Uniquely Deep

Women in Ministry by: Debra White Smith

When asked why he encouraged women preachers, John Wesley responded, “Because God owns them in the conversion of sinners, and who am I that I should withstand God” (Zechariah Taft. Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1992). The question of ordaining women as pastors, evangelists, and deacons is more a question of biblical scholarship methods than of whether women are ordained. Churches in the John Wesley tradition approach the Word of God with a balanced view that considers all scriptures on all topics. No matter the subject, we don’t isolate one or two key scriptures to prove a limited stance that is created by ignoring any verse(s) that refutes that stance. Scholars call this method of scholarship “proof texting,” and it is an erroneous method of biblical interpretation that creates unbalanced theology and concepts. (Slave owners used the same method of scholarship to prove owning and abusing slaves was God-approved and biblical since the New Testament tells slaves to submit to their masters.) Therefore, when the topic of the ordination of women is approached, we consult all verses that deal with women in ministry and then come to the most logical and balanced conclusions based upon the full body of information found in the Bible—not just one or two verses. Due to this balanced approach to scripture, many Wesleyan-tradition churches have ordained women since their inception. For instance, the Church of the Nazarene has been ordaining women for over 100 years. The first group of Nazarene pastors and evangelists who were ordained in 1908 was one-third women.

Paul made a few direct statements against women participating in church life, but he also affirmed women who prophesied and women in church leadership. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). “As in all congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. When they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor. 14:33b-35). However, Paul also supported women who weren’t silent in the church and who were prophets (preachers) and teachers. In 1 Cor. 11:5, Paul references women praying and prophesying (preaching) in church. This scripture occurs three chapters before he tells women to be silent. Also, in Romans 16, Paul affirms many women in ministry, including Phoebe, a deacon (v. 1) and Junias (v. 7), a female apostle—the highest office of the First Century church. Given the wide body of biblical evidence in favor of women in ministry, the historic stance of Wesleyan-tradition churches is that either Paul contradicted himself and much of the Bible when he told women not to teach/preach and to be silent, or there was a specific problem in each of these cases that he was dealing with concerning women who were inappropriately out of hand. There are differing theories on the problems Paul was addressing. However, many Wesleyan-tradition scholars believe that Paul was dealing with women who were either disrupting the service in 1 Corinthians and/or being domineering in 1 Timothy and that he was not refuting his other statements or other Scriptures that support women in ministry. For a look at passages that do support women as preachers/prophetesses and/or spiritual leaders see: Exodus 15-20; Judges 4; 2 Kings 22:14; Micah 6:4; Joel 2:28-29; Luke 2:26-38; Acts 2:16-21; Acts 18; Acts 21:9.

No denomination that I am aware of fully applies a literal interpretation of what Paul said about women remaining fully silent in church. In denominations around the world, women are not silent. They may be teaching and/or preaching, singing in the choir, serving on boards,
playing instruments, testifying, laughing, talking, and participating in church life. By and large, denominations do not apply a strict, literal interpretation of Paul’s telling women to be silent because the church world would suffer greatly and perhaps fail if all women went silent. Likewise, the spreading of the Gospel is significantly hindered when women are told they are not to publicly proclaim the Good News. Furthermore, the most balanced biblical scholarship method on any subject is solidified when we start with the teachings of Jesus Christ and don’t interpret any scripture in a way that violates what Jesus said. Jesus Christ was the sinless son of God, and His words must be the underlying force and influencer in all biblical interpretation. Whatever Paul wrote must be interpreted in the context of his own teachings as well as in the context of Jesus Christ’s teachings. Any concept on any subject that is created by ignoring the teachings of Christ can be out of balance. Using scripture as a tool to subordinate or limit anyone due to age, race, economic status or whether they are male or female is a direct violation of what Jesus said and most of what Paul himself said. According to Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Jesus Christ stated, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). This Golden Rule applies to everything, including how we view and treat both men and women.
Furthermore, the Bible could also be used to limit men and prohibit them from ministry. Jesus Christ repeatedly told his male disciples to not even call themselves leaders and not to think of themselves in authority over others. “Also, a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves…But I am among you as the one who serves’” (Luke 2:24-27b, NIV). “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers…And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:8, 10-12, NASB). Note: The King James Version states, “Do not be called masters” (v.10); the New International Version states, “Do not be called teachers” (v.10). Using the proof texting method of biblical scholarship, these and numerous other sections of the Bible could easily be used to subordinate men and stop them from holding any ministry position as teachers or pastors or assuming any role as leaders. However, churches do not use scripture to limit men in the church or ministry, nor should they.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Galatians 3:28

When scholars proof text Paul’s statements about women as support for not ordaining women, but ignore Christ’s similar messages to men, such biblical interpretation lacks credence because it lacks consistent application. Churches in the Wesleyan tradition are committed to consistent application of balanced, biblical scholarship methods. Those methods include a thoughtful examination of everything the Bible says on a subject, including the ordination of women.


Below is a list of some of the denominations who ordain women as pastors and affirm women in ministry:
• Church of the Nazarene
• Mainstream Baptists
• Alliance of Baptists
• American Baptist Churches USA
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• Church of God, Anderson
• Brethren in Christ
• The Wesleyan Church
• Presbyterian Church (USA)
• Mennonite Church USA
• Episcopal Church in the USA
• Vineyard Movement
• Evangelical Catholic Church
• Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
• Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
• Salvation Army
• The Free Methodist Church North America
• Evangelical Covenant Church of America
• International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
• International Pentecostal Holiness Church
• Christian Reformed Church in North America
• Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)
• United Church of Christ
• United Methodist Church
• Wesleyan Reform Union

Southern Baptist Church: Lottie Moon was an applauded, highly educated Southern Baptist missionary who spent her life preaching the Word of God in China during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Even though the Southern Baptist church currently does not recognize women as pastors or missionaries, they still applaud Lottie Moon’s groundbreaking work as a missionary and take up an annual Christmas offering for missions in her memory. “In 1964 Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman ordained to the ministry. By the 1970’s hundreds of women were enrolled in ministerial degree programs at Southern Baptist Church seminaries. By the early 1990’s more than 1,000 women had been ordained; more than 50 ordained SBC women served as pastors in Southern Baptist churches; and others served as professors at Southern Baptist universities and seminaries. In 2000 the Southern Baptist Church stopped recognizing the ordination of women.” However, all Southern Baptists do not agree with this decision (Prescott & McClatchy. Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, 1999-2003.)

For more detailed information about balanced, biblical interpretation and women in ministry, please consult the following books, and websites:
• The Tie that Binds: A Marriage Revolution of Love by Debra White Smith, specifically the chapters, “Ruling and Drooling” and “Leading and Following.”
• Reclaiming Eve by Suzanne Burden, Carla Sunberg, and Jamie Wright.
• 25 Tough Questions about Women and the Church by J. Lee Grady.
• Christians for Biblical Equality: www.cbeinternational.org
• Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy: www.whwomenclergy.org
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• Timeline of Women in Methodism: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/timeline-of-women-in-methodism

–Debra White Smith c2008
http://www.debrawhitesmith.com
*This article is free for unlimited copying and distribution. Please do not make any changes in the article without first gaining permission from Debra White Smith.

Uniquely Mi Vida

The effects of being uniquely ME

“In those days, I will pour out my Spirit on my servants. I will pour out my Spirit on both men and women. When I do, they will prophesy.” –Acts 2:8

Raqui Sharing

“Why do you want to be an co-pastor?” A church board member from Puerto Rico asked me during an interview with my husband, “Isn’t it enough to be the pastor’s wife and just “minister” as one?” (It was 1994 and I was expecting my first child). 

“Was it enough for the Apostle Paul to stay with the disciples and work within their shadows from Jerusalem? Where would the church be then?” That should have been my response, but I just said, “I am not called to be a pastor’s wife. I am called to be a minister and to do that I have to take responsibilities since I’m in the process of ordination…” (I was eventually ordained in 1995, a year later, being one of the few Puerto Rican women at the time, I think I was the second or third.) 

Ironically enough this church wound up selecting a female friend of mine to be their pastor about 12 years later.

About 4 years later, a denominational leader is Kansas City called us into his office to talk about our call to missions, (and still do). Referring to me he asked, “Have you considered stepping aside and letting your husband do his ministry?” 

From the corner of my eye I could see my husband, Todd, shifting to respond, but I beat him to it. “I have never kept my husband from ministering, nor interrupted his ministry. He has his calling and ministry and I have mine. Even though we have separate callings we know how to work well together.” (Maybe I should have mentioned that I had not seen any disciple leave ministry and let Peter do ministry on his own.) I responded without shame. My husband affirmed that neither of us keeps the other from ministry. Then he insisted that the question be addressed to him as well. I smiled.  

Houston Work and Witness
Raqui praying for a couple who lost everything to the hurricane in the Port Arthur, TX area.

These are just a few of the hurdles I have had to jump over in my life. Questions that Christians may find irresponsible and even absurd, others find necessary. It is not that they are opposed to me, it is that they doubt my calling, or that women may be called. I have never been able to understand fully why. Yet, I never allowed it to impede or keep me from God’s calling. All I know is that I had, and HAVE, a calling. When I was 14 years old i answered the calling much like Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord. He said, “Who will I send? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me!””

This is not to say that it has all been easy…sometimes life has been super difficult, other times super easy… but for whom hasn’t it been? I have had, as everyone else called into ministry (men or women) to pass through storms in which I have been soaked by the rains. But I have also have had times in life that it has been, to say, rainbows. Either way, I have seen the hand of God working, at every turn, in the lives of those who I have shared Christ. This tells me that I am following His will.

Dr. Jerry Porter always told me that the calling is affirmed by people who have come to Christ through your ministry and the spiritual growth in their lives. He affirmed my calling many times. It is very important for women like me to have people like him in our lives.

So what then is needed to confirm a calling? First let me be clear, ALL Christians have been called (“mandated”, actually),  to share the message of Christ. ALL of us are called to work in the fields. (Matthew 28:16-20) We have ALL been called to love and be like Christ. Yet, there is a specific group that God calls to be Pastors, Missionaries, leaders, teachers and so on…

July 4 Baptisms
Estrella getting baptised by her Pastor Mom, with Pastor Dad assisting.

  1. This calling comes from the depths of your heart with a huge passion. This passion cannot be stopped. A person with the passion of Christ does not see the soul of human beings as everyone else.  We see lost souls and we constantly want to try to help them find their way. We want them to encounter Jesus Christ. We want to help them to maintain a relationship with Christ. We want them to find holiness and live by it.  That passion comes in everything we do, for it spills into our lives and our home. Sometimes it even makes us cry. The compassionate and empathetic heart is part of Christ’s. When you talk about Christ and teach the scriptures, the passion is heard.
  2. The calling is found in the scripture. No matter how often your read it or what verse you read, you feel the calling through it verses. When God calls you, He uses the scripture to lead you. God speaks to hearts though the scriptures. He also speaks during prayer times. Hearing the voice of God in our souls as we pray, a voice that cannot be shut off. As you read, as you pray, the voice of the Lord gets louder and the calling becomes just as loud. For me I heard it in the stories of the prophets in the Old Testament (as in Jeremiah 1:4-10) and the calling of the disciples, the great commandment and others like it. When I heard it as I read about the Samaritan woman by the well and in Ruth, I had to accept that it was from God, it was real. Even when I prayed today, I could and can hear His calling. (He can really be demanding when He wants to be and needs to be).
  3. Others around you and throughout your life see it too. During our lives others see your gifts of “pastor, missionary, teacher and leader. The people themselves, our families and friends, affirm our calling. They form part of our mentoring group, who we need, especially while our calling is developing.  It is important to talk to our pastors, leaders and those of strong faith who have known us and have watched us grow spiritually. My parents, as missionaries, and my pastors, were my best mentors. Besides them, I had other leaders that after finding out about my calling, they would hug me and support me. The most important thing is that they mentored me and taught me (and still do) how to be a minister. It was they who prepared me by giving me responsibilities, jobs and guiding me. This is how they, and many more, have affirmed me in my calling. {A great HUG of Gratitude to those special to me: My Parents, Bill Porter, Dr. Jerry Porter, Dr. Roger Hahn, Dr. Dennis Bratcher, Rev. Noemi Vasquez-Pla, Rev. Manuel y Norma Guzmán, Dr. Howard Culbertson, just to name a few}

Papi Predicando y yo interpretando al ingles

Translating for my Father, Rev. Mario A. Cintron. We make an awesome team.

  1.  Your gifts and skills are given for the sake of that calling. Sometimes we may not understand why we have certain skills that wind up transforming or supporting our calling. Yet, all those gifts and skills are being used for our calling, if not now, they will. Here is where I saw my calling more clearly. The gift of teaching and preaching with passion affirmed my calling. The gift of translating, of helping, even finances and budgeting, and more have assisted me in sharing the gospel. If I ever had a doubt, all I had to do was look at my gifts and skills and see that God gave them to me for ministry. That is big.
  2. When God calls he gives a hunger for education in Theology, biblical studies and the Truth. You have a hunger to learn more that seems to increase as you see the need to equip yourself with the best tools to be your best. Some come to me telling me that they only need the Bible. If that was true, and that is all you need, Jesus wouldn’t have spent 3 years with his disciples (but would have just given them the Torah and walked away), and Paul would not have gone for 4 years to learn more after his transformation and calling. The Bible is the most important thing,  but not the ONLY thing we need for ministry. A true calling comes with an appetite, a hunger for learning more, wanting more knowledge and greater wisdom. Because a man cannot live on bread alone. We need to learn about the people, the cultures, the history, the ways people think, life itself and more. Education is important here, it fulfills those things that equip us to better minister. For we know that the calling is not just preaching… it is more than that, and the preaching needs to be solid.
  3. When God calls He provides. He is after all “Yahweh Yirah,” the Lord will provide. I have learned that will open the doors and will close the doors according to God’s will, always providing for my means. On my end, I have to make sure I don’t force the doors open just because a door seems more pleasing, fun, solid, shiny or whatever… I have to learn to TRUST fully on God, even when that “door” seems scary or delapidated. When I said to God “yes” and asked that He provide my education, He did. When I said “yes” and asked to show me the man that had said “yes” too and was a man of God, and with the heart of God, He did. When I said “yes” and asked that He supply my financial needs… He HAS. God provides as long as we are following HIS WILL and saying “yes.”

Then, what are the “effects” of all this in my life? Well, they have made me who I am today. As a Latin woman, more specifically, a Puerto Rican called into ministry, I have to continue to live a life according to my calling in ministry. Yes, I know eyes are on me a lot. No matter what happens. That means that I have to keep myself connected to God in all things as mentioned. It is difficult but not impossible. It is hard work, but never in vain. I have had more chapters in my life that have been more positive than negative. I have seen children, young people, and adults come to the feet of Jesus, sanctified, healed and called throughout my life. And all these make my life very, VERY, much worth living. Because this unique life that I am living, I am living for Christ, regardless of the “effects” that follow.

“We speak the truth. We serve in the power of God. We hold the weapons of godliness in the right hand and in the left. We serve God in times of glory and shame. We serve him whether the news about us is bad or good. We are true to our calling. But people treat us as if we were pretenders.” –2 Cor. 6:7-8

Therefore I keep heading forward…. with Christ by my side because “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phil. 1:21 What else can I say? And this UNIQUE life that God has given me?… is… uniquely HIS.

“For the Sake of the Call”– Steven Curtis Chapman