Women Keeping Silence In Churches -- By: William Deloss Love

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 035:137 (Jan 1878)
Article: Women Keeping Silence In Churches
Author: William Deloss Love

Women Keeping Silence In Churches

Rev. William Deloss Love

On Sunday, Oct. 13, 1845, died Mrs. Elizabeth Gurney Pry, in the sixty-sixth year of her age. Her excellent natural endowments were remarkably graced with culture and refinement. She became an earnest Christian in early womanhood, and soon entered upon a career of philanthropy unusual for that period, continuing in it thirty-five years, to the end of her life. She became a preacher of the Society of Friends, and as such had a lengthened experience in addressing public audiences. She travelled much on the British Isles and through continental Europe, and was often admitted to kings’ palaces. Much interest centered about her prison-reforms, of which she often spoke in public; but her most effective discourses were upon the spiritual truths of the gospel. Often addressing women alone, she still did not scruple to speak in the presence of men when she thought herself constrained to do so by the Holy Spirit. Her larger audiences are reported as numbering fifteen hundred, and sometimes three thousand, persons. Kings, courtiers, and their families, with many of the most intelligent and refined men and women of cities and realms, assembled to hear her. Yet was she the mother of eleven children, whose training and development she by no means neglected; two of her

daughters giving to the world the memoirs of their mother in a set of very interesting volumes.

These facts in the life of Elizabeth Pry suggest some inquiries concerning the Pauline direction that women keep silence in the churches.—Was that command binding on her? Was there anything indelicate in her appearing before men, as well as women, to speak and to teach? In so doing did she lack in proper subjection to her husband? Was hers a case of exception? If in these days we are not in all respects bound to the inspired letter of eighteen centuries ago, what relieves us, and how far does our wider privilege extend?

It is obvious that the leading questions on this subject are not yet settled. The two extreme views advocated are these: First, that silence at this day, and in all ages, is enjoined upon all women in all religious assemblies where men are present; second, that the command of silence was binding only upon Grecian women who had just been converted from idolatry, but not yet from all ignorance and its degradation. Is there not a golden mean between these two opinions which will reconcile all Scripture on this subject, and at the same time satisfy a conscientious regard for the divine word and all rational demands of the most active and also of the most cultivated modern society?

The two passages which enjoin the silence of women are from the i...

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