Remembering Our Foremothers: Does It Matter? -- By: Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Remembering Our Foremothers: Does It Matter?
Author: Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

Remembering Our Foremothers: Does It Matter?

Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, author of Equal to Serve, was a founding board member of CBE and lectures on biblical equality. Reprinted from Priscilla Papers 7:1, Winter 1993.

Why should we highlight women in Bible times and throughout Christian history? Wouldn’t it be more timely to focus on women in the church today, by discussing their present aspirations? Aren’t twentieth-century movements what will influence not only the contemporary church, but also it future course?

Learning front the Past

There are at least three answer to those questions. First, and most obvious, we cannot begin to understand the modern world unless we have an appreciation of how present-day society relates to the sweep of human history. Our twentieth-century Christian concerns have not sprung from a vacuum, but reflect reactions to doctrinal positions and denominational practices that themselves have been the result of historical process. Thus we cannot properly evaluate current trends and tensions unless we have some understanding of their origin and development over past centuries.

For example, today increasing pressure mounts to expand lay involvement in the church. As we consider the sharp divide that has emerged in many denominations between ordained clergy and the laity, we ask: What can we learn from both Old Testament and New Testament about such a ministry division? What was the first Christians’ understanding of ministry? Studying early church structure and practice will help us assess the validity of continuing a sharp distinction between clergy and laity. It may also lead to a reappraisal of our contemporary definitions of “laity” and “clergy.”

Learning from our historical past means reclaiming the many and varied biblical examples of God’s faithful female servants. Although all too many so-called “Bible-believing Christians” have no memory of women like Judge Deborah, Prophetess Huldah, or Pastor Phoebe, for God, there are no “forgotten women.” “All Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Therefore it is we who are spiritually impoverished if we overlook the many positive female role models God caused to be recorded in our inerrant Scripture. Of the women who offered Jesus her lavish devotion, he said: “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will b...

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