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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while many American denominations were still silencing the public voices of women in the churches, the founder of the Church of the Nazarene purportedly exclaimed: “Some of our best ‘men’ are women!” Since its founding in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene—like several other major Holiness denominations—has ordained women to all offices of ministry in the church. In this regard, the Holiness tradition stands out in an extraordinary fashion from most other major Christian traditions in America at that time. In the words of sociologist Bryan Wilson, “The Holiness Movement in its varied forms brought women to the fore, perhaps more than any previous development in Christianity.”1

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Pardon this mother,

sir,

but I’m not leaving.

Most people seem to think He came to the world looking like that:

a grown thirty-three-year-old man with a mission to accomplish.

Well, it wasn’t like that.

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I have always lived in other worlds. As soon as I learned to read, I began devouring books. If I could understand most of the words, I read it. I was always asking Mom what this word and that word meant, and as a result, Mom soon taught me how to use a dictionary. I was in glasses by the time I was ten. There is no proof, but I think that because I read so much, my eyes didn't think there was anything beyond the length of my arm (or the tip of my nose for that matter). By the time I finished sixth grade, I had read the Little House on the Prairie books, A Wrinkle in Time trilogy (back then it was a trilogy), The Chronicles of Narnia, every Judy Blume book, and too many Nancy Drew books to count. In fact, I would sit down after breakfast on Saturdays with a Nancy Drew mystery and have it finished by supper. And of course, writing stories did not lag far behind learning how to read them.

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When we look at this Man [Christ Jesus] we see the negation of all distinctions. I quote from Paul in the Galatian letter for the sake of conciseness and brevity: “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male or female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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Paul’s instructions concerning women in the Corinthian epistle (1 Cor 14:34), it should be remembered, were intended for the Corinthian people, and are to be accounted for by the peculiar position women occupied in the Greek cities. This has equal application to the passage in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. It is unsafe and unscriptural to argue from any of these injunctions that women have no right to prophesy or exercise any gift that may be bestowed upon them. Behind the picture of the Christian woman portrayed in 1 Timothy is the picture of many of the women of these Greek communities; and it was to save the women of the Christian Church from any conformity to these debased ideals that all these passages were written....

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So when Mariana arrived in Costa Rica in 1984, she was in for a shock. She saw that people with physical limitations generally were given no responsibility for, or control over, their own lives. In some homes, people with physical limitations were kept “hidden away in a back room.” She immediately set out to help persons with physical limitations run their own lives, excel and even serve others. In the process, she said, “God has opened doors.”

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They came from all over
     Bahrain, Turkey, Rome:
A little band of women
     with hope all their own
To learn and to study,
     To become stronger in their faith
To encourage one another
     In the footsteps of the saints.

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  1. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women” (Acts 1:14). “They were all, with one accord, in one place” (Ch. 2:1). “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues” (Verse 4).

  2. “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (verses 16-17). “On my servants and on my handmaidens will I pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (v. 18).

  3. “Philip had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (ch. 21:9).

  4. “Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” (I Cor. 11:4,5)

  5. “Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (I Cor. 14:1)

  6. “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (v. 3).

  7. “He that prophesieth edifieth the Church” (vs. 4).

 

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Women’s participation in development and leadership is not an imposition of our times. It is as old as creation itself. In the biblical accounts of creation (Gen 1:26), the command of God to steward the earth is given to both women and men, meaning that they are both to take leadership in overseeing the wellbeing of the population in their care. Throughout the Bible, God gives gifts so that both women and men may lead; therefore, we should recognize those gifts as our “sons and daughters prophesy” to lead us. This is clearly seen in the book of Acts, where both women and men answer the call to ministry as community workers (9:36, 39), as teachers of the word (18:26), and as prophets (21:9). Both women and men were exhorted to use their spiritual gifts fully without restrictions on the basis of gender (Rom 12:14–20; 1 Cor 12:7, 11; Eph 4:6–8; 1 Pet 4:10–11). This shows that men and women participated equally in the service (1 Cor 11:5) as confirmed by the presence of active women such as Lydia (who appears to have bankrolled a church as well as Paul’s ministry). The Proverbs 31 woman is commended for all her businesses (real estate, textiles, etc.). By the same token today, women’s gifts should be utilized in the marketplace as well as men’s, and equal participation in the development process should be encouraged as a biblical ideal.

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A pastor recently told me, “There is no way women can ever be equal to men!” He went on to say that women were probably quicker to hear from God, but that gender-specific character flaws—emotional instability and a penchant for deception—basically negated any strength they had. “I only want men on the front-lines of battle with me!” he said. 

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