I was asked today for some Wesleyan quotes on women in leadership and ministry. Thought I'd share my homework:
1. From “Statement on Social Issues,” adopted by the 1996 General Conference (also printed in Why Wesleyans Favor Women in Ministry below, p. 9):
“[W]e condemn any practice of exclusive male-only leadership on boards or committees in the church, excluding women from these positions by either public policy or unofficial behind-the-scenes agreed-upon policy, for we believe that when it comes to God’s gifts, graces and callings, there is neither male nor female.”
2. From the website www.centerforwomeninministry.org and the Center for Women in Ministry based at Southern Wesleyan University. From Lee M. Haines, “Women in Ministry: A Biblical, Historical Perspective”:
“There is no way to ignore this pervasive picture of women as sharing in the leadership and ministry of the church. John Wesley used some women as class leaders and, apparently, one or two as preachers. Luther Lee, one of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, preached the ordination sermon of the first woman ordained in America (1853), using the Galatians 3:28 text. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, fully supported women’s right to preach and lead. His wife, Catherine, shared fully in his ministry and his daughter, Evangeline, was later one of the top leaders of the Salvation Army. B. T. Roberts, founder of the Free Methodist Church, wrote one of the best books on the subject, fully supporting the right of women to be ordained and to serve in the ministry. Martin Wells Knapp and Seth C. Rees, cofounders of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, were both married to preachers, and both strongly supported the right of women to preach. At one point, fifty percent of the ministers in the Pilgrim Holiness Church were women…
“The Wesleyan Church, on the basis of the total content of Scripture, believes that a woman is fully equal to man in terms of her right (as directed by the Holy Spirit and authorized by the Church) to teach, preach, lead, or govern (including supervisory roles and board memberships), lead worship, or serve in any other office of ministry of the Church.”
3. In Ken Schenck (2004). Why Wesleyans Favor Women in Ministry. Indianapolis, IN: The Wesleyan Church, Department of Education and the Ministry. There is both “A Position Statement on Women in the Ministry in The Wesleyan Church by The Task Force on Women in the Ministry under the authority of the General Board of The Wesleyan Church (2003-4) and the title piece by Ken Schenck (2004):
From the Task Force: “The Wesleyan Church wishes to reaffirm its long-standing commitment to full opportunity for women to be ordained to the ministry and to serve in any and all ministerial and leadership capacities… the Church and its precedent bodies have experienced the benefits of such a commitment for over 140 years” (3).
From the Task Force: “The Wesleyan Church affirms that woman is fully equal to man in terms of her responsibility, as directed by the Holy Spirit and authorized by the Church, to preach, teach, lead, govern or serve in any office or ministry of the Church” (10).
4. Seth C. Rees, founder of The Pilgrim Holiness Church, (1897). The Ideal Pentecostal Church.
“Nothing but jealousy, prejudice, bigotry, and a stingy love for bossing in men have prevented woman's public recognition by the church. No church that is acquainted with the Holy Ghost will object to the public ministry of women. We know scores of women who can preach the Gospel with a clearness, a power, and an efficiency seldom equaled by men. Sisters, let the Holy Ghost fill, call and anoint you to preach the glorious Gospel of our Lord.”
5. Luther Lee, founder of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, from his sermon at the first ordination of a woman in America in Seneca Falls, NY, September 15, 1853, “Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel”:
“The declaration concerning males and females [of Galatians 3:28], is just as full and unqualified as it is concerning Jews and Gentiles, and if it does not place males and females upon an equality, it may be argued with equal force that it does not put Jews and Gentiles on an equal footing.”
6. B. T. Roberts, founder of Free Methodist Church (1891). Ordaining Women: Biblical and Historical Insights. Rochester, NY: Earnest Christian Publishing House:
“The church has no right to forbid the free exercise of abilities to do good which God has given. To do so is usurpation and tyranny.
“Men had better busy themselves in building up the temple of God, instead of employing their time in pushing from the scaffold their sisters, who are both able and willing to work with them side by side.
"All restrictions to positions in the church based on race have been abolished; it is time then that those based on sex were also abolished” (p. 103).