HomeLearning CenterObstacles Remain as Women Seek More Leadership Roles in America’s Black Churches

Obstacles Remain as Women Seek More Leadership Roles in America’s Black Churches

Originally published by Darren Sands for the Associated Press

No woman had ever preached the keynote sermon at the Joint National Baptist Convention, a gathering of four historically Black Baptist denominations representing millions of people.

That changed in January when the Rev. Gina Stewart took the convention stage in Memphis, Tennessee, — the Southern city home to Christ Missionary Baptist Church where she serves as senior pastor — and delivered a rousing message, asserting that Jesus not only included women in his ministry, but identified with their suffering.

But what happened next put a spotlight on the obstacles women in Christian ministry continue to face as they carve out leadership space within the patriarchal culture of the Black Church in America. Several women pastors told The Associated Press that it should serve as the breaking point.

“This is an example of no matter how high you rise as a woman, you’re going to meet patriarchy at the top of the hill,” said Martha Simmons, founder of Women of Color in Ministry, which helps women navigate the process of getting ordained. “The next Norton Anthology of African American preaching is probably 20 years away, but that sermon will be in there.”

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