Women Serving God: My Journey in Understanding Their Story in the Bible is by well-known Lipscomb University theology professor John Mark Hicks and is endorsed by over a dozen respected ministers, chaplains, and professors. Hicks argues against the traditional Churches of Christ prohibition on women and girls speaking and leading in the worship assembly and for their full participation.

Part autobiography, part textbook, Women Serving God describes Hicks’ journey from believing scripture demands “no participation” for women in worship-assembly leadership (no leading singing, preaching, etc.) to viewing scripture as asking for “limited participation” (e.g., read scripture but not preach) and later as calling for “full participation” of women in the assembly.[1]

After an overview, this article identifies Women Serving God‘s strengths, including addressing contrary views honestly.

This article also identifies the book’s weaknesses, including materially overstating the evidence regarding the magnitude of diversity of practices within the Churches of Christ in the 19th and early 20th century relative to women serving in the assembly.

I. Overview and Strengths

Women Serving God first recounts how Hicks read the Bible early on with a “blueprint” hermeneutic—sometimes called CENI—looking to the Bible for explicit Commands, approved (binding) Examples, and Necessary Inferences and reasoning God approves only of activity so commanded or approved.  Such a hermeneutic is how the Churches of Christ historically conducted itself, per Hicks.  

He applied such a blueprint hermeneutic in his youth to find women should not participate in church leadership and even co-authored a book at that time saying so.[2]

Awareness of Scriptural Problems with His View and of History

Hicks next tells of his growing awareness of diversity within 19th and early 20th century Churches of Christ on women’s roles and of scriptural problems with his view.    

He then outlines his increasing awareness that “no participation” conflicts with scripture.  He expands on problems with sole reliance on a blueprint hermeneutic and on the leg of his journey leading to his “full participation” view.  He discusses much relevant scripture and addresses a range of viewpoints.[3]

Realizing a Restrictive View of 1 Timothy 2:12 Conflicts with the Rest of the Bible and that He Had Misinterpreted It for Years

In the last part of Women Serving God, Hicks realizes his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 (“… I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man ….”) as prohibiting women’s participation in the assembly today is erroneous.  

Engaging leading scholarship on various sides of the argument relative to primary interpretative questions, he asserts that “[s]earching for the blueprint forces us to minimize, decontextualize, reframe, or even ignore the balance of the Bible” but that a theological interpretation considers the overall story of God, including how the Bible describes women partnering with men, participating in the assemblies, and leading God’s people.

He thinks “Paul is addressing a local situation with a temporary prohibition for a specific problem.”  

1 Tim 2:8-15 is ambiguous, he explains, but “the balance of the Bible speaks loudly.”  The “safe” approach is not, as some assert, excluding females from participating, and “[i]f we have misapplied biblical texts and illegitimately silenced women, that is far from safe.” 

The narrative ends with appreciative and insightful responses from four women.[4]


Hicks’ analysis is accessible and scholarly, considers leading contrary arguments, engages with sources and scholars’ views across the spectrum, and cites original-source evidence. 

He graciously engages with opposing views, addressing the substance of disagreement rather than making ad hominin assertions.  A broad bibliography and “Further Reading” list is included.  The book asserts a cohesive theory of the theological history of the Churches of Christ relative to female participation in the assembly using primary sources. 

Throughout, the prose speaks as a companion, rather than as trying to sell something.  The story of his increasing awareness of a problem and changing his views is warm and encouraging.[5] 

II.      Weaknesses

Weaknesses in Women Serving God include implying that changing one’s hermeneutic—the way one reads the Bible—is needed to reach a conclusion of “full participation.”  While such a change is part of Hicks’ journey, what can be viewed as a straightforward misinterpretation problem within even a blueprint or most any hermeneutic (e.g., misinterpreting 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 by reading out of context) is cast by Hicks instead as a larger problem.

Moreover, his engagement with scripture and history does not meaningfully address centuries-long, historical interpretation and practice of exclusion of women and its underlying premises. And the history he describes does not closely consider the split between the Disciples of Christ and the Churches of Christ.[6]

III. Primary Weakness: Overstating Historical Evidence

One weakness stood out.  Hicks’ description of “the history” of the Churches of Christ relative to women participating in the assembly in the 19th and early 20th centuries expresses a much greater magnitude of diversity of practice than the evidence he cites allows. 

Hicks claims significant “limited participation” in the assembly by women in the Churches of Christ in that time period—that “many congregations” of the Churches of Christ practiced “limited participation” then, with women encouraged to lead prayer, read scripture, exhort, and lead singing in the public assembly and with women leading prayer and exhorting the assembled church being “not uncommon,” and that women’s participation in the church was a “hotly disputed” topic among Churches of Christ for a long time, for example—and that there was a “move” to uniformity of “no participation” for the first time in the 1930s or 1940s.[7] 

But an in-context analysis of evidence he cites reveals that the evidence does not justify such a claim.[8]

Miscasting the stream of theological history here can obscure traditions and teachings that taint our theological water, risks us thinking that going down a different branch of the same stream can solve the problem, and impedes cleaning up the water to make it healthy, unifying, and edifying for the church and pleasing to our creator.[9] 

IV. Example: Evidence Cited for the 19th Century Does Not Justify Hicks’ Historical Claims

To illustrate by example this primary analytical weakness in Hicks’ historical claims, this section shows that the magnitude of diversity of practice in the Churches of Christ that Hicks claims for the 19th century—e.g., “many” practicing limited participation, “not uncommon”—is not proven by the evidence he cites.

He cites five articles published from 1860 to 1886 as containing arguments that scripture allows limited participation by women (e.g., to lead prayer) and the activities of Charlotte Fanning, the wife of Churches of Christ luminary Tolbert Fanning.[10] 

A. Argument is Not Actual Practice

First, a published argument does not, by itself, prove that what is argued for is actually taking place in practice.  The “Further Reading” section in Women Serving God has roughly 50% presenting an argument for full participation in the Churches of Christ, for example, but in practice much less than 1% of Churches of Christ congregations today are “full participation.”[11]

Only two of the evidentiary instances Hicks cites explicitly refer to actual practice (Faurot and Fanning), and they are ambiguous or not credible on the point, at best.  The others are only arguments for a practice, not testimony that the argued-for practice actually took place.

B. Tiny Number of Articles over Decades Doesn’t Allow Conclusion

Second, pointing to just a few published discussions over a period of decades when there were thousands and thousands and thousands of columns of articles published does not suggest the magnitude of diversity Hicks claims.

C. Evidence Hicks Cites, Read in Context, Doesn’t Prove Assertions

Third (the main point here), inferences Hicks expresses from the evidence he cites appear far overstated when the evidence is viewed in context (e.g., with the full quote, what the person said later, what other people said, or historical context).

Half of the instances Hicks cites appear not to refer to women speaking or leading the worship assembly in the first place (Franklin, Fanning, Lipscomb) when viewed in context, but instead refer to small groups, singing out while seated in the congregation, or work outside the worship assembly. 

The other half appear either not to mean what Hicks implies or to make a statement that is not credible (Faurot) or simply offer arguments for limited participation by women with no evidence of actual implementation (Krutsinger, Lard). There is also a distinct possibility that at least Franklin and Krutsinger refer, at least in part, to congregations that are properly viewed as part of the Disciples of Christ, rather than the Churches of Christ.

Analysis of the Evidence in Context 

Instances Hicks cites to support his claim for a significant level of diversity of practice in the assembly among Churches of Christ—“not uncommon,” “many,” “move,” etc.—does not prove the claimed diversity and is ambiguous at best when viewed in context. Four are discussed here.

(1) Faurot’s Letter to the Editor

Hicks quotes an 1866 letter to the Millennial Harbinger from Mr. R. Faurot as saying he only knew of “two congregations outside of Bethany, that did not allow women to all acts of religious worship.”[12] 

The quote, as presented, implies Faurot means it was unusual for Churches of Christ congregations to prohibit women from any act of worship in 1866 — not from preaching, leading prayer, etc.  If that is what Faurot means, does such a statement seem credible?

It seems more likely that Faurot means instead that he knows of only two churches outside Bethany that completely prohibit women from all acts of worship, including prohibiting them from singing, exhortation, etc., for example (Faurot cites Luke 1:46, Mary’s Song), i.e., that he knows of only two churches that impose complete silence on women.  At minimum, it is ambiguous. 

(2) Benjamin Franklin’s Article

In favor of limited female participation, Hicks cites an article by Benjamin Franklin (relative of the better-known one). Franklin is often associated with the Disciples of Christ (viewed as splitting from the Churches of Christ over a period of the mid-19th to very-early-20th centuries).[13]  As Hicks reports, Franklin suggests women may sing, pray, commune, and exhort in public worship in 1860.[14]  

In a later article Hicks does not cite, however, Franklin appears to clarify his suggestion to limit this to a particular kind of public worship, one that does not include the main assembly. Franklin explains that the Corinth church met sometimes in small groups “for prayers, exhortation and songs” and women prayed and prophesied there, but “[w]hen important questions were pending in the church,” women were not permitted to speak nor to “arrogate to themselves authority.” 

Franklin concludes, “[i]n any of our small meetings for prayers, exhortations, songs, etc., the sisters should participate in both the prayers and exhortations, but in the more extended assemblies for the public edification of the people at large … they should be in silence.”[15]

(3) Charlotte Fanning

Hicks quotes a biography of Charlotte Fanning that says she assisted her husband, “he doing the preaching, she leading the singing,” when he held what Hicks terms “protracted meetings.”

But the biography does not refer to this as “protracted,” instead to meetings held “[d]uring vacations.”[16] 

Whether the specific reference is to protracted, public assemblies or small public or private meetings (e.g., prayer-meetings in a home), including not what they considered the public worship assembly, is unclear.[17]

It is also unclear whether “she leading” in the biography refers to standing at the front directing the gathered or instead to singing out from among them. More on this below. 

Similarly, Hicks says Ms. Fanning led singing at a Franklin church.  One reference he cites says “He could preach, she could sing,” but that does not indicate she led singing in a public worship assembly, much less what kind of leading, as seen clearer relative to chapel, next.[18]

What did those quotes mean by “leading”?

Hicks also claims Charlotte Fanning led singing “in chapel at Franklin College in the 1840s-1850s.”[19]

Hicks cites a source in which William Anderson states, “I thought of how she used to sing ‘Sorrows.’ I could almost see her again, sitting in the old chapel, leading that grand old song.  She was not afraid to open her mouth, and she could sing.”[20]

“Sitting” suggests Charlotte Fanning was not leading in the sense of how we use that term today, standing in front and directing, but possibly in the sense of sitting and singing out in the congregation, as “not afraid to open her mouth” might also suggest.  

Compare how Anderson references Mr. Fanning clearly leading singing:  “I can almost see him now as he used to stand in the old chapel on Sunday mornings, with a song book in his hand, and say ‘We will sing “Dundee,” on page 93 ….’”[21]

(4) David Lipscomb Quote

For a sixth instance to support his claims, Hicks edits and presents an 1873 David Lipscomb quote as follows:

“[I]n the worship … [e]very member ought to be called upon to read a verse, sing a hymn, pray, give thanks—ask or answer a question of Scripture teaching, [or] report a case of need …,” adding that public teaching in the assembly was reserved for men.[22]  

One might think from this edited quote that Lipscomb urges women ought to be called upon in the assembly to read scripture and pray.  This edit connects calling on “[e]very member” with “in the worship” and shows only things that might be done in the public assembly. 

But the full quote, instead, connects calling on “[e]very member” also with “the work of the congregation,” shows things that occur outside the public assembly (activities in the community, visiting, etc.), and only specifies males for worship, seen here with missing words in bold and notable words italicized or underlined:

“In the worship each one is to do what under the guidance of the elders he is fitted to perform.  His talents must be cultivated.  A very common and hurtful error is that the bishops or elders are to do all the worship, and to attend to all the cases of necessity in the community.  This is a mistake fatal to the life of the church.  Their duty is to direct the younger in the conduct of both the worship and the work of the congregationEvery member ought to be called upon to read a verse, sing a hymn, pray, give thanks—ask or answer a question of Scripture teaching, report a case of need, relieve one, visit the sick, report some one needing Scripture teaching, confess a wrong or be sent to minister to the necessity of some one suffering.  …” 

Lipscomb thus more likely means males should be guided to engage in such worship activities and “every member” ought to engage in that or the work of the congregation, such as visiting or ministering outside the assembly in the community, rather than as Hicks renders the quote.

Lipscomb opposed women speaking, teaching, and having authority in “public,” including in the worship assembly.[23]

Insufficient Evidence to Prove the Historical Claim

For the three reasons mentioned, the evidence Hicks offers in Women Serving God is not sufficiently weighty, unambiguous, or, in some cases, probative to prove his claims of significant diversity of practice relative to women’s participation in the assembly for the Churches of Christ in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The cited evidence does not show that “many congregations” of the Churches of Christ practiced “limited participation” then, with women encouraged to lead prayer, read scripture, exhort, and lead singing in the public assembly and with women leading prayer and exhorting the assembled church being “not uncommon,” or that there was a “move” to uniformity of “no participation” for the first time in the 1930s or 1940s.[24] 

V.        Conclusion: Recommended Book

I recommend Hicks’ book, Women Serving God, to scholars, ministers, and church members, in the Churches of Christ in particular.  It is strong in its scriptural analysis, empathy, and discussion of hermeneutics. 

Given the author’s stature in the Churches of Christ, it will likely be one of the primary references considered by Churches of Christ reviewing their practices for some time to come.  The historical description in the book should be taken with the caveats expressed above.

Parts of Women Serving God might be useful in the academic classroom if the class or a portion of it is focused on the topic and includes a missional or practical component. It may be useful in the church-classroom setting, though the book is too long and too dense for most church Bible classes. The teacher of the class, at least, would find it very useful.         

While I have spent the bulk of my article discussing the primary weakness in Women Serving God, my criticism is meant to further God’s kingdom and all of our work in that regard. 

John Mark Hicks should be appreciated for sharing his experience and insight with us and for challenging us to think about these issues.  Decades of living these questions and many hours of difficult work went into Women Serving God.  I am better off having read it, and I thank John Mark Hicks for his work and for caring about Biblical teaching on women.





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Sources & Notes

This article is derived from a paper presented in September 2020 at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference that reviewed three books on the subject of Biblical teaching on women. The review’s components largely follow the journal’s guidelines on book reviews (usually much shorter).

An article on the first of the three books was published in September, see Steve Gardner, “‘On Gender’ by Renee Sproles (Book Review),” Authentic Theology (September 18, 2020). An article reviewing the third will be published in the coming weeks.

Dr. Hicks responded to the portion of my paper addressing his book. John Mark Hicks, “Response to Gardner’s Review of Women Serving God,” JohnMarkHicks.com (October 1, 2020).

[1] John Mark Hicks, Women Serving God: My Journey in Understanding Their Story in the Bible (Self-published, 2020), pp. 13-21. He also describes a theological history of the Churches of Christ regarding this issue, his move from a “blueprint” hermeneutic to a “theological” hermeneutic, and an analysis of relevant scripture.

This essay’s footnotes generally come at the end of a paragraph or a group of paragraphs, with cites for consecutive sentences often separated by semi-colon, rather than after every sentence or paragraph. The second in a book series, Hicks describes Women Serving God as “an extension” of the first (p. 13), which I reviewed last year, see Steve Gardner, “Hope for Churches of Christ? “Searching for the Pattern: My Journey in Interpreting the Bible” by John Mark Hicks (Book Review),” Authentic Theology (Sept. 24, 2019).

[2] Women Serving God, pp. 23-26; 24-31; 33-40. This “blueprint hermeneutic” often looks only to Acts and the Epistles, Hicks explains. CENI is my note. For a discussion regarding CENI in this context, see Steve Gardner, “13 Church-of-Christ CENIs Authorizing Women to Speak in the Worship Assembly (Commands, Examples, Necessary Inferences),” Authentic Theology (June 6, 2018).

[3] Women Serving God, pp. 71; 75-105; 105-161, 115; 119-161.

[4] Ibid., pp. 165-176; 204-206; 210; 213-250 (emphasis in original). See also ibid., pp. 43, 165, 211 (daughter, mother). The four are Claire Davidson Frederick, Jantrice Johnson, Lauren Smelser White, and Bethany Joy Moore.

[5] Ibid., pp. 251-266, 267-270.

[6] Cf. ibid., pp. 168-172 with, e.g., Kevin Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part I,” Evangelical Q. 72:2 (2000), 151-167, and Kevin Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part II,” Evangelical Q. 72:3 (2000), 195-215 (describing historical interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 and related scripture). Another example is Hicks’ engagement with the meaning of “in every place” in 1 Tim 2:8.

An additional weakness in this vein is that Hicks’ focus on a narrow species of one product of the theology of women (the species being what happens in the assembly), instead of on the related genus of that product (women barred from public speaking, teaching, and leading everywhere) and on the overarching theology of women at the time itself (sin-causing, blameworthy, deceived and deceptive, untrustworthy, confined, etc.), risks misapprehending or not realizing the theology ultimately at the foundation of excluding females from participation in the assembly, then and today, whether “no participation” or “limited participation.”  This overarching theology of women includes, for example, interpreting scripture to say women should not teach or have authority over men anywhere in public—in church, in government, in the military, in public, in a public forum—because: (1) Women are inferior to men because (a) she was created second (Eve after Adam), reflecting inferiority and (b) women do not fully bear the image of God, and (2) women (via Eve) are to be blamed for evil and death in the world and women are more susceptible to sin, deception, and error than men, and thus their place, their sphere, is solely in the home, in private settings, and with the children and not in public places of teaching or authority. See, e.g., Kevin Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part I,” Evangelical Q. 72:2 (2000)), pp. 160-163. See also Marg Mowczko, “Misogynistic Quotations from Church Fathers and Reformers,” (Jan. 24, 2013); Steve Gardner, “David Lipscomb, Church of Christ Foundational Leader: ‘All the Teaching of the Bible is Against Women Speaking in Public’ (It Gets Worse),” Authentic Theology (April 12, 2018) (e.g., “It is wrong for a woman to become a leader or public teacher of men in any place or on any occasion.”; “[A]ll public teaching and speaking on any subject at any place puts woman out of place, out of her God-given work.”; Women’s “unfitness to lead and teach arises from her strong emotional nature causing her to be easily deceived and to be ready to run after anything or body that might strike her fancy against reason and facts.”); Steve Gardner, “Alexander Campbell, Church-of-Christ Denomination Progenitor: Women’s Domain “Rightfully Only House Wide,” Authentic Theology (March 23, 2018) (similar).

See, e.g., Women Serving God, pp. 63-74, 107-117, 119-120, 129, 159-161, 176-180, 193, 196-197, 202-205 (hermeneutic-change discussion, some application).

[7] See, e.g., Women Serving God, pp. 46 (“the history of women in the American Restoration Movement”; “churches of Christ had a diverse history regarding the audible participation and visible leadership of women in a worshipping assembly”); 47 (“controversy among churches of Christ that had been roaring for at least fifty years”; “From roughly 1888 to 1938, churches of Christ debated whether women could not only preach and exhort in the assembly ….  They debated ….  They debated ….”; “more hotly disputed from 1888 to 1938 than at any other time in the history of churches of Christ until recent decades”); 48 (“not uncommon”); 50 (“many”; “the move”). The history Hicks describes as to the assembly is essentially that “many congregations” of the Churches of Christ practiced “limited participation” in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with women encouraged to lead prayer, read scripture, exhort, and lead singing in the public assembly and with women leading prayer and exhorting the assembled church being “not uncommon,” for example, and that women’s participation in the church was a “hotly disputed” topic among Churches of Christ from about 1888 until the late 1930s, but Churches of Christ were alarmed by cultural developments in the late 1800s and early 1900s (e.g., women wanting to work outside the home, seeking the right to vote, and giving public speeches on alcohol sales and use), and these cultural developments (in addition to relevant discussions in the Gospel Advocate, a failure of the blueprint hermeneutic to find authorization for female participation in the assembly, a desire to be “safe,” and a desire to be “loyal” Churches of Christ (rather than like northern churches)) caused “the move” of the Churches of Christ from such diversity of practice to uniformity of “no participation” for the first time in the late 1930s or early 1940s. This uniformity held and largely continues today. See, e.g., ibid., pp. 19, 45-63, in particular pp. 19, 46, 47-50; 50-56, 62-63. In conjunction with discussing such cultural movements, Hicks explains certain Churches of Christ leaders believed women are to be “excluded from leadership in society as well as the home and church” based on 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and other scripture, but that the Gospel Advocate and churches eventually accepted public roles for women in society. Ibid., pp. 62-63.

See also ibid., pp. 51-52, 62.  I fear that Hicks’ assessment on uniformity may miss, too, that the absence of discussion in the relevant periodicals regarding a topic does not necessarily mean a lack of discussion and debate within the group.  See, e.g., Robert C. Douglas, The Exercise of Informal Power Within the Church of Christ: Black Civil Rights, Muted Justice, and Denominational Politics (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd., 2008) (describing a deliberate effort not to address controversial issues).  Note also the absence of dissenting views in many periodicals today and in recent decades.

[8] This weakness does not impact Hicks’ ultimate conclusion about scripture, but it is a major weakness in light of a potential misapprehension of that which underlies today’s practice of the Churches of Christ. Bill Grasham makes a more modest claim in “The Role of Women in the American Restoration Movement” (undated; possibly 1999) (“[t]here has never been a completely uniform view of the role of women in the work and worship of the church in the Restoration Movement” (note view rather than practice and including the whole Movement)). In some sense, it depends on how literally and strictly one views “uniform.” One can claim lack of uniformity easily by taking a literal view. And it is much easier to identify persuasive evidence of non-uniform “views” than of practice. Hicks does not appear to use “uniform” literally and strictly, e.g., not with a tiny percentage deviating making something non-uniform. Hicks’ description may be the history of the Churches of Christ or it may not. It appears far overstated relative to diversity. A point of this criticism is that the evidence Hicks offers does not prove that it is the history and there is good reason to believe that it overstates the evidence as to diversity.  

[9] If, instead, the history is the Churches of Christ is a group that inherited and followed a form of the prevailing patriarchal teaching and practice in the Roman Catholic Church and then in Protestant churches for centuries before the 19th and, in conformity therewith, uniformly taught and practiced an overall prohibition on women from publicly speaking to, teaching, having authority over, or leading men anywhere at all in the 19th and early 20th century, based on and as a product of the awful overarching theology of women noted above (e.g., sin-causing, blameworthy, deceived and deceptive, untrustworthy, confined, etc.), with “no participation” in the assembly being just one species of that overall prohibition and with reactions to cultural developments Hicks cites helping to maintain “no participation,” and the group began to liberalize this overall prohibition beginning in the 1930s and 1940s to accommodate women working outside the home and then in the 1990s to accommodate “limited participation” in some places, then, (a) ultimately, both “no participation” and “limited participation” today in the Churches of Christ are part of a narrowed-but-continuous theological stream, both fed from its polluted upstream of the prevailing, overarching theology of women of the 19th century and before (sin-causing, blameworthy, etc.), and (b) this contaminated, continuous stream flows through not only the Churches of Christ “no participation” and “limited participation” assembly of today, but through the home and, in at least some branches, through education, the workplace, government, and society.

[10] Women Serving God, pp. 48-49. Hicks later provides a second, related statement by Lipscomb in the 1870s. See infra.

[11] See Wiley Clarkson, wherethespiritleads.org/gender_inclusive_churches.htm.

[12] You can view the other two in the paper I presented to the 2020 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference from which this article is derived, Steve Gardner, “Review and Critical Analysis of Three Recent Books on Biblical Teaching on Women Receiving Attention in Stone-Campbell Movement Churches,” A Paper Presented at the 2020 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference, Biblical Teaching on Women Study Group (September 11, 2020).

Women Serving God, p. 48 (citing R. Faurot “Shall Women Pray or Exhort in Public” [Letter to the Editor], Millennial Harbinger, 5th Series (Aug. 1864), pp. 370-371; R. Faurot, “Shall Women Pray or Exhort in Public?” [Letter to the Editor], Millennial Harbinger, 5th Series (Sept. 1864), pp. 415-418). Hicks adds “especially exhortation.” The “two congregations” note and reference to Luke 1:46 is at p. 417. Faurot cites his experience in the “bosom of the reformation” Western Reserve, Ohio (northeastern Ohio), and farther west. Ibid. Was he referring to Churches of Christ? Restoration Movement churches? All churches?

[13] He is great nephew of the better-known Benjamin Franklin. “[W]hen that division was recorded in the 1906 Census of Religious Bodies, nearly 83 percent of the nearly 160,000 Churches of Christ members lived in the eleven states of the former Confederacy and the border states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, and Oklahoma. By contrast, only about 15 percent of the nearly one million Disciples of Christ members lived in the eleven Southern states.” Douglas A. Foster, “The Effect of the Civil War on the Stone-Campbell Movement,” SCJ 20 (Spring 2017), p. 6 (citing David Edwin Harrell, Jr., “The Sectional Origins of the Churches of Christ,” The Journal of Southern History 30 (Aug. 1964), p. 263).   

[14] Women Serving God, p. 48 (citing Benjamin Franklin, Queries and Quandaries, ed. by Kyle D. Frank, (Chillicothe, Ohio: DeWard Pub. Co., 2012); Hicks does not give a pinpoint cite for Franklin, but the information is likely from p. 110, reporting a query and answer from American Christian Review, Vol. 3, No. 5, p. 18 (Jan. 1860)). 

[15] Franklin, Queries and Quandaries, pp. 34-35 (also “or when church matters are under investigation and important questions at issue, they should be in silence.”). He says “We doubt that in Paul’s time, they had some of those masculine women, like our modern clerical ladies, on a mission of ‘Woman’s Rights,” who were repulsive to all refined people and enlightened minds, who were a disgrace to the church of Christ. But these are the whole breadth of the heavens from those holy women, of deep and unfeigned piety, who prayed and prophesied in the first church, or those who participate in the worship in our time.” Ibid.; ibid., pp. 58-59, 170-171 (deacons, elders). In 1867, he says “women should not teach, nor usurp authority in the church, is clear …,” but it is not the case that “women should never participate in social worship. …  [T]here are two extremes—the one not permitting women to open their lips in any worshipping assembly, and the other making them public preachers and teachers.  This latter class generally get to be infidels, disgracing themselves.” Franklin, supra, p. 63 (citing American Christian Review, Vol. X, No. 26 (July 2, 1867), p. 213). With his earlier statements in mind, Franklin might emphasize the word “any” here, but it is unclear. See also ibid., p. 155 (citing American Christian Review, Volume X, No. 42 (Oct. 15, 1867), p. 333, answering a question about a “lady preacher” by stating “If this woman is of the Lord she will hear Paul, 1 Tim 2.11-12 …. If she is not of the Lord, she likely will go on preaching.” (This may be evidence that women were actually preaching, at least in some types of churches.)), p. 166 (citing Vol. 16, No. 30 (July 23, 1873), p. 228 (“simply no authority, or one word about women voting in transacting business in the church, participating in ruling, … or anything of the kind, under any dispensation, Patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian”). As an aside, my favorite question in Queries and Quandaries: “What ought to be done with sisters, that with axes, sledges, and hammers, and have broke their way into a grocery, and destroyed the liquors, and some other things found therein, and burned up the barrels that had contained the liquor?” Ibid., pp. 216-217 (citing American Christian Review, Vol. 5, No. 35 (Sept. 2, 1862), p. 2).

On American Christian Review generally, see https://fsu.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fsu%3A191713#page/Page+1/mode/2up



[16] Ibid.; Emma Page, The Life Work of Mrs. Charlotte Fanning, (Nashville: McQuiddy Printing Co., 1907), p. 16.

[17] Were they the meeting type the biography describes as “a short service of family worship,” where dad provides a lesson and “they gathered about the piano the mother played and all joined in singing hymns”? Ibid., p. 167 (a reference to a kind of meeting, likely not to the Fannings, as they reportedly did not have children, Scobey, p. 151). Charlotte Fanning wrote of women in the church: “… women whose lives met the approbation of God. Those women of the New Testament were praying women. During the week just preceding the establishment of Christ’s kingdom they continued with other disciples of the Lord in prayer and supplication. After the kingdom the church was established they held prayer meetings in their homes. In the house of Mary the mother of John Mark many were gathered together praying when Peter knocked at the door after his miraculous deliverance from prison. … What admonitions were given them? … They heeded those admonitions.  I cannot imagine Priscilla as a woman who talked unkindly of her neighbors indulged in fits of ill temper or neglected the sick and suffering. … A congregation of Christians met for worship in Priscilla’s house at Ephesus but I cannot think that she was ever president of any society in the church or that Lydia ever presided as a dignified officer over such a body.” Ibid., pp. 128-129.

[18] Hicks does not provide a pinpoint here, either. Page refers to a Franklin church (p. 16), on the same page that she references Charlotte Fanning, “she leading the singing” discussed supra, in relation to “meetings” held “[d]uring vacations.”  Of course, these vacation meetings could have been at a church building or other public setting in Franklin, but the text does not say explicitly and the issues discussed herein make it ambiguous, if not doubtful, whether this refers to leading singing as we think of it today in the assembly. Hicks might also refer to Scobey: “She seemed instinctively to know her part, and faithfully she did it.  He could preach, she could sing; …, ” and after a buggy break-down caused them to stop for longer than planned, “Mr. Fanning had been preaching …. Mrs. Fanning had charmed them by the sweet melody of a cultivated voice.  The preaching and singing were both instructive and entertaining. … A church was established ….”  Scobey, supra, pp. 151-152. At another place in Scobey, he says “In this work of examination and teaching among the women Mrs. Fanning took a leading part.” Ibid., p. 152. Without pinpoints, it is challenging to know to what Hicks refers specifically, so I have taken some guesses here. Perhaps it (or more) is in Scobey or Page, and I simply missed it.

[19] Women Serving God, p. 48. This is also without a pinpoint cite.  For a discussion of women serving in chapel of Churches of Christ-affiliated colleges today and recent history, see Steve Gardner, “Exploring Effective Advocacy Points for Removing Barriers for Women in Churches of Christ, With a Focus on Chapels of Churches of Christ Colleges,” presented at the 2019 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference (April 2019) (discussing Pepperdine chapel); Steve Gardner, “Most Church of Christ Colleges No Longer Exclude Women from Leading in Worship Services:  A List of Schools and Their Approach to Chapel,” Authentic Theology (May 9, 2018).

[20] James E. Scobey, Franklin College and its Influences (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1954), p. 370.

[21] Ibid. Hicks provides page-range cites for Scobey (but not for Page). See comment at end of footnote 18, supra

Also, Anderson was reportedly born in 1848, 0 to 12 years old in the 1840s-1850s. therestorationmovement.com/_states/tennessee/anderson,wm.htm. The only relevant reference I found in Scobey is mentioned above. I found chapel mentioned four times by Page (pp. 16, 53, 181), but no description of Ms. Fanning leading singing there. Page 20 describes singing in her room with girls from a school.

[22] Women Serving God, p. 48 (quoting David Lipscomb, “Preachers or Teachers,” Gospel Advocate (Sept. 25, 1873), pp. 903, 910)

[23] Lipscomb, supra, 910 (emphasis added), probably not meaning “every member,” individually, ought to be called on to “answer a question of Scripture teaching” in the assembly, as he viewed women barred from public teaching (same for leading prayer) or meaning every infinitive in the list applies to every member individually, but instead “every member” refers to the membership as a whole such that the infinitives apply to the collective. Either many infinitives there refer to inaudible acts (read, pray, etc.), “every member” refers to the collective, or both. Hicks later again quotes him as favoring female assembly participation, but the quote may not be about the assembly itself, instead an “investigation of God’s word with our Lord’s day meetings” (emphasis added), a “quiet meeting” with men and women “to learn and know the will of God,” see Women Serving God, 49 (citing “Queries,” Gospel Advocate (Nov. 16, 1876), pp. 1110-11), like Sunday School which Lipscomb may not consider a public assembly, see Lipscomb & Sewell, Queries & Answers, M.C. Kurfees, ed., (Nashville: McQuiddy Pr. Co., 1921), p. 736. Regarding Lipscomb’s views on this matter generally, see, e.g., Steve Gardner, “David Lipscomb, Church of Christ Foundational Leader: ‘All the Teaching of the Bible is Against Women Speaking in Public’ (It Gets Worse),” Authentic Theology (April 12, 2018).

[24] See, supra, footnote 7. What seems to me to be a plausible and more likely history is as follows: The part of the Stone-Campbell Movement that was and remained the Churches of Christ through the gradual split of the movement into the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)—with the vast majority in the south—were close to uniformly “no participation” in the 19th and early 20th centuries because such a practice was one part of the “woman’s sphere” theology advocated by Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb, and other leaders of those churches. In this theology, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and other scripture provides that women are prohibited from teaching, speaking, or having authority over men in any public setting and that women’s sphere is the home and childrearing. This is the same theology advocated through the centuries in the Roman Catholic church and by leading Protestant theologians. Some people with a different view remained in the Churches of Christ through and after the split, but their influence and number waned post-split. The effect of women working outside the home (influenced by war efforts, particularly relative to World War II), the Suffrage Movement, and other economic and cultural forces in the 20th century caused the Churches of Christ to modify its theology and practices to accommodate the concept of women having authority, speaking, and leading in the workplace and, gradually, society. My aim here is not to offer proof of this proffered history, but to propose it as more plausible.  Moreover, it seems unlikely that such cultural movements caused the Churches of Christ to, at the same time, both (a) become more conservative—women’s participation in to the worship service, by moving to uniformly “no participation,” and (b) become more liberal—women’s participation in the workplace and society—when the cited cultural movements applied more direct pressure to the latter than the former. Possible, of course, as reactionary, for example, but it seems more likely that “the practice” was broader than the species of actions in the assembly and includes the genus of all female activity (in society, church, workplace, government, etc.), was uniform (not in the literal sense, but in the practical sense) for Churches of Christ from the 19th century on (inheriting religious and regional norms from before the Movement’s inception), altered in the mid-20th century due to culture to liberalize everywhere except the assembly (less so in the home), continued on a moderate pace of liberalization outside the assembly, and remained relatively static in the assembly.

This proffered history agrees with his assessment that culture and cultural changes materially impacted the theology of the Churches of Christ, but it would say that the cultural view of women, combined with the influence of Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb, and others, simply maintained and galvanized the long-time patriarchal theology that restricted women to a particular sphere and excluded women from authority, speaking, and leadership roles relative to men in all public areas of life (in society, the workplace, government, church, etc.) and in the home, and that the cultural and economic pressure to allow women a more active role in the workplace, especially via war efforts and the growth of women in the workplace beginning in the 1940s, caused it to change its theology to limit such restrictions on authority, teaching, and leadership to the home and church. This proffer is not intended to state conclusively “the history” of the matter, but to offer a theory, one requiring proof and adjustment before making such a claim with great confidence.

Also, Hicks’ history seems to give little attention to the split between the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches in the mid-1800s through early 1900s. His history gives the Churches of Christ theology and practice relative to the worship service a more-prominent status than the overall theology of God’s spheres for women and men. Of course, history and theological change can be complicated, and Hicks’ description of “the history” may be right. A point in this article is that the cited evidence does not prove it.