that whatever any one of our girls or boys, young men or young women, concludes is the best way that he or she can serve the cause of Christ, that none of them would have to stop being Baptist in order to be their best for Jesus.