Gender and ministry 2: heroines of the faith?
Cherith Fee Nordling has a section in her chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology that is easy to skip over. I was about to but then it stopped me dead in my tracks.
It is a sketch of famous women of faith through the history of the Christian church.
Sure I’d heard of the biblical ones – Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna … Jesus’ disciples (Joanna, Susanna, Mary, Mary Magdalene and unnamed others) .. Priscilla Paul’s co-worker and teacher, Junia ‘outstanding among the apostles’, Lydia, Nympha, Phoebe, Euodia and Syntyche and others.
and then after that I confess I know very little of many whom she lists (a selection below) …
Women who were martyrs, teachers, scholars, evangelists, preachers, prophets and mothers: Blandina, Perpetua and Felicitas, prophets Prisca and Maximilla, Monica mother of Augustine, Paula supporter of Jerome, theologian Marcella, church leaders like Hildegard of Bingen, Hilda of Whitby, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila.
With the Reformation were reformers and preachers like Argula Von Stauffer, Katherine Zell, Margaret Fell Fox (Quaker), Susanna Wesley (mother of the brothers), Margaret Davidson, Sarah Crosby, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher. Later in North America preachers like Ann Hutchinson, Mary Dyer, Phoebe Palmer. And in Britain and North America were evangelists and preachers like Lucretia Mott, Lucy and Angelina Grimke, Antoinette Brown, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, the Blackmore sisters; social reformers and church leaders like Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightengale and Josephine Butler.
and on the list goes up to the 19th century.
Nordling asks a simple but searching question.
‘How have evangelicals managed to miss or dismiss these women for so long?’
And what can be done so that women are not ‘missed or dismissed’ today?