Commonplace Holiness Holiness woven into the fabric of life...

Steve Holmes on Phoebe Palmer

Just after I posted that last “From Around the Internet” I thought of another blog to which I should definitely link.

Baptist theology professor Steve Holmes recently wrote a piece entitled
“Why I can no longer defend the ministry of women in the Church.” Essentially, he says he can no longer defend this concept because it needs no defense and because the ministry of women puts his own ministry to shame.

And, his leading example is the famous Methodist holiness advocate Phoebe Palmer. here is what he says:

Take Phoebe Palmer.

“She began to be involved in leading a Bible study in New York around 1830. She soon received invitations to preach across the USA and in the UK. Something like 25 000 people were converted by her ministry.

“25 000 people. Converted. Does that need defence? Really?

“She visited prisons regularly, ran a society helping poor people in need of medical attention, and was involved in an ambitious project to challenge the new problem of urban poverty through the provision of low-cost housing, free schooling, and employment. She had a particular concern for orphans throughout her life.

“Challenging injustice on a grand scale. Do you want me to defend that?

The Promise of the Father, and 20-odd other books, she stressed the idea that God could and would give the blessing of holiness in an instant to a believer, and taught that holiness would be gained by faith. This teaching gave rise to the Holiness Movement, which by 1900 had changed the beliefs and practices of almost every evangelical church in America and Britain. Her ideas shaped the early Pentecostal movement, and the modern charismatic movement.

“She formed the spirituality that formed me. She changed the world. Who am I to even think of defending her?

“By any standards, she was one of the most powerful preachers, and most influential leaders, of nineteenth-century American evangelicalism.

“For me to try to defend her ministry would be as ridiculous as a worm trying to defend a lion.

“She did not often encounter criticism for presuming to preach as a woman, but eventually she wrote a defence of the ministry of women,
The Promise of the Father (1859). She argued that it was a clear mark that the gift of the Holy Spirit had come that women as well as men could ‘prophesy’, which to her meant preach powerfully and evangelistically to spread the gospel.

“In the face of so evident a work of the Spirit as was seen in her life, who am I to even consider the question of whether God had called her to preach? It would be offensive, presumptuous – approaching blasphemous – to even accept that the question can be asked.”

For an example of what some Holiness preachers in the 19th Century said about the role of women in the Church see:
Woman's Sphere in the Church (1839) by Amos Binney & Daniel Steele. For a list of women who were leaders in the Wesleyan movements see: Kevin Jackson: Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements.

Since posting the article quoted above, Steve has posted
an interesting reflection on a quote from Gregory of Nyssa on calling God “mother.”

Powered by Disqus
blog comments powered by Disqus