The Ground Work

By Donald P. Ames

Now that women are being accepted as “priests” in some denominations, the ground work has been laid for many problems ahead. And, although the Episcopalians and Catholics have received the most news coverage, we must not be so foolish as to think the ground work is not already being laid within the body of Christ today. Within the next decade, we, too, will be having our “heated discussions” regarding women preachers (some places already are).

Harding College and Abilene Christian University have been active in this area for several years. Harding has sought various churches to support both men and women to go to “mission fields” for the summer to do “missionary work.” Abilene, in a recent bulletin on “Mission Strategy” sought to firmly implant in all minds that there are “over 1,623 missionaries of the Church of Christ scattered throughout the world. . .half of these are women who, with their husbands or alone, have accepted the challenge to take the gospel to a lost and dying world” (Jan.-Feb., 1976).

Although they give lip-service to the fact “a woman cannot preach publicly, nor can she assume the leadership that belongs to the man,” it is limited to just that-lip service! Emphasis is placed on the woman (usually emphasis on the single woman) being actively involved in evangelism to fulfill her role. And while speaking of what the man should do to be an effective missionary, emphasis is repeatedly put forth that women need to be doing the same thing-especially the single woman going into the mission field. But notice then the shift that begins to become more pronounced: “The missionary woman has always been a little more `liberated’ than her sisters. . .This was particularly true of the early single missionary woman. Once on the field, in order to be effective, she also had to assume a more direct role than she might have had back in the continental United States. The church itself even regarded the missionary woman in a different light than the Christian woman at home” (Ibid; emp. mine-DPA). It continues, “There is no doubt that a missionary wife should prepare herself for a special ministry such as teaching, nutrition, translation or whatever ….The single missionary woman has a unique opportunity for service. She does not have a family to demand her time and energy. She has more freedom in movement and opportunity . . . .Here is a wealth of energy and talent yet untapped by the church” (Ibid). Now, despite disavowals of women preachers, certainly the implications are clear, and many will be moving in that very direction. How else can they so eagerly “accept the challenge to utilize her talents and opportunities to serve her Lord”?

As these women rise up to accept and meet these challenges-particularly the single woman entering a foreign field as a missionary, financed by a church back home, she is indeed going to find things different than back home. And, as she utilizes her talents and makes use of her freedom in movement and opportunity, the next step is to begin teaching and, yes, say it, preaching! And since she is single and a missionary, she is going to find herself doing such for mixed company rather than exclusively for women. After all, there is so much to be done and someone has to take the lead until things get started!

Then, they return to the States and fail to comprehend why we are so “narrow-minded” and “backward” that we cannot allow a woman to “fulfill” herself here as well as abroad. After all, if she can do it overseas, why can’t she preach to mixed audiences here, and give reports to the church as a whole? And then do you know what will be advocated next? I do, brethren, and it will not be a study of 1 Tim. 2:11-12! It may well be, “I have restudied 1 Tim. 2:11-12 in light of my missionary work, and am now a liberated woman.” “Woman preacher accepted overseas; rejected at home.” Etc., etc. Brethren, some dangerous ground work is being laid, that is not all pleasing to the Lord!

Truth Magazine XXII: 13, p. 218
March 30, 1978