Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach Part 8

Yesterday, we left off with stating that although women were beginning to be shunned from ministry opportunities in the first two centuries A.D., they still shared in the same sufferings of persecution as men.

Being shunned from ministry opportunities was the least of women’s worries. In the middle ages, the witch craze spread across Europe yet at the same time, the Virgin Mary, as well as the courtly lady heard in popular chivalrous tales, were greatly adored.

The well-known and well-respected medieval Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas claimed that women were subordinate and inferior to men, to the extent that he claimed they were the result of ‘an accident’ of the male sperm. In addition, “church law specifically permitted wife beating as a way to control the female corruption and disobedience.”[1]

But things began to change some during The Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. While women were still not allowed to be ordained or govern the church, Martin Luther did agree that under unique circumstances women could temporarily fill in if no other man was available. Luther also included women in the laity.

By the mid-nineteenth century, women began to serve in voluntary roles as charities began to emerge across the United States. “Many of the voluntary societies in America were motivated by a strong desire to bring Christian faith to large segments of the population in the ‘godless’ cities or the ‘barbaric’ frontier.” [2]

It was these Christian missionary societies that opened the door to the rise of feminism, women’s rights and anti-slavery movements. It was also, of course, the door for women to emerge into world missions. “In many countries, women could only be spoken to or approached by other women.”[3] This task was placed mostly on the single woman who did not have a home and children to foster.


[1] Ibid. 44.

[2] Ibid. 97.

[3] Ibid. 104.

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3 thoughts on “Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach Part 8

  1. Pingback: Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach Part 9 | A Closer Look

  2. Pingback: Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach Part 10 | A Closer Look

  3. Pingback: Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach Part 11 | A Closer Look

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