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Celebrate Debby Bailey

Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re grateful for all the women in this fellowship. We mark this day by remembering when GCI officially recognized the gifts and calling of women as elders in 2007. We can celebrate this, while also acknowledging the struggle women have faced and at times, still face because bias and resistance toward women in leadership has not yet been fully rooted out and healed.

To honor this day, we celebrate Debby Bailey and what she represents as the first woman ordained as an elder in GCI. We asked her to share her story.

August will make 21 years I have served in a pastoral role. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this being part of my journey. A friend had a dream in which she saw me standing in front of the congregation as pastor. I didn’t know any females in that role in our denomination. Yet, as crazy as it sounded, something resonated within me. Five years later, our congregation worked with our regional director to form a pastoral team, which included me, to lead the church. The Holy Spirit had been preparing me.

Both the congregation and I struggled with the role. A female pastor was new ground. I kept asking myself if a woman should be a pastor and then pondered whether God would open the door if it was wrong. I didn’t give a sermon for a year, until I had to as part of a preaching class led by my regional support. Unfortunately, after that sermon, a couple left the church. The wife, a friend, said she didn’t believe a woman should be preaching. Our advisory council then recommended that I shouldn’t be on the speaking schedule.

After three years, the church assessed if the pastoral team was how we would continue. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to take a stand. I would only be considered for the pastoral team if I could function fully like the other team members—which included speaking. The congregation accepted this decision.

Over the years, I have experienced hurt and disappointment but also a lot of joy. There were many days I wanted to walk away, but every time God stepped in and made it clear I was to stay. I had the privilege of being the first female ordained as an elder in GCI. I was commissioned by Regional Director Rick Shallenberger as lead pastor in 2021. Serving as a pastor has been the most difficult, exciting, and rewarding experience of my life. Now I can’t imagine pastoring not being part of my journey.

By Debbie Bailey
Pastor, Pikeville, KY, US

8 thoughts on “Celebrate Debby Bailey”

  1. Thank you, pastor Debby. I forgot it has been 21 years since GCI accepted God’s will by affirming your Spiritual gifts. The spiritual fruit Jesus bears through you honors our Father in heaven. Thank you for facing and accepting the challenge he gave you to serve all of us. Ken

  2. In my view, it would be inconceivable today not to fully draw upon the gifting, talents and skills that God has given Christian women. In fact, women have often become the “engines” moving local congregations forward is their gospel work. A healthy church is one were also women are equal partners with men, including preaching, eldership and pastoral leadership.

  3. I think it is a great thing you have taken on Debby. I think that it is wonderful that people can understand that if our God has no limits to how we serve him, so should we have no limits to how we serve our God and spread His gospel as well. We will pray for your continued guidance in serving God and the church.

  4. Thank you, Pastor Debbie! The first woman Pastor in gci! Your brave, sacrificial choice cleared the path for the awesome woman lead pastor, Linda Sitterley, serving in Junction City for Eugene, OR and Salem congregations. We so appreciate her leadership in our church in Juncton City! May Our LovingTriune God continue to bless your leadership!

  5. I have known Debby since our church started in the early 70’s and she didn’t know it then but God was preparing her for her role she has today. A very spirit led Pastor.

  6. Thank you, Debbie, for stepping forward into this new frontier, and paving the way for those of us who followed. God’s blessings on your continued service in Christ’s ministry!

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