By: Megan Wimberley
Dr. Joy Fenner is a Baptist woman. She is the first woman, in fact, to be elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Dr. Fenner is the wife of Charlie Fenner. She is a former missionary to Japan. Dr. Fenner attended Paris Junior College and Texas Baptist College. She received an honorary doctorate from Mary Hardin-Baylor for her extensive involvement in missions and helping women through leadership development. Dr. Fenner is a former G.A. camp coordinator. Above all these things, though, Dr. Fenner is an amazing person who has dedicated her life to serving God.
I was able, not only to, interview Dr. Fenner, but also see her interact with people at several different meetings at Wayland. These few meetings by no means give me an exhaustive understanding of Dr. Fenner, but I believe I truly got to see the heart of this woman.
First of all, Dr. Fenner has a love for God. You can see this through the life she has lived serving him. Whether it was here, in the US, or in Japan she was doing work for the Lord. The second thing that Dr. Fenner has a love for is people. Her kindness is obvious and has the tendency to pull people to her. It seemed she was always surrounded by people waiting patiently to tell her thank you, or even just to shake her hand. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk with you.” “Thank you for opening my eyes.” “Thank you for your service.” “Thank you for affirming us.” These were the things you would likely hear from the people speaking to her.
The great thing about Dr. Fenner’s love for God and people is that they are not two separate entities. Her love for the two mixes into an even greater love for each. She empowers people by encouraging them to be and do what they can, and to put to full use the gifts God has given them. This was something I heard her say in many of the meetings, “God has gifted all of us and we need to maximize those gifts.”
She also had an encouraging message for women. She quotes Psalm 18:29, which says that with God I can leap over a wall. “Well, I think you have to be wall leapers sometimes,” Dr. Fenner would say after quoting that passage. She encourages women to find ways to move around those doors that some people close and find the Avenues where their calling and ministry can be expressed. Dr. Fenner also stresses the importance of always being kind and never strident. A woman should be honest about who she is and what skills she has to do the task at hand.
As far as Dr. Fenner’s experience with running for president of the BGCT she says that she was a very reluctant candidate. She remembers thinking, “at this age and stage in my life, why would I do that, and yet part of me knew that it was long overdue for a woman to be elected.” Dr. Fenner also experienced mixed feelings on this aspect. “I didn’t want to be elected because I was a woman. I wanted to be elected because I had the skills and gifts to do the job.”
I inquired, of Dr. Fenner, how she was able to deal with the stress of it all. She responded with a laugh and said, “some days I wonder.” She then gave credit to her husband saying that he has been very supportive of everything she has done, and sometimes even given her the little push she needed. Dr. Fenner also says that she thrives on much of the communication and fellowship that comes with the job. She says that it revs her up to get to fellowship with people.
I also asked Dr. Fenner what the most useful advice she ever received was. She said that it is to be true to yourself and listen to your inner voices. To Wayland students she says, “be a good student, learn what you can, and realize that the world is bigger than yourself.”