Prepared for Women/Men: History and Vision Course
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary – Nov. 9, 1982,
Without doubt “we have come a long way.”
Without doubt “there are miles to go before we (dare) sleep.”
While not intended as comprehensive, this collection presents some of the material that I have gathered from the Mennonite scene during the past decade. Other voices have spoken, both supportive and otherwise. Other quotes could have been gleaned. The task is, to as objectively as possible, examine the following and draw some conclusions. Something of the past is here recorded; what future could you anticipate as a result?
Numerous components will not be noted that could be, such as the women’s caucus that emerged from a Feminist Workshop at the General Conference Mennonite (GC) conference in Estes Park in 1980. Out of that group’s action, nominations of four women to work in structures resulted in their being elected. Related to that, out of ad hoc group effort to provide opportunity for women to hear each other at the Mennonite Church (MC) Bowling Green Assembly 1981, a churchwide Committee on Women Leadership Ministries was formed. Women’s cooperative action can impact our denomination. Finding a voice can lead to heightened fears and new action to curb the spontaneously intentional too. And it can lead to new sensitivity to work together, as women and men.
More attention could be given to the Women in Ministry conferences that have been held in different Mennonite communities—Lombard, Arvada, Akron, Elkhart, Newton, and Kitchener. Begun in the spring of 1976 by Emma Richards with about forty participants, these are attended by over two hundred now. Purpose needs to be constantly reexamined.
Many student papers, representing considerable research, could have been tapped but were not. These have been written at Mennonite colleges and in graduate schools, including AMBS. Conferences or week-long emphases have been held on these campuses too; they are not identified here.
Admittedly, this collection is more MC rather than GC or Mennonite Brethren (MB) focused, that being the compiler’s history. But I would observe that GC Mennonites have been more ready to promote space for women as through:
Perhaps less (not un) hindered by headship-prayer veiling-hierarchical emphases; Earlier, more sustained (though ever part-time) presence of AMBS faculty women. Admittedly, many gaps exist in various historical time periods. This collection draws heavily from the past decade; it fails to focus adequately our world-wide Mennonite sisters’ story. That will need to be supplemented with:
But now for a collection of resources/quotes/development concerning women in portions of the Mennonite scene:
1527 – “The Schleitheim Confession of Faith” – “Dear brethren and sisters, we who have been assembled in the Lord at Schleitheim on the Border, make known in points and articles to all who love God that as concerns us we are of one mind to abide in the Lord as God’s obedient children, sons and daughters, we who have been separated from the world in everything, (and) completely at peace.”
1560 – Soetgen van den Houte – “Grace, peace, and mercy from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This I wish you, my dear little children, David, Getgen, and Tanneken, for a affectionate greeting, written by your mother in bonds, for a memorial to you of the truth, as I hope to testify by word and with my death, by the help of the Most High, for an example unto you . . . I admonished you, my most beloved, always to suffer yourself to be instructed by those who fear the Lord.” This testament was prized for generations of Mennonites; it appeared in a collection of five testimonies, including Michael Sattler’s, in 1702, called Golden Apples. (See Martyrs Mirror, p. 646).
1576 – in Quellen zur Geschichte der Taufer: Wurttenberg are materials noting: “Even toward the end of the century and later, the Wurtemberg government considered the propaganda activity of Anabaptist women, who spread their faith through word of mouth or through booklets, so dangerous that married women who could not be expelled on account of their little children were chained at home, so that they should not lead other people astray.” (Mennonite Quarterly Review [MQR] April 1962, p. 108)
Martyrs Mirror – “The best sixteenth-century source about Anabaptist women . . . Two hundred seventy out of 930 Anabaptist martyrs in the book were women—about 30 percent . . . Although it was still a man’s world even in Anabaptist circles, Anabaptist women were less dominated than other women around them. Anabaptist women were taking some leadership roles in the congregations not available to them elsewhere. Women took their discipleship seriously; wives were not pathetic hangers-on, but courageous colaborers.”—Lois Barrett
1823 – “In Holland deaconess work already existed, though not yet regarded as a profession.” During a visit of Theodor Fliedner to Holland, “. . . at a Mennonite service he heard a minister ask the widows of his congregation to visit the sick of Amsterdam . . . Remembering the appeal of the minister in Holland, he (when back in Kaisersworth, Germany) sent out a call to widows and unmarried women, free from domestic care, to help him nurse the sick and teach the children in the spirit of the Early Church. This Kaiserswierth, 1836-1936, by Marie Gallison.
1897 – J. K. Zook “Self Denial,” Herald of Truth, April 15, pp. 115-16. When some objected to missions because of the way that women were taking part in them, and in light of Paul’s injunctions against women speaking in the churches: “Now, if we apply these precepts ‘not to teach’ and ‘not to speak’ to all time and under all circumstances, our sister’s’ mouths must be forever sealed in public worship, even in singing . . . (scriptures) are not always alike applicable under all circumstances . . . I am not advocating the right of women to preach. I am after the simply truth. All that men say with reference to women being out of place when teaching the way of life to anyone in need of it, does not invalidate what God spoke through prophets, be assured of that. . . But prophesy (as with “your daughters shall prophesy”) does not imply that she must or will preach, but it means also to instruct, interpret, and exhort . . . We should rather aid the work than discourage it in this direction by withholding our means even from women, who deny themselves . . . in far-away heathendom, to instruct the poor ignorant creatures in the way of salvation.”
1903/1948 – “The Deaconess and Her Ministry.” Mennonite Life, Jan. p. 30 ff (written by twelve of the deaconesses then serving at Bethel Deaconess Home and Hospital, Newton, KS.) “The deaconess work of the Mennonites in America owes its origin to the providential impact of two vigorous personalities: David Goertz and Sister Frieda Kauffman.” . . . Sister Frieda, the first Mennonite deaconess candidate who trained in Cincinnati. Bethel Deaconess was begun in 1903. Sisters were ordained to the task. . . . “A deaconess is a servant of the church . . . who spends her whole time in serving those who are sick or poor or morally in danger . . . A deaconess is first and foremost a Christian woman who wishes to serve in the ministry of good works under the auspices and direction of her church. Her deeds of mercy may include many forms of service beside that of nursing the sick . . . there is joy that comes to the deaconess, first of all, from the assurance that God has definitely called her for that very ministry.”
1911 – from several newspaper clippings/minister’s Record Books of First Mennonite Church (GC) of Philadelphia/Eastern District Conference. The Messenger, Nov-Dec. 1976, pp. 4-6 and Full Circle Stories of Mennonite Women. “For the first time in the history of the Mennonite Church in this country, a woman was ordained as a minister of that church yesterday. The Rev. Dr. N. B. Grubb, head of the denomination in this city, placed a Bible in the hands of Miss Anna J. Allebach and directed her to carry the word of God to his people. . . Miss Allebach, whose home is in Schwenksville, has been doing mission work in New York City for some years and will continue to do church work in New York for a short time. Then she will come to this city to take up anything that awaits her. As yet, she has no charge, but is fully empowered to perform the duties of a minister . . . The sermon was preached by Rev. J. W. Shantz. . . . Miss Allebach entered Ursinus College when 14 years old and started to teach when 17. She taught elocution and oratory in Perkiomen Seminary and later established a course in these subjects at Darlington Seminary. In 1903 she became principal of the East Orange Collegiate School. . . She is president of the N.Y. University Philosophical Society and vice president of the 23rd Assembly district Women’s Suffrage Club of New York City.” . . . “She turned down several calls to the pastorate, but we have no record that any of them came from her own people, the Mennonites.”
1911 – Annie Zernike – Ordained, Mennonite Church in the Netherlands. Born in 1887, she became a minister in 1911. She discontinued the task when she married in 1915 but began again in 1921 after her husband’s death, this time with an association of different liberal believers from diverse churches. This assignment in Rotterdam continued until 1948. In 1918 she wrote a dissertation about “The Ethics of Marxism.” She authored a number of books and died in 1972. [In a listing that I received of all Dutch Mennonite ordained women, I note that 1917 was the next year for an ordination of a woman, but that thereafter a steady number were ordained throughout each decade, totaling about 60. Information, thanks to Johanna Woudstra-Gorter.]
1936 – Noah H. Mack: His Life and Times, 1861-1948 Reporting elsewhere, a great nephew Noah and wife Muriel tell of their elder’s marriage ceremony. “In our interview before the ceremony he informed us that he would not use the word obey in the ceremony. He explained that where there is true love such words are not needed, and if there is not true love such words can be of no help.”
1959 – The Christian Woman’s Head-Veiling A Study of I Cor. 11:2-16 by Richard C. Detweiler. “Woman’s wearing of the veiling witnesses in four directions to the divine principle of headship. 1. It is a witness of God’s order. 2. It is a witness to man challenging him to fill his place. 3. It is a witness in the Christian brotherhood, for the spirit and attitude of voluntary submission it represents; it enables a woman to fulfill her place in the church. 4. It is a witness to the world, to a society that disregards scriptural truth and practices, and that does not recognize God’s order.”
1959 – “Woman, Status of” in The Mennonite Encyclopedia, vol. iv, p. 972. “In the early Anabaptist movement women played an important role. The Anabaptist emphasis upon voluntary membership, adult baptism, and personal commitment inevitably opened up new perspectives for women.” Background is then given to different locations, women in Netherlands, Prussia-Russia, Swiss-Germany, the latter two feeding into Canada and U.S. Issues noted include tasks, whether or not women voted in decision-making settings, seating arrangements in the church, women’s organizations, patriarchal family patterns.
1963 – The Mennonite Woman’s Missionary Society, a pamphlet of reprints from April and July 1963 issues of MQR by Melvin Gingerich. First known Mennonite women’s sewing organization formed in Lancaster County, PA as early as 1895. Most groups that formed met initially in homes of individual women. Records in Herald of Truth report contributions to missions from “the sisters” as early as 1894, whether in the form of a dollar or two or clothing and supplies. By 1911 sewing circles in eastern PA organized together, forming the Associated Sewing Circles of Lancaster Conference. “Foremost among those who had a vision of a coordinated work among the women of the church was Clara Eby Steiner . . . to promote co-operation between the various circles as well as to promote new avenues of service.” During the World Wars, circles took up relief work for war sufferers. Gingerich gives considerable space to the opposition encountered by the women: “. . . there were conservative forces in the church that opposed the churchwide organization. There was the widespread fear that the women’s movement would become a competitor with the district and general mission boards and would work independently of them.” Rumors, suspicion, misunderstandings, disagreements followed. By March 1921 the twelve branches of the Women’s Missionary Society had 131 societies with 3, 721 members. During the year they made 17,201 garments, gave “20,853.64 in cash, sent 32 tons of new and used clothing for relief to Russia and Turkey, supported two women missionaries in India and financed a dozen projects in South America and at home. Resulting from the growing lack of trust between the Society and the Mission Board, the Board simply appointed a different person to work with all the Circles and stations, to centralize efforts. The former officers cooperated in the transition period. The new Committee, composed of seven members was chosen in a way that indicates who was in control: 5 were chosen by the Mennonite Board of Missions from nominations that district women suggested, the other 2 were appointed by the Mission Board alone.
1964 – “The Prayer Veil: In Scripture and History” a pamphlet (30 pp) by J. C. Wenger – Subtitled: The New Testament Symbol of Woman as the Glory of the Race. His Mennonite resources were writings of seven men and comments from representative church leaders.
1967 – “A Short (2 pp) History of the Women’s Head Covering” by Melvin Gingerich “In the IN-Mich. Conference in 1891 the question of wearing a plain veil was brought up. One minister insisted that the Bible did not specify what kind of covering should be worn and that this point had never been established by Conference. Nevertheless, the Conference decided that the cap should be the head covering worn. J. S. Coffman in his evangelistic meetings, 1885, stressed the spiritual significance of the cap, so that its name was changed from “cap” to “prayer head-covering” or “devotional covering.” Soon this teaching began to be referred to for the first time officially in Conference resolutions as an “ordinance,” although to be sure there was always the conviction that it was commanded in the Bible.
1971 – Lois Gunden Clemens Woman Liberated (Herald Press) Women, if given the opportunity to develop and use their capabilities in the functioning life of the church, can add a significant dimension to it.” Chapter titles include: “Who is Woman? The Problem of Roles, Woman’s Functioning Under God, Members One of Another, Using All Gifts Creatively.”
1972 0- F. C. Peters “The Place of Women in the Life of the Church,” 7 pp. After biblical material discussion comes application for our day, with the following summarizing points: the New Testament forbids woman to undertake a teaching and leadership ministry in the congregation. Although sisters may participate in conference affairs and the local church, he is “hesitant in assigning committee responsibility to them.” There are always exceptions to the rule, but “women must be cautioned against continuing in tasks when there are trained men available for the job.”
1972 – John Howard Yoder – “Revolutionary Subordination” in The Politics of Jesus. “(Jesus’) motto of revolutionary subordination, of willing servanthood in the place of domination, enables the person in a subordinate position in society to accept and live within that status without resentment, at the same time that it calls upon the person in the superordinate position to forsake or renounce all domineering use of his status.”
1972 – Katie Funk Wiebe. “I believe in Persons,” in Christian Living, Dec. “Some of my friends associate me with women’s lib. But I do not accept the label. Instead, I believe in persons. If I am a feminist, Christianity has influenced my feminism . . . Often I have noticed that a man with little experience and enthusiasm for a work will be chosen, when better prepared and more interested women are left on the sidelines as the cheering section . . . The Church does not fully reckon with its women as a spiritual force other than in Sunday School work with children, in the home, in the church kitchen, or as a foreign missionary . . . It seems that men often are more ready to change their attitudes about women’s place than are women, for to free the women frees the men to be themselves.”
1973 – Phyllis Pellman Good – “Woman’s Place,” in Gospel Herald, Jan. 3. “But what bothers me most is that seldom when I was growing up did anyone at church or school encourage me to make the best of my life, to find the deepest fulfillment for my particular gifts—and really mean it. It was always assumed that God was leading me (and every other little girl) to become a nurse or teacher or mother.”
1973 – Mennonite Women Ask about Women’s Lib” a forum with Helen Wade Alderfer, Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus, and Lois Gunden Clemens. Oct. Lois: “. . . woman and man complete each other and help each other through their special complementarities. This means that they should work together as a team.” Helen: “I would have felt very cheated if someone else had raised my children before they went to school.” Ruth” “If women have minds, if women have spirits, if they have gifts, and if they have been preached to all their lives to commit their lives and be commissioned for service, and then the church doesn’t ask or expect them to do anything, something is wrong.”
1973 – a 5-article series by different writers on “The Role of Women” in The Mennonite Reporter. Ruth Klaassen: “Throughout history the main role for woman dictated not only by custom but my circumstance is to designed bear children.” Mary Regehr Dueck: “The image that immediately comes to my mind upon hearing the designation ‘Ms’ is that of an aggressive, ruthless, selfish, braless, most decidedly unfeminine individual, storming the local legislature in the company of an army of ‘sisters’ and waving a pro-abortionist placard. . . Among Ontario MB’s either sex may serve as a delegate, but disapproval of leading brethren discourages such implementation. . . Many Mennonite women are timid, lack self-assurance when among men and have little confidence in the value of their own thoughts and opinions. This is the natural consequence of generations of subtle suppression in the church which has also frequently carried over into the home.” Patty Shell: “. . . I feel that our male-dominated language and thinking is a serious problem. . . the words we use shape and reflect our attitudes.” Lois Barret: “If a woman has a good understanding of her own womanhood and her mission and is adequately prepared and not apologetic for that, I feel that the churches won’t deny her the right to work.”
1973 – The Mennonite March 20 – entire issue focus. “Releasing Gifts in the Church,” by David Augsburger; “Mennonite Women: three portraits,” by Lois Barrett, “Personhood and the ‘real woman’: by Lois Kemrer Eckman, “Resources for Women and the Church,” compiler Dorothy Nickel Friesen, plus the editorial: “Games people play about Women and the Bible.”
1973 – April – Women delegates to the Peace Section brought to that body the request that women’s interests in justice and peace be part of its ongoing agenda. Affirmative action followed. For nearly a decade now the Task Force on Women (recently renamed Committee on Women’s Concerns) has been effective in verifying that women’s issues are a peace issue. No woman serves longer than a 3-year term; 3 Canadians were named to the group beginning in 1975; soon thereafter group composition includes two each of MC, GC, and MB women; contacts with BIC are not being pursued; the Executive secretary of Peace Section, or administrative assistant, has always met with the TF/CWC. As of Sept. 1982 this assignment is half-time and being filled by Linda Schmidt. The first TF members were Luann Habegger (Martin), Dorothy Yoder Nyce, Lora Oyer, Ruth Stoltzfus (Yost), and exec. Secy. Ted Koontz. Within two years’ time the group: began publishing the free newsletter “Report” of which there have now been 40-some issues; planned the Nov 1973 Peace Section Assembly on the theme of “The Interdependence of Men and Women”; made available the packet of articles titled “Persons Becoming.” (This contained 30 articles, 24 authors Mennonites, categories: Introduction, The Bible and Women, The Church and Women, Changing Male-Female Relationships, and Minorities within a ‘Minority.” 1400 copies were sold; Dorothy Yoder Nyce editor); planned a 2-day seminar on the Family in Washington D. C. attended by more than 50 Mennonite women; contributed to the forming of an advisory committee for MCC which examined and advised on recruitment, assignment, and services of women in MCC programs; established goals for the organization and carried out many other details. The organization has continued to be an important link for Mennonite women in MCC constituent groups. Peace Section members have been supportive of efforts, but a few negative notes have arrived too like: “Kindly discontinue sending the ‘Report’ to me. I feel that topics are covered in church papers adequately, It disturbs me that my contributions to MCC are a part of this type of unnecessary spending whereas money could be used to alleviate suffering.” The group has increasingly addressed the experience of intentional Mennonite women, particularly through Mennonite World Conference meetings.
1973 – “The Role of Women in the Church,” by Alen R. Guenther and Herbert Swartz in The Mennonite Brethren Herald, May 4. This article discusses biblical materials fairly extensively and offers four conclusions, the last of which states: “The contemporary application of the Biblical teaching would be that women should be encouraged and feel free to use the gifts God has given them to build the church. The exercise of those gifts is not restricted to women and children, but extends to the whole of God’s people. This includes mission work, counseling, teaching SS, preaching, teaching in our denominational schools, participation in Bible studies, voting, being convention representatives and board members.”
1973 – Twelve Becoming Biographies of Mennonite Disciples from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century by C. J. Dyck includes one woman’s story—Lena Graber, missionary to India and Nepal.
1973 – “The General Conference and Ordination: a Progress Report “All members are priests or ministers to each other and to those not yet in the church. . . Whether one does minister depends more upon one’s call and gifts than upon authority derived from any hierarchy. . . Ordination. . . is an act by which a person, after appropriate examination, is formally and publicly set apart by the laying on of hands and prayer for the designated task of church leadership. . . Ordination needs to be viewed functionally. . . Affirming that in Christ there is neither male nor female, and that God is no respecter of persons, neither race not class nor sex should be considered barriers in calling a pastor.”
1973 – Illinois Conference Study Committee on the Ordination of Women (MC) Sections: That the church recognize the gifts of its members in discerning its mission; that the church discern the New Testament meaning of ordination; that the church give careful attention to the role of women in the church; that the church be faithful to the authority of the scriptures; that the leadership commission and the Lombard congregation proceed with the ordination of Emma Richards to the ministry at Lombard. . . “However it should be clearly understood that this action and such approval of ordination is not open to all women. This stipulation is based on the fact that our district conference delegates have not yet come to this understanding and decision. We ask that this clarification accompany all distribution or circulation made of this study report.” Update: conference action 1982 cleared away this restriction for only one person.
1973 – “Women and the Diaconate,” by P. H. Janzen, 4 pp. “In view that male and female are created in the image of God, in view that women served in the diaconate at the time of Jesus, the time of Paul, and the second century, our choice of deacons should not be dependent on male or female. The choice should rest on Christian commitment, personal qualities, entrusted gifts, needs of the community, and the voice of the Spirit to the Churches.”
1973 – “Women: in God’s Plan and Man’s World,” a 3-article series in August issues of Gospel Herald by Dorothy Yoder Nyce title: “Male and female (God) created them,” “The fall and Fallenness”; “Freedom, Hope, Interdependence.”
1973 – October – Consultation on the Role of Women in the Church Today held at AMBS planned and well executed by GC women. Session titles: Why are we Here? What Does Our Heritage Teach about Women? What Does the Bible Say about Women? Where are the Women? Where Does WMA Fit into the Future? Task Group Formation, Involvement and Reporting. Groups focused on: constituency education sex roles; factors of broader culture groups and alternative life styles; local and conference structures; WMA – future; biblical, theological, historical study; affirming/developing all gifts; support for single people; curriculum for children on new relationships. GC structure people were involved plus a solid group of young women: Dorothy Nickel Friesen, Gayle Gerber Koontz, Sharon Swawatzky, Joyce Shutt, Rosie Epp, I, an invited observer, was thoroughly impressed with women’s efforts and contributions at this conference, with the extensive recommendations that emerged from the task groups.
1974 – “Toward a Biblical Understanding of Womanhood,” The Messenger, Jan-Feb. by Perry Yoder “In the Bible there are two streams of thought concerning the roles of women. The one is idealistic and utopian. . . The second has to do with why the role of women is what it is, without providing a justification for it.”
1974 – “The Organizational Role of Women in the Churches of Three Mennonite Conferences,” Janette K. Zercher, 31 pp. plus appendix materials. Hypothesis for study: that men serve on committees at the top of the structural hierarchy of the local Mennonite churches and women serve on committees at the bottom of that hierarchy. In addition, men hold the top positions within the committee structure and women hold positions under that chairmanship.” The study was conducted in GC, MB, and MC churches in a 5-state area—Nebr., Ks., Co,, and Tx.
1975 – Lancaster Conference statement – “The Role of Women in the Church, March. Following brief paragraphs about biblical material, the concluding one: “We need, therefore, to exercise unity of the Spirit where neither man nor woman claims privileged status, for we share equally in creation, in the effects of the fall, and in redemption through Christ.”
1975 – Herta Funk, from her COE Women’s Concerns Desk provided a number of issues of news and resources titled “Accent on Women.” Herta and Luann Habegger attended the International Women’s Year event in Mexico City, Luann being sent by the MCC TF. “Nearly 6,000 women and men from 81 countries gathered. . . to discuss the three themes of IWY: equality, development, and peace. . . Whether the Tribune and IWY will be a ‘gigantic consciousness raising event for the world,’ as some people hope, remains to be seen. Implementation of the UN’s 10-year World Plan of Action which sets forth guidelines to improve the status of women will depend to a large extend on the degree of citizen involvement in every nation For those present, the experience was an eloquent and forceful statement of the renewed commitment for thousands throughout the world to strive for e, d, and p for all people.”
1975 – “Is the Ordination of Women Forbidden in Scripture?” H. D. Burkholder Guidelines for Today, Jan.-Feb. For a clear picture of the problem, hear three points of emphasis: The true ministry of Women, The Biblical Status of Women, The ordination of Women. “While women have been given an important role in the work of the Lord, they have not been given the role of leadership or rulership. . . We have two extremes in the church relative to the status of women. One group ordains them while the other ignores them. Now, this is not the way it ought to be!”
1975 – Study Guide: Part I Women in the Bible and Early Anabaptism; Part II Lesson Helps for All We’re Meant to Be (by Scanzoni/Hardesty), edited by Herta Funk (Faith & Life Pr.). After five chapters in Part I, either follow on the Scanzoni/Hardesty book, making this 13-unit study useful for SS class discussion.
1975 – “Congregational Gifts, Especially with Regard to the Role of Women,” by Lois Erb; Paper given at the World Missions Institute, Harrisonburg, VA in June. “I serve on a ministerial team with five men, one of them, happily, my husband. I do not speak publicly in the congregation without the unanimous voice of these five brethren. By so doing, I feel that I am taking my place in proper subjection and acting under the covering of their sanction and approval. . . I see no conflict on the part of the woman who takes her place in God’s prescribed order and walks in humility and obedience in through every door He opens. The conflict comes on the part of those who refuse to allow her this liberty. I humbly submit that it is as great a sin to take offense as it is to give offense. . . First, allow me to state definitely and conclusively that I am not a ‘Libber.’ . . . Secondly, I want to affirm categorically my belief in and acceptance of God’s order: God and Christ, man and woman, sons and daughters. . . Women do not want to ‘take over’ the church, as some fear. Rather, we cry out in the words of Romans 12:6: ‘Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, Let us use them.’”
1975 – “Facilitating Biblical Understanding Concerning Women and Men in the Church,” a summary statement to Mennonite Church General Assembly 1975 Segments: A report of the study by congregations; Basic assumptions undergirding the statement; Some guiding understandings emerging; A beginning list of suggestion for further work in congregations and in households.
1975 – “Women Preachers?” by John L. Ropp, in Brotherhood Beacon, Nov. “We need our sisters in the home and in the Church. And though they may have superior abilities, I don’t think that God wants our women to be preachers. . . if a woman isn’t even to teach a man, then much less should she preach to a man. Oh, I think it is alright for women to do good things outside of the home and in the church, but she is not to be a leader of men, such as by teaching or preaching.”
1976 – Women and Development by Luann Habegger Martin, MCC Development Monograph Series 3, 34 pp. Division: Women: Ignored in the Development Process; Factors Affecting Women’s Involvement in Development; The impact of Development on Women; The Integration of Women in Development; Conclusion. “To be agents of change and positive role models, agencies need to ensure that women are fully involved within the organizational structures of the agent itself.”
1978 – Packet of materials and Study Guide: Women and Development, prepared for the Jan. Women and Development Conference, Newton, KS sponsored by GC COE (Herta Funk) and Women in Mission. A useful collection of solid resources.
1978 – Full Circle Stories of Mennonite Women, Mary Lou Cummings, ed. (Faith and Life Pr.) Dealing with “the underside” of Mennonite history. Women noted: Ann J. Allebach, Mathuria Bai, Dr. Ella Garber Bauman, Anna Wiens Braun, Maria Miller Brown, Martha Burkhalter, Margaret (Albrecht) Engbrecht, Florence Cooprider Friesen, Irene Funk, Eva Harshbarger, Katsuko Tomozawa Hatano, Marie J. Regier Frantz Janzen, Selma Platt Johnson, Rosa King, Susanna A. (Ruth) Krehbiel, Helen Wilms Litz, Catherine Niswander, Vinora Weaver Salzman, Anna Warkentin Willms.
1978 – (Before and Beyond) – Mennonite World Conference “Women at Nairobi: Wasted Ointment?” by Herta Fundk “From 1925-48 women were occasionally seen but never heard at MWC assemblies. In 1948 at Goshen, Mary Royer gave an address on Christian Education and Helga Kemnitzer (Germany) and Altbertine van der lag (Holland) were youth delegates. In 1952 in Basel, Switzerland H. A. Fast gave a speech on “The Place of Women in the Church.” A meeting of women, chaired by Samuel Gerber had seven women on the program. In Amsterdam, 1967, an occasional woman’s name appeared on the program, e.g. Anni Dyck (lit) and Margaret Jahnke (social work). At Curitiba in 1972 the last separate women’s meeting was held. At Wichita 1978 women were to be included in the total program. . . Negotiations which resulted between World Conference planners and women were not without frustrations on both sides. Women were told that they could not have a hospitality center at which to become acquainted with their international sisters or have any sessions on women’s issues during scheduled times. Meetings of 600 women took place over meals in inadequate facilities under severe time constraints. Two competent responses to major speeches were given by women, one by Anna Juhnke. MCC TF on Women collected $10,000 (matched by MWC) to bring fifteen international women from twelve countries to Wichita. Strong encouragement had been given for active participation in the Strasbourg 1984 program. Forty-five women attended the planning session at Nairobi; MCC TF’s “MWC Travel Fund” helped Bertha Beachy and international women to be able to attend.
1978 – 4th Conferencia Femenil Hispana Menonita. Women’s groups from 21 Mennonite Hispanic congregations sent delegates. Conference theme: “Freedom and Responsibility in the Christian Family.” Sessions: Our Identity as Christian Women; What is a Christian Family?: Reconciliation with Our Past; Responsibility in the Christian Family. Warm, sisterly atmosphere and group singing/special music were highlights.
1980 – Which Way Women? Dorothy Yoder Nyce, ed, Project of MCC Peace Section TF. A collection of articles, mostly original for this project, and combined within the IWY themes of Equality, Development and Peace. Of the 50-plus entries, articles examined dimensions of sexuality, biblical inheritance, the international scene, and experience of women, shapes of ministry, and implications of endeavors toward peace. Forty-two Mennonite writers convey personal experience, knowledge, and vision. Fifteen hundred copies were printed and sold. One among numerous positive comments: “I just finished reading WWW? from cover to cover, and I’m proud to be a Mennonite.”
1980 – Study on “The Role of Women in the Leadership of the Church from the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (MC) A number of conferences have prepared such study materials for congregations. Harold Bauman prepared much of the portion “Issues on Women in the Ministry.” The six-session study of biblical passages grew out of a committee’s work at College Mennonite, Goshen. “Women in Church Ministries“ is from the Assembly ’79 study guide “Leadership and Authority in the Church.” Conference discussions have been vigorous; Marlin Miller and Willard Swartley AMBS faculty, gave significant input within IN-MI.
1980 = Women in Search of Mission A History of the General Conference Mennonite Women’s Organization, by Gladys V. Goering (Faith & Life Pr.). Three recurring threads: the solid bond established between congregational women and missionary individuals of families; the varied resistance Mennonite male leaders offered women; the profound cooperation and friendship women gained from working together. Chapters: Beginnings, Missions Nearer Home, Promotion Through Print, The Fund Raisers, Auxiliary, Winds of Change, The Home Front, Tomorrow. Some of the women to remembers: Susannah Hirschler Haury, Martha Krehbiel Goerz, Anna Penner Isaac.
1980 – “Why Doesn’t Someone Blow the Whistle?” and “They Blew the Whistle,” in Sword and Trumpet, May and July, by H. R. R. (Herman R. Reitz) This is basically a jab or blast at Diane MacDonald, then professor of Bible and Religion at Goshen College. It notes her plan to formulate an Anabaptist peace theology of female-male relationships and notes reservation: “How anyone can seriously believe that from a combination of Anabaptist, liberation and process theologies can be derived a ‘sound and well-articulated peace theology’ is far more than can be imagined.” The second segment happily reports that enough steam was generated to blow the whistle: “Diane and Dennis MacDonald are leaving the Bible department of Goshen College under fire. . . It is very understandable why theologically deviant persons can find a haven among us (Mennonites). More and more there is something for everyone in the Mennonite marketplace. Uniformity has gone out of style.”
1980 – “Women in the Mennonite Church, 1900-1930,” in MQR, July by Sharon Klingelsmith. Whereas Melvin Gingerich, 1963, assessed the conflict that developed between the Society and Mission Board within broader church struggles, Sharon addresses the issue of the role of women, both within the Missionary Society and the broader Mennonite Church. A most insightful, well-researched article that concludes: “Indeed, the Mennonite Women’s Missionary Society was the largest and most active lay movement in the MC. No church leader would have quarreled with the fact that these women were doing an important work and making a valuable contribution. But the church was not ready to absorb the idea of women initiating and managing their affairs, even if the work itself was within the generally recognized woman’s sphere. Thus, the church imposed a solution for the women—a solution that was to continue quietly through the next two or more decades.”
1981 – “Shutting out Division over Women’s Ordination” in GC News Service, Newton, KS, May 4 pp. “Delegates to the 1980 sessions of the Eastern District Conference . . . .managed to retain a spirit of unity within their assembly despite the fact that the main agenda item in the business session was once again the potentially divisive issue of ordination of women.” Joyce herself ‘heutralized’ the electric atmosphere with a strong, steady message of appreciation to the ministerial committee. . . “She made a plea for mutual acceptance and understanding on the part of both sides.” Joyce is pastor with the Fairfield congregation. (One wonders if the Eastern District folk thought back to 1911 and Ann Allebach.)
1982 – Women and Men at AMBS: On What is Our Future Founded?” in “The Window” (an AMBS publication) by Dorothy Yoder Nyce. “Can we without blaming or feeling defensive note a few givens? Patriarchy permeates our lives. It influences our interpretation of scripture, our knowledge about history, our theories of personality. It affects how we mystify theology and organize corporate church life. . . But we are changeable. We inherently long to grow. We who live have time in which to reorient perspectives, to repent of errors past. We dream dreams and envision the not yet. We trust in order to hope; we believe through doubt. . . Distinct shifts in approach to relationships between wo/men at AMBS are observable over the past decade. . . For I do believe that the seeds for oppression of all sorts. . . are nurtured in embryo form in the most fundamental relationship, that between woman and man. That core relationship dimension, not to be distorted as synonymous with marriage, embraces our sexuality. Will we embrace true friendship?”
1982 – A Listing of Women Minister/Pastors still working in the Netherlands compiled by Jeltje do Jong names 20 women, the majority born in the 1920’s. Data includes information about additional tasks of these women: chaplains in hospitals and old people’s homes, international service, editor, youth instructor, social workers.
1982 – Goshen College Bulletin – “Women’s Movement Brings Frustration and Hope,” Ruth Krall; “What the Computer Didn’t know (about the women grads of 1942), Miriam Sieber Lind; “Women and the Mennonite Patriarchy” Anna Bowman; “Faculty Members Consider Role Models, Options, Careers” Olive Wyse, Rosemary Wyse, Phyllis Imhoff Wulliman, Linda Richer; “Waste of People” Concerns Oyer (Mary) . . . “Women have begun to claim peacemaking as their agenda: they see justice, liberation, and peace as inseparable. . . Change will come at the time when men are prepared to share positions of leadership and authority with women. . . when men initiate . . . . taking women off the madonna pedestal, when they stop denigrating women as inferior beings, and when they begin to treat Mennonite women as persons who have gifts of equal value which should be shared for the good of all. . . If any institution is going to make intelligent, sensitive use of people and their gifts, there must be institutional willingness to bring painful topics out into the open. . . easier proposed than done.” This issue prompted response!
1982 – CONNECTIONS – a Resource Center for Mennonite Women, Elkhart, IN. Sandy Wiens, MVSer with coordinating duties, planning workshops, providing literature. A “place” to nurture spirituality, stand with each other, plan action, make connections with poor women and women of color, explore the edges of being. Welcome!