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Women's Leadership Consultation draws more than 200
March 07, 2005
By Jeff Robinson
Attendees at the Feb. 10-12 Women's Leadership Consultation listen intently at a session in Alumni Chapel. More than 200 women came to the event. Photo by David Merrifield
More 200 women came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from nine states and Canada recently for a conference designed to train female leaders for ministry in the local church.
An annual event that alternates each year between the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Women's Leadership Consultation drew women from as far away as Canada during its first visit to Southern since 1999.
Heather King, director of women's programs at Southern Seminary, said the number of attendees — 204 women registered — at the Feb. 10-12 conference demonstrates a hunger among evangelical women for in-depth training for the task of ministry.
"The responses I heard confirmed our theory that women, even if not called to be full-time seminary students, desire to be equipped and as effective in their ministries as possible," King said.
"Women's ministry leaders want to be challenged and desire training that will impact their ministries not [only] for the coming year, but for years to come. A common response I heard was that Southern Seminary has set a new standard in women's ministry training."
Among the speakers were two teachers known across the evangelical world for challenging women to think biblically on such vital issues as their God-ordained roles in the church and home. Mary Kassian and Dorothy Patterson, both authors of books on biblical womanhood, led the conference's three plenary sessions.
Kassian used 2 Timothy 3 to encourage women to be wise — and not "weak-willed" — women of the Word, and Patterson taught from Esther, encouraging women to develop leadership styles that glorify God.
Kassian is author of a number of books including The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church and Women, Creation and the Fall. Patterson has also written several works including Where's Mom? The High Calling of Wives and Mothers and The Family: Unchanging Principles for Changing Times.
King said the event's planners isolated several issues around which it built conference sessions.
"We began to ask ourselves, 'What are the key issues that leaders must understand, even if they are unaware of the importance of such issues?'" King said. "The list was long, but we narrowed it to four key issues that a women's ministry leader must understand."
The four key issues were: the challenges of ministry in a postmodern world; exercising leadership that is centered on the glory of God; the necessity of God's Word; and the influence of the gender debate on the current culture.
The four central issues were used as a springboard for equipping women's ministry leaders in the local church. Chief among the aims was to teach women how to reach and minister to other women with the Gospel.
Mary Mohler, director of Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) at Southern Seminary, said the conference is crucial in equipping equippers.
"That factor alone makes it very unusual as far as women's conferences go," Mohler said. "We purposefully planned a full program of speakers who confronted today's issues of leadership head on and in a most effective way. The results of such training were evident immediately.
"Women ordered recordings of what they heard in record numbers. Their feedback to me personally indicated their gratitude for the opportunity to be encouraged but at the same time challenged to not only press on but to aim higher in their pursuit to be wise women who are guided by the Word of God.
"Others told me that this conference simply set a new standard for excellence in leadership training for women. Given the gifted speakers on the program, we expected nothing less and give God glory for the pleasing results."
Participants said they were both encouraged and challenged by conference speakers. Tina Tindle of Whitesburg Bap-tist Church in Huntsville, Ala., said the con-ference was for her spiritually refreshing.
"Our speakers this week are teaching us about being a wise woman, and they're doing that scripturally," Tindle said. "That refreshes our memories [and] it refreshes our hearts. Then we can go and relate it to the women that we are ministering to."
Lorie Looney, a master of divinity student at Southern Seminary from Tallassee, Ala., said the "counter-cultural" nature of conference teaching enabled her to see contemporary issues more clearly in light of Scripture.
"We, as women today, are reflecting Christ and His commands in the culture," she said. "It's sort of like we're getting a chance to counterattack the culture if we correctly understand and define God's Word."