There is much going on, both in the secular world and in the Church, in regards to gender! Words like 'women's rights', 'gender equality', 'non-discrimination', are ringing through the world at present. But also the role of women in the church, should there be women elders, should there be women pastors?
So the next question is, does inspiration have any insight into the role of women? It surely does, and this simple study reveals how valuable they are.
“And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time...And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him... The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.” – Judges 4 & 5
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” – Acts 9:36
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus.” — Rom. 16:1-3
“And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” – Phil. 4:3
So yes, the Bible does give reports of faithful women and their important role and important they were, even the result of a war won because of the influence of Deborah.
What about for our day, does the Spirit of Prophecy have any light on the role of women in the work of God.
We are told that women are needed as gospel workers. “The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth.” – Ev. p.472
The counsel goes further to say there is important work for converted women. “A study of women's work in connection with the cause of God in Old Testament times will teach us lessons that will enable us to meet emergencies in the work today. We may not be brought into such a critical and prominent place as were the people of God in the time of Esther; but often converted women can act an important part in more humble positions.” – 3BC p.1140
Is there a need for good women at the forefront of the work as well as men? “There are women who are especially adapted for the work of giving Bible readings, and they are very successful in presenting the Word of God in its simplicity to others.” —Ev. p.469
Does this include preaching a sermon? “Sister R and Sister W are doing just as efficient work as the ministers; and at some meetings when the ministers are called away, Sister W takes the Bible and addresses the congregation.” – Ev. p.473
Some even in the late 1800's felt it wrong for a woman to preach a message, even a disgrace. “When in my youth God opened the Scriptures to my mind, giving me light upon the truths of His Word, I went forth to proclaim to others the precious news of salvation. My brother wrote to me and said, 'I beg of you do not disgrace the family, I will do anything for you if you will not go out as a preacher.' 'Disgrace the family?' I replied, 'can it disgrace the family for me to preach Christ and Him crucified? If you would give me all the gold your house could hold, I would not cease giving my testimony for God.'” – ST June 24, 1889
The Lord Has Settled It!
So do we still question the work of a women serving as gospel workers? “This question is not for men to settle. The Lord settled it. You are to do your duty to the women who labor in the gospel, whose work testifies that they are essential to carrying the truth into families.” – Ev. p.493
Some women who include visitation can work better than men in ministry. “The Lord has a work for women as well as for men... The Saviour will reflect upon these self-searching women in the light of His countenance, and will give them a power that exceeds that of men. They can do in families a world that men cannot do, a work that reaches the inner life. They can come close to the hearts of those whom men cannot teach.” – Ev. p.464,465
Women who are not ordained can do the work of ministry with their pastor husbands. “The minister is paid for his work, and this is well. And if the Lord gives the wife as well as the husband the burden of labor, and she devotes her time and strength to visiting from family to family and opening the Scriptures to them, although the hands of ordination have not been laid upon her, she is accomplishing a work that is the line of ministry. Then should her labors be counted as naught...Their wives who devote themselves just as disinterestedly to the work, should be paid in addition to the wages their husbands receive, even though they may not ask for this.” – G W p.452,453
This adds to the above quote. “All who desire an opportunity for true ministry, and who will give themselves unreservedly to God, will find in the canvassing work opportunities to speak upon many things pertaining to the future, immortal life. The experience thus gained will be of the greatest value to those who are fitting themselves for the ministry. It is the accomplishment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God.” – 6T p.322
The use of the word pastor here does not mean women or men need to be ordained as a pastor. It simply means that both men and women are to feed and nourish the people they work with, with the word of God, for their spiritual well-being. This quote also refers to the same principle. “Responsibilities must be laid upon the members of the church. The missionary spirit should be awakened as never before, and workers should be appointed as needed, who will act as pastors to the flock, putting forth personal effort...” – 5T p.723
Then there is the laying on of hands for women to work in local churches. “Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord, should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister; but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church.” – RH July 9, 1895
This is an apparent reference to deaconesses. Ellen White, in harmony with the Bible model, was never ordained by man and never suggested ordination of women to become women ministers, she recognised the equality of women and men and the important role of women in the work of the church.
But there is another important trait women should exhibit who teach the truth. They should be humble and not self-important. “The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed now, women who are not self-important, but meek and lowly of heart, who will work with the meekness of Christ wherever they can find work to do for the salvation of souls...” – RH Jan 2, 1879
Not To Strive to Climb Higher
But with both men and women who are trying to climb to higher positions, they lose dignity and promotion. “Eve...was perfectly happy in her Eden home, by her husband's side, but like restless modern Eves, she was flattered that there was a higher sphere than that which God has assigned her. But in attempting to climb higher than her original position, she fell far below it. This will most assuredly be the result with the Eves of the present generation if they neglect to cheerfully take up their daily life-duties in accordance with God's plan...
“There is a work for women that is even more important and elevating than the duties of the king upon his throne. They may mold the minds of their children and shape their characters so that they may be useful in this world and that they may become sons and daughters of God...
“A neglect on the part of woman to follow God's plan in her creation, an effort to reach for important positions which He has not qualified her to fill, leaves vacant the position that she could fill to acceptance. In getting out of her sphere, she loses true womanly dignity and nobility. When God created Eve, He designed that she should possess neither inferiority nor superiority to the man, but that in all things she should be his equal.” – 3T p.483,484
“Mothers...who could not see the work that lay right in their pathway...in their own families...wanted to...do some great work. They were looking...for...some high position, but neglecting the work at home which the Lord had left for them to do.” – 2T p.366
“Women may accomplish good work for God, if they will first learn the precious, all-important lesson of meekness in the school of Christ...
“Many who are entrusted with some humble line of work to do for the Master soon become dissatisfied, and think they would be teachers and leaders. They want to leave their humble ministering, which is just as important in its place as the larger responsibilities. Those who are set to do visiting soon come to think they anyone can do that work...But it is a work that demands much grace, much patience, and an ever-increasing stock of wisdom.” – 11MR p.278,279
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” – Luke 14:7-11
“Our simplicity will accomplish much in this work. We are not to try to climb up to high positions or to gain the praise of men. Our aim should not be the greatest. We are to have an eye single to the glory of God.” – MYP p.26
We need to be exceptionally careful of loving supremacy among ourselves. “One of the greatest curses in our world (and it is seen in churches and in society everywhere) is the love of supremacy. Men (and women) become absorbed in seeking to secure power and popularity. This spirit has manifested itself in the ranks of Sabbath-keepers, to our grief and shame. But spiritual success comes only to those who have learned meekness and lowliness in the school of Christ.” – 6T p.397
“Before honor is humility. To fill a high place before men, Heaven chooses the worker who, like John the Baptist, takes a lowly place before God. The most childlike disciple is the most efficient in labor for God. The heavenly intelligences can co-operate with him who is seeking, not to exalt self, but to save souls... he succeeds where many of the learned and intellectually wise would fail.
“But when men exalt themselves, feeling that they are a necessity for the success of God's great plan, the Lord causes them to be set aside. It is made evident that the Lord is not dependent upon them. The work does not stop because of their removal from it, but goes forward with greater power.” – DA p.436
The true humble heart will feel the lowest place in their sphere is too honourable for them. “Those who have the deepest experience in the things of God are the farthest removed from pride and self-exaltation. Because they have an exalted conception of the glory of God, they feel that the lowest place in His service is too honorable for them.” – GW p.142
Those who are humble and thankful, are settled with having their names in the obscure part of the Book of Life. “If they could but see Jesus as He is, and themselves as they are, so weak, so inefficient, so unlike their Master, they would say: If my name may be written in the obscurest part of the book of life, it is enough for me, so unworthy am I of His notice.” – 5T p.160
“Kneeling in faith at the cross he (or she) has reached the highest place to which humanity can attain.” – AA p.210
Even as far back in the mid to late 1800’s the woman’s rights movement was noticeable in society. Ellen White writes some very strong counsel in regards to women in women's liberation movement of her day. “Those who...join the movement in favor of woman's rights and the so-called dress reform might as well sever all connection with the third angel's message. The spirit which attends the one cannot be in harmony with the other. The Scriptures are plain upon the relations and rights of men and women. Spiritualists have, to quite an extent, adopted this singular mode of dress.” – 1T p.421
On this thought, Ellen White mentions spiritualism in connection with the women's rights movement. “Spiritualism and women's rights drew from the same well... Not all women's rights advocates became spiritualists, but spiritualism embraced woman's rights.” (Quoted by Laurel Damsteegt in Prove All Things, p.254)
Ordination of Ellen White
In his biography of Ellen White, Arthur White stated that at the 1883 General Conference Session, “Ellen White, whose ordination was at the hands of God and not men, was given ministerial credentials.” – Lonely Years, p.267
The credentials used for Ellen White stated “Ordained Minister” because it was the only credential form available at the time. On her 1885 credential, the word 'ordained' was struck out, but not on her 1887 certificate.
Evidence that Ellen White was not ordained as a minister by man is given in her 'Biographical Information' form that she personally filled out for General Conference records in 1909. Item 19 asked, “If ordained state when, where, and by whom.” She wrote “X”. She gave the same response to Item 26, which asked, “If remarried, give date, and to whom.” Placing an “X” at each of these questions, she indicated that the questions did not apply to her as she was never ordained by man and had never remarried. (Information available on file 701 in the E G White Estate Branch Office, James White Library, Andrews University.)
The information given here is drawn from “Women Gospel Workers” The Time of the End, by James Hayward; Appendix 22, p.557. The purpose of this article is to stimulate and encourage personal study, also to find answers to the many questions.
Based on The Time of the End, by James Hayward, p.267-270.