Why Southern Baptists should value the WMU

A conversation with Sandy Wisdom-Martin about the mission and diversity of the Women’s Missionary Union

February 17, 2022

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Woman’s Missionary Union began 133 years ago in the hearts of visionary leaders to pray and systematically raise money for missions. The WMU’s focus is to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission and has enabled women to share the good news of Jesus and serve others in his name. Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director/treasurer, talks below about how the organization has evolved over the years, making it one of the most diverse boards in SBC life. In addition, several other WMU state leaders discuss the influence WMU has had on their lives. 

Elizabeth Bristow: Can you explain to our audience who the WMU is and what your organization exists to do? 

Sandy Wisdom-Martin: Woman’s Missionary Union is an auxiliary — or helper — to the Southern Baptist Convention. WMU offers missions discipleship for all ages, from preschoolers to adults, leadership development opportunities, and compassion ministries such as WorldCrafts and Christian Women’s and Men’s Job Corps. Everything we do is for one purpose — to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission.

EB: In your presentation at the Executive Committee meeting, you mentioned that the WMU is one of the most diverse boards in SBC life. How has the diversity of your board played a role in your mission and in the flourishing of your organization? 

SWM: It is such a blessing to have an ethnically diverse board, as representation from various countries and cultures enriches our experiences and keeps us mindful of God’s love for all peoples of all nations. We are also grateful our current board represents several generations; collectively, their valuable input helps us to effectively advance our mission’s focus without perpetuating a generational divide. This diversity reflects that missions involvement in WMU is for everyone, and as emerging leaders seek opportunities to serve, they are able to “see” a place of service for themselves in WMU.

EB: Tell me more about your board and how these women came to join your mission in making disciples of Jesus who live on mission. 

SWM: WMU is very much a grassroots movement. Unlike SBC agencies that have appointed trustees or board members, WMU’s executive board is comprised of women who serve as WMU president in their state or multistate territory. Each state WMU president is a woman from the church with a passion for missions who has been elected by the WMU members in her state to represent them. This model provides for geographic diversity, since they collectively represent the entire U.S., and ensures executive board members are actively serving in WMU and are highly invested in missions.

EB: What message would you send to a female leader who is desiring to serve her local church? 

SWM: I would encourage her to prayerfully consider where God is calling her to serve and follow in obedience. God has gifted and equipped each person to carry out the work of his kingdom. In every role in life, there are elements of leadership. We should be on a lifelong quest and always lean into learning, growing, and developing as leaders.

EB: Why is serving with WMU important to you? 

Angela Jones, president, Alaska WMU: Serving with WMU is important to me because it gives me purpose, direction, and meaning. I believe in the mission and the ministry of WMU. I appreciate the opportunity to serve in my home, church, and community and know that I am adding value. They provide all the tools needed to be a successful leader as I serve others. WMU helps reveal the potential of the individual, helping the entire family grow into a better person. I enjoy learning from others and working in sync with other women by praying, giving of myself, and giving to the cause. Missionaries are called and sent out with prayers, funds, and opportunity to spread the Word of God and to give hope and insight to others around the world.

Melody Knox, executive director, Maryland/Delaware WMU: I believe that serving with WMU keeps me in contact with how to pray and support missionaries on the field. I am also able to share this information with the churches to encourage them to make missions a part of their everyday life. I feel like I am a bigger part of the work that God is doing through missions/missionaries.

EB: How have you grown as a leader through WMU?  

AJ: I have grown through WMU by hearing the Word of God and by sharing with others the things I have learned. I have been afforded the opportunity to teach different age-level groups from Mission Friends to adult women. I have witnessed the work and cohesiveness of women from all over. Again, tools are provided to encourage and equip us to lead. I have been taught and mentored to be the leader that I am today and will be in the future. I, too, will pay it forward.

MK: I have learned that missionaries depend on the leadership that is extended to them through WMU. It warms my heart to know how much they appreciate the WMU ladies who sincerely care about them and their families on an everyday basis. My love for missions and missionaries has grown immensely through my leadership in WMU in my convention.

EB: Why should women be involved in WMU?  

AJ: WMU offers something for the entire family, which will help women help their loved ones grow in Christ. It offers opportunities for women to have a meaning and purpose and [teaches them] how to take on the challenges of everyday living. It helps women love the Lord, themselves, their family members, and those who have lost all hope. I know of no other organization that has [such] a diverse group of women from all cultures, colors, and races that can come together in one accord but offering different gifts and talents. 

When we come together, we leave a better woman because we pour into each other and bonds are being made. We pray together and share with one another, and we support and encourage each other. We are women on a mission united together to change the world with the help of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

MK: Women need to know the blessing that comes through supporting and praying for those who have gone to the nations. They really need to be aware of how their money is spent through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I did not realize until I became involved with WMU how much our donation as a family helps those who are called to go.

Elizabeth Bristow

Elizabeth Bristow serves as the press secretary for the ERLC. Elizabeth oversees public relations and media operations for the organization. She received a B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing from Union University in 2010. She is a native of Tennessee and resides in Lebanon, Tennessee, with her husband and two … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24