A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOMEWOMEN IN MINISTRYby Richard M. Riss
During the first century, many women were active in Christian ministry.
Acts 21:9 mentions the four virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist as
prophetesses who lived in his home at Caesarea, where Paul and his
associates visited during his third missionary journey. Priscilla, or
Prisca, and her husband Aquilla, were known as fellow-laborers in Christ
with the apostle Paul. Their expertise as teachers enabled them to explain
the way of God more accurately to Apollos of Alexandria, another important
leader of the early church (Acts 18:25-26).
Another associate of Paul's, Lydia, a seller of purple dye, opened her home
for ministry (Acts 16:40), as did many other Christian women in the Roman
empire, including the "elect lady" to whom John addressed his second
epistle. Close examination of II John would suggest that she was
functioning in a pastoral capacity, as would also have been the case for
Lydia (Acts 16:40), Nympha (Col. 4:15), and Chloe (I Cor. 1:11). Phoebe
was a leader of the Church at Cenchrea. In Romans 16: 1,2, Paul commanded
the members of the church at Rome to receive her as such, and to help her
in whatever manner she requested. Paul also mentions that Andronicus and
Junia were outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7), and there is
little doubt that Junia was a feminine name. Both John Chrysostom and
Jerome made reference to her as a woman apostle, and no commentator
referred to her as a man until the late thirteenth century.
In the early fourth century, Catherine of Alexandria defended the faith at
Alexandria before philosophers and courtiers, before she was tortured to
death by Maxentius, the son of the Roman Emperor Maximian. At about the
same time, Dorothy of Caesarea in Cappadocia was martyred (A.D. 313). As
she was being led to her execution, Theophilus, a lawyer, taunted her,
asking her for a basket of flowers and fruit. Soon afterward, a child came
to her with a basket laden with roses and apples. She sent this to
Theophilus, who as a result of this incident became a Christian and later
gave his own life as a Martyr.
Macrina the Younger (328-380) was founder of a religious community for
women in the eastern church. With her brothers, Basil the Great and
Gregory of Nyssa, she was a pioneer in the monastic life. She healed,
prophesied, and actively spread the faith. John Chrysostom wrote of her
that "she was a great organizer, and independent thinker, and as well
educated as Basil himself." After the death of her mother, she reared and
educated her younger brother Peter, who became Bishop of Sebaste.
Marcella (325-410) was an important teacher in the early church who was
highly esteemed by Jerome. She was in the front lines in interacting with
heretics and bringing them to a better understanding of Christian truth.
Her palace on the Aventine Hill became a center of Christian influence. At
one point, when a dispute arose in Rome concerning the meaning of the
Scriptures, Jerome asked Marcella to settle it. Her Church of the
Household was not only a house of study and prayer, but a center for deeds
of Christian charity and sacrifice. It was here that another woman,
Fabiola, received inspiration to establish the first hospitals in Rome.
Marcella later established on the outskirts of Rome the first religious
retreat for women. It was also at Marcella's Church of the Household that
Paula (347-404) and her daughter Eustochium first made their decision to
assist Jerome in his Latin translation of the Bible. They went to
Bethlehem in order to aid him in this work, revising and correcting his
translations and making new Latin translations from the Hebrew and Greek
texts. In turn, Jerome dedicated some of his books to them. Paula founded
three convents and a monastery in Bethlehem, where Biblical manuscripts
were copied. This became a model for what soon became the universal
practice at monasteries for many centuries.
Genevieve (422-500) lived in Paris when Attila and his Huns invaded France
in 451. She assured the inhabitants of Paris that God would protect them
if they would pray. While the men prepared for battle, she persuaded the
women to pray for hours in the church. Then, after Attila destroyed
Orleans, he decided not to touch Paris. At a later time, she was said to
have averted a famine in Paris and the surrounding cities by distributing
miraculous gifts of bread.
Bridget, also known as Bride (455-523), inspired the convent system that
made an indelible impact upon life in Ireland. After settling in Kildare,
she built for herself and her female friends a house for refuge and
devotion. As other houses were founded through her missionary efforts, she
became known as the "mother abess" of all of Ireland.
Theodora I (500-548), wife of the emperor Justinian, was an important and
influential Christian. A woman of outstanding intellect and learning, she
was a moral reformer. Justinian, as Christian Emperor, was, for all
practical purposes, head of the Church of his generation, and his wife, as
Empress, shared his power to select church leaders. The inscription
"Theodora Episcopa" or "Theodora, Bishop (fem.)" in a mosaic at the
Basilica of Sts. Prudentia and Praexedis in Rome, may have been a
reference to the Empress.
Hilda (614-680) was appointed by Aidan as abess of the convent at
Hartlepool in County Durham in 649. Ten years later, she founded a double
monastery for men and women at Whitby in Yorkshire, which became world
famous as a school of theology and literature. Five of her disciples
became bishops and a sixth, Caedmon, became the earliest
known English poet.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German abbess, mystic, and writer
known throughout all of Europe. Skilled in subjects as diverse as
theology, medicine and politics, she did not hesitate to rebuke the sins of
the greatest men of her time in both Church and state. She exerted a wide
influence among many people, including the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and
various kings, prelates, and saints. Many miracles were attributed to her
during her lifetime.
Clare (1193-1253) was co-founder, with Francis of Assisi, of the Poor
Clares, a mendicant order which spread rapidly through Italy and into
France, Germany, and Spain. In 1249, when she was lame, her convent was
attacked by a group of Saracens. She told the sisters to carry her to the
door of the monastery, then addressed the Saracens and prayed aloud that
God would "deliver the defenseless children whom I have nourished with Thy
love." She heard a voice answer "I will always have them in my keeping,"
and turning to the sisters, she said, "Fear not." At this moment, the
Saracens scrambled down the walls of the cloister, recoiling from her
valiant words. Clare's care for the poor was a tremendous inspiration to
Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), a princess who, in the last years of her
short life, led a life of rigorous self-sacrifice and service to the poor
Some other significant women of the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries
included Hechthild of Magdeburg, Gertrude the Great, Angela of Foligno,
Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Sienna, Catherine of Sweden, Margery Kempe,
Julian of Norwich, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Genoa, Isabella of Castile,
and Maragaret Beaufort.
During the Reformation, a member of the Bavarian nobility, Argula von
Grumback (1492-1563), challenged the Rector and all of the faculty of the
University of Ingolstadt to a debate in which she would defend the
principles of the Protestant Reformation. She offered to base this debate
upon a translation of the Bible published prior to the outbreak of the
Reformation. She was permitted to present her position in 1523 in
Nuremberg before the diet of the Empire. Martin Luther wrote of her, "that
most noble woman, Argula von Stauffer, is there making a valiant fight with
great spirit, boldness of speech and knowledge of Christ." Her extensive
education and fine critical abilities enabled her to become a force to be
reckoned with. She conducted church
meetings in her home and officiated at funerals.
Two other important leaders of the Protestant Reformation were Margaret of
Navarre (1492-1549) and her daughter, Jeanne d'Albret (1528-1572), the
grandmother and mother of King Henry IV of France, who issued the Edict of
Nantes, granting religious toleration to the French Protestants for almost
a century. Jeanne d'Albret held services of the new Reformed faith in her
palace apartment. A friend of John Calvin, she also used her palace as an
institute for Reformation study.
During the Puritan era, Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), became influential in
Boston, and opened her home to large classes of women. It is estimated
that as many as eighty overflowed to the doorsteps of her house, at a time
when Boston had a population of roughly 1,000 people. These meetings grew
rapidly, and soon men, also, began to attend. Among her loyal followers
was Henry Vane, who served for a short time as governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony. Within two years of her arrival from England,
she had the strongest consistency of any leader in the entire colony. Her
large following, coupled with her strong exegetical and homiletical skills,
deep Christian commitment and insightful understanding of spiritual truths,
may have incurred the jealousy of several New England ministers, who became
uncomfortable enough with her successes that she was accused of heresy and
banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638.
Margaret Fell (1614-1702), the mother of Quakerism, was an English peeress
and wife of Judge Thomas Fell, member of the Long Parliament and
Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster. Her home became a place of refuge and
renewal for the persecuted Quakers for almost fifty years. She was
arrested for holding Quaker meetings in her home, Swarthmoor Hall, and
imprisoned for four years. After her release from prison, she visited
Quakers in jails and travelled on horseback with her daughters and servants
to remote farms and villages as an itinerant preacher. Many people sought
wisdom and advice from her, including Thomas Salthouse, and, of course,
George Fox, who married her a number of years after the death of her
husband. Because she had his blessing in her preaching ministry, she wrote
many tracts and letters on the subject of women in ministry.
Madame Guyon (1648-1717) was a French mystic who was imprisoned on several
occasions for long periods of time because of her beliefs, but she was
never known to complain about this. An author of forty books, including a
twenty-volume commentary of the Bible, she had a wide following,
particularly in France and Switzerland. Among those profoundly influenced
by her ministry was Archbishop Francois Fenelon.
The founder of the first Methodist congregation in America was Barbara Heck
(1734-1804). In England, Lady Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon
(1707-1791), founder of the Calivnistic Methodist denomination during the
Evangelical Awakening, functioned as a bishop by virtue of her right as a
peeress to appoint Anglican clergymen as household chaplains and assign
their duties, and to purchase presentation rights to chapels, enabling her
to decide who would conduct services and preach. Among the many chaplains
whom she appointed and continued to finance for many decades was George
Whitefield. In 1779, after sixty chapels were already functioning under
her auspices, this practice was disallowed by a consistory court of London.
Therefore, in order to continue to function, she was able, under the
Toleration Act, to register her chapels as dissenting places of worship,
known as "The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion." Lady Selina frequently
invited members of the aristocracy to her home to hear the preaching of the
Wesleys, Whitefield, Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, Benjamin Ingham, John
Fletcher, John Berridge, William Romaine, Henry Venn, and others. She
founded Trevecca House on property adjoining the home of Howel Harris. A
seminary for the training of ministers for all denominations, its first
president was John Fletcher. Joseph Benson eventually became headmaster on
John Wesley's recommendation. George Whitefield preached the inaugural
sermon when it opened in 1768.
In America, two important preachers during the first years of the Second
Awakening (1800-1808) were Deborah Peirce of Paris, N.Y. and Martha Howell
of Utica. Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), "The Mother of the Holiness Movement"
began her ministry in 1835 with her Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of
Holiness, which continued for 39 years in New York City, where she lived
with her husband, who was a physician. Hundreds of Methodist preachers,
including at least five bishops, were profoundly affected by her ministry.
The success of Phoebe Palmer's informal meetings encouraged other women to
conduct the same type of ministry, and dozens of them sprang up throughout
North America. These meetings brought together Christians of many
denominations under the leadership of women, particularly among Methodists,
Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Quakers.
In 1858, Walter Palmer, Phoebe's husband, purchased the periodical GUIDE TO
HOLINESS, which under her able editorship, grew in circulation from 13,000
to 30,000 subscribers. She travelled widely with her husband, conducting
evangelistic meetings during the summer months. In the fall of 1857, she
and her husband travelled to Hamilton, Ontario, where they attracted crowds
of several thousand people when an afternoon prayer meeting became a
ten-day revival meeting during which four hundred people were converted to
Christ. They experienced similar successes in New York City and in
England, where they preached for four years to packed houses at Leeds,
Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, and dozens of other places. It is
estimated that within her lifetime, Phoebe Palmer brought over 25,000
people to faith in Christ.
Catherine Booth (1829-1890), with her husband, William Booth, founded the
Christian Revival Association in 1865 and the Salvation Army in 1878. The
Booths regarded the active participation of women to be vital to
Christianity. Before 1865, when they were still Methodists, Catherine
began preaching. Soon after her pulpit debut, her husband became ill, and
his slow recovery paved the way for her own preaching ministry. For a
time, he was so ill that she had to take over his entire preaching circuit.
She eventually became one of the most famous female preachers of England,
and her last sermon was delivered to an audience of 50,000 people.
Hannah Whitall Smith, author of THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE
(1875) catalyzed the development of the Holiness movement in Britain and
throughout Europe. Her activities in England led to the Keswick Convention
Carrie Judd Montgomery was a healing evangelist of considerable prominence
beginning in 1879, and became a founding member, along with A. B. Simpson,
of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1887. She later became a part
of the Pentecostal revival and was ordained a minister by the Assemblies of
God in 1917, continuing in ministry until 1946.
Maria B. Woodworth-Etter was also involved in the Holiness movement before
she rose to prominence as an early Pentecostal leader. In 1884, she was
licensed to preach by the Churches of God general conference, founded by
John Winebrenner in 1825. Within a few months of this time her meetings
were already beginning to receive national press coverage, and in the late
1880s she started twelve churches, added 1,000 members, erected six church
buildings, and started several Sunday Schools. Her work at this time
resulted in the licensing of twelve preachers. The revivals that she held
at this time were accompanied with unusual manifestations of God's power,
many healings, and mass conversions. During the early Pentecostal
movement, Woodworth- Etter was in continual demand, becoming a featured
speaker at the Worldwide Pentecostal Camp Meeting at Arroyo Seco,
California, in April 1913. She founded the Woodworth-Etter Tabernacle in
western Indianapolis in 1918, which she pastored until her death
Beginning in 1906 and 1907, Florence L. Crawford, Mabel Smith, Ivey
Campbell, and Rachel A. Sizelove were some of the first women to spread the
blessings of the early Pentecostal revival through their separate itinerant
ministries. Florence Crawford planted and pastored several churches in the
Pacific Northwest, founding and becoming general overseer of the Apostolic
Faith Church based in Portland, Oregon, which later became part of the Open
Bible Standard Denomination.
Other pioneers of the Pentecostal movement in the U.S. included Mrs. Scott
Ladd, who opened a Pentecostal mission in Des Moines in 1907, the Duncan
sisters, who had opened the Rochester Bible Training School at Elim Faith
Home, "Mother" Barnes of St. Louis, Missouri, who, with her son-in-law, B.
F. Lawrence, held tent meetings in southern Illinois in the spring of 1908,
and Marie Burgess, who preached in Chicago, Toledo, Detroit, and New York
City, where she founded Glad Tidings Hall, which soon became an important
center for the spread of the Pentecostal revival. Another early
Pentecostal pioneer in New York was Miss Maud Williams (Haycroft).
In Canada, some early pioneers of the Pentecostal movement included Ellen
Hebden in Toronto, Ella M. Goff in Winnipeg, Alice B. Garrigus in
Newfoundland, the Davis sisters in the Maritime provinces, Mrs. C. E. Baker
in Montreal, and Zelma Argue throughout all of the Canadian provinces.
Aimee Semple McPherson of Ingersoll, Ontario, began a preaching ministry in
1915 which began in Toronto and took her along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard,
and across the United States in 1918. She eventually founded Angelus
Temple in 1923, where she continued as senior pastor until her death in
Kathryn Kuhlman's ministry began in the summer of 1923. After her
ordination by the Evangelical Church Alliance in Joliet, Illinois, she
established the Denver Revival Tabernacle in 1935, which she pastored for
three years. In the mid-1940s, she went to Franklin, Pennsylvania, where
she began to thrive as a preacher and radio evangelist. Many people were
healed at her meetings beginning in 1947, and she gained a reputation as
one of the world's outstanding healing evangelists, carrying on as a
leading figure during the charismatic movement until her death in 1976.
A few of the women working as Pentecostal pastors during the charismatic
movement of the 1960s and 1970s included Charlotte Baker, Myrtle D. Beall,
Helen Beard, Aimee Cortese, Sue Curran, B. Maureen Gaglardi, Anne Giminez,
Ione Glaeser, Hattie Hammond, Alpha A. Henson, Marilyn Hickey, Violet
Kitely, Janet Kreis, Freda Lindsay, Fuchsia T. Pickett, Iverna Tompkins,
and Rachel Titus. A sampling of a few of the other women who were vital
during the time of the charismatic movement as speakers, authors, or
evangelists, would include Eleanor and Roberta Armstrong, Rita Bennett,
Edith Blumhofer, Hazel Bonawitz, Roxanne Brant, Mary Ann Brown, Shirley
Carpenter, Jean Darnall, Josephine Massynberde Ford, Katie Fortune, Shirlee
Green, Nina Harris, Sue Malachuk, Daisy Osborn, Dorothy Ranaghan, Agnes
Sanford, Gwen Shaw, Bernice Smith, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Jean Stone, Joni
Eareckson Tada, and Corrie Ten Boom.
Source: IRN - http://www.revivalnet.NET
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