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Women Engaged in the Ministry
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Some have thought the following passage calls for women to serve as ministers in the same capacity as men: “Young men and young women who should be engaged in the ministry, in Bible work, and in the canvassing work should not be bound down to mechanical employment.” 22 The context is a call for our institutions to train young people for evangelistic work.

One could argue that in this statement Mrs. White is urging both young men and young women to go into all three lines of labor. But that is not necessarily the case. The statement may be understood simply as urging young people to go into whichever line of evangelistic work that is suitable to them, without trying to specify what is appropriate to each gender. The burden of the message is not to change church policy to make room for women to serve in the same capacities as men, but rather to encourage the employment of both men and women in soulwinning work.

“Woman Ministry”

“Address the crowd whenever you can.” 23 This injunction, published in Evangelism in a section the compilers entitled “Women in Public Ministry,” was directed to Mrs. S.M.I. Henry, who had been granted a ministerial license the previous year. Some have taken it as Mrs. White's encouragement for women to seek a preaching ministry, which today is equated with being an ordained minister of the church.

But in this injunction Ellen White is not promoting the employment of women as ministers in the usual sense of the term. The statement is in a letter from Mrs. White, published in Mrs. Henry's column in the Review , expressing a concern for the women of the church to be instructed in how to be servants of Jesus. 24 Earlier paragraphs make it plain that Mrs. White was encouraging Mrs. Henry to minister to and address groups of women:

“If we can arrange, as you are now working, to have regularly organized companies intelligently instructed in regard to the part they should act as servants of the Master, our churches will have life and vitality such as have been so long needed.

“Christ our Saviour appreciated the excellency of the soul. Our sisters have generally a very hard time, with their increasing families and their unappreciated trials. I have so longed for women who could be educators to help them to arise from their discouragement, and to feel that they could do a work for the Lord.” 25

Mrs. Henry spoke to Adventist and non-Adventist groups throughout the United States and Canada, presenting her plan for “woman ministry,” which stressed the role of the mother in the moral education of society. Her work was the first approach the Adventist Church made to training parents and helping them with their problems. 26

When Ellen White herself published the material she had written to Mrs. Henry, she did not publish the entire letter, but reworked portions of it for general use. She published it in Testimonies , under the title “Women to Be Gospel Workers.” 27 And she left out the section containing the words “address the crowd whenever you can.”

Mrs. White called for greater involvement of women in the work of the church. She encouraged a greater diversity of methods of labor, and she wanted women to see what great things they could accomplish for the Master. But she had no concern with today's social agenda. Her statements neither support ordination for women nor explicitly forbid it. None of her writings deals directly with this issue. It appears to me that she envisioned women fulfilling a role complementary to that of men, without concern for ordination as pastors or elders. God would bless their efforts.

“Women may take their places in the work at this crisis, and the Lord will work through them. If they are imbued with a sense of their duty, and labor under the influence of the Spirit of God, they will have just the self-possession required for this time. The Saviour will reflect upon these self-sacrificing women the light of His countenance, and this will give them a power which will exceed that of men. They can do in families a work that men cannot do, a work that reaches the inner life. They can come close to the hearts of those whom men cannot reach. Their labor is needed.” 28
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