GOD INSPIRED ELLEN WHITE TO OPEN PASTORAL LEADERSHIP TO WOMEN

 

Ellen White has made it very clear that women can be pastors, gospel ministers, and managers of churches in multiple quotes. And linguistics and context rule out any other understanding quite conclusively. She says

“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 accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God.” Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church 6:322

Some have irrationally tried to say that pastor here just means a canvasser. But she is clearly saying that people can get a great training for leading churches by engaging in canvassing work. Very true. Canvassing and pastoring have several identical or related duties and so canvassing is great preparation for a person who wants to become a pastor.

This becomes even clearly when you read how she writes in praise of how the Vaudois ministers got training first as missionaries, then became pastors. This parallels her quote above of pastors first being canvassers, showing again that her statement that both men and women can become pastors is referring to leaders of the church,.

“The Vaudois ministers were trained as missionaries, everyone who expected to enter the ministry being required first to gain an experience as an evangelist. Each was to serve three years in some mission field before taking charge of a church at home. This service, requiring at the outset self-denial and sacrifice, was a fitting introduction to the pastor’s life in those times that tried men’s souls. The youth who received ordination to the sacred office saw before them, not the prospect of earthly wealth and glory, but a life of toil and danger, and possibly a martyr’s fate. The missionaries went out two and two, as Jesus sent forth His disciples. With each young man was usually associated a man of age and experience, the youth being under the guidance of his companion, who was held responsible for his training, and whose instruction he was required to heed. These colaborers were not always together, but often met for prayer and counsel, thus strengthening each other in the faith.” {GC 70.2}

“Young men and young women who should be engaged in the ministry … should not be bound down to mechanical employment. … Some will be trained to enter the field as missionary nurses, some as canvassers, and some as gospel ministers.” (Testimonies for the Church, 8:229-230)

“It is not always men who are best adapted to the successful management of a church.” (Pastoral Ministry, p. 36).

“There are women who should labor in the gospel ministry. In many respects they would do more good than the ministers who neglect to visit the flock of God. Husband and wife may unite in this work, and when it is possible, they should. The way is open for consecrated women.” Evangelism, 472. Manuscript 43a, 1898

One pastor has read through Ellen White’s writings and found that the term “in the gospel ministry” is used almost exclusively of people who are in charge of a church.

Some well meaning people have tried to claim that the term “pastor” and “gospel ministers” don’t really mean leaders of churches. This is kind of like the argument of some well meaning Christians who say that when the Bible says God created, it’s only a metaphor and God in fact used Darwinism. They claim that these terms only refers to personal work in the home while a minister is the leader of a church. But that is not justified by dictionaries of the time, nor by her usage, nor by practice at Ellen White’s time (since there were dozens of female licensed ministers including some who were leaders of churches).

I spent hours looking through most cases of how she used the terms “pastor” and “minister”. service of many kinds. If you look at the verb form of those words, they are often used to refer to:

A) the work of managing a church, preaching and doing administrative work as the spiritual leader of the church
B) work done by Bible workers of both sexes to spread the gospel in a variety of ways (home Bible studies, helping the poor, the sick, those who are oppressed, etc.

In the verb form, especially the term minister can refer to many kinds of work done by many believers, but also the leader of the church.

In the noun form however, “pastor” and “minister” almost exclusively refer to a spiritual ordained leader of a congregation who is managing it for God. That’s also what it meant in dictionaries of the time.

“pastor:
1. A shepherd; one that has the care of flocks and herds.

B. A minister of the gospel who has the charge of a church and congregation, whose duty is to watch over the people of his charge, and instruct them in the sacred doctrines of the Christian religion. ”
http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/pastor

All definitions of” minister” in Webster’s dictionary refer to an executive leader of some type, whether in the government or the church.

“minister:
One who serves at the altar; one who performs sacerdotal duties; the pastor of a church, duly authorized or licensed to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.”
http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,minister

It’s the same in modern dictionaries too.

pastor: A minister in charge of a Christian church or congregation, especially in some non-episcopal churches. www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/pastor

So either Ellen White was talking about shepherds of animals or a leader of a church. Take your pick. There is simply no linguistic justification at all for claiming that pastor in the quote above was used as anything but a leader of a church.

She speaks of pastors as leaders of the church in many quotes like this:
Especially is this true of the pastor, who is to care for and feed the flock of God. The one whose special work it is to lead the people into the path of truth, should be an able expositor of the word, capable of adapting his teachings to the wants of the people. He should be so closely connected with Heaven as to become a living channel of light, a mouth-piece for God.{GW92 70.1}
Ellen White used these 2 terms, “pastor” and “minister” interchangeably in many cases, such as these:
“A pastor should mingle freely with the people for whom he labors, that by becoming acquainted with them he may know how to adapt his teaching to their needs. When a minister has preached a sermon, his work has but just begun. There is personal work for him to do. He should visit the people in their homes, talking and praying with them in earnestness and humility.” {AA 363.2}

So visiting homes is a major job of pastors/ministers. When Ellen White speaks of visitation then, it can’t be assumed that this is a role unconnected to the job of a minister as some have tried to argue.

 

Another interesting thing she says is that canvassers, medical doctors, teachers and should be fully empowered to do the work of a minister, including baptizing people. So, no one should be banning women from baptizing people that they have worked to bring to salvation with God’s help.

“When one goes out as a physician, gospel teacher, and canvasser, he should be fully empowered to do the work of a minister. When under his labors souls accept the truth and give evidence of true conversion, he is to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And such workers should have the sympathy and cooperation of those who remain at home. {13MR 213.3}
Ellen White has many quotes where she emphasizes that the need and importance of women being spiritual leaders and preaching in our churches.

“The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth.” (Review and Herald, Jan. 2, 1879).

“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.” (Testimonies, 3:484)

“I [Sister White] ask not permission to take the desk [pulpit] in the tabernacle. I take it as my rightful position accorded me of God.” (Manuscript 30, June 1889)

“Study the Scriptures for further light on this point [women in ministry]. Women were among Christ’s devoted followers in the days of His ministry, and Paul makes mention of certain women who were helpers together with him in the gospel (see Phil. 4:2-3).” (Letter 142, 1909; Manuscript Releases, Vol. 12, pp. 166-167).

“It is wholehearted, thoroughly decided men and women who will stand now. Christ sifted His followers again and again, until at one time there remained only eleven and a few faithful women to lay the foundation of the Christian church.” (Testimonies, 5:130)

There was also a resolution at one GC proceeding for the ordination of women, but it seems that for some technical or political reason it was tabled, delayed and then forgotten, even though there was support for it. The significant point though is that EGW never wrote against ordaining women at this time or any other, even though she very easily could have.

“Resolved, That females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.This was discussed by J. O. Corliss, A. C. Bourdeau, E. R. Jones, D. H. Larnson, W. H. Littlejohn, A. S. Hutchins, D. M. Canright, and J. N. Loughborough, and referred to the General Conference Committee.”–Report on Dec 5, 1881 GC Business Proceedings in RH, December 20, 1881.

In summary, we have a great deal of evidence from the Bible and in Ellen White and SDA history of women being authorized to be pastors of churches, preaching and fulfilling all leadership roles just as men do. It’s about time we live up fully to the light we have been given if it does not cause harm to God’s work.

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