Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Historical Perspectives From Adventist Pioneers

As thought leaders of our denomination once again discuss, debate and decide the role of God’s feminine creation in fulfilling the Great Commission, a number of articles published in the 19th century shed light on their perspectives and may provide insight to the century-old discussion.

  1. In the 1857 Review and Herald article “Unity and Gifts of the Church, No. 4,” Adventist Church co-founder James White directly addressed the oft-quoted prophecy of Joel 2:28-32.See what he had to say.
  2. In the December 8, 1859 issue of the Review and Herald, B.F. Robbins wrote directly to women in an essay titled “To the Female Disciples in the Third Angel’s Message”: “Prejudice against woman’s efforts and labors in the church have crushed out her usefulness. This kind of training has in many of you caused timidity, and discouragement, and the neglect of the use of the gifts designed to edify the church and glorify God.”
  3. In 1894 G.C. Tenney, assistant editor of the Review and Herald, attempted to address the many letters received about women speaking in church in an article titled, “Woman’s Relation to the Cause of Christ.” It was the work of the gospel to remove distinctions among men in race, nationality, sex, or condition, he wrote. Paul declares that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). This text has a generic application; it is of universal force wherever the gospel reaches. In the light of such a statement, how can women be excluded from the privileges of the gospel?”
  4. In an article titled “It Was Mary Who First Preached a Risen Savior,” which was published in the 2007 edition of Andrews University Seminar Studies, the authors speak of the fledgling Advent movement and how its leaders responded to women as public spiritual leaders. They cite several articles in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald where the movement’s early leaders often include and/or defend the role of women in public ministry.
  5. In "What Shall Be Done? Laborers Wanted," our founding fathers speak of an overwhelming need for more workers to spread the gospel message. They also note that working to spread the gospel message is the duty of all who have been pardoned from their sins and found grace in Christ.
  6. "Who Shall Preach?" Everyone, men and women, according to J.H. Waggoner belonged to the “heaven-ordained ministry of all of Christ’s disciples.”
  7.   "Women-Social Devotions,"The editors share comments from Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent minister at the time, who noted “We shall never have a church in its full power until the women take part in the devotional meetings.”
  8.   "Woman As A CoWorker," W. Howard takes on conservative Christians who doubt women’s role in ministry, specifically Ellen White, and shares the Apostle Paul’s own high esteem for fellow women who worked with him on the cause of Christ.
  9.   "Address and Appeal Setting Forth The Importance of MIssionary Work" Some have said Ellen White has been silent about women’s ordination, but she was not silent about women serving as ministers. In this piece dated January 2, 1868, White challenges women to use their talents for ministry: “Women can be instruments of righteousness, rendering holy service. It was Mary that first preached a risen savior. …The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth.”
  10.  "Visions and Prophecy, Have They Been Manifested in the Adventist Church?" In these series of articles George I Butler, who served twice as president of the church, explores possible objections to receiving the visions shared by Ellen White. “Some object because they were given to a woman. They would not think them so objectionable if they came from a man. In reply we would say, It is for God to choose His own agents.”
  11. “Shall Women Speak in the Church?” In this piece reprinted in the Review and Herald in March 14, 1871, from a Baptist journal, the author challenges the Paul’s popular admonition that women should be silent in church (see 1 Cor. 14:34-35). After a deeper reading of the text, the author suggests that the Christian groups who read the text casually so they could exclude women, were misinformed about the context and are guilty of violating the gospel.
  12.  "Women Laboring in Public" Is it proper for women to take part in public ministry is the overarching theme in this piece reprinted from a Methodist publication. In it the author concludes, that it is a woman’s privilege and duty to publically labor for God. Read his well-reasoned piece on p. 58-59 for more.
  13. “Woodland, Cal.” In this piece M.E. Cornell not only reports on meetings held in Woodland, Calif., but he also has a bone to pick with women who refuse to speak in public! He writes, “One of the greatest drawbacks here is the prevailing idea that women ought not to speak in social meetings.” Read the full article here.
  14. "May Women Speak in Meetings?" In this J.N. Andrews-penned article, which appears on p. 4 of the January 2, 1879 issue, another Adventist pioneer challenges the Pauline texts calling on women to be silent in church.
  15.  "Women in the Church" In which James White examines the context and meaning of Paul’s comments forbidding women to speak and compares the apostle’s other writings praising female gospel workers. White goes several steps further and reviews the role of women workers in the gospel.




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