“Why?” Mariet Hardy Freeland’s Defense of Women’s Ordination Part 1

Rev. Freeland and Evangelist Mariet Hardy Freeland (1908)

by Mariet Hardy Freeland

Editors note: Pay attention to how she crafts a defense of ordination that is both logical and spiritual. It is soundly grounded in Scripture and written using numerous examples to make her rhetorical points.

Why should woman be ordained? or, in other words, why should woman be granted the full endorsement of the church upon her call to work for God and souls?

To ordain, ecclesiastically, is to set apart for a special purpose or work. It is but the endorsement of the church of those already chosen of God for special service. In all Methodist churches it owes much of its significance to the fact that it is the only door into the conference. No one can be admitted into any Methodist conference until ordained or considered eligible by to the orders by the vote of the conference.

If the writer understands the question correctly it is this: Does the word of God and experience show that God does call any woman to give all her time, her talent, her all, to the work of the ministry? If this be a fact (which I believe can be fully proved from the word of God and is now being proved by experience in the efficiency and success of more than thirty females who are acting as supplies within the borders of the Free Methodist Church,) then, in the language, of the eunuch which reference to baptism I would say, “What hinders that she should not be ordained?”

  1. She should stand side by side with man as a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, because God by the mouth of his prophet Joel, has placed her there. “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” – Joel 2:28,29. Notice here two distinct classes who were to receive the Holy Ghost: (1) “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”;  (2) “And also upon the servants and upon the handmaidens will I pour out my Spirit.” Thus, we find woman among the ministers and laity on an equal footing with man in this prophecy of the oncoming Holy Ghost or Gospel dispensation which was declared by Peter to have been actually ushered in by the might outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Does God make mistakes? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, “Why hast thou made me thus?” No one, under the baptism of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, questions the other’s right to obey the Spirit’s leadings, but they all, men and women, spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. This was ushering in the Gospel dispensation, wherein “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”- Gal. 3:28. Whatever then may have been woman’s place as a result of transgression, one object of the dispensation of the Spirit is to restore her to her original place by the side of man, to be a help meet for him in life’s great battle.
  2. Woman should receive ordination, when her gifts, graces and fruits indicate her worthy of the full endorsement of the church, the same as man, not only because God places her side by side with man in the dispensation of the Spirit, but also because she needs it in order to full efficiency and success just as much as man does; if not even more than he needs it. Would men, with all his courage and strength of character, consent to be forever on probation or act as supply in the work of the ministry? How many, think you, could be induced to occupy that position for life, with no possibility of ever getting into conference with equal right to all privileges and responsibilities of full members? Would you not, my brethren, be inclined to think if you could have no part in the privileges of ministry, you could not, or would not share its responsibilities in bearing the burden and heat of the day? How many, for instance, is it to be supposed, would give all the time and strength of youth and middle age to work for souls as Free Methodists ministers, on the very limited salaries of the present day, if they knew they could have no claim on the fund for superannuated preachers, widows and orphans? And yet, this is just woman’s place as long as she is not allowed to be ordained and come into conference in full connection.
  3. The wants of God’s work demand the ordination of woman. “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his harvest,” saith the Master. The world is ripening for the sickle of truth. Soon the sickle of God’s wrath will be thrust in and time shall be no more.

1)  The work of God in our own land demands the full utilization of every available instrumentality to drive the battle on. Calls for laborers are long and long; but, too often the only response that can be given to these Macedonian cries, is “We have no one to send.” When this state of things existed in Canada years ago, women were sent out two by two to show the people the way to God and break the break of life in their starving souls. Then the demand was temporarily met. How well they succeeded can be best told by those acquainted with the work of there. It was my privilege, incidentally, to hear a report from one saved through their instrumentality. He is not a devoted Christian – a real Free Methodist and a resident of South Dakota. He said he though the community where he lived in Canada was so wicked and prejudiced against those professing religion that they could not have been reached by man; but when women came and told the story of the cross it took hold of the hearts of the people and many were saved – he among the rest. He felt sure they accomplished what no man could have done. Nor is this an isolated instance. Many more might be given.

2) The needs of foreign fields demand that female missionaries go out fully equipped for service. Especially is this important in India, where custom does not allow married women to be seen by any man but their own husbands. Woman is taught that the touch of a man’s hand upon her head is pollution.

     Our two dear sisters now in India are an object lesson for us. Away from all other missionaries, with no authority from the church to administer her sacred rites, I know not that they have been privileged with the Sacrament during the years of their stay thus far. Since all admit that God calls woman to missionary work, should she not have the full endorsement of the church as well as man? How else can she fully obey the Master’s commission to “Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?

      But, has not enough been said to show that this is a question of vital importance to the Christian church? The editor of the  Illustrated Christian Weekly said some years since, in one of his editorials at the time when the question of  woman’s work began to agitate the public mind with unusual interest: “Happy would it be for the individual or people, who should discover the proper channel through which latent energies of the Christian church, in its female membership, might be developed and rendered available for the building up of God’s kingdom among men.” Since the time when these sentiments were uttered great changes have taken place in the condition of woman. Out of weakness has come strength. In the various departments of science, literature and the arts she is vying with her brother man, oft outstripping him in the race. Since she has proved herself capable of accomplishing everything she has been permitted to attempt in the civil, social or religious world even to self-governed in the legal use of the elective franchise, and the position of ordained pastor over churches; and still onward is her watchword. Can any say God has had no hand in this? Rather would we gladly recognize his guidance in it all, rendering a full solution to the problem presented by the editor named.

(To be continued)

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