Today, we are highlighting Meredith Stone, who is the executive director for Baptist Women in Ministry. She is a native Texan, who currently lives in Waco, TX with her husband of 23 years, and her two teenage children. She went to seminary at Hardin Simmons in Abilene, TX, then moved on to Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX, to earn her PhD. Her ministry experience is vast. She’s led congregations, worked for denominational groups, served as associate dean and on faculty at Logsdon Seminary and Hardin Simmons University, and now leads in BWIM.
She first received her call to ministry at Age 17 in her conservative Southern Baptist Church. Her youth minister was very supportive of her calling, and encouraged her to go forward on a Sunday morning to publicly announce to the congregation and to the other pastors, as was the custom in her church. The main pastor stood up front, and when she went forward to him and told him God was calling her to ministry, he said, “Why don’t you go sit back down?” Then suggested they talk about it later that week. She knew something was “off” because whenever men her age went forward to make the same announcement, they were encouraged and recognized immediately. Later that week, the pastor told her she should consider missions or children’s ministry, or maybe she could marry a pastor. But a calling to fully lead was “probably not from God.” So, she went to college and majored in ministry, knowing limits would be placed on her. This created some dissonance. In her late 20s, she had her first encounter hearing God identified as “She,” rather than the proverbial “He,” or “Father,” or “King”… “I remember how liberated it felt when I truly discovered that God does not have to be a ‘He,” she says, excitedly. “Women need to know God values them in a different way.” Thus, her work as a pastor began!
Early in her career at the first congregation where she ministered as a Teaching Pastor, she preached for the first time. She prepared that sermon for many weeks beforehand, in preparation for that Sunday. She stood up at the pulpit with confidence, then sat down after she finished. “I had an overwhelming sense that I am doing something God created me to do!” she says, with a twinkle in her eyes. This is a peace she wants all women to feel about whatever their callings are. She loves being able to say the words, “I believe you,” when younger women come to her describing a prompting from God they are sensing. This is something she wishes she had experienced when she was young. But there have been mentors she’s leaned on through the years. She credits Bob Ellis, whom she worked with for over 20 years, for modeling integrity to her. And two of her peers and friends, Courtney Allen-Crump, former board chair for BWIM, and Taryn Deaton, a pastoral consultant. “They have shown me what leadership looks like,” she says. “If Courtney or Taryn tell me to do something, I just say ‘yes, ma’am!’”
When asked about common misconceptions about her as a pastor, she explains that diplomacy is not what others always see when she says hard things, even though that is her intention. “For women, any time we have any kind of assertive leadership or when we are willing to speak the truth when others are not, we get viewed a certain way…as a ‘rebel.’ What good leadership looks like and what being a good woman looks like in our society don’t match.” This is something she sees many women battle, but it specifically affects her in her field. “I view myself in more of a priestly role than a prophetic role. Anytime I take those moments to do the ‘prophetic’ thing, it’s because I have weighed the priestly gains over the priestly losses.”
Thanks so much to Meredith Stone, for sharing her experience with us and for inspiring us to listen to God’s voice within us. Each time we do a feature this month, we would like to share a benediction for a group of people who might need specific encouragement.
A Benediction for Those Who Are Told to Sit Down:
You are heard, you are seen, you are loved and you belong!
That fire you have in your belly…that’s real
Those gifts you long to share with the world…those are real
Sense them, thank God for them, and use them
We. Believe. You.