Southern Baptist Convention Women’s Session Addresses Leadership and Ministry

Donna Gaines (left), of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, interviews Norine Brunson, during the Women’s Session June 10 iin Birmingham, Ala. Brunson’s husband, Andrew, was released in October 2018 after being imprisoned for his faith for two years in Turkey. Photo by Kathleen Murray

Women from all across the Southern Baptist Convention were urged to meet the challenges of leadership and ministry with patience and confidence at the newly inaugurated SBC Women’s Session, held June 10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The speakers for the three-hour event, which replaced the former Pastors’ Wives Conference to include a broader spectrum of women in attendance, featured Norine Brunson, wife of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor released last fall from imprisonment in Turkey, and Lori McDaniel, outgoing manager of church initiatives in mobilization at the International Mission Board. A panel discussion on women’s leadership and discipleship was moderated by Kathy Litton and included Kandi Gallaty, Amy Whitfield, Missie Branch, and Ashlyn Portero.

The event was held in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting, 11-12, in Birmingham, Ala.


Brunson shared how she met her husband Andrew at Wheaton College, married and later joined him as Evangelical Presbyterian Church missionaries to Turkey, where after 25 years of ministry, they were imprisoned.

Brunson explained during the event how the Syrian war caused a flood of refugees into Turkey, including the Kurds, whom even the Turkish believers disdained and did not want to reach with the Gospel.

The Brunsons’ Turkish church ministered to the refugees, which likely led to complaints and the resultant attention of Turkish authorities. Soon, they were asked to come to the police station.

Expecting to receive their long-term residence permits, the Brunsons were instead thrown into a detention center, arrested as “a threat to national security.”

Brunson explained, “We had no contact. We couldn’t see a lawyer. We saw the U.S. consulates approaching; they were turned back. We couldn’t be in touch with our kids. So, it was difficult.”

Brunson’s captors suddenly released her 13 days later. However, Andrew Brunson was not released and would remain imprisoned for two years.

Brunson said she really had to cast herself on God and spend long periods of time with Him.

Her husband was finally sentenced to time served and released in October 2018, which Brunson credited, on the human level, to “unprecedented engagement by President Trump,” but even more, on the spiritual level, to the “unprecedented supernatural prayer movement” from the prayers of God’s people all over the world.

Upon her husband’s release, they were immediately forced to leave the country.

A book about the ordeal, “God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance” will release this October.


McDaniel previously served alongside her husband Mike and their three children as IMB missionaries in Zambia before they returned to the U.S. to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is senior pastor.

In her keynote remarks, McDaniel said her focus was that “we as women see that we are partners in the Gospel and that we are partners in our diversity, characterized by unity, compelled by the name of Jesus Christ, propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to advance the Gospel to all people at all costs for the glory of His name.”

Drawing from Philippians 1:5, in which the apostle Paul expressed thanksgiving for the disciples’ “partnership in the Gospel,” McDaniel shared several scripture passages of women who served alongside and ministered to Paul and to Jesus Himself.

“They were people who had been mutually invested and have a mutual responsibility and a shared common task,” McDaniel explained, pointing to the church planted after a vision appeared to Paul from a “man from Macedonia” (Acts 16:9).

“Because of their obedience to the Spirit moving, God changed their trajectory and because of the change in their trajectory, it became a turning point in the history,” McDaniel said. “And the Gospel leaves Asia and for the first time, goes transcontinental into Europe.

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Source: Baptist Press