One of my friends works in Christian ministry at a large, secular university. She is passionate about Christ; she is a gifted teacher, preacher, and apologist; she has dedicated her life to loving college students. She is tenacious in using her spiritual gifts and willing to live on a very limited salary. And, as she told me, “My church spends thousands of dollars so I can share the gospel with college students, both men and women. Yet they will not permit me to preach from the pulpit because I am a woman. This is not only inconsistent. What is worse, they are telling me that there is something wrong with being female!”
However, in the memory of those still living, things have been very different in the evangelical movement. Recently, three women in their 80s came into the office of Christians for Biblical Equality to volunteer. All three attended evangelical churches. All three were raised evangelical and went to Wheaton College. And all three remember hearing of female evangelists such as Amy Lee Stockton and Rita Gould preaching throughout the Midwest, in places that would surprise some of us today. One of the women, Alvera Mickelsen, told me, “You know, it wasn’t until 1950 that women preachers were considered ‘liberal.’ Before that, no one thought twice about women preaching the gospel.”
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In last week's post, I argued that because the apostle Paul commended the work of Phoebe-a deacon (Romans 16:1-2)-the tradition of female deacons continued throughout the early centuries, as noted both by the archaeological evidence and also in Christian literature preserved from this period.