Faithful to the Call

EVERY SUNDAY MORNING now, you can find Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested preaching the Word of God as the senior pastor of a Southern Baptist church.

This is what Nancy Hastings Sehested was born to do. It is who she was created and called to be.

Yet some people would say it is a miracle that has happened, for the road to this place has been long and hard. And surely neither the struggle nor the journey is yet over. But now, those people would say, it is time to marvel at what God has done.

"I am a living testimony to the fact that God is alive and moving in our midst," Nancy says.

But what has happened here in Memphis, Tennessee, is about much more than the call of Nancy Hastings Sehested. It is about women in ministry, power and authority, church autonomy, interpretation of scripture, and the vicious fight for control of the largest Protestant denomination in this country, the 14.7 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

And it is about how God is bigger than all of that.

PRESCOTT MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH was recently "disfellowshipped"--that is, kicked out for "spiritual" reasons--from its county-wide Southern Baptist association because it called as its pastor a minister who happens to be female. And if you find that hard to believe in 1988, you don't know the half of what's at stake in this Southern Baptist holy war.

For hiring Nancy Sehested as its pastor, Prescott has suddenly found itself in the eye of a denominational hurricane. But while hostile controversy rages all around, Prescott remains calm, steadfast, and even joyful amid the Southern Baptist storm.

"Don't feel sorry for us because we got kicked out of the Shelby County Baptist Association," Prescott members will tell you. "This experience has pulled us together. All we did was be obedient, and we are being blessed. We are witnessing signs and wonders."

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