The Golden Age For Women Preachers -- By: Kari Torjesen Malcolm

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 06:4 (Fall 1992)
Article: The Golden Age For Women Preachers
Author: Kari Torjesen Malcolm


The Golden Age For Women Preachers

Kari Torjesen Malcolm

Kari Torjesen Malcolm served for 15 years as a missionary to the Philippines. An author and popular conference speaker in the U.S. and abroad, Kari is a member of the CBE Advisory Board. Her books are available through the CBE book service.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had the privilege of preaching in the church where the Reverend LaDonna Osborne is the pastor. With a twinkle in her eye she told me about her grandson, who hears her preach every Sunday. On Christmas he visited a Baptist church to see his cousins participate in a Christmas pageant. After the program the pastor stood up to make his closing remarks.

“What’s he doing?” whispered the four-year-old.

“Preaching,” answered his mother in hushed tones.

“No, he isn’t,” came the loud whisper, “men don’t preach!”

Culture shock! I had mine not at four but at twenty, when I came to America for the first time to attend Wheaton College. I was told by fellow-students: “Women don’t preach!”

Born and reared in China, except for two furloughs in Norway, I was used to hearing women preach. My parents were with the Norwegian branch of the China Inland Mission, which (until World War II and the Communist take-over of China immediately following) had 1300 missionaries evangelizing and planting churches in the hinterland cities of China. Two-thirds of the 1300 were women. But even the one-third —who later became wives — had to fulfill two years of language study before marriage, so they too could preach and teach in Chinese. Hudson Taylor had started this custom soon after the mission was founded in 1865. Cities that needed to be evangelized might be staffed with a married couple, or with two single women. Either way, that city got two full-fledged commissioned workers who would train a Chinese pastor to shepherd the flock.

Our CIM founder, Hudson Taylor, wrote in an 1888 report: “I am manning my stations with ladies.” This background explains my culture shock on my first arrival in the USA. But since that time, I have discovered the “Golden Age” when women were sent as missionary church planters and preached even in American fundamentalist pulpits.

Turn-of-the-Century Fundamentalists Train Missionary Women

One of the responses to theological liberalism was the movement known as Fundamentalism. Its educational wing had as its goal the evangelizing of America and the world. Hence the Bible institutes (such as Moody, founded in 1889) trained women for missionary service. Janette Hassey reports, “At the turn of the century, Moody women openly served as pastors, evangelists, pulpit supply pre...

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