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BME Women Ministers’ Network 

A network that provides support and encouragement to Baptist women from black and minority ethnic groups (BME) in leadership positions is looking forward to its second year. 

BME Women Ministers NetworkThe BME Women Ministers’ Network launched in November 2014 for women who are lay pastors or accredited ministers (or in the process of training to become lay pastors or accredited ministers).
The network aims to:
• Provide a safe space where women can meet together, share experiences and encourage spiritual growth as they live out their calling.
• Provide access to and understanding of good resources to use to identify and nurture leadership potential in women and girls.
• Provide opportunities to make good connections and access information.
It met four times in its first year, and a further four networking events are planned for 2016. A core group of around 10 women have been meeting. There is a broad mix: some are ministers in training, some are in the settlement process and while others are settled in churches.
The majority exercise ministry to adults, and it is hoped the network may connect with more who exercise ministry to children and youth in Baptist churches.
‘Their experience of the group is a good one,’ says Gale Richards, a tutor at Northern Baptist College who co-ordinates the network. ‘It’s helpful to know each other exists, and get that support from people in similar situations. We’re at the stage now where we’re reflecting on how we grow the network, and raise its profile.’
Gale stresses the importance of understanding why such a group is needed. These women have traditionally faced barriers for several reasons, she explains.
Firstly there is a gender issue. Although Baptists were the second denomination to ordain women in Britain, we are below national averages in terms of how many female ministers are leading our churches. Even when they come through college women spend longer in the settlement process. Quite a significant number don’t last long in a pastorate.
When barriers related to ethnicity are also factored in, it’s not surprising that the number of BME women in ministerial roles in our churches is relatively low (it’s thought to be below 20).
Those that are in the system therefore have important stories to share – to each other, and beyond.
‘We felt strongly that these few BME women ministers could meet together, support each other and share experiences,’ says Gale, ‘and that these experiences could be fed into the thinking at a national level, such as the Ignite ministries review. It’s important to have a sense of what the reality is like on the ground.
‘It’s also important to have people who can relate to your experiences, not just from the point of view of being a woman or being from a minority ethnic group in Britain, but from being a woman from a minority ethnic group in Britain.’
As well as the relational support, there’s an equipping element to the network. Guest speakers have included Mary Taylor, a regional minister in the Yorkshire Baptist Association, Baptist Union General Secretary Lynn Green, and Canon Eve Pitts, one of the first Anglican women to be ordained, who have shared tips on key issues, such as moving through the settlement process.
Another dimension is looking ahead – the women have been encouraged to look at how they can inspire the next generation and break down more barriers. The network also connects to the Baptist Gender Justice group.
But its existence serves another purpose too, that is to highlight and recognise the positive, celebrate what the women have already achieved.  
‘These women have multiple gifts, unique insights and creativity,’ says Gale, ‘in areas such as leading worship, preaching, teaching, and their stories and experiences they bring to the table. We have a poet, writers, someone who has done outreach in the Bronx, another who was formerly a solicitor before receiving the call to ministry.
‘Nurturing them blesses everyone.’

Networking events will be held throughout the year of 2016 in February, May, September and November at locations in Birmingham, London and Bristol. Themes and subjects are chosen to cater to the needs of those attending the Network and all Networking events are facilitated by Gale, Leoner and Carol.
For further details and information contact:
Gale Richards: projectdevelopmentworker@hotmail.co.uk
Leoner Gardner-Howard: leonergardner1@yahoo.co.uk
Carol Moore: carol.moore1912@googlemail.com

Baptist Times, 03/01/2016
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