This years Womens Leadership Consultation, which took place at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS)from Feb. 10-12, drew more than 200 women from nine states and even from as far away as Canada. The last time this annual event, which alternates between the six Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)-related seminaries every year, was held in Southern was in 1999.
Heather King, director of womens programs at SBTS, viewed the large number of attendees as a sign that many evangelical women wanted to receive in-depth training to take up ministry work.
King said that the responses from the attendees confirmed their theory that women desire to equip themselve so they can be as effective in their ministries as possible, regardless of engaging in full-time seminary study.
She also added that the leaders in womens ministry want to be challenged and desire training that will impact their ministries not [only] for the coming year, but for years to come. She said that the attendees gave the same response that SBTS has set a new standard in women's ministry training.
The conference consisted of several plenary sessions in which three of them were led by two teachers and authors, Mary Kassian and Dorothy Patterson, well known among the evangelicals for encouraging women to approach crucial issues such as womens roles in the church and home with biblical viewpoint.
Using 2 Tim 3, Kassian encouraged women to be wise with the Word and not to be `weak-willed.'
Meanwhile, Patterson, who taught from the book of Esther, encouraged women to develop God-glorifying leadership styles.
King said the planners of the event first thought about the key issues that leaders must understand. Then they shortened the long list into four issues that are pertinent to be understood by any leader in womens ministry. The four key issues were: the challenges of ministry in a postmodern world, exercising leadership that is centered on the glory of God, the necessity of God's Word, and the influence of the gender debate on the current culture. These four central topics became the basis for serving the purpose of conference; to train and equip women in the local church.
Mary Mohler, director of Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) said the annual conference is crucial in equipping equippers.
"That factor alone makes it very unusual as far as women's conferences go," Mohler said. "We purposefully planned a full program of speakers who confronted today's issues of leadership head on and in a most effective way. The results of such training were evident immediately.
"Women ordered recordings of what they heard in record numbers. Their feedback to me personally indicated their gratitude for the opportunity to be encouraged but at the same time challenged to not only press on but to aim higher in their pursuit to be wise women who are guided by the Word of God.
"Others told me that this conference simply set a new standard for excellence in leadership training for women. Given the gifted speakers on the program, we expected nothing less and give God glory for the pleasing results."
Among the participants, Tina Tindle of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., said the conference was a weekend of spiritual refreshing for her.
"Our speakers this week are teaching us about being a wise woman, and they're doing that scripturally," Tindle said. "That refreshes our memories [and] it refreshes our hearts. Then we can go and relate it to the women that we are ministering to."
Lorie Looney, a master of divinity student at Southern Seminary from Tallassee, Ala., said: "We, as women today, are reflecting Christ and His commands in the culture." She continued saying "It's sort of like we're getting a chance to counter-attack the culture if we correctly understand and define God's Word."