Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women
SEBTS Staff | October 17, 2020
Who are you? Really.
More than 400 women gathered virtually to answer this question at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Oct. 17 virtual women’s workshop. Author and speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick believes answering this question of identity shapes a woman’s understanding of God and her role in his redemptive plan for the world. Fitzpatrick holds an MA in biblical counseling and has authored 23 books on daily living. She frequently speaks at women’s conferences on the Christian life and is passionate about proclaiming the good news of the gospel. During the virtual women’s workshop, Fitzpatrick explained the biblical foundations for understanding the unique value God has given to all women throughout history.
“Women, like men, are created in God’s image and therefore have intrinsic worth,” she said, further explaining that God has created women as necessary allies to men in building his kingdom. In Genesis, she explained that the woman is referred to as Adam’s helper, a term that is often misused and understood in today’s culture. Instead, the Hebrew word for helper, ezer, is most often used of God throughout the Bible to describe him as an essential ally to his people.
“Ezer doesn’t signal need or weakness; it signals need and weakness in the person who’s in need,” said Fitzpatrick.
Throughout history, God has gifted women to advance his mission in the world. Fitzpatrick highlighted women across the pages of the Old and New Testaments through whom God worked for his redemptive plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, women like Tamar, Hagar, Ruth and Bathsheba played a strategic role in preparing the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. Similarly, women in the New Testament like Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) were outsiders who had stories of brokenness, yet God displayed his love and value for them in allowing them to participate in his greater mission in the world.
“If you want to know the way God the Father thinks about women, look at the way Jesus interacted with them,” said Fitzpatrick, who also noted the importance of the initiation of the new covenant and its implications for women through Christ. Gender-exclusive circumcision was replaced with the gender-inclusive sign of baptism.
“Our primary calling as women is no longer to marry and give birth; our primary calling is to make disciples and proclaim Christ’s excellencies everywhere,” said Fitzpatrick.
The workshop also included a panel discussion from female administrators and professors at Southeastern, including Karen Swallow Prior, Missie Branch, Christy Thornton and Julia Higgins. The discussion centered on how women in the 21st century can best engage the culture around them, based on a chapter from Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher’s book, “Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women.”
The workshop also included interview with Fitzpatrick and Dr. Kristen Kellen on biblical counseling. In addition, Dr. Higgins interviewed pastor Ed Litton and worship arts minister Abbie Maggio of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama on incorporating women into leadership roles that are biblically complementarian.
“This one-day virtual conference was the fruit of our continued effort at Southeastern to promote the value and worth of women, as they partner with men to advance the gospel and fulfill the Great Commission,” Higgins, assistant professor of ministry to women and associate dean of graduate program administration. “We wanted listeners to walk away with a biblical understanding- from Genesis to Revelation- of God’s unique and consistent plan for womanhood and to find encouragement in the pages of Scripture. We also hoped attendees would be called to action, thinking through their spiritual gifts and how God might be calling them to be on mission in the church and around the world.”