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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Women in Ministry



Luke 2:36
                There is a touchy subject that I want to tackle today; and that is the subject of women in the ministry.  Now stay with me on this.  The question is should we have women preachers?  My answer might surprise you.  I say no...not usually.  Let me explain.  It is a fact that men hear things better when it comes from another man.  In fact, I would dare to believe that as long as the man is a godly man, women probably would listen to a man better than she would another woman. Let me give you a little illustration. Once I was married to a man who loved to ask my opinion about something only to argue with me about why my opinion was either wrong or stupid.  So one day we were taking the kids on a 2 1/2 hour long road trip to go and see my husbands’ parents.  Just before we got in the van my husband asked my opinion about something.  What? I cannot even remember now but that does not matter.  What matters is that for the next 2 1/2 hours we spent either in a heated argument about it or in stone cold silence.  We got to his parents' place, piled out of the van, placed smiles on our faces and went inside.  My husband promptly asks his father the exact same question that he had asked of me 2 1/2 hours earlier!  His dad gave the EXACT same response that I had earlier.  I held my breath and waited for the argument that was sure to follow, but what happened next had my jaw hitting the floor.  Instead of an argument my husband said, "You know, you might be RIGHT, I NEVER thought of it like that before!!!!!" My head said, "WHAT????" I have only been saying the exact same thing for 2 1/2 hours! But he had not EVER heard what I had said.  Why? It's all about respect!  He did not respect me or my opinions.  Generally speaking men are made like that.  They generally respect another man's opinion much better than that of a women's.  It is just nature.  God, knowing how we are generally uses men to spread His messages.    That being said, is there a place for a women to be preaching?  YES.  Why can I say both no and yes? There is undoubtable Biblical evidence for the man to be the head of the household and by extension the leader or pastor of the church.  We look at texts in the Bible such as Genesis 3:16 "Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." and the very controversial 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 " Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."  This verse has been explained by some this way:  Back in Biblical times the women sat in the balconies and thus had to shout to ask their husbands questions.  This would have created some chaos with different people shouting back and forth.  While I can accept this explanation there are others who cannot.  The reason that I accept this as the best explanation is that the rest of the chapter is talking about only one person speaking at a time and if they speak in tongues someone should interpret.  Thus the main idea of the chapter is to reduce chaos in the sanctuary.
            For those that maybe will still not accept that explanation let's explore the Bible a little further.  Our scripture reading for today is found in the Book of Acts chapter 2 and verses 17 and 18, which reads: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon ALL flesh: and your sons AND your DAUGHTERS shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:"  These verses are quoted from the book of Joel chapter 2 verses 28-29 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit"  The wording is almost the same!  So a prophet, in Biblical times was God's chosen messenger or "preacher".  Let's take a look at some Biblical examples and then a modern day example.
            In order Biblically there are at least six women called prophetesses in the Bible.  Miriam is listed in Exodus 15:20 "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances." Deborah is mentioned in Judges 4:4 "And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.  Huldah is mentioned third in 2 Kings 22:14 "So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her."  Fourth is Noadiah, which seems actually to be a false "prophetess" according to Nehemiah 6:14 "My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear."  These people were trying to stop the Jews from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  The fifth one isn't even listed by her name, she is the wife of Isaiah the prophet and she can be found in the book of Isaiah 8:3 "And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher–shalal–hash–baz."  The last woman in the Bible that we will read about is found in Luke 2:36 Anna--"And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;"
            Let us take a turn now to a more modern story.  It is one that this church was founded upon.  It is the story of two men the first one is William Foy.  William E. Foy, a member of the Freewill Baptist Church, who was preparing for the ministry, was given two visions in Boston in 1842—one on January 18 and the other on February 4. In the first of these revelations, Foy viewed the glorious reward of the faithful and the punishment of sinners. Not being instructed to relate to others what was shown him, he told no one of his vision; but he had no peace of mind. In the second revelation he witnessed the multitudes of earth arraigned before heaven's bar of judgment; a “mighty angel” with silver trumpet in hand about to descend to earth by “three steps;” the books of record in heaven; the coming of Christ and the reward of the faithful. He was bidden, “Thou must reveal those things which thou hast seen, and also warn thy fellow creatures to flee from the wrath to come.”—The Christian Experience of Wm. E. Foy, Together With the Two Visions He Received (1845). Two days after this revelation he was requested by the pastor of the Bloomfield Street church in Boston to relate the visions.  Although he was a fluent speaker, he reluctantly complied, fearing that the general prejudice against visions, and the fact that he was a mulatto, would make his work difficult. The “large congregation assembled” was spellbound, and with this initial encouragement, Foy traveled three months, delivering his message to “crowded houses.” Then to secure means to support his family, he left public work for a time, but, finding “no rest day nor night,” he took it up again. Ellen Harmon, when but a girl, heard him speak at Beethoven Hall in Portland, Maine. (Interview of D. E. Robinson with Mrs. E. G. White, 1912. White Publications, D.F. 231.) Near the time of the expectation in 1844, according to J. N. Loughborough, Foy was given a third vision in which were presented three platforms, which he could not understand in the light of his belief in the imminent coming of Christ, and he ceased public work. (The Great Second Advent Movement, pages 146, 147.) It so happened that a short time after this, Foy was present at a meeting in which Ellen Harmon related her first visions. She did not know that he was present until he interrupted with a shout, and exclaimed that it was just what he had seen. (D.F. 231.) Foy did not live long after this.
 Then God called on Hazen Foss.  As it happens, Hazen Foss was related to Ellen Harmon, for his brother was married to Ellen's older sister Mary.  Hazen Foss was given some of the same visions that were later given to Ellen.  Near the time of the expected advent in the fall of 1844, there was also given to Hazen Foss, a young Adventist of talent, a revelation of the experience of the advent people. Shortly after the passing of the time, he was bidden to relate the vision to others, but this he was disinclined to do. He was warned of God as to the consequences of failing to relate to others what had been revealed to him, and was told that if he refused, the light would be given to someone else. But he felt very keenly the disappointment of 1844, and “said that he had been deceived.” After a severe mental conflict, he “decided he would not relate the visions.” Then, “very strange feelings came to him, and a voice said, ‘You have grieved away the Spirit of the Lord.’”—E. G. White Letter 37, 1890. “Horrified at his stubbornness and rebellion,” he “told the Lord that he would relate the vision,” but when he attempted to do so before a company of believers, he could not call it to mind. In vain were his attempts to call up the scenes as they had been shown to him; and then in deep despair he exclaimed, “It is gone from me; I can say nothing, and the Spirit of the Lord has left me.” Eyewitnesses described it as “the most terrible meeting they were ever in.”—Ibid.
           Early in 1845, Foss overheard Ellen Harmon relate her first vision to the company of believers at Portland, Maine. He recognized her account as a description of what was shown to him. Upon meeting her the next morning, he recounted his experience, of which she had not before known, and encouraged her to faithfully perform her work, stating: “I believe the visions are taken from me and given to you. Do not refuse to obey God, for it will be at the peril of your soul. I am a lost man. You are chosen of God; be faithful in doing your work, and the crown I might have had, you will receive.”—Ibid. On comparing dates, they discovered that it was not until after he had been told that the visions were taken from him, that Ellen Harmon was given her first revelation. Although Hazen Foss lived till 1893, he never again manifested interest in matters religious. (Arthur L. White in Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, pages 29, 30.)
           Here is Ellen White's description of Foss's experience: Washington, D.C. December 22, 1890.
Dear Sister Mary Foss:
            “I wrote to you a few days ago, and now another matter comes up. Elder Loughborough is writing me, asking if I know of any one now alive who was present at the meeting I have mentioned held at MacGuire's Hill, where I related the first visions I had. You know Hazen Foss had visions once. He was firm in the faith that Christ would come in 1844. He interpreted the visions given him in harmony with his belief that time would close in 1844. After the time passed, he was told by the Lord to relate the visions to others. But he was too proud spirited to do this. He had a severe conflict, and then decided he would not relate the visions. The people had assembled to hear him, but he refused. The first vision given to me while in Portland, Maine, was right after this decision. I had three visions, and was then bidden to relate these to others. At this time your husband, Mr. Foss, came to our house in Portland in a sleigh, and said that Mary was anxious that Ellen should visit her. I thought that this was an opening from the Lord. I was in feeble health; my lungs were diseased; I was spitting blood. But I decided to go with your husband. As I could not bear the cold air, I sat in the bottom of the sleigh, with the buffalo robe over my head. I had not spoken in a loud voice for some time. After I arrived at Poland, you said that there was to be a meeting at MacGuire's Hill, and asked me to go. I went with you and your husband. There, that night, I stood upon my feet to relate the testimony given me of God. For above five minutes I labored to speak, and then everything broke away, and my voice was as clear as a bell, I talked for about two hours. I knew nothing of the experience Hazen Foss had been passing through. In this meeting the power of the Lord came upon me and upon the people. The next day I had related to me the exercises of Hazen Foss. I was told by one, in the presence of a room full, that they had urged Hazen Foss to tell them the things which the Lord had shown him. He had been greatly disappointed that the Lord did not come in '44. He said that he had been deceived, and he refused to obey the promptings of the Spirit of God. After having plainly declared that he would not go from place to place and relate the visions God had given him, very strange feelings came to him, and a voice said, ‘You have grieved away the Spirit of the Lord.’ He was horrified at his stubbornness and rebellion, and told the Lord that he would relate the vision. The Lord had told him that if he refused, He would give the light to someone else, and when he attempted to relate the vision, his mind could not grasp it. He tried and tried to relate it, but he said, ‘It is gone from me; I can say nothing, and the Spirit of the Lord has left me.’ Those who gave a description of that meeting said it was the most terrible meeting they were ever in. The next morning, I met Hazen Foss. Said he, ‘Ellen, I want to speak with you. The Lord gave me a message to bear to His people, and I refused after being told the consequences. I was proud; I was unreconciled to the disappointment. I murmured against God, and wished myself dead. Then I felt a strange feeling come over me. I shall be henceforth as one dead to spiritual things. I heard you talk last night. I believe the visions are taken from me, and given to you. Do not refuse to obey God, for it will be at the peril of your soul. I am a lost man. You are chosen of God; be faithful in doing your work, and the crown I might have had, you will receive."
           Thus within nineteenth-century Adventism one finds strong anti-slavery actions, women licensed as ministers, and health reform principles that included abolition of alcohol and tobacco within the membership  
The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Ellen White about his experience.
            Ellen Harmon, who became Ellen White also did not want to share the visions that God had begun to give her.  She was a sickly woman who could barely speak due to having tuberculosis.  But God warned her repeatedly by the examples of the previous men that she should not grieve the Holy Spirit by refusing to share the light that she had been given.

           Despite our limited knowledge of them and their activities, several vital points are apparent. While they are fewer in number than the male prophets, yet there is every reason to believe that their sex caused no distinction to be made in their prophetic function. They are pictured as leading the nation, explaining the Scriptures, counseling leaders, and making predictions. They were recognized as God's spokesmen, and their testimonies were accepted as the messages of Jehovah.

            This question is not for men to settle. The Lord has 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. Their work is just the work that must be done, and should be encouraged. In many respects a woman can impart knowledge to her sisters that a man cannot. The cause would suffer great loss without this kind of labor by women. Again and again the Lord has shown me that women teachers are just as greatly needed to do the work to, which He has appointed them as are men.—Evangelism, 493 (1903). {DG 105.2}
            Women to Receive Wages for Their Work—There are ministers’ wives—Sisters Starr, Haskell, Wilson, and Robinson—who have been devoted, earnest, whole-souled workers, giving Bible readings and praying with families, helping along by personal efforts just as successfully as their husbands. These women give their whole time, and are told that they receive nothing for their labors because their husbands receive wages. I tell them to go forward and all such decisions will be revised. The Word says, “The labourer is worthy of his hire.” Luke 10:7. When any such decision as this is made, I will, in the name of the Lord, protest. I will feel it my duty to create a fund from my tithe money to pay these women who are accomplishing just as essential work as the ministers are doing, and this tithe I will reserve for work in the same line as that of the ministers, hunting for souls, fishing for souls. {DG 106.1}
            I know that the faithful women should be paid wages as it is considered proportionate to the pay received by ministers. They carry the burden of souls and should not be treated unjustly. These sisters are giving their time to educating those newly come to the faith and hire their own work done and pay those who work for them. All these things must be adjusted and set in order and justice be done to all. Proofreaders in the office receive their wages; those who are working at housework receive their wages, two dollars and a half and three dollars a week. This I have had to pay and others have to pay. But ministers’ wives, who carry a tremendous responsibility, devoting their entire time, have nothing for their labor.—Manuscript Releases 12:160 (1898). {DG 106.2}

Biblically, and in modern times, God mostly chooses men to lead and guide His people.  However, when for whatever reason, a man could not be found that WOULD do the job, God chooses women. I really only needed one text to prove my point and that is 1 Corinthians 1:27 "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" Okay just a little joke, but in all seriousness sometimes the "mighty" preachers get wrapped up in the Greek or Hebrew meanings of the words.  I don't know about you but sometimes it makes me despair of learning the Bible because I don't know Greek or Hebrew.  Just because I don't have a big fancy theological degree doesn't mean that God's Spirit can't speak through me or anyone else. However, God gave guidelines for us to follow as to who should be our leaders.  The basic principles are that the person, whether man or woman that we put in leadership roles should be people filled with God's Holy Spirit, honorable, just, and upright in character.  But that no matter who we are, if God gives us a message to spread we must spread it no matter what or our very souls could be in danger.

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