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In this episode we discuss the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This is section 1B in Traditional Quaker Christianity. We explore the differences from one to the other, and we look at how Quaker beliefs about the New Covenant result in women’s ministry.

We discuss the difference between being bound in a covenant by birth and by choice. In Judaism, you’re born into the Old Covenant. If your mother’s a Jew, you’re automatically one too. In contrast, we choose the New Covenant when we choose to become part of a faith community which accepts that covenant.

So what about women’s ministry? Some groups, like Quakers and United Methodists, have women preachers. Others, like the Roman Catholic Church, do not. To some people, the Church has a reputation as being against women. On the other hand, Quakers are known for having been the faith of many early leaders in women’s rights, including Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and Abby Kelley Foster.

The early Church had women’s ministry. For instance, Mary Magdalene told the Apostles about the Resurrection first, and Junia was foremost among the apostles. So why do so many Christian groups even today not allow women near the pulpit?

From the very beginning, Quakers rejected the usual interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34. This way of reading says women can’t ever speak in church. Other Christians of the time accused Quakers of heretical “she-preaching.” Quakers didn’t merely wave their hands and say “continuing revelation” or say that 1 Corinthians 14 doesn’t count. Instead, they pointed at the New Covenant, at Biblical examples of women’s ministry, and at passages about women giving prophecy. Nowadays, some of us even see a link between women’s ministry and traditional Quaker plain dress!  Some people might see a head covering as something repressive. Meanwhile, others might see it as an acknowledgement of women’s spiritual authority to prophecy.

References

  • 1 Corinthians 11:5
  • 1 Corinthians 14:34
  • Romans 16:7

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