Her name was Antoinette Brown and she would become a part of history.
Antoinette was a committed abolitionist, a campaigner for temperance, and an advocate for women’s rights.
Miss Brown was a popular lecturer at reform conventions nationwide and she also pastored a Congregational church in South Butler, New York. But none of those things were what put her in the history books.
The Congregational church had granted her a limited ministerial license, but she wished to be ordained.
To nobody’s surprise her request stirred things up, and while her local church was ready to ordain her, none of her Congregationalist colleagues would officiate or preach the ordination sermon.
So, she turned to Luther Lee, who she had met and worked with in the fight against slavery.
Despite the fact that he belonged to a different denomination, she asked Lee to preach at her ordination. And so, on September 15, 1853 a Wesleyan Methodist minister, preached the ordination sermon for the first American woman to be ordained in any denomination. Wikipedia describes Lee as a socially radical Methodist minister, but he was in fact one of ours.
It would be 8 years before another woman would be ordained in the United States. In the summer of 1861 Mary Will was ordained by the Illinois Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Making her second woman to be ordained in the United States.
One of her parishioner’s wrote, “We think it can no longer be said that a church cannot be well governed by a woman. There never was a mother who watched over an infant with greater interest than Sister Will has over this church.”
Now, if you ask Google who the first woman was who was ordained in Canada, it will spit out the name and story of Lydia Emelie Gruchy who was ordained at St. Andrew’s United Church in Moose Jaw, on November 4, 1936.
And that just goes to prove Abraham Lincoln’s point when he said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”
Because in 1901, when Grucy was only 7 years old and the United Church didn’t even exist, Ella Kinney Sanders was ordained in Saint John, NB, by the Reformed Baptist Alliance of Canada.
Rev. Sanders served along with her husband Herbert as one our first missionaries and later became a travelling evangelist.
In 1922, Ida Kierstead was ordained at the Reformed Baptist Church in Royalton New Brunswick.
And in 1933, Grace Titlestad, Ella and Herbert’s daughter was ordained while pastoring the Reformed Baptist church in Woods Harbour NS.
In 1966 the Reformed Baptist would merge with the Wesleyan Methodist Church which became the Wesleyan Church in 1968, and here we are today.
So, if you are keeping track, the first two women in the United States and the first three women in Canada were ordained by what is now the Wesleyan Church.
This week we continue with our summer series: Asking for a Friend. Over the past five weeks we’ve been attempting to answer some questions that were asked online.
So far, I have taken a stab at: How can a loving God send someone to Hell? Why did Jesus turn the water to wine and not grape juice or sparkling cider? And last week; In a world that is so hostile to God and the church is it a good idea to talk to others about faith?
And Pastor Rob did a most excellent job with; How do we study God’s word? Is It more than just reading the Bible? How can I get the most out of my time in God’s word and develop a passion for the Word instead of felling required to spend time in the Word?
Our question this week is: What role do women have in the Church? 1 Timothy 2:11-14 really limits a women’s role. However, many women have been gifted to teach. Can they really only teach women, or is this a cultural context?
Now, I want to be clear here. This is an issue that not everybody agrees on. If you are sitting there with your arms crossed, on the outside or on the inside thinking, “Go ahead preacher, but you’ll never convince me.” That’s fine. My purpose today isn’t to convert anybody to my way of thinking. My purpose today is to let you know why the Wesleyan Church in general and Cornerstone in particular believes what we believe on women in ministry. At Cornerstone two of our staff are ordained women, they not only are Pastor Marilyn and Pastor Deborah. They are Reverend Mansvelt and Reverend Gilbert.
And just to let you know that we are not an anomaly, if you were to attend Deep Water you would meet Reverend Swan, also known as Pastor Megan and at Hillside there is Reverend Guptill, also known as Pastor Sharon.
If we go back to the original question, it references a passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 2:8-14 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result
There are a couple of different topics here.
And so we begin with 1 Timothy 2:8 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
And here that Paul instructs Timothy on 1) How Men Were To Pray.
Very simply, men are to pray with the hands lifted to God and they are to be free from anger and controversy. The last part of the verse should be a given, but probably isn’t. But have you ever thought of the first part?
It’s interesting as usual, how we sometimes cherry pick verses. I only know one man who prays with his hands lifted up to God. You might remember Dr. Matt Friedman, from Kingswood University, he spoke here last year about reaching our Muslim neighbours. I consider Matt a good friend and when he prays, this is his posture. Hmmmmmm.
And while that is unusual today, in the Daily Study Bible, Barclay writes, “The early Church took over the Jewish attitude of prayer, which was to pray standing, with hands outstretched and the palms upwards. Later Tertullian was to say that this depicted the attitude of Jesus upon the Cross.”
And that makes sense with my friend Matt, because he is a Jewish believer, but most men don’t pray that way today, and you are thinking: Well Denn, that was cultural because of the way that people prayed two thousand years ago. It really doesn’t apply to our situation today. Hold on to that thought.
The next several verses are directed toward women. The commentators have suggested that might have been because there were more women than men in the church. Maybe, that would be very consistent with church attendance today. Or was it because there were more issues with the women? Again, perhaps and that may have been an unintended consequence of the gospel.
Again, Barclay writes, “The second part of this passage deals with the place of women in the Church. It cannot be read out of its historical context, for it springs entirely from the situation in which it was written.”
You see, within the cultural context of that day, women had very few rights. Jewish women were better off than women in either Greek or Roman culture, but just.
And into that culture comes Christianity and its message of grace for all. Jesus interacted with women in a manner that would have been considered socially unacceptable for his time and culture. He had female friends and female disciples, he struck up conversations with women who he didn’t know and interacted with women of questionable moral character.
And then in the early church we see women assuming non-traditional roles, which we will look at later, and we see teachings like the scripture we read earlier. Remember Paul’s words from today’s scripture reading? Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And that was earth shattering for many. However, the ramifications outside the church weren’t always positive. The pendulum very seldom stays still, and women in the church enjoying their new found freedom were upsetting the apple cart, and maybe it was an apple cart that needed to be upset, but not just then.
And Paul was addressing some of those issues.
So the first thing that Paul addresses is found in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.
And this deals with 2) How Women Were to Dress. Paul is not arguing for legalism and a plainness that didn’t reflect society.
He is instead arguing for modesty and a sense of style that wouldn’t distract from worship.
Remember this section is dealing with worship, and if what you wore in the service made people envious or distracted then it probably wasn’t appropriate.
And certainly, it depends on the situation. If you were attending a worship service where most of the folks were in the same socioeconomic class as you, certain clothes that you wore or the car you drove wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But in other situations, they would. Paul is warning us not to be a distraction.
Some commentators have said that what Paul is describing here was how those who worshipped at Artemis’s temple dressed, others have suggested that the temple prostitutes often wore elaborate hair styles with Gold braided in their hair.
But nobody would expect us, either male or female to dress as they did two thousand years ago, that would cause the very distraction that Paul was warning about. And we don’t insist that women not wear gold jewelry or style their hair.
And you’re thinking: Well Denn, that was cultural, and it really doesn’t apply to our situation today. Hold on to that thought.
Which bring us to the next point, which was mentioned in our question.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.
3) Women’s Role in Church
So, are these instruction for that specific church for that specific time? Or is it for all churches for all time? Good question and there rests the crux of today’s question.
The Wesleyan Commentary says this, “The
second problem involves the participation of women in worship and ministry.
This issue requires more attention, not only because of its complexity but also
because of its consequences. Fully half of the church is directly affected by
how this passage is interpreted, and the rest of the church is impacted by its
repercussions—from pulpit ministry to public testimony, from the classroom to
the church board, at home, and on the mission field. The issue: women speaking
and teaching in the church.”
Today, many would view this as misogyny at its worst, and a problem within the church. But what was being addressed 2000 years ago, the concept of male headship and leadership, was not something unique to the early church, it was the culture of the day. Whether that culture was Jewish, Greek or Roman.
What was unique, however, was when the church began moving toward equality of the sexes in Christ.
What was radical in that culture was the philosophy expressed in Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
But understand the intent of that scripture was not to change the world but was specific instruction for the church.
Ken Schenck, a Wesleyan theologian and Educator, writes; “The early church, often persecuted, did not work toward societal change. They were concerned to get the gospel out and to survive persecution. And God, ever so patient, met them at their needs.”
Later, when they had more influence in society, they would fight against slavery and fight for women’s rights. But then, in their infancy they fought to have slaves and women treated more fairly in the church and cast a vision for how Jesus viewed them, equal.
So, the question that was asked this week was What role do women have in the Church? 1 Timothy 2:11-15 really limits a women’s role. However, many women have been gifted to teach. Can they really only teach women, or is this a cultural context?
Let’s try and answer that, remember that in the first two points of this passage, how men were to pray and how women were to dress, most of us would consider to be cultural in their context.
Prior to the early church, culturally women were normally not educated and weren’t permitted to take part in education, and even in Jewish worship they were separate and weren’t expected or permitted to speak.
As the freedom of the gospel was extended to them they had many questions and were eager to learn. And now that they were permitted to be a part of the worship experience and were hearing the teaching and scripture reading, they would interrupt the service with questions. And so Paul tells them that he wants the women to learn, but to do it quietly and submissively, so as not to interrupt the service.
And within that cultural context women did not teach, they just didn’t, and so when they did it was scandalous both inside and outside the church. And that wasn’t a battle that church was willing to fight at that point.
But Let’s go a little deeper.
Aristotle’s principle of non-contradiction, states that a proposition cannot be both true and false. For example, the two propositions “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive.
So, if Paul’s instructions to Timothy are to be considered universal across the church, then there should be no exception to it in the Bible. And yet in the Old Testament we see Moses’ sister Miriam called a prophet in the book of Numbers.
After the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, after escaping from Egypt, they were governed by Judges. And we read this in Judges 4:4-5 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment. Deborah was Judge over all the Israelites, not just the female ones. She had authority over men and women.
And in 2 Chronicles 34:22 So Hilkiah and the other men went to the New Quarter of Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, the keeper of the Temple wardrobe.
Another female prophet.
And the prophet Joel records the words of God in Joel 2:28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.
And we read the fulfilment of that when Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost and he says, Acts 2:16-18 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.
And later in the book of Acts we read about the results of the fulfilment in Acts 21:8-9 The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
And we have instructions for women who prophesy in 1 Corinthians 11:5 But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.
When Apollos is introduced in the book of Acts we read this, Acts 18:24-26 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.
It doesn’t tell us that Aquila explained the way of God to Apollos but that Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God to Apollos and notice the order, that Priscilla is mentioned before her husband.
And when Paul writes to the church in Rome, he includes this, Romans 16:1-2 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honour among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. And the word that Paul uses here for deacon is the same exact word he used in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8 for church leaders.
And in the very next verse, Paul continues, Romans 16:3 Give my
greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ
So, within the Wesleyan Church, we would say that Paul’s words to Timothy were to be taken contextually in the culture of the church in Ephesus. Because there is evidence across the scriptures in other contexts where it was appropriate for women to teach, lead and prophesy.
When I was a high school debater there were two things I learned, one was how to convince in 7 minutes, and that’s why I’m a 20-minute preacher.
The second thing I learned was my favourite technique for rebuttal and that is called reductio ad absurdum or in English, Reduction to Absurdity.
So, you would take an argument to the extreme, even now I will sometimes say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Or my all-time favourite, “And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.”
So let’s go back to Paul’s instructions to Timothy, 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.
If we take this as a universal statement, then we would have no females teaching our male children in CS Kids. And you’re thinking; oh no Denn, it’s alright for a woman to teach a boy. Really? When Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago it wasn’t. Guys we need you to step up your game in Children and youth ministry.
And if this is a universal statement, is it wrong to have female university professors teaching men? Or what about women training men in the work environment? How about a female music teacher?
So maybe it’s not a universal statement. Perhaps like verse eight where Paul gives instruction to men to pray with their hands lifted up, and in verses nine and ten where women are instructed not to wear jewelry or braid their hair, and we understand that they were cultural instructions for the Christians in Ephesus 2000 years ago. So, maybe, Paul’s instructions about women teaching, may have arisen out of issues in that particular setting at that particular time.
Again, not trying to change your mind, well maybe a little, but this morning’s message was to explain why historically The Wesleyan Church has had, and will continue to have women in ministry, because as Paul reminds us, Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.