A few years ago, I read the SBC president was considering different gavels for presiding at the SBC Annual Meeting. One of the options under consideration was the Armstrong gavel. I sent him an email with this message: This weekend I did a bit of reading on Annie Armstrong and was inspired anew. Attached please find 50 reasons why I’m advocating for an Annie Armstrong gavel. Annie was tireless in her efforts on behalf of Southern Baptists. We all enjoy the fruits from the toil of her labor.
Here are a few of the reasons I listed:
- Using the Armstrong gavel honors the missions heritage of Southern Baptists and the contributions of Southern Baptist women.
- The offering that bears her name has brought more than $2 billion for Southern Baptist missions efforts in North America.
- Annie Armstrong was elected as the first corresponding secretary of Woman’s Missionary Union and would fill the role (unsalaried) for 18 years. All money collected by the organization would go to the mission boards.
- When Annie heard of the plight of destitute ministers on the frontier home missions fields, she organized an effort to send frontier boxes.
- Annie led the women to build chapels on the frontier and home mission fields.
- During her first year, Annie personally wrote 637 letters and 182 postcards. She doubled the letters written the second year, and in the third she sent 2,737. In 1894, she wrote 17,718 letters. Her writing hand was damaged permanently by this effort and never regained its strength.
- Annie advocated for the appointment and financial support of the first Black female missionaries by the Home Mission Board.
- Annie worked to help Native American women organize for missions and welcomed the first two Native American women as delegates to the WMU, SBC, Annual Meeting in 1896.
- In 1894, both boards were in debt, and Annie rallied WMU to join with the SBC to wipe out the Foreign Mission Board’s debt, raising even more than asked.
- Annie worked with the boards to establish an annuity for their missionaries.
- In 1900, Annie worked tirelessly to establish the Church Building Loan Fund for the Home Mission Board.
Lastly I wrote: Annie Armstrong had a profound and unprecedented impact on SBC missions—both in North America and around the world—that continues to resonate today in our collective Southern Baptist work and life.
SBC President J. D. Greear used the Armstrong gavel at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville. As you give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, remember the legacy of this indomitable leader whose influence is still being felt today.
Father, As a bold missions advocate, Annie saw past race, culture, and economic status to reach hurting people with the hope of the gospel. The Great Commission, which compelled her, still beckons us to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. May we be faithful to the task. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Sandy-Wisdom Martin serves as the executive director/treasurer for national WMU.