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John Wesley’s Support for Women in Ministry

From the “Preface” to: Zechariah Taft, Biographical Sketches of the Lives and Public Ministry of Various Holy Women (1825):

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815)

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815)

“Such were the high church principles, and the prejudice of education, of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ, the Rev. John Wesley, that for a season, he could scarcely give the right hand of fellowship, to any Labourers in the Lord’s Vineyard, that had not received Episcopal Ordination. But when he was fully convinced, that God had owned the labours of pious laymen in his community, he encouraged them to proceed. And he never molested any pious female, who was subject to discipline and order, in his Societies for calling sinners to repentance; but when fully satisfied that God had owned their labours, he gave them encouragement. This is evident in his conduct towards Mrs. Gilbert, Mrs. Johnson, Miss Bosanquet, Miss Mallet, Mrs. Crosby, Miss Hurrell, and some others. Indeed he could not have done otherwise according to his own reasoning in his Sermon “against Bigotry.” His argument throughout that Sermon is, that the conversion of sinners is the work of God, and whoever is the instrument of doing this work, is the servant of God. And we must not forbid such a one. His words are (Mark ix. 38, 39) “Is there full proof, 1. That a person before us was a gross, open sinner? 2. That he is not so now, that he has broke off his sins, and lives a Christian life? And 3. That this change was wrought by hearing this man preach? If these three points be plain and undeniable, then forbid him not. Beware how you attempt to hinder him, either by your authority, or arguments, or persuasion. But what if he be only a laymen, who casts out devils? Ought I not to forbid him then? Is the fact allowed? Is there reasonable proof, that this man has or does cast out devils? If there is, forbid him not; no not at the peril of your soul. Shall not God work by whom he will work? No man can do these works unless God be with him; unless God hath sent him for this very thing. But if God hath sent him, will you call him back? Will you forbid him to go? But I do not know that he is sent of God, “Now herein is a marvelous thing,” (may any of the seals of his mission say, any whom he hath brought from Satan to God) “that ye know not whence this man is, and, behold he hath opened mine eyes! If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” If you doubt the fact, send for the parents of the man: send for his brethren, friends, acquaintances. But if you cannot doubt this, you must needs acknowledge, “that a notable miracle hath been wrought,” then with what conscience, with what face, can you charge him whom God hath sent, “not to speak any more in his name.”

“Apply this, to those pious females who think it their duty to call sinners to repentance. Let them be judged by this rule. Mr. Wesley knew that it made no difference whether the servant of God who performed these miracles was male or female. This does not alter the facts. On this principle he answered a certain person who said to him, “Mr. Wesley, how is it, that you encourage certain females in preaching?” “Because (said he) God owns them in the conversion of sinners, and who am I that I should withstand God.””

 — Found here.

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