Woman Pastor Encourages Baptist Graduates to Find True Voice

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 05:31 PM EDT

RICHMOND, CA. -- Rev. Sonja Phillips, who is known for accepting difficult challenges as she resisted an effort by her local Baptist association to expel her from the pulpit because she is a woman, spoke at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond¡Çs commencement saying the authentic voice of God needs to be distinguished among the other voices of mass destruction that compete for people¡Çs attention in today¡Çs society.

"Hear the authentic, gracious and loving voice of the one that has called us into being," she told 36 graduates receiving master's and doctor of divinity degrees.

She insisted that right now is the time where her voice and those of the graduates are needed as she was explaining that ¡Èvoices¡É including CD and DVD players, reality TV shows that ¡Èhave little to do with reality¡É and people who try to suppress change.

Philips is currently ministering Central Baptist Church in Dayton Beach, Fl. with her husband, Dave, as co-pastors.

When Philips refused to step down as co-pastor after being ordered to do so by the governing Halifax Baptist Association in Daytona Beach, and her church was thrown out of the association.

"What grieved me the most is that they told me that God didn't need me anymore," she said.

"They preached that I was committing a great sin."

She questioned then whether her voice was needed, and said she felt inadequate, just as Jeremiah had felt when God approached him to be his prophet.

"Are we really needed?" She asked. "The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, yes, yes. We are all needed to give voices to our world, no matter where we serve."

Colleen Swingle-Titus , associate pastor of a Baptist church in Waynesboro who received a master of divinity degree, said Philips¡Çs words about being needed encouraged her.

Swingle-Titus said what makes it difficult to preach is when she feels she can¡Çt tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

"Choosing to do the right thing," she said as one of her four children clung to her, "doesn't mean that you are choosing to do the easy thing."