Even if you don’t agree with him (and I do agree), you just gotta like Steve Holmes … (see his blog for full article)
I have defended the ministry of women in the church in public for a while now, including on this blog.
I don’t think I can do it any longer.
Not because of any lack of calling or gifting in their ministry, but because of a lack in mine.
Take Phoebe Palmer.
She began to be involved in leading a Bible study in New York around 1830. She soon received invitations to preach across the USA and in the UK. Something like 25 000 people were converted by her ministry.
25 000 people. Converted. Does that need defence? Really?
She visited prisons regularly, ran a society helping poor people in need of medical attention, and was involved in an ambitious project to challenge the new problem of urban poverty through the provision of low-cost housing, free schooling, and employment. She had a particular concern for orphans throughout her life.
Challenging injustice on a grand scale. Do you want me to defend that?
And then there’s Catherine Booth. And Mary Dyer. And Catherine of Sienna. And Mother Julian. And Rose Clapham, all-but forgotten, whose first sermon, preached when she was 18, saw 700 miners converted to Christ.
Defend that? Why?
There’s a thousand stories like it. That I know. Ten thousand times ten thousand that have gone untold, no doubt.
And I think of women who I have the privilege to know, who I sit in awe of, some of whom graciously allow me to call them friends. If I could preach one tenth as powerfully or effectively as Ness Wilson, or Bev Murrill, or Miriam Swaffield, or if I had a tiny portion of the vision and capacity to inspire change of Cathy Madavan or Natalie Collins, or if I had some little echo of the pastoral wisdom and visible holiness of Pat Took or Ruth Goldbourne, or if I could even once in my life make something happen the way Wendy Beech-Ward or Ann Holt do every day – then I might think the question of whether these women are permitted by God to lead and preach was worth thinking about.
As it is, no. I can’t defend their ministries. I am not worthy to.
But I’m not going to try to illuminate the sun.
And I’m not going to try to dampen the sea.
And I’m not, any longer, going to try to defend the ministry of women in the church.