Early Christianity spread because it valued women

At Word Alive International Outreach, we are aligned with the teaching in Galatians 3:28 that states, “… there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our studies of the thriving church of the New Testament have revealed, according to author Ed Silvoso, that one of the main reasons Christianity spread so rapidly in the early years was because its message restored honor and inner worth to more than half the population — women.

Once women were placed in positions of honor and leadership, the model of what the church was designed to develop into was in place.

According to John 4:1 and 11:25-27, two of Jesus’ most powerful teachings and truths were first shared with women. He told His friend Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. Later, He told the Samaritan woman at the well that He is the living water.

Acts 2:17-18 is clear that a new archetype was in the process of radically impacting culture as the emerging church was introduced. “In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.”

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach

My church has elected women to leadership since 1905

While the Church has historically struggled to incorporate women into positions of power within the church, this is antithetical both to the message of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Even though Jesus’ ministry was presented as being supported by 12 guys, the reality is that both men and women were among his earliest followers.

In a similar fashion, while we think about Paul as walking around the Roman world with Silas or Barnabas, there were a number of women that Paul looked to for leadership in his absence — Phoebe and Junia being two.

With this in mind, my Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has sought to honor the call to leadership of everyone. The first woman to be ordained in the denomination was the Rev. Rachel Henderlite in 1956. She was followed by the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Canon, who was the first African American woman ordained to the ministry, in 1974.

Because the Presbyterian Church is ruled not by the clergy but by the membership, the greater position of power comes as an elder on the ruling session. Women were brought on to the session in 1905 and have remained there ever since.

While my Church’s history with women is far from perfect, we have sought to always listen for the call of the Spirit to better open our doors to the ministry and leadership of all people.

— The Rev. Dr. James D McLeod Jr., First Presbyterian Church, Anniston