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A new women’s ministry in North Carolina will be called “Embrace,” according to a report in the Biblical Recorder. Leaders of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) moved to create the new women-focused ministry arm in response to Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) decision to leave the Baptist Building — though not the BSCNC — in order to preserve the historic organization’s autonomy.

Phyllis Foy, chair of the committee appointed to design a new women’s ministry, told members of the BSCNC’s Board of Directors that “Embrace” will be about “embracing women for Christ,” focusing on evangelism, discipleship, and missions.

BSCNC leaders and Foy both insist that the new ministry is not intended to compete with WMU-NC. Supporters of WMU-NC generally remain skeptical. In action that has yet to make it to the Recorder‘s Website, the WMU-NC Executive Board recently approved a resolution specifically asking the BSCNC’s Executive Committee to affirm that WMU-NC remains a partner with the BSCNC, that the WMU-NC president will continue as a member of the Executive Committee, and that WMU-NC will retain its opportunity to give an annual report to the Convention.

Instead of affirming the request outright, Executive Committee members voted to refer it to the Articles and Bylaws Committee, which is currently revamping various aspects of the BSCNC’s governing documents. And, when Hollifield unveiled a new organizational chart reflecting a proposed restructuring of BSCNC ministries, WMU-NC was not on it — even via a dotted line.

The new ministry’s name could prove to be problematic. A moniker that implies “embracing women for Christ” could be seen as sending a mixed message in a convention largely dominated by men who think women should remain in their place and be submissive.

And, though I’m not a lawyer, I wonder if there might be issues of trademark infringement. As one alert reader pointed out in an e-mail, “Embrace” is already the name of a popular perfume and line of products by Vera Wang, and there’s an “Embrace Women” brand by Mark Cross. “Embrace” is also the name of a nationally advertised brand of veterinary medical insurance, and the name of the annual National Black Arts Festival (for artists of Afro American heritage). There’s even a British rock band named “Embrace,” or was.

Whether N.C. Baptist women will embrace “Embrace” is, for now, an open question.

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