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Woman is the life of the church, because she is usually there; the hope of the church because of her ardor and zeal; the strength because of her purity and devotion. . . .The church needs a woman's holy prayer, a woman's loving tear, a woman's gentle hand and all the mentionless riches of a woman's faithful heart. BS , March 19, 1896, p. 14.

Pastor M. V. Smith expressed amazement at the faithfulness of women in spite of unequal arrangements:

Tho [sic] the apostles and preachers were all selected from the men, tho [sic] the Holy Spirit inspired men only to write the books of the Bible, old and new, and the pastors and deacons were all men, and the ordinances of God's house were to be administered by men, yet in the face of all this, women have crowded the house of God to hear the ministry of men, predominated as to number at our prayer meetings, made the best teachers in our Sunday schools and have never hesitated in following the leadings of the Holy Spirit, calling their sons and husbands to foreign fields.
Think of a church without a woman. Think of a mission among the heathen with no Christian woman to counsel and no mother, wife or sister or daughter on the ground to show by her patience, wisdom, sympathy and self-sacrifice what the gospel has done and purposes to do. . . . BS , March 4, 1897, p. 1.

Another writer explained that subordination in worship services sometimes followed or preceded a dominant role without:

The ladies of the [Houston] church seem to have made the first move towards a revival of interest in the services. They undertook to repair the church building. . . .In 1868 the house was renovated and painted, and there was a manifest revival of interest among the brethren. B. F. Fuller, History of Texas Baptists (Louisville, Ky.: Baptist Book Concern, n.d.), p. 370.

In the late nineteenth century Baptist women did not chafe unduly at their limitations in worship. Their primary attack on orthodoxy concerned their right to organize mission societies and to take part in evangelization. Only secondarily, when worship prohibitions and practices thwarted those goals, did they seek a more active role. Since, even then, they accepted the concept of separate spheres for the sexes, they made no organized efforts to change worship patterns. The changes came inadvertently as a result of their developing skills in the women's organization and "small works" assigned them and applying those talents naturally in sexually integrated settings.

Given the legalistic, biblically literal mind-set of the Southern Baptist establishment at the time, every increment of change in women's participation in worship was argued against the "bottom line" of absolute silence. That standard, of course, was irrelevant; it had never been strictly adhered to in any period of Baptist history and certainly was not in the Texas of the 1880s and 1890s. But it was invariably posed by someone when questions of women's appropriate service were raised. Sometimes it was recognized for what it was:

'The injunction to silence' could not forbid the use of words in any form of utterance, for that would conflict with prayer and prophesying, which were the result of the Holy Spirit's presence. . .the hostility of some men to women's active gospel works looks a little like envy and jealousy rather than stern regard for theories of inspiration and Scriptural prohibition.
Norman W. Cox, ed., Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), II, 1508.

Questions & Answers

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