Archives For Women

Silent no more, abuse victims speak out

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein was only the first of countless celebrity men disgraced by allegations of sexual harassment and assault in 2017. And as the names added up—each seemingly more famous and more familiar and more unlikely than the last—so did the names and faces of their victims.

On social media, #metoo became a rallying cry for women who have been abused or oppressed or pushed aside or used by men in power. When Time named their most influential people of 2017, “the silence breakers” topped the list.

And lest those outside of Hollywood or Washington fall prey to a cavalier “who’s next” attitude, another hashtag soon appeared on Twitter: #churchtoo, used to denote people who have been abused by religious leaders, or those whose church has failed to support them when they reported an abusive situation.

In January, an associate pastor at non-denominational Highpoint Church in Memphis admitted an instance of sexual misconduct 20 years ago after the victim, then a high school student, shared her #metoo story. When the pastor, Andy Savage, spoke to his church the Sunday after the story broke, he received a standing ovation. His accuser, Jules Woodson, told The New York Times the ovation was “disgusting.”

“It doesn’t matter if I was his only victim,” Woodson said. “What matters is that this was a big problem and continues to go on.”

Late last year, more than 140 evangelical women signed on to a statement decrying abuse with the hashtag #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. “This moment in history is ours to steward,” reads the statement. “We are calling churches, particularly those in our stream of the Christian faith—evangelical churches—to end the silence and stop all participation in violence against women.”

As churches and their leaders move into a 2018 still reeling from scandal, the most pressing challenge may well be discerning how the Bible should inform and instruct Christians living in a #metoo culture. And answering this question: When a few women are silence breakers on behalf of a great many, what does that say about what the church is saying to and about women?

“The contributions of women in the advancement of the kingdom are essential and indispensable,” author and teacher Jen Wilkin said at a conference recently. “If we have crafted a vision for the church in which women are extra, in which women are nice but not necessary, we have a crafted a vision for the church that is foreign to the Scriptures.”


Anita Renfroe

Christian comedian and communicator Anita Renfroe, will be the keynote speaker for two events for ministers’ wives at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis.

Based on the theme, “Be Encouraged,” women’s events will include a Ministers’ Wives Luncheon, a Pastors’ Wives Conference, and a Women’s Expo that will be open prior to both events.

“A lot of churches are smaller churches, and ministers’ wives may not receive the encouragement they deserve,” said Vickie Munton, president of this year’s Ministers’ Wives Luncheon and the wife of FBC O’Fallon pastor Doug Munton.

“We hope this luncheon will help them feel encouraged and that they are not alone.”

Renfroe has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Dr. Phil,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” and many other media outlets. Millions of people have viewed her YouTube video of her singing everything a mother says to her children in a single day to the tune of “The William Tell Overture” in just two minutes and 55 seconds.

She is also the author of “DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU: Kids, Carbs, and the Coming Hormonal Apocalypse.”

The luncheon is Tuesday, June 14, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Marriott St. Louis Grand-Majestic Ballroom. Luncheon tickets are $15 and can be purchased at or by contacting Munton at

Renfroe also will speak during the Pastors’ Wives Conference, held during the morning session of the Pastors’ Conference on Monday, June 13, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Other speakers include:

• Selma Wilson, executive leader of organizational development at LifeWay Christian Resources, on “Owning Your Development”
• Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on “Leaning Into Our Changing Culture”
• Missionary Reese Ripken, on “Missional Matters in the Persecuted Church”
• Anne Graham Lotz, a speaker and author who is the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, will lead in a prayer time based on her book, “The Daniel Prayer.”

The conference will be hosted in the Marriott St. Louis Grand-Majestic Ballroom. There is no cost for the event and registration is not required. Women who serve in any facet of local church leadership, missions and denominational work are invited to attend.

Pastors’ Wives Conference organizer Susie Hawkins emphasized her hope that Southern Baptist wives can get to know each other better.

“Southern Baptist men always know each other, but women not so much,” she said. “We want to pray and worship together, and to really encourage women in their roles as ministers’ wives.”

WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting

Sharing Christ by all means is the focus of this year’s Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, June 12–13. The meeting’s theme — By All Means — is also WMU’s emphasis for 2016–2018. The impetus for this theme is found in 1 Corinthians 9:22b–23: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

“This new emphasis in WMU challenges us to follow Jesus’ example … to step into the world around us, cultivate relationships, and create opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ,” Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU said. “Then, by all means, let’s share Christ with those waiting to hear.”

On Sunday there will be a reception in honor of Lee as she retires later this year following 20 years of service through national WMU — 16 years as executive director and four years as president.

Speakers will include Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Sebastian and Erin Vazquez, international church planters; Goldie Francis, an International Mission Board worker; Travis Kerns, a missionary serving with the North American Mission Board in Salt Lake City; and Katie Orr, author and pastor’s wife. Iorg’s book, “Unscripted: Sharing the Gospel as Life Happens,” will be the emphasis book for WMU in 2016–2017.

Get additional information about the meeting at

With reporting from Baptist Press


Signs of Hope

ib2newseditor —  May 5, 2016

Illinois women on a mission in South Asia see lives changed by the story many there had never heard.

Editor’s note: In April, a team of women from Illinois traveled to South Asia to share gospel stories and witness how believers there are working to push back spiritual darkness. Lindsay McDonald, a pastor’s wife from First Baptist Church in Casey, captured the trip in words and pictures.

Okay, you can start,” Mim* says, leaning towards Gail Faulkner, who sits on the chair beside her. Having practiced the “Creation to Christ” story for months now, today is Gail’s opportunity to tell the gospel story that her team traveled nearly 8,000 miles to share.

“So, I should go ahead and start the story?” Gail confirms with Mim, a believer working to reach others in her country. About 20 women are gathered, clustered together on handcrafted floor mats.

A Hindu woman offered her simple, empty home for today’s story. The room is dark and still.

The women look expectantly at the visiting Americans and their translators and ministry partners—women from this country who have converted to Christianity.

“Yes, tell them. They are thirsty,” Mim responds with urgency.


Women here talk to each other while they prepare meals, wash clothes in the village pond, and care for their children. When the women in the last village on the last day were asked about how to apply the story to their lives, they said, “If we spend less time gossiping, we will have more time to share the gospel.”

Gail, a pastor’s wife from Bethalto, Ill., joined this mission team even when this part of the world wasn’t on her radar. She says God made it clear to her that it was her time to be on the team, and cleared her path of any financial obstacles to traveling thousands of miles from home.

Joining her on the team were six other women from Illinois and three from the Carolinas. They came from a variety of life stages: young mothers, grandmothers, retirees, professionals. All prepared and trained for months to bring the message of hope Isaiah prophesied to the Israelites thousands of years earlier: a perfect sacrifice, Jesus.

The Illinois volunteers came to partner with two missionaries serving in this densely populated country, and three national believers who served as their guides and interpreters. These Christians focus primarily on evangelism to Muslim women, who they can encounter more freely because of the culture here. The nation’s oral tradition is built on conversations and storytelling. Much like the story about to begin in this dark house.

Out of darkness

Life in South Asia is hard.

“Oppression is real and hope seems distant,” says Amy Neibel, a mission team member from First Baptist Church in Carmi. In this country in South Asia, 80% of the people live on less than $2 a day, and 40% live on less than $1.

Poverty is real.

It bombards all of your senses—the smell of waste in the street, as adults and children sift through it, looking for items to recycle and sell. Cars honk in the dense traffic, and rickshaw drivers pedal passengers to and fro for a minimal wage.

Darkness is prevalent.


Sights of daily life whizzed past our van as we traveled the dusty, dirty, bumpy roads that are congested with chaos. Traffic, animals, people. Vendor after vendor sells fruit, meat and South Asian cuisine. Physically and mentally disabled adults lay on the side of the road, and beggars tap on the vehicle window looking for money.

“It is a place where you not only sense it, but also see the spiritual darkness on the faces of the people,” Amy says. The country is 98% Muslim and many haven’t heard about salvation through Jesus.Almost 16 million people hear the Muslim call to prayer fives times a day; some stop and pray and others proceed with their day.“Though you can sense the darkness, they are just like us—they are hurting,” team leader Kimberly Sowell says during a morning devotional. Sowell’s ministry, Bangladesh: For Faith and Freedom, supports job training for women and girls, offering them a way out of the hopelessness that is so prevalent.

“All of God’s people are called to be used of him but why do some not go?” Kimberly asks the team. They answer, We’re comfortable where we are. The missions call is for “other people.” There’s plenty of spiritual need at home.

Most of all, this place is hard.

“God is working here. That’s why there is persecution, if God wasn’t moving there would be no persecution,” says Mim.

Into the light

Walking is a part of the daily routine here. While out one day in the capital city and a nearby port city, Gail says, “I noticed there was no life. The faces of the women passing me were stoic. No expression. The lack of hearing the voices of children crushed my grandma’s heart. I’ve never been to an area where the noise of children playing, yelling, running and crying could not be heard.”

Stepping into the Light of Life and Light of Hope Learning Centers is a different story. Within these walls, there is life! Young smiles greet the team as they enter. They play Twister, Phase Ten, and Old Maid with the girls to teach them colors, animals, numbers, and occupations.

The ministry Sowell began in 2013 supports efforts to provide nutrition, hygiene, education and vocational training to young women. Here, they also hear the gospel, so they can find faith and freedom in Jesus Christ.

“The Light of Hope Learning Center is an amazing place full of laughter and love,” says Connie Lang, a volunteer from First Baptist of Casey, on her first international mission trip. “It is run by an amazing missionary, Susan Kirker,* who loves the girls and their mothers.

“As we built relationships with the girls, I loved hearing them recite the Bible story that was being taught to them,” Connie says. “This trip has been life-changing. I have grown closer to the Lord and have seen the power of prayer at work.

“I would love to go back again.”

While leaving the capital city headed to our next area of work on Friday, we had just started to pray for the city when we drove by a mosque. Hundreds of men were lying facedown praying to Allah. Our hearts were sick to see the lostness right before our eyes. It’s everywhere—less than 1% are believers. You can feel the spiritual darkness.

Both centers are funded by the International Mission Board, but they are run independently from one another, with different directors and school formats. Light of Life, located in the capital, has a school for at-risk girls during the day and brings in Muslim women in the afternoons for sewing lessons.

Light of Hope offers similar activities. Girls have the opportunity to sew in the mornings while earning a daily wage, and then attend school in the afternoon.

Both centers give hope to hopeless lives of the girls living in the city slums. “Yet it is even more than that,” Gail says. “The girls are offered a daily clean shower, two meals for the day, an education, sewing skills, Bible teaching and love.”

 Walking in new life

Back in the dark village house, the Hindu and Muslim women listen to the “Creation to Christ” story and then take turns repeating it, trying to commit it to memory. Since they live in an oral culture, many do not know how to read or write. Messages must be verbally transmitted in speech or song among friends and family, and then passed down through generations.

More than 30 women accepted Christ after hearing the stories the team shared. Several who believed have already set up a time to be baptized—a big step of obedience in a place where the decision to follow Christ could bring persecution.

“God showed himself mightily to the South Asians and our team,” said Niece Edwards from First Baptist, Carmi. “I was stretched as never before and learned more about God’s sustaining power.”

“Walking through this South Asian country during this season of my life, really displayed how I need to walk beside my husband with the purpose of harvest,” said team member Kathy Fullerton. “We need to be intentional with neighbors, strangers, friends, and family because the gospel can permeate cultural bounds. Jesus died for those in burkas and overalls alike.”

*Names changed.

Worth the risk

ib2newseditor —  May 2, 2016
A whirl of color – The Illinois mission team tries on pieces of the sari indigenous to the culture.

A whirl of color – The Illinois mission team tries on pieces of the sari indigenous to the culture.

As Carmen Halsey walked the roads of this South Asian country, she challenged herself to a game of sorts. “I’m a make eye contact, smile kind of person,” said IBSA’s director of women’s ministry and missions. Halsey tried to lock eyes with women she passed and see if she could get them to smile. But it never happened.

“I’ve never seen the face of oppression like what I saw there,” Halsey said, remembering how she tired of the multiple calls to prayer at the mosque, ringing out daily and reminding her mission team of how many people are walking in spiritual darkness.

Halsey’s trip to South Asia was actually years in the making. When she joined the IBSA staff in 2013, she mobilized women in the state around awareness and prevention of human trafficking—a focus started by National Woman’s Missionary Union.

In Illinois, Halsey has continued that emphasis, putting in place a task force to study the issue, create resources for churches, and facilitate mission trips in North America and internationally to be involved in rescuing victims of trafficking. The trafficking focus is how Halsey met Kimberly Sowell and Bangladesh: For Faith and Freedom.

The April trip, led by Sowell, gave Halsey and Illinois women an opportunity to see up-close trafficking prevention and rescue at the Light of Hope Center. But they also saw the importance of encouraging national Christians—South Asian women who have come to Christ and are now risking persecution to reach others with the gospel.

During their trip, the Illinois women saw in a new, real way the threats Christians face in other parts of the world. The awareness that believers in South Asia could lose their lives for their faith spurred the team on, Halsey said, and inspired “intense, beautiful” prayer. It also left Halsey wrestling with a bigger question: As Christians in the U.S., most of us don’t have a target on our backs. Why then are we not sharing here?

As the team ministered in a village one day, they were asked to pray for people who were sick. One woman went to get her son, a Muslim, so Halsey could pray for him. Halsey describes what happened next as her boldest moment. “I looked at him and said, ‘I will pray for you. But I have got to be clear: There is only one name I’ll pray to.”

In this place, where people are in desperate need of hope, only one Name can deliver it: Jesus.

For more information about IBSA mission opportunities, contact Carmen Halsey at (217) 391-3138 or

– Meredith Flynn

The BriefingSouthern Baptists called to prayer
On June 14, the entire Tuesday evening session of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis will be committed to praying for spiritual leaders, our churches, nation, and world. Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd issued the call stating, “the critical need of the hour in America, the state of our churches, the needs of our pastors, the status of our evangelism or lack of it, and the exponential lostness of the world while we are bringing home hundreds of our missionaries… it is time to pray.”

New churches outpace dying ones
America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend church anywhere, new LifeWay Research studies show. More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed, according to estimates from 34 denominational statisticians.

Christian women most persecuted
A survey of 192 countries has demonstrated scientifically what many have long known anecdotally to be true: Christian women are more religious than Christian men. The lesser known fact: those women bear the brunt of persecution in the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.

Tax-exemptions for churches questioned
Massachusetts authorities have challenged the tax-exempt status of a Catholic shrine and retreat center. The center offers daily Masses, religious conferences, a soup kitchen for the hungry, and a Christmas festival of lights. The case which has gone to the state’s supreme court, begs a deeper question: Do religious organizations decide for themselves what they require for their devotional and educational missions, or do municipal tax authorities decide for them?

Porn labeled ‘public health hazard’
The effort to reverse the spread of sexually explicit material and its effects received a boost when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution saying pornography is establishing “a public health crisis.” The first-of-its-kind resolution, which National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) helped craft and the state legislature approved unanimously, recognizes “the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change” to confront “the pornography epidemic.”

Sources: IB2news, Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Boston Globe,

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

All 50 states have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Baptist Press reports, even those in which officials disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

The_Briefing“We don’t have a choice but to comply,” said Louisiana Governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, “even though I think this decision was the wrong one.”

In Texas, the state’s attorney general said “numerous lawyers” are willing to defend officials who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and therefore could face lawsuits and fines. Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains intact.”

Read the full story at And here’s a state-by-state update from CNN.

The Supreme Court’s decision continued to dominate headlines over the weekend, as Christian leaders and others offered a range of perspectives on what the country now faces:

In other news:

Six people were arrested after heckling Houston pastor Joel Osteen during a church service Sunday.

Among Barna’s findings on women and church: While only 5% name church or religious activities as their top time commitment, 22% say that’s the area of their life they’d most like to improve.

Almost the same number of Americans believe Islam is a threat to religious liberty at home and abroad, LifeWay Research reports in a new survey.

Editor’s note: The following post is a report from the Priority Women’s Resource Conference held in Decatur, Ill., in April. For a full list of ways to get involved in Illinois Baptist Women’s Ministry, go to

HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent

“You’ve got to minister outside the four walls of your church,” Carmen Halsey told women gathered in Decatur for IBSA’s Priority Women’s Resource Conference.

“When we meet a need, we earn the right to share the gospel. We’ve got to be women who are willing to speak and share our stories…Leadership development involves every one of us.”

Leadership was the focus of the April 24-25 meeting, formerly known as the Women’s Missions Celebration. More than 430 women representing 108 churches came to Decatur for plenary sessions and breakouts designed to give them tools to put to use in their own churches and communities.

“We’re part of a local body that God has put together,” said Halsey, IBSA’s director of Women’s Ministry and Missions. “Why would we want to be trained and equipped if we’re not going to do ministry?”

During the two-day conference, Illinois leaders and national speakers made clear the main message of the meeting: Leadership requires action.

More than a mist

Sowell_blogKimberly Sowell (right), founder of Kingdom Heart Ministries, told the women that leadership means meeting needs. Addressing them during a large-group session in Decatur, Sowell shared the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. In the parable, the priest and the Levite chose to continue down the road to do the things deemed important by them, she recounted. Only the Samaritan man chose to help the beaten man and see to his wellbeing.

Like the priest and the Levite, Sowell said, we get caught up in our religious duties and can get our priorities out of order. “Whatever we choose to do is most important to us.”

When prioritizing our lives, Sowell noted, “There are certain things we should all be involved in; coming into the house of God, worshipping God and studying God’s Word so we can get filled up with the power of the Holy Spirit so it will power us up to go out into this world and be living water.”

However, she cautioned, “Let it not be said of us that in our exuberance we drown out the sounds of the cries for help.”

Following God’s leadership—even as he transforms us—was also a key discussion point at the conference.

“We are not called to stay the same,” said speaker and author Rachel Lovingood. “We are to be informed, we are to be transformed…We are called to be intentional and practical with our lives.”

Reading from James 4:13-17, Lovingood sprayed her travel-size can of hairspray into the air to demonstrate the temporary nature of a fine mist and said, “If I’m obsessed with controlling my own life, it’s just a mist and will have no impact…If I’m willing to give up my own life and invest where God chooses, then the impact can be immeasurable.”

This is only done through a reliance on Christ, she said. “We are doing the best we can sometimes, but we’re doing it by our own strength. We need to rely on Him.”

Speaker Rachel Lovingood asked women at the meeting to stand arm-in-arm to demonstrate unity. "There is no telling what can happen in the state of Illinois if we start getting together,” she said. Photo by Lisa Sergent

Speaker Rachel Lovingood asked women at the meeting to stand arm-in-arm to demonstrate unity. “There is no telling what can happen in the state of Illinois if we start getting together,” she said. Photo by Lisa Sergent

Focus on missions
To kick off the Decatur meeting, Halsey and others spoke on needs in Illinois and abroad, and how organizations like Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) can help engage women in missions. Clella Lee brought greetings from National WMU, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., and Jill McNicol was re-elected president of Illinois’ state chapter. McNicol is a member of First Baptist Church in Patoka.

Women also elected members of WMU’s lead team, who will serve in a variety of roles throughout the year to organize missions opportunities for children, teens and adults in Illinois.

Early Saturday morning, some meeting attenders participated in a 5K Run/Walk for Missions. Around 30 walkers and runners assembled in Decatur for the inaugural event.

Going home changed
In the meeting’s final session, pastor’s wife and International Mission Board global missions catalyst Lori McDaniel emphasized the importance of faith in women’s lives. “You’ll be ready for tomorrow if you’re OK with God interrupting your normal,” McDaniel said. “God’s interruptions are never convenient.”

She said women have got to stop asking themselves “what if” questions and follow God. “We have so much faith that we’re not going to go backwards. But, we have so much fear that we’re not going to go forward.”

Recounting the Bible story of Gideon, McDaniel said, “God raised Gideon up to be a judge, but not before Gideon back-talked God and showed a lack of faith.” Just as he eventually accepted his assignment, “If we’re going to be ready for tomorrow, then we’ve got to accept the assignment that we’ve been sent,” McDaniel said. “In your ordinary life you have room for an extraordinary God. Where in your life is He at work in a way that can only be explained by Him?”

“Are you going home changed?” Halsey asked the women at the end of the conference.

“Tomorrow begins today,” she said. “We have a personal choice to make whether we are going to live our lives with intention or let someone else decide it for us.”

Read the current issue of the Illinois Baptist online at