From the beginning women ministers have played a leading role in the holiness movement.
In the vanguard of these lady preachers is Phoebe Palmer who preached for more than 50 years in America and Britain and led thousands into the experience of perfect love, including several bishops.
In the heyday of the great holiness revival Amanda Smith, a black lady Methodist evangelist, heralded the gospel of full salvation throughout the world and shared the pulpit with bishops.
To name all the women preachers who have played their part in the formation and growth of the Church of the Nazarene would be an impossible task. One thinks immediately of Mrs. DeLance Wallace, Mary Lee Cagle, Mrs. R. B. Mitchum, Emma Irick, Estelle Crutcher, and Dr. Mildred Wynkoop. Among the prominent pastors of the denomination was Agnes Diffee, whose ministry made Little Rock First Church one of the great holiness churches of the nation. Dr.
Bresee is quoted as having said, “Some of our best men are women!”
This writer owes his conversion to lady evangelist Elizabeth Venum who with her husband, Earle, conducted the home mission campaign which brought him and his family into the Church of the Nazarene.
The solid biblical basis for womens ministry is Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost in which he cited the prophet Joel’s declaration, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. . . . .and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit” (Acts 2:17-18, italics added).
In 1858 Phoebe Palmer published a major book on the subject under the title Promise of the Father, which, in Timothy Smith’s words, “established woman’s rights on the authority of the Holy Spirit.”
Taking Peter’s Pentecostal sermon as definitive, we understand Paul’s cautionary statements in his Epistles as reflective of the cultural situation which obtained in his Gentile churches. In the Graeco-Roman world, women were not generally educated and therefore would not be qualified to be teachers and leaders of Christian congregations. The apostle’s theological position, however, is unqualified: in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). A woman who is filled with the Spirit and otherwise prepared to preach is fully entitled to a Christian pulpit. No other position is compatible with the Christian gospel.
The partial eclipse of women ministers in the church of today is lamentable. It reflects the influx of teachings and theologies which are in basic disagreement with our historic biblical position.
The gospel is the Magna Carta for women’s ministry. Once again the Lord is pouring out His Spirit on His handmaidens in the Church of the Nazarene and calling them to preach. At least 40 young women are now preparing themselves for various ministries at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
Just a few weeks ago I received a letter from a young lady graduating form Olivet Nazarene College, “Feeling called of God for pastoral ministry,” she begins, “I am writing for prayerful assistance in finding a place to serve the Lord and the church.”
Will you join me in prayer that these laborers whom the Lord is sending into His harvest will find a place of ministry among us? “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7).
Greathouse, William M. (June, 1982). Women in ministry: The gospel is the Magna Carta for women’s ministry. Herald of Holiness, pg. 2.