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Published Date: April 22, 2022

Published Date: April 22, 2022

Women in Scripture and Mission: Susanna Wesley

Portrait courtesy of Cara Quinn from knowyourmothers.com.

Women in Scripture and Mission: Susanna Wesley

Published Date: April 22, 2022

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Susanna Wesley
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Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley was married to a Church of England pastor. She also homeschooled her 19 children, though only ten of them lived to adulthood. Her life was not easy by any standards. They struggled financially, and her husband did not endear himself to their community. Twice their house caught on fire. Her son, John Wesley, recounted one of these events escaping only because a neighbor found and threw him from an upstairs window.1

Susanna became a spiritual leader in her community. When her husband traveled, Susanna, displeased with the assistant pastor’s preaching, held services in her home for those in and close to her family. Navigating her era’s restrictions on women, she read aloud the writings of her husband and other pastors. Her household so enjoyed her services that word spread and her services grew to over 200 people. The assistant minister grew jealous, as his services only attracted around 20 people, so he complained to her husband who was away in London. When Mr. Wesley suggested to Susanna that she stop the services, she wrote to him saying:

If you do, after all, think fit to dissolve this assembly, do not tell me that you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send me your positive command, in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt and punishment for neglecting this opportunity of doing good when you and I shall appear before the great and awful tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He decided to let her continue.2

Susanna’s spiritual influence is seen in her deep theological letters advising her sons, John and Charles, the leaders of the Wesleyan Revivals. Likewise, her lived example gave John Wesley the flexibility to recognize that God’s spirit can indeed call women to preach. Thus, during his lifetime, John Wesley ordained several women as preachers in the Methodist Movement.

Related Resources

To learn more about modern day women’s leadership in the Wesleyan church, read: “A Global Fight for Egalitarianism and Holistic Justice” by Sarah Rodriguez.

To learn more about the Holiness Movement, John Wesley, and the influence of his mother, see: “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: The Rise of Women’s Ordination in the Holiness Tradition,” by Michelle Sanchez in Priscilla Papers, October 30, 2010.

Description of books that contain more information on Susanna Wesley can be found here:

The Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters

We Need to Read Books on Women in History

Notes

  1. Glenn T. Miller, The Modern Church: From the Dawn of the Reformation to the Eve of the Third Millenium (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), 95. See also, John Wesley The Preacher: A Dramatic recreation of one of the most powerful preachers in all of church history.“ BBC Film. April 2008.
     
  2. Kristina LaCelle-Peterson, Liberating Tradition: Women’s Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 182-183.