By an entry in a book titled The Intellectual Devotional, I recently was reminded of Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) who was an early female religious leader in America and who was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony after she refused to stop having church services in her home, even though Puritan authorities had ordered her to do so. On Mondays she opened her home to women to discuss the previous day’s sermons, but John Winthrop, the colony’s governor warned her that these activities were “not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex.” She rejected his orders and was excommunicated from the colony.
The role of women in the church, and especially what God intends in that area, always makes for a lively discussion, and while in this piece today I do not wish to examine the issue, I must point out that in all Christian churches today, women play a much more visible and important role than they did in generations before.
My interest was piqued in the subject by the recent death of Jan Holmes, a Pentecostal pastor’s wife of Little Rock, Arkansas. I was not privileged to know this person, who by every account was a sterling, exceptional being. By internet radio I listened to her final ceremony; a magnificent service, fit for royalty. The music was stellar, nothing short of glorious, and varied from vocals to instrumental offerings. I am told that in attendance were 400 ministers from all over the country and from other parts of the world and that the total attendance was between four and five thousand persons. Numerous dignitaries from the political scene were there, representing the state, the county, and the city.
It interests me that in this very conservative Apostolic church the majority of the speakers were women. So far we have come. What a telling contrast between the opportunity given and grasped by Jan Holmes and by that denied in that long ago era to Anne Hutchinson.