Q: The quotes below seem to indicate Ellen White’s support for women to be ordained in pastoral ministry. Could you please comment on your understanding of these quotes? — Bronwyn, from Australia
A: Bronwyn, thank you for your list of quotations by Ellen White, several of which appear below. Rather than just giving my understanding, I would instead encourage everyone to prayerfully consider each quote for themselves. As you may know, when looking at any quote, whether from the Spirit of Prophecy, the Bible, or elsewhere, it’s important to understand its context. So I’m providing links to each statement so everyone can look study it for themselves.
Quote: “It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God.” “Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6,” p. 322.
Link to source: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_6T.321.3¶=118.1734
Context: This quotation comes from the chapter titled, “The Canvasser a Gospel Worker.” As one reads this quote in context, (see link above), it’s clear that the entire chapter is focused on the important work of the canvasser.
Mrs. White details the work of canvassers, referring to them as “pastors to the flock of God.” She writes: “It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God. As they cherish the thought that Christ is their Companion, a holy awe, a sacred joy, will be felt by them amid all their trying experiences and all their tests. They will learn how to pray as they work. They will be educated in patience, kindness, affability, and helpfulness” (6T322).
In this chapter, she contrasts the pastoral work of the canvasser with “a minister of the gospel,” stating that it would be good for gospel ministers to obtain experience as canvassers.
Today, we use the word “pastor” and “minister” interchangeably, and in fact, the term pastor is now more common. However, when this book was written, ordained gospel ministers were referred to as ministers.
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Quote: “There are women who should labor in the gospel ministry” (“Pastoral Ministry,” p. 76, from Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, pp. 325, 326).
Link to sources:
“Pastoral Ministry,” p; 76: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_PaM.76¶=83.347
Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, pp. 325, 326: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_5MR.324.1¶=56.1584
Context: In the book “Pastoral Ministry,” this quotation is under the heading “Team Ministry With Spouse,” and refers to women who should labor in the gospel ministry with their husbands who are ministers.
This meaning is unmistakable when we check the original source, found in Manuscript Releases, vol. 5. Titled, “Women as Workers in the Cause of God,” this is a very helpful manuscript in describing the very important work that women may do for God.
Here is a portion of that manuscript (pp. 323-325) that will shed light on the quotation given above, but I encourage you to read the entire manuscript (see link above).
“Some matters have been presented to me in regard to the laborers who are seeking to do all in their power to win souls to Jesus Christ. … The ministers are paid for their work, and this is well. And if the Lord gives the wife, as well as the husband, the burden of labor, and if she devotes her time and her strength to visiting from family to family, opening the Scriptures to them, although the hands of ordination have not been laid upon her, she is accomplishing a work that is in the line of ministry. Should her labors be counted as nought, and her husband’s salary be no more than that of the servant of God whose wife does not give herself to the work, but remains at home to care for her family?”
“While I was in America, I was given light upon this subject. I was instructed that there are matters that need to be considered. Injustice has been done to women who labor just as devotedly as their husbands, and who are recognized by God as being as necessary to the work of ministry as their husbands. The method of paying men laborers and not their wives is a plan not after the Lord’s order. Injustice is thus done. A mistake is made. The Lord does not favor this plan. This arrangement, if carried out in our conferences, is liable to discourage our sisters from qualifying themselves for the work they should engage in.
“A mistake is made when the burden of the work is left entirely upon the ministers. This plan was certainly arranged without the mind of God. Some women are now teaching young women to work successfully as visitors and Bible readers. Women who work in the cause of God should be given wages proportionate to the time they give to the work. God is a God of justice, and if the ministers receive a salary for their work, their wives, who devote themselves just as interestedly to the work as laborers together with God, should be paid in addition to the wages their husbands receive, notwithstanding that they may not ask this.
“As the devoted minister and his wife engage in the work, they should be paid wages proportionate to the wages of two distinct workers, that they may have means to use as they shall see fit in the cause of God. The Lord has put His spirit upon them both. If the husband should die, and leave his wife, she is fitted to continue her work in the cause of God, and receive wages for the labor she performs.
“Seventh-day Adventists are not in any way to belittle woman’s work. If a woman puts her housework in the hands of a faithful, prudent helper, and leaves her children in good care, while she engages in the work, the conference should have wisdom to understand the justice of her receiving wages. …
“This question is not for men to settle. The Lord has settled it. You are to do your duty to the women who labor in the gospel, whose work testifies that they are essential to carry the truth into families. Their work is just the work that must be done. In many respects a woman can impart knowledge to her sisters that a man cannot. The cause would suffer great loss without this kind of labor.
“Again and again the Lord has shown me that women teachers are just as greatly needed to do the work to which He has appointed them as are men. They should not be compelled by the sentiments and rules of others to depend upon donations for their payment, any more than should the ministers.”
You may read the entire manuscript at: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_5MR.324.1¶=56.1584
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Quote: “Make no mistake in neglecting to correct the error of giving ministers less than they should receive. … The tithe should go to those who labor in word and doctrine, be they men or women.” (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, 1:263).
Link to Source: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_1MR.263.2¶=61.1482
Context: When one reads the entire section (without the ellipses) from which the above quote was taken, the context makes the meaning of this quote very clear. Here it is in context:
“Women, as well as men, are needed in the work that must be done. Those women who give themselves to the service of the Lord, who labor for the salvation of others by doing house-to-house work, which is as taxing as, and more taxing than standing before a congregation, should receive payment for their labor. If a man is worthy of his hire, so also is a woman.
“God has entrusted talents to His servants, and He expects them to see that mistakes can be readily made. Make no mistake in neglecting to correct the error of giving ministers less than they should receive. When you see persons in necessity who have been placed in positions of trust, let God move upon your heart to set things right. The tithe should go to those who labor in word and doctrine, be they men or women. — Manuscript 149, 1899, 3. (“Paying Women Workers,” October 24, 1899.) Published in Manuscript Releases, 1:263
Notice that she is describing the work of the women who are to be paid from the tithe as different from that of ministers.
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Quote: “When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined.” (Letter 77, 1898; Evangelism, 469).
Link to source: https://egwwritings.org/?ref=en_Lt77-1898¶=6419.1
Context: This quotation comes from a letter that Ellen White wrote to “Brother and Sister [E.J.] Waggoner. In describing an upcoming speaking appointment in Australia, she wrote:
“Today we are to ride to Wyee, a place about six or seven miles away, to visit the railway workers, and speak to those who want to hear the words of truth. I have thought how profitable it would be to have minute men, laborers together with God, who would be instant in season and out of season. The Lord’s work is not to stand on ceremony, with a precise time to be observed for every line of work. When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined.”
Ellen White was a firm believer in Total Member Involvement! Surely this is the time “when a great and decisive work is to be done,” and God calls everyone — men and women, young and old, boys and girls, to work together in telling others of His soon return!