Motivated by love for the Bible and a sense of personal calling, Judy Baker earned a master-of-divinity degree from Southern Seminary in 1986, hoping to continue in a pastoral or teaching ministry.
But recognizing her Southern Baptist Convention was moving in the opposite direction–away from allowing women ministers to exercise their calling and gifts to their full potential, Baker, who had been a pre-med student in college, returned to healthcare.
Helping to set up and run healthcare clinics, she redirected her church ministry into service in a lay capacity, such as teaching Sunday school, helping with youth programs, missions and children.
The 44-year-old Baker’s vocation recently took another turn, however, when she won election to the Missouri House of Representatives in November. Dominating a late-coming Republican opponent, she took over the 25th District seat in the Missouri House, which had been vacated by a fellow Democrat who was prevented by term limits from running again.
While a political newcomer, Baker told EthicsDaily.com that her interest in politics dates back to a “mock government” exercise in the fourth grade. Believing that self-government is only as good as the people who are involved in it, she determined last year to present herself for public service.
She now says government “can be a great calling consistent with being an active and involved Christian.”
“My current calling is to the public arena, where Christian ideals can inform public code,” Baker said in an e-mail interview.
Baker, whose husband, John, is pastor at First Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., differs with some religious leaders who in the last presidential election suggested that a real Christian must vote for Republicans.
“I am a ‘real’ Christian, and I am a representative in the Democratic Party,” she said. “My biblical understanding informs my politics just as heavily as any other party.”
“I believe there are inherent dangers to the perception that God has only one political party,” she said, paraphrasing the words of Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”
As a Christian in public service, Baker said she hopes to work to “give voice to those who have no voice.”
Her priorities will be healthcare, education and poverty. “I believe strongly in the biblical mandates to attend to these things,” she said.
“I also believe that the better we become at closing access and equity gaps in these areas, the closer we will come to ‘all boats rising together’ and the Kingdom of God being present in our midst,” she added.
Baker is an adjunct professor of managerial economics at Columbia College in Columbia, Mo,, and president of Cura Healthsystems Solutions.
In addition to her legislative duties, Baker is vice chair of the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. She is also a member of the American Association of Healthcare Executives and a member of the Columbia Kiwanis Club. She is also a deacon in her church.
She and her husband have three children.
First Baptist Church of Columbia is affiliated primarily with both the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The church also provides support for the Alliance of Baptists.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.