Article By: Suzanne R. Holsomback
"[I]f I were a man that would be a logical place for me to have been, and that was the last time I thought of it," Meg Cooper says, recalling her initial reactions to articles addressing women preaching in the 1983 Baptist Women in Ministry magazine, Folio. However, her quick dismissal of the articles did not stop her interest in and attention to issues of women preaching. She says that "it has stayed with me over the years and...I have done just about everything in the church except preach, but I've always kept up with what was going on within the Baptist denomination in terms of opportunities for women."
Meg says that the circumstances that ultimately brought her to George W. Truett Theological Seminary and into pastoral ministry began when her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for her husband Ralph to attend law school. She became involved with a large inter-faith women's group at an American Baptist Church and by default became the leader because she had more biblical education than anyone else in the group. Meg recalls that the women in the group had professional and graduate degrees and would ask probing questions: "The questions being asked were really deep and it wasn't the typical answer that was enough," she says. Continuing she says, "I realized that I wasn't as equipped as I wanted to be to answer the questions. They thought I was giving great answers, but I knew that at some point there was a level that I needed to go past. And I really felt a call to come to seminary."
Meg says she wrestled with leaving the Baptist denomination. Opportunities presented themselves for preaching outside of the Baptist church, but she decided to stay within the Baptist denomination and pursue her education and call from a Baptist perspective. It was at this time that she and her two children, Andrew and Alexis, moved back to Texas and Meg became a pastoral intern at a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church start in San Antonio. Meg says that preaching was part of her internship and she had a great experience, even influencing an incoming Truett student on his views about women in pastoral ministry.
After Meg completed her internship, she and her family moved to Waco, Texas. She worked at Sul Ross Elementary while taking night classes at Truett, and in the fall of 2006 Meg entered Truett as a full time student. Laughing, she says that it is much easier to come to seminary full time than try to work and go to school.
Meg's call to preach has developed steadily through her life. She has always seen women preach in Woman's Missionary Union where female preachers were not foreign to the pulpit, but were never affirmed in the Southern Baptist Convention churches she attended. She says that she remained engaged in congregational life, not believing their stance on women, but working inside the system. Meg says, "The point is that I was always doing the translation in my head and there was never a doubt in my mind that I was not as called as any one else to do whatever Christ said to do."
A turning point came when Meg realized that if she remained inside the SBC, her daughter and son would never see a woman preaching. She says, "By staying there I was making it go to the next generation. You have to say at some point this stops and people say this is not a workable thing. At some point you say that the denomination that I love and have supported...is not saying to my daughter you can pray in church and more importantly not saying to my son that women can pray in church." It was at this point Meg decided to leave the SBC and move into a place where her energies, gifting, and calling could be used. She believes that there is great need in this world, and her life and calling is to that need.
In looking into the future, Meg plans on pursuing her calling of preaching. She is not definite on how God will use her call, but has explored options as an associate pastor due to her experience and ability as an administrator. She is also looking into a clinical pastoral education program where she could develop her pastoral and counseling skills. In the meantime, Meg is active in the Women in Ministry leadership team at Truett and is a lay leader at Calvary Baptist Church as a deacon, lifegroup leader, adult Bible study teacher, and congregant on the mission development team.