If you’ve been at Ravensworth for a Sunday when I’m preaching, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me quote Nancy Hastings Sehested or Ken Sehested. I included a story about Nancy in a sermon from December 17, 2017 and her love of the Magnificat, Mary’s prophetic song in the Gospel of Luke. Nancy and Ken have guided many on the uncertain roads of Baptist life as we follow Jesus on the way.
Nancy Hastings Sehested was called to pastor and in the 1980s, which was a difficult feat in Baptist churches, particularly Southern Baptist Churches. She knew first hand of the pain of those days and the discrimination she faced because of her gender. In 1987, the church she pastored was removed from fellowship with the larger Baptist body because she was a woman.
Nancy was one of the founders of the Alliance of Baptists. In 1987, those founders created a new Baptist body calling for equity and justice, and yet only three of the 33 founders were women. Representation matters.
Last week, Nancy wrote an ” Open Letter to Paige Patterson,” which caused a lot of excitement all over social media. Paige Patterson was the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth and he’d been in the headlines everywhere as news broke that he once told a woman in an abusive relationship to pray about it, and pressured a student–a victim of sexual assault– to keep quiet.
In this open letter, Nancy, full of grace, wrote about how she felt as a woman being ousted by powers of the day (which included Patterson), and how he must feel now, being ousted because of his actions against women.
She writes, “I want you to know that I have more hope now than ever. I’m grateful to live in this apocalyptic time, a time of the “revealing,” as that word means. Even the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are hearing the strong voices of women. Uncovering the truth about the abuse of women opens the way for healing. Think about the divine possibilities. Men can be released of the ancient sin of patriarchy in order to practice the joy of mutuality. Women can live in peace and unafraid.”
I believe Nancy. I believe the women. We’ve got work to do so that all voices have an audience and are received with care and grace. Think about the divine possibilities that swirl around us!
With great hope,