Contributed by Rev. Justin Wyatt, M.Div. | Photos by Shun Davenport
Dr. Gina Stewart recently made history as the first woman to preach at the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., a milestone that simultaneously celebrates progress and underscores the overdue nature of such inclusion in religious leadership. In her sermon titled “What Shall We Do With Jesus Of Nazareth,” based on Matthew 27:19 and Mark 15:1-15 , she not only delved into biblical teachings but also boldly addressed contemporary issues of prejudice within religious communities.
Dr. Stewart’s message was powerful and direct, challenging the status quo with her statement: “Stop using your spirituality to cover up your prejudice. If you’re a racist say you’re a racist, if you’re a sexist say you’re a sexist, if you’re homophobic say you’re a homophobe.” This forthright call out of hidden biases under the guise of spirituality was a poignant reminder of the often-unacknowledged issues within religious institutions.
By urging attendees to be like Claudia, a figure of justice in the scripture, Dr. Stewart highlighted the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of institutional and societal pressures. Her message was one of empowerment, encouraging listeners to embrace inclusivity and justice, aligning true Christian values with everyday actions.
However, the groundbreaking nature of her sermon was met with mixed reactions. The fact that some attendees walked out during her address is indicative of the deep-seated resistance to change within parts of the Convention. This behavior not only signifies an unwillingness to engage with challenging ideas but also highlights the ongoing struggle against deeply ingrained prejudices in the community.
The National Baptist Convention USA Inc. finds itself at a pivotal moment. Dr. Stewart’s sermon and the reactions to it illuminate the critical choice facing the organization: continue in its traditional patriarchal ways, or evolve to embrace a more inclusive and just approach. This decision is crucial for the survival and relevance of the Convention in a society that increasingly values equality and diversity.
In conclusion, Dr. Gina Stewart’s historic sermon is more than just a breaking of gender barriers; it is a clarion call for introspection and transformation within the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. The organization must heed this call to become a truly inclusive platform that upholds justice and equality, welcoming all of God’s people. This shift is not only necessary for its survival but is also essential for it to continue being a beacon of faith, hope, and guidance in an ever-changing world.