Another Break Up Story

The summer after my first year in seminary, I worked as a camp director. The camp was owned by a state Woman’s Missionary Union, an organization created to support the missions arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Even though most WMU camps are separate from the Southern Baptist Convention, they are still controlled by it.

In the summer of 1999, I officially broke up with the Southern Baptist Convention. It had become increasingly clear that the SBC was never going to accept and encourage my call to ministry. Back then, I didn’t see WMU as an accomplice. They seemed like hostage negotiators, trying to make it through the best they could.

My official break up looked like two camp friends and me writing letters to the SBC declaring it was over. We met at vesper point, read our letters to one another, and buried them near the cross. I kid you not. The letters never got mailed, but we knew we were done.

Each summer I worked there, I asked a pastor friend of mine to spend a week with us as a camp speaker. Every time she came, girls declared their desire to preach and minister. I knew they would face opposition. I knew I would be in trouble if administration found out. I was willing to risk my job in order to resist the false belief those girls could not be called to preach.

Week after week I encouraged campers to listen for the voice of God. I preached equality and told them to be suspect of submission mandates. I did this with bible verses and missionary stories of women who had also defied tradition.

18 years later I am about to break up with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the group I ran to after the SBC. I find myself preaching the same messages to folks in CBF churches as I did to those campers many years ago. I want more for CBF. I want more for my family.

It is time for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to embrace their origins of equality, speak up on behalf of abuse victims from within the fellowship administration, and remove their discriminatory LGBTQI hiring policy. It is time for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to choose love over fear.

I doubt I will get back to vesper point to bury my new letter. I live far away and camping season is about to start. I wish I could address the young women attending that WMU camp. I would tell them what I must tell myself, “Be brave and live into your calling.”