While many denominations grapple today with the role of women in ministry, The Salvation Army has deployed women in leadership since its inception. In the beginning, “Hallelujah Lassies” attracted so many people, the official history records “no building could contain the people who came” to hear them.
The formal recognition of women as equals with men in ministry is an important Salvationist value.
The source is Scripture itself.
In the Old Testament, Miriam and Huldah are recognized as prophets and Deborah was both a prophet and judge. In the New Testament, Anna is recorded as a prophet; Priscilla, a respected teacher; Phoebe, an overseer; and Junia an apostle.
This scriptural presence impelled Catherine Booth, “the Army Mother,” to be a pioneer woman preacher. Her influence in the development of The Salvation Army is incomparable.
Let us not be naïve—others disagree with the Army’s stand on gender equality. However, with a solid biblical rationale, we opt to avoid using sporadic verses of Scripture, taken out of context and culture, to institute them as broad denominational policy. Rather, we heed the larger theme that “in Christ there is no male or female,” (Gal. 3:28).
The call is for a generation of women leaders to continue the legacy, and for empowered leaders to appoint them.
Catherine Booth drew a short line between the restricted ministry of women and “the comparative non–success of the Gospel in these latter days.”
The Army’s women fight against any notion of “non–success.”
May God empower them. May we release them.