“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man, she must be quiet.” states 1 Timothy 2:12 in the New International Version of the Bible. Some U.S. denominations use this passage to prevent the ordination of women into full-time pastoral ministry. Other denominations ordain women, believing that this passage relates to biblical customs, not law. The Bible recognizes women in leadership such as the prophetess Deborah and deaconess Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Churches in the U.S. have been ordaining female clergy since the 1800s.
1800 - 1899
The Quakers, Universalists, Unitarians, Christian Scientists, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists and Salvation Army have ordained women since the 1800s, according their official sites. The Quakers and the Salvation Army have always ordained women. The United Brethren, Methodist Protestant Church, Wesleyan Methodist Church and Cumberland Presbyterian Church offered limited ordination to women pastors before the turn of the 20th century.
In 1961, the Universalists and the Unitarians combined to become the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and in 1999, the number of women pastors leading Unitarian Universalist churches outnumbered the number of male pastors.
1900 - 1950
In 1903, Unity Society of Practical Christianity’s co-founder, Myrtle Filmore was a woman, and the organization has ordained women since the early 1900s. The Church of the Nazarene ordained the first woman minister in 1908. The Cleveland, Tennessee, Church of God ordained its first woman pastor in 1909. Mennonites began ordaining women in 1911 and the Assemblies of God ordained the first woman in 1914. The first female Reformed Jewish rabbi entered the ministry through ordination in 1922. The Foursquare Gospel church ordained its first female minister in 1927.
The Methodist Episcopal South Church ordained women as local pastors in the 1920s, but stopped ordaining women in 1939 when it merged with the Methodist Protestant Church. The Methodist Church started ordaining women again in 1956.
1951 - 1975
In 1955, the United Presbyterian Church began ordaining women and the Presbyterian USA Church followed their lead in 1956. The Evangelical Lutherans began ordaining women in 1970. In 1958, the United Church of Brethren offered full ordination to women. In 1968 when the Methodist Church and the United Church of the Brethren merged into the United Methodist Church, both continued the policy of ordaining women, but did not consecrate the first female bishop until 1980. In 1964, the Southern Baptist Convention ordained its first female minister, but very few women were ordained. In 2000, the SBC decided to no longer ordain women. Those already ordained retained their credentials, but no more women were allowed. The American Church also began ordaining women in 1964, and still does so today.
1976 - Present
The Episcopal church begain ordaining women in 1976. In 1984, reformed Mormons, now known as the Community of Christ, ordained a woman. Conservative Judaism ordained the first female rabbi in 1985. In 1995, a Seventh Day Adventist church in Virginia violated church policy by ordaining three women. In 2007, after years of study, the Worldwide Church of God decided to ordain female ministers.
- Christians for Biblical Equality: US Denominations and Their Stances on Women in Leadership
- Religious Tolerance: Women as Clergy; Bruce A. Robinson; June 5, 2010
- United Methodist Church: Timeline of Women in American Methodism
- Religious Tolerance: The Ordination of Women; Bruce A. Robinson; Sept. 24, 2008
- Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Denominations, women ordination; Matt Slick
- Unity Worldwide: The History of Unity
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