Hugo Schwyzer made me aware of Charlotte Allen’s “Liberal Christianity is paying for its sin” in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. She makes this claim: “It doesn’t help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches.” Mainline churches are far from being “pioneers” in ordaining women. She goes on to imply that ordaining women is one of the sins of liberal Christianity. She also makes a wide sweep of suggesting that only denominations who ordain women are also the ones who ordain homosexuals and are pushing for same-sex unions. I wrote this letter to the editor:

As an ordained female minister with the Church of the Nazarene, I wonder if Charlotte Allen did any research on women and ordination before she wrote “Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins.” The Church of the Nazarene has ordained women since its beginning in 1903. In fact, the American Holiness movement that we come from ordained its first woman 1856. The Salvation Army has ordained women since its beginning in 1865. In fact, Catherine Booth would not marry William until “he saw the light” that women could be preachers and pastors. She wrote Women’s Ministry or Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel. William and Catherine’s daughter, Evangeline, who was an ordained minister, went on to be General of the Army as well. All of these denominations today are conservative theologically. They do not believe in same-sex unions or homosexual ordination, and they are growing worldwide. Ms. Allen made some good points in her article, but she cannot claim that women’s ordination is a factor in men leaving the church, nor lower church attendance. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary on that. She can neither claim that because a denomination believes in women’s ordination that those same denominations also believe in gay marriage and ordination. The Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, The Free Methodist Church, The Church of God (Anderson), and The Salvation Army ordain women, but they do not support gay marriage or ordination. Ordaining women is not a sin: it is a biblical tradition that goes back to Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was a prophet during the Exodus, and there are denominations who have always recognized that God does call women to preach and pastor, and we have been ordaining women for 100 years or more.

Rev. Shawna R. B. Atteberry
The Church of the Nazarene

You can go here to read Catherine Booth’s Female Ministry or A Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel.