I was going to start with something light – perhaps an exposé of our deaconess duties being merely busy work for church ladies. But that will have to wait. Something has transpired that forces me to jump right in to the deep end.
Two weeks ago I met with a middle-aged, non-denominational woman who heads up a ministry to street women. I invited her and her team, along with several of the women to whom they minister, to a fabulous all-expense-paid retreat. The meeting was a delight.
The other day I met with a young Baptist woman who also heads up an outreach to street women. The purpose of the meeting was to invite her and her team of volunteers to the same all-expense-paid retreat. The meeting, I am sorry to say, was a disaster.
I had not met either of the women prior to my coffee dates with them. What made one a delight and the other a disaster? Being Baptist.
The older, non-Baptist woman brought her granddaughter – a precocious and confident five-year-old – to our meeting.
The young Baptist brought the vice president of her board – a sour-faced gentleman probably in his sixties or seventies.
When I explained the purpose of the retreat and extended the invitation to the older woman she said, “I don’t know how to respond without crying.” She then started to tell me about the women she would invite and ended by saying, once again, that the invitation was an answer to prayer. She was eager for the women of her ministry to hear what God had laid on my heart to share with them. I left that meeting with a jubilant spirit. I had met a new friend and I could hardly wait to get to know her.
When I explained the purpose of the retreat to the young Baptist, she expressed gratitude over the invitation for a time of refreshment but said she would need to see a written copy of the teaching I planned to share before giving me a final answer. She had to protect the grown women on her team from possible heresy after all. Because Baptist women apparently have no discernment of their own. That’s when I became nauseous. I was cordial to the young Baptist but I left that meeting offended and a little ticked. I composed a snarly but amusing mental tweet under the hashtag #ihatemychurch.
Fortunately, after it was all said and done, the dates didn’t work for the young Baptist and her team. They had a fundraising event planned for the weekend of the retreat. Thank you Lord.
I invited them because I wanted to hear what they had to say; I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what women who had escaped life on the streets had to say; and I wanted to give them the opportunity to hear what God has to say. God, however, knew better and He spared me a bundle of wasted money.
Here’s what He told me that night as I was doing the dinner dishes:
1. Young Baptist women do not have a voice.
2. The sour-faced henchman was there to make sure it stays that way.
I could expound a whole lot on #2. In fact, I have. I’ll let you know when the book comes out.
With the non-denominational woman there was freedom. Freedom to let women speak their minds, share their experiences, learn from one another and hear a fresh word from God. With the Baptist woman there was oppression. Palpable oppression. She couldn’t even meet with me without a man there to supervise. And that is when I knew I had to start my blog with this post, and with this question: Should Baptists be rescuing women from the sex industry? From human trafficking? Will those women escape one form of bondage only to find themselves in a bondage that is far more insidious. One that disguises itself as holy?
Shudder to think.
We’ve got a lot to talk about.