women in ministry: phoebe palmer (1807 -1874)

Phoebe Palmer often considered the mother of the American holiness movement. The wife of a physician in New York City, Phoebe Palmer and her sister Sarah Lankford held “Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness” (Hogan, 2000, p. 216), a series of small group gatherings for women designed to make a case for holiness. “The influence of these meetings with her writings undoubtedly made her the greatest promoter of entire sanctification in the century” (Howard, 1971, p. 34).

“Before women could argue for changes in their social, political, or religious status, they first had to secure the right to mount the platform or pulpit” (Hogan, 2000, p. 211).  During a time in which the resistance to women public speaking was intense, Phoebe Palmer’s “Tuesday Meetings began for women in 1835, and by 1839 their popularity had grown, and attendance was opened to men (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 21). “Her influence was further extended by others inaugurating her “Tuesday Meetings.” They were started in half a dozen foreign countries and every major city in the United States. By 1886, 238 such meetingswere being held” (Howard, 1971, p. 34).

Mrs. Palmer was one of the earliest proponents seeking to “overthrow the monopoly of the pulpit” (Hogan, 2000, p. 212). Phoebe Palmer, though not ordained, strived to remove barriers of tradition and scripture in her effort to increase the sphere of women on the platforms and in the pulpits of the church. She became a voice in the in the efforts of the time for women’s rights.  “In 1859, Palmer published The Promise of the Father in an effort to encourage church leaders to allow and support the public speaking and witness of faithful women. In her text, Mrs. Palmer based her argument that women should be allowed to engage in public speaking on behalf of the gospel almost exclusively upon the spiritual equality of between women and men” (Hogan, 2000, p. 213).

bible
While often not included in secular conversations on the topic of women’s rhetorical efforts, Palmer was not only an advocate for women’s rights in the publicly speaking arena she spoke before enormous crowds in the United States, Canada, and Britain (Hogan, 2000, p. 218).

Over the course of the nineteenth century, a generalized cultural portrait of womanhood was established. Quiet and demure, the passive woman was presumed too frail and timid for the public arena and the marketplace, both of which were reserved for man. The woman was suited for the private domestic life of home and family (Hogan, 2000, p. 213).  Women were to remain silent because public speaking was a masculine activity; thus religious leaders of the time formed argumentative boundaries all women, including Phoebe Palmer, were constrained to negotiate.     Male religious leaders often quoted the Apostle Paul, ““woman should be silent in churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but be subordinate, as the law also says,” (1 Cor.14:34-35b)” (Hogan, 2000, p. 214).

Believing it was following the apostle Paul’s lead, the church, throughout its first eighteen-hundred years, generally observed the public silencing of women, excluding them from public speaking and ordained ministry. However, during the life of John Wesley, he would encourage the actions of women within the Methodist class movement (Hogan, 2000, p. 216). With his death, his successor would once again silence women, “therefore when Phoebe Palmer began to speak publicly about biblical teachings and matters of faith, her presence, while grounded in a strong Methodist tradition, was, nevertheless, considered a novelty” (Hogan, 2000, p. 216).

Phoebe Palmer made six modifications (Miskov, 2011, p. 12) to John Wesley’s doctrine of holiness. This view, which came to be called “the Shorter Way” in contrast to Wesley’s more conservative counsel to wait for the inner witness of the Holy Spirit before claiming sanctification” (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 21). Because Wesley was ambiguous in his statements on how one knew when the possessed sanctification (Howard, 1971, p. 31) Palmer’s formula seemed to make holiness more accessible. This accessibility seemingly increased the popularity of the message of holiness and Methodism among everyday people, in spite of the reservations of Traditional Methodist theologians (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 22).

In Palmer’s “shorter way” she offers the urgent call to evangelism and witnessing. Quoting Palmer, Hogan writes, “The Holy Spirit’s quickening flame may fall, energizing your whole being, and the cloven tongue of fire may be given, so that you may feel intense longings to spread the sacred flame, and speak as the Spirit give utterance” (Hogan, 2000, p. 217). Additionally, “Palmer redefined preaching broadly enough to enable women to realize that they had been preaching or prophesying all along. Any time a man, or woman, spoke in public about issues of faith, that man, or woman, was preaching” (Hogan, 2000, p. 219).

Sources

Black, R., & Drury, K. (2012). The Story: The Wesleyan Church. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House.

Hogan, L. L. (2000). Negotiating personhood, womanhood, and spiritual equality: Pheobe Palmer’s defense of the preaching of women. Atq, 14(3), 211-226.

Howard, I. (1971). Wesley versus Phoebe Palmer: an extend controversy. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 6(1), 31-40.

Lowery, K. T. (2001). A fork in the Wesleyan road: Phoebe Palmer and the appropriation of Christian perfection. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 36(2), 187-222.

Miskov, J. A. (2011). Missing links: Phoebe Palmer, Carrie Judd Montgomery, and holiness roots within Pentecostalism. Pentecostudies, 10(1), 8-28.

White, C. E. (1988). Phoebe Palmer and the development of Pentecostal pneumatolgy. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 23(1-2), 198-212.


AUTHORS NOTE
This is an edited version of original work submitted for CHST-536-00A Wesleyan Church History/Polity, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, March 23, 2017.

unity of the faith: an authentic congregation

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NRSV)

If I agree and I do that the gifts described in Ephesians 4:11 emphasize living outside the church’s internal life.  I must accept responsibility for my gifting. If gifted as an apostle I acknowledge that God sends me. If gifted as a prophet I boldly and unapologetically proclaim the will of God. As an Evangelist, I spread the good news, as a pastor I minister to and protect the congregation, or as a teacher, I serve as an instructor of the Christian life. And with that acceptance, I must be sure that I carry out my work in such a way that I am equipping other followers of Christ for the work of the ministry. Responsible for building up the global church, until all of us, come to the unity of the faith. These gifts whichever I possess open up the opportunity to move the body of Christ to a place of united-ness, emphasizing a continual, dynamic relatedness of diverse peoples – to work toward moving the whole congregation toward intercultural life.

There are verbal and written desires for the worship on Sunday to reflect the residents of countless communities. For our communities of faith to become more culturally diverse. Does the average faith community understand the implications of such a racial shift? Does average faith community know that this move is about becoming an agent of racial reconciliation and authentic diversity? Are whole congregations willing to move toward intercultural life? And how would this cross-cultural life be authentic not just visible in the community?

Such a shift requires an ongoing commitment to diversity in worship and understanding that other people’s experience and response to Spirit in worship may be different and uncomfortable. Congregations must be willing to discuss openly the pain of racism that persists in America. There must be acknowledgment that the ever-changing nature of the church, relationships and contexts; calls for real engagement and mutuality; and pays attention to narratives of large and small similarities and differences (Branson & Martinez, 2011), and ultimately takes action steps to bridge the divide, which will prayerful propel us to authentic community.

If intercultural life is to be authentic whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher each must perform responsibilities in such a way that the congregation understands these implications and benefits. As a congregation, people of faith must hear and validate the narratives of every individual’s ethnic heritage and those of the surrounding cultures in our community to understand better our identity and our responsibility in the world (Branson & Martinez, 2011).

While leading the migration toward social reconciliation across cultural barriers the focus is not solely on demographic data but encompasses discerning and moving toward unique ways of unity and diversity. Congregations should look at the diversity that exists, while not evident at first glance. Cultural diversity within a community of faith can first be found within the unique heritage of those that gather together. Many Anglo-congregations have members, regular attendees, and casual seekers from Europe, Asia, South American, Africa, and the Caribbean. However, these influences play silently in the background to a Euro/Caucasian American experience. The challenge that we face and are working overcome is to allow these influences to be a visible part of our experiences together.

While there is no clear map toward goals of intercultural life, attitudes and convictions must continue drive the congregation toward completing the work necessary to understand our uniqueness, celebrate our diversity and stay the course toward becoming a multiethnic church, allowing our various ethnic and cultural backgrounds come together to form an authentic congregation (Branson & Martinez, 2011).

Bibliography
Branson, M. L., & Martinez, J. F. (2011). Churches Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

now faith revisited…

I began this blog 10-years ago with a simple post entitled now faith, I invite you to read the full text below…

From 24 March 2007

There is something wonderful to be said about serving a God that breathes new life into me. A God, who speaks to me daily, and sharing the journey of the experience with others. I have recently had to opportunity to realized just how blessed I am. I have a group of strong Christian friends, girlfriends, sister-friends, mommy-friends and so many more in my corner to pray for and with me. Available to pray at all times even the inconvenient times (late at night, middle of the workday).

I read the Bible often, lately I have been drawn to The Message paraphrase, and I begin this blog with a passage of scripture that sums up its (the blog’s) very existence:

Hebrews 11:1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

Today 25 March 2017

I still stand in awe of God, my faith in Him truly makes life worth living…