By Rev. Niza Joy F. Santiago
The ordained women ministers of the CPBC gathered for their 1st ever assembly at the CE Center of the University Church.
Seventeen CPBC-ordained women across the country gathered in celebration of 42 years of Women Ordination in CPBC last February 27, 2023 at the Christian Education Center, University Church, Central Philippine University, Jaro, Iloilo City.
The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches has been ordaining women since 1980 after the assembly has agreed to do so during the 1979 General Assembly at Bakyas, Negros Occidental. The first woman to be ordained was Angelina Belluga Buensuceso on March 22, 1980 also at Bakyas, Negros Occidental. Since then, out of 152 ordained ministers, only 28 were women. Young women pastors only began to brave the process of ordination beginning only on 2018.
The longing for a church that is sensitive to the discrepancies and disparities within its structures and culture especially on the issues of discrimination against women, the ordained women took the initiative to gather with the purpose of creating a community where each can find and give support and inspiration.
The gathering began with a worship service where the ordained women donned their official robes and stoles. An overview of the history of the journey of CPBC towards women ordination was presented. A part of this remembering is also the acknowledgement of the 28 ordained women. The names of those who have already passed on were recognized and remembered as well as those who were present and are still in the service. Rev. Dr. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, being one of the prominent leaders of the CPBC and even of the bigger ecumenical circle, shared her journey towards ordination as she spoke the challenge. Her story, wisdom, passion, and compassion has surely lifted the spirits and the energy of the women present compelling us to think deeper and find meaning to our being ordained.
After the empowering ritual, came the coming to the table to eat and talk. The challenge to find a broader understanding and meaning of ordination in the Convention Baptist context was so resounding and inviting that many ideas and perspectives were laid to the table. Suggestions on how to better the presence and service of ordained ministers in general, not just limiting to the women were voiced out and echoed to the CPBC ordination council.
This first gathering of ordained women is very promising for the church’s work on empowering the women. A re-imagination of ordination, of pastoral office, of the church, and of the role of the women, is a much-needed task. It is a task to be taken seriously not only by the ordained women but also by the church to challenge the structures, cultures and traditions that discriminate and oppress, and to cater to growth and healing.
Rev. Dr. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes reminds us that, “an ordained Baptist woman’s existence is buoyed by faith, hope, and love – these three. Faith propels us to nurture a strong conviction that the truth about our calling will prosper. Hope impels us to work together that an empowering and friendlier tomorrow may be experienced by all. Love challenges us to dismantle the lovelessness in our world and to build in its place a community of sisters and brothers where freedom and mutual respect are lived realities.”