Women in Ministry in the Brethren in Christ Church

Women have long played a key role in the ministry of the Brethren in Christ Church, in both formal and informal roles. H. Frances Davidson, a late nineteenth-century missionary, remains one of the most influential Brethren in Christ women in the church’s history. In this photo, Davidson is pictured alongside fellow missionary Adda Engle (right); together these two women pioneered the church’s second foreign mission station, in Macha, Zambia. (Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

I’m proud to be part of a church family (Brethren in Christ U.S.) that unequivocally affirms what the Bible clearly teaches: that the Spirit of God calls women and men equally to the ministry of the Christian church. I’m also proud to have church leaders who unequivocally celebrate the key role that women pastors, bishops, and other leaders play in shepherding God’s people in the world.

These affirmations are on my mind today because my denomination just released this statement, reaffirming our longstanding position on women in ministry. Here’s a taste:

In keeping with historic convictions of the Brethren in Christ Church and our desire to remain faithful to our understanding of Scripture, the BIC U.S. continues to fully recognize and support women in ministry and leadership at all levels of Church life. We believe that the Church truly does constitute God’s new community inaugurated by Christ, where both women and men are gifted and empowered for ministry, so that, together, we may fulfill the calling upon each of our lives.

Read the whole statement here.

And here’s an excerpt from a blog post by Alan Robinson, the Brethren in Christ U.S. general church leader, in which he describes his own experiences with women in ministry and leadership:

A woman introduced me to faith in Jesus Christ. At 10 years old, I found myself in a small, crowded living room in Northern Ireland — the gathering place of the Bible club of a growing church plant. Whether or not a formal preacher, the woman leading taught Scripture. And at the end of the session, she invited anyone interested to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That was the beginning of my faith journey. Today, I am so thankful that she preached the gospel to me.

Likewise, we as the Brethren in Christ U.S. are indebted to — and celebrate — the women who use their gifts through ministry leadershipIn 2016, more than 130 women led as BIC pastors, chaplains, and ministry staff (both in paid and volunteer positions) across the United States. And as of today, 19 women have been ordained, and 31 are licensed.

Read Robinson’s full blog here.

As some of the readers of this blog know, I’ve done a bit of research and writing about the topic of women in ministry in the Brethren in Christ Church, especially in the mid- to late twentieth century (the period in which women became eligible for formal ministerial credentialing within the North American church). I’m hoping to share more of that research on the blog in the coming months. Stay tuned.


Published by Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah University.

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