Through the Front Doors: Methodist Women's Journey Toward Ordination

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Predecessor Denominations

While the Methodist Episcopal Church was refusing women ordination and revoking their licensure, two predecessor denominations to the United Methodist Church were granting these same rights to women. The United Brethren Church granted women full ordination rights in 1889 and within twelve years had ordained 71 women. But, when it merged with the Evangelical Church in 1946, women were no longer allowed to be ordained.

Similarly, the Methodist Protestant Church ordained Anna Howard Shaw, in 1880 and Helenor Alter Davisson in 1866. However, in 1939 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Protestant Church merged Methodist Protestant women were no longer granted ordination rights.

A large portion of this text was taken with permission from the book Courageous Past, Bold Future: The Journey toward Full Clergy Rights for Women in The United Methodist Church by Patricia Thompson, published in 2006 by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The narration for the audio portion of the exhibit was read by Elizabeth Luton Cook of Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

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Exhibit Items
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Constitution and Discipline of the Methodist Protestant Church Constitution and Discipline of the Methodist Protestant Church, 1892
Article 3, paragraph 3 of the Methodist Protestant Church's constitution includes both men and women in its definition of ministers. Anna Howard Shaw was the first woman ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church in 1880.
BX8408 .M4 1892 Reference
Proceedings of the Twentieth General Conference of the United Brethren in Christ Proceedings of the Twentieth General Conference of the United Brethren in Christ, 1889
This 1889 record of the proceedings of the United Brethren in Christ General Conference contains an explicit stance on the licensing of women as preachers.
"'it is ordered that whenever any godly woman presents herself before the quarterly or annual conference as an applicant for authority to preach the gospel among us, she may be licensed so to do. Provided such person complies with the usual conditions required of men who wish to reach the ministry of our church, and passes like examinations by a proper committee of the conference and in our courses of study; and may be ordained after the usual probation."
BX9875 .A3 1889

General Conference Journal, Methodist Episcopal Church, vol. IX, 1880

Conference minutes from the 1880 Methodist Episcopal Church, General Conference. The open page contains the rejection of Anna Oliver's request for ordination, and the subsequent revocation of the licensing of women as preachers.
BX8381 .A2 1880 Reference

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