Evelyn Stagg, role model for Baptist women in ministry, dies at 96 - Word&Way

Evelyn Stagg, role model for Baptist women in ministry, dies at 96

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) – Evelyn Stagg, a trailblazer for Southern Baptist women in ministry, died Feb. 28. She was 96.

Born Evelyn Owen in Ruston, La., she was married for 66 years to Frank Stagg, a professor at two Southern Baptist Convention seminaries for more than 30 years, who died in 2001. In 1978 they co-authored Woman in the World of Jesus, a work that inspired a generation of women preparing for ministry until more conservative voices seized control of the denomination and went on record against women’s ordination.

The book addressed women’s roles in the contemporary church by exploring the status of women in the world that Jesus entered, how Jesus related to women in his ministry and the status of women in the New Testament church.

In 1983 she was one of 33 women who helped found an organization known today as Baptist Women in Ministry. Pam Durso, the group’s current executive director, called her a “strong advocate for Baptist women ministers.”

“Her visionary leadership and influential writing provided guidance for Baptists as they sought to better understand the roles of women in the church, and her voice of encouragement provided hope thousands of Baptist women,” Durso said. 

Between 1935 and 1938, while Frank Stagg was enrolled in the master of divinity program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Evelyn took the same classes and sat for all the exams.

In those days the seminary did not grant degrees to women, but she performed well enough that she was asked to grade papers for beginning students in New Testament Greek.

Throughout their marriage, she worked behind the scenes as the first reader and unofficial editor for dozens of journal articles and 10 books written by her husband.

In later years Mercer University awarded her an honorary degree to recognize her early scholastic achievement and lifetime of shared ministry.

She is survived by her three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She donated her body to the University of Louisville School of Medicine. A memorial service will be held at a future date.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.