The issue of women’s roles, now a non-issue for American Baptists, remained a hot topic among Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists and National Baptists in the 1990s.
Out of the SBC controversies of the 1980s, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed in 1990-91, deliberately affirming women in all aspects of Gospel ministry, including proclamation.
By 1993 over 1,000 Southern Baptist women in public ministry were identified. Nine hundred of them were ordained. A small percentage served as pastors.
The BWA Women’s Department continued to focus on expansion and inclusion of Baptist women of all cultures, leadership training for women and women’s work in each country. In 1992 they held their first Global Consultation on the Evangelization of Women.
WMU also expanded its mission programs and partnerships, developing the highly successful Christian Women Job Corps, a model of mentoring and skill-development assistance for women transitioning from welfare to work. By the end of the decade, other countries around the world replicated the CWJC model.
In 1995, the new leadership of the SBC restructured its organizations, calling into question its relationship with WMU and control of the Lottie Moon offering.
WMU leadership continued its tradition of cooperation, working with SBC mission agencies, local associations, new para-church women’s ministries, men’s groups and Habitat for Humanity.
By the end of the decade, WMU employed African-American women leaders, embraced Hispanic-American women leaders, and partnered with Samford University in the development of a unique Christian Women’s Leadership Institute.
In 1996, Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) National Archives and Resource Center opened at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and BWIM dedicated an Addie Davis annual offering to assist female seminary students.
One year after SBC messengers voted to amend the “Baptist Faith and Message” to include statements about wives’ submission to their husbands, Baptist theologian Calvin Miller told the WMU annual meeting “the hunger to call the world to Christ has never been a gender-exclusive task.”
Instead of using a “partial hermeneutic” of a few Scripture verses at the exclusion of others, he urged Baptists to return to “our old hermeneutic for women in ministry” that includes all of Scripture.
In 2000, the SBC revised its “Baptist Faith and Message” to prohibit women from serving as pastors. This revision drew intense media scrutiny and passionate reactions–for and against–from other Baptist organizations and denominations.
By many counts, one of the most popular Baptist preachers in 2000 is Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham. Although she refers to herself as a “Bible expositor,” her family members call her “the best preacher in the family.”
Her popularity continues to grow, despite opposition from some clergymen.
Carol Ann Vaughn, Ph.D., is director of the Christian Women’s Leadership Institute of Samford University and Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Alabama.