Women Missionaries Who Can't Preach at Home

By Mimi Haddad 01-12-2009

Do you have family or friends on the mission field who are women? How many of them preach, teach, and exercise their gifts of leadership beside men on the mission field? Yet, many of the churches that send these women to the mission field do not provide opportunities for them to preach, teach, or exercise leadership when they return home. Does this seem consistent to you?

In one of my previous posts we glimpsed the biblical foundations for women's leadership offered by the founder and first president of Prairie Bible School, L.E. Maxwell. Maxwell gave women positions of leadership as members of the board of directors, as professors of theology and Bible doctrine, as principal of Prairie's High School, and as preachers not only during their summer conferences, but also on Sunday morning in Prairie's auditorium-the Tabernacle, the largest religious auditorium in Canada.

In a recent interview, Dr. Robert Rakestraw, a graduate of Prairie, a member of CBE and the Evangelical Theological Society, and a retired professor of theology at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul. said "Maxwell was one of the most zealous advocates of missions, and he was also an outspoken advocate of women preaching and teaching at all levels. If you were in favor of missions you had to be egalitarian. I remember Maxwell preaching on Psalm 68:11, the great company of women who published the glad tidings. Maxwell believed that the cause of Christ was shared by both men and women alike." For this premiere evangelical institution, Scripture was the guide for faith and practice. A passion to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:20) was treasured at Prairie.

There is perhaps no other individual more compatible with the missionary zeal of L.E. Maxwell than Fredrik Franson, founder of the Evangelical Alliance Mission, now TEAM. Born in Sweden in 1852, Franson immigrated to the US and came to faith in Nebraska in 1872. Shortly after meeting D.L. Moody in 1877, Franson launched into the rigors of extensive missionary service on four continents training missionaries, writing, and establishing strategic missionary partnerships. Ultimately, Franson was credited for founding not only TEAM (Evangelical Alliance Mission), but also Danish Mission Confederation, Swiss Alliance Mission, Barmea Alliance Mission, Finnish Alliance Mission, Swedish Evangelical Mission in Japan, and Swedish Alliance Mission.

Franson, like Maxwell, was an ardent supporter of women missionaries. Determined to make known the biblical basis for women's equal service in any endeavor, Franson wrote Prophesying Daughters in 1896. Relying upon a whole Bible approach, Prophesying Daughters is striking for its cohesive, original, and concise survey of Scripture. Fundamental to Prophesying Daughters is the goal of observing the biblical support to free women from gender prejudice in order to release them for evangelism. He "labeled as heretics those who grounded a doctrine on one or two passages in the Bible, without reading the references in their context" (Charles O. Knowles, [Let Her Be: Right Relationships and the Southern Baptist Conundrum Over Women's Role,] Columbia, MO: KnoWell Publishing, 2002, p. 85). Prophesying Daughters opposes the selective reading of Scripture in favor of overarching biblical themes that include, rather than exclude women's God-given gifts. Franson weighed in with the early church fathers and also Martin Luther in his brief defense of women's equality in ministry. Franson perceived no ministry in which women may not lead. He was no gradual emancipationist. He was a full-orbed egalitarian, and his biblical scholarship had one focus-to reveal Scripture's support for women's service on the mission field.

If all of Scripture points to Christ, we cannot afford to overlook the women of Scripture who declared the good news of Jesus. But, their voices have been stopped by those who rely upon two passages (1 Tim. 2:11-15, 1 Cor. 14:24) "without reading them in context" (Prophesying Daughters, p.35). If a woman teaching was forbidden, Franson noted

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