Rev. Gina Stewart, black churches

Rev. Gina Stewart’s Sermon At The 2024 Joint National Baptist Convention Sparks Discussion On Women Leadership In Black Churches

Rev. Gina Stewart, the first woman speaker at the National Baptist Convention, sparked controversy after her sermon was allegedly removed and edited.

Women leaders in Christian ministry are speaking out against the obstacles they face as they strive to establish leadership roles within the Black church in America.

Awareness was sparked after Rev. Gina Stewart, a senior pastor at Christ Missionary Baptist Church, made history as the first woman preacher to deliver the keynote sermon at the Joint National Baptist Convention in January, an event that congregates four historically Black Baptist denominations. According to The Associated Press, Stewart delivered a powerful message during the Memphis, Tennessee, event, emphasizing that Jesus not only embraced women as part of his ministry but also identified with their suffering.

Controversy arose after the original recording of Stewart’s groundbreaking sermon mysteriously disappeared from the convention’s Facebook page. A social media outcry protested the removal of the sermon ahead of allegations that claimed a resurfaced version of the video edited her closing remarks, which called for the “brothers” to support and “speak up” for the women in ministry.

“This is an example of no matter how high you rise as a woman, you’re going to meet patriarchy at the top of the hill,” Martha Simmons, founder of Women of Color in Ministry, said. “The next Norton Anthology of African American preaching is probably 20 years away, but that sermon will be in there.”

A number of theologically conservative Christian churches, along with some Black Protestant denominations, have interpreted certain biblical scriptures as requiring women’s silence in churches, forbidding them from preaching. Simmons approximated that fewer than 10% of Black Protestant congregations have a woman as their leader despite an increasing number of Black women pursuing seminary education.

“I would hope that we can knock down some of those barriers so that their journey would be just a little bit easier,” Stewart said. Her objectives parallel those of Eboni Marshall Turman, the Martin Luther King Jr. Crown Forum lecturer at Morehouse College in February. Turman filed a lawsuit against Abyssinian Baptist Church alleging gender discrimination in its hiring process for a senior pastor position, a role that has never been filled by a woman at that church.

Originating from modest roots in 1880, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. stated it has persevered to become the largest Black Baptist convention. It encompasses millions of members hailing from churches, district associations, and state conventions spanning the continental United States and global regions.