Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #827 -- August 9, 2021
It was the usual masculine disillusionment
in discovering that a woman has a brain.

Margaret Mitchell [1900-1949]
Gone with the Wind

The Saga of Sister Sadie
The Life of Sarah McCoy Crank
Early Stone-Campbell Preacher

Click Here for a larger, clearer version of the above photo

Any of you who have done any research at all into the history of Christianity will almost certainly agree with me that there has never been a generation of believers, regardless of time, place, or culture, in which our Lord's disciples have not struggled within themselves, and even struggled with one another, over a host of "issues" that challenge their understanding and their practice of God's will for their lives. The Lord's Supper is one such event that has generated much heated debate over the centuries. How ironic that the Communion, which, in part, is a celebration of our unity in One Body, should lead to countless feuds and factions among the members of that glorious, blood-bought Body. The church has witnessed much the same angst with regard to baptism, the use of certain types of musical expression in our corporate worship, our giving, certain acts of benevolence, our view on the end-times, and even which version of the Bible we prefer. The role of women in the work and worship of the church has also proven to be quite divisive, and I have written a number of studies on the various aspects of this "issue" and how our understandings and misunderstandings have impacted the cause of Christ. You will find 20 of those articles on the Topical Index page for my Reflections under the heading "Role of Women." On this same index page, I have 72 biographical articles I have written during my Reflections ministry (they are under the heading "Biography"), 28 of which are about women (with one of those being about my own dear mother - Reflections #271). Under "Hymnists and Hymns" I have 25 articles, 9 of which are about women and some of the beloved hymns they wrote which Christians around the world still sing to this day. I firmly believe we too often overlook the contribution of our sisters in the Faith, and we too often marginalize their service to our Lord and His church.

A number of ultra-conservative, fundamentalist factions within several denominations today continue to relegate women to "the back of the bus" with regard to their role within the Christian community. They can teach unbaptized children, cook for potlucks, clean the building, and the like, but should they seek to have a voice in any of the leadership areas of the local congregation, and should they desire to preach or evangelize, then they will be quickly "put in their place." These "uppity women" today need to behave (keep silent and do as they're told) "like the women in the church of past generations." Such sentiments reveal that these men believe the "issue" of elevating and expanding the role of women in the church is of fairly recent origin. They would be mistaken! Women have always, from the very beginning, played a major role (and yes: a vocal role) in the work of the church. This includes teaching, preaching, evangelism, and even leadership within the local congregation. Who was it that first proclaimed the Good News that Christ had arisen?! In other words, who proclaimed the first Gospel message? If you said Peter, you would be wrong! It was the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, and who then returned to the apostles and disciples, informing them that "He is risen!" This was just as God ordained: "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. ... And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29). The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, as the Spirit fell upon all those gathered in the upper room, and as His powerful, visible presence was evidenced among them and to those around them, declared that this was in fulfillment of "what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16).

And it didn't end there. Women continued to take part in the sharing of the Gospel message. Priscilla and Aquila are a good example (have you ever wondered why her name appears first whenever this couple is mentioned?). Phillip had four daughters who prophesied, which simply means they were "the mouthpieces of God." They spoke the Word. See my article on this: "Philip's Prophetess Daughters: A Reflective Examination of Acts 21:9" (Reflections #653). Phoebe was a female servant of the church (i.e., a "deaconess"), well-respected by the apostle Paul ("Our Sister Phoebe: Deaconess of Cenchrea" - Reflections #299). Junia was outstanding among the apostles, thus indicating she was one "sent forth with a message" ("Andronicus & Junias/Junia: A Reflective Analysis of Romans 16:7" - Reflections #201). The ultra-conservative factions within that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement known as "Churches of Christ" might be surprised to learn that even in the early days of our movement there were women disciples of Jesus playing a prominent role in preaching and teaching. These "women in the Stone-Campbell movement were functioning as evangelists, organizing churches, serving as missionaries, and baptizing believers as early as the first decades of the 19th century" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 777]. "Women in the Stone-Campbell tradition were ordained early in the church's history" [ibid]. "One of the earliest advocates in Churches of Christ for expanded roles for women was Silena Moore Holman (1850-1915). ... She often wrote articles in the Gospel Advocate supporting a more extensive leadership role for women than advocated by church leaders" [ibid, p. 779]. For those who would like to know more about this remarkable woman, check my article titled "Silena Moore Holman: A Courageous Sister-in-Christ" (Reflections #371).

As that last statement indicates, not all the leaders within this movement were in favor of women preaching or teaching, or being ordained, or taking any leadership role. "Strong opposition was expressed by such leaders as David Lipscomb, who argued in the Gospel Advocate that to disobey Paul's command on silence would lead women to eternal death" [ibid, p. 779]. Alexander Campbell felt much the same way, and for the same reason: "Campbell did not favor ordaining women, writing that he advocated submitting to the teachings of Paul on the subject" [ibid, p. 777]. Both men felt Paul was commanding women to "be silent" in any public assembling of the church, and this "law" was strictly enforced against these "rebels." Although these men, and others like them, were able to hinder the efforts to expand the role of women in the church, they were not able to stop it, for their argument against it was more tradition-based than based on correct understanding of Paul's teaching or the overall position of the Scriptures on the role of women in the church. Even the younger sister of Alexander Campbell chose to follow a path evidencing greater liberty than that advocated by her brother (Reflections #636 - "Alexander's Little Sister: Jane Corneigle Campbell McKeever"). With regard to the dogma pertaining to women "keeping silent" (which both Campbell and Lipscomb favored), I believe they both were mistaken in their interpretation of what Paul sought to convey in his teaching. I dealt with this in a number of articles over the years, but would encourage the reader to consider the following three: "Women in Public Ministry: May Women Serve in the Church as Elders, Deacons and Preachers?" (Reflections #483), "Male Chauvinism's Proof-Text: Reflective Study of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35" (Reflections #499), and "Head Coverings for Women: Local Custom or Universal Command?" (Reflections #216).

There are a number of areas of service that have become "hotspots" of concern for those who feel women should "keep quiet and keep their place" when the church assembles for a "worship service" (a phrase never found in the Bible). When we observe the Lord's Supper, for example, may women "serve at the table"? May they pass the trays? Men and women are being increasingly used in this capacity in Churches of Christ (including the one where I am the minister and one of the elders). I dealt with this "issue" in my article "The Trespass of the Tray Pass: Is Serving Communion Gender Exclusive?" (Reflections #646). What about performing baptisms? May women do this? That's an interesting question, since church historians have shown that in the early church women did indeed perform baptisms (although primarily, at that time, of other women). I have addressed this "issue" also: "Gender Regeneration: May Women Perform Baptisms?" (Reflections #239).

Within the Stone-Campbell Movement, the most conservative of the three denominations that emerged from that movement is the Church of Christ. The Disciples of Christ is generally regarded as the most liberal, with the Christian Church falling somewhere between the two extremes. Within the Churches of Christ, one will find several dozen factions that have split off over various "issues" (Sunday School, multiple Communion cups, fellowship halls, musical instruments, treasury/budget concerns, and, of course, the role of women). Some congregations are presently using women in all areas of ministry, including preaching, deacons & elders, song leading, prayers, baptisms, etc. Other congregations leave the impression that they barely tolerate the presence of women in the building (except for cleaning it). Most congregations in this denomination, however, are various "shades of gray" between the two extremes. Many of the people I've talked with over the years seem to be of the opinion that all of these matters about women in the church are of fairly recent origin. Again, that is not true. Women serving as pastors and teachers and leaders in a variety of church ministries has been going on since the early 1800's in the Stone-Campbell Movement. Let me introduce you to one such Christian woman whose name most of you have probably never heard, but who had an impact upon thousands of believers!

Sarah Catherine McCoy (nicknamed "Sadie") was "born on August 15, 1863, near the west bank of Bear Creek on the old McCoy farm east of Breckenridge in Hancock County, Illinois, during a rainy season in the dark days of the Civil War" [from the book "She Kept Men Standing: The Remarkable Sadie McCoy Crank," by Ruth Black Aten, published 1967, length: 361 pages - a well-researched book that is in the "historical fiction" genre]. Her mother, Catherine McCoy, had a total of 12 children by two different husbands. Sadie came from the union of her mother with the second husband, James McCoy, who turned out to be rather worthless: he was an alcoholic, failed to support the family financially, and was abusive. Sadie managed to get out of that environment when she was 16 by getting a job working for the county school superintendent, which allowed her to continue her schooling on campus with room and board provided. She would soon become employed there as a schoolteacher, using her small salary to help her mother and siblings survive financially. She was raised in the Primitive Baptist Church, but in her early 20's she found the reasoning and preaching of Elder Wilson, a Christian Church minister, quite compelling, and she was later baptized by him in May 1887 in Bear Creek.

At this time, she decided that she wanted to devote her life to being an evangelist. She was soon "hired by James Rawser Crank from the Illinois State Sunday School Society to lead teaching services and revival meetings" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 250]. At one such meeting, 96 people responded to her teaching and declared their desire to be baptized. Sadie had not yet been ordained, and there arose a discussion as to whether she had the authority to receive the confessions of faith of these 96 persons and to baptize them. After some discussion, it was decided that she should be ordained so that she could perform the baptisms. So, on March 17, 1892, she was ordained in Marceline, Illinois by J. S. Clemments, an evangelist with the American Missionary Society, thus becoming "one of the first women ordained in the Stone-Campbell Movement" to be a preacher of the Gospel [ibid]. A year later, at the age of 30, she married James Rawser Crank, the man who had first hired her. They would have four children together: one son and three daughters (see the photograph at the top of this article).

As one might imagine, she and her husband both began to receive criticism from some within the movement, wanting her to "retire from preaching" because she was married and needed to "remain at home" to take care of her "wifely duties." Others within the movement were impressed with her zeal and preaching abilities, and she received quite a few offers from various churches to come work with them. She chose, however, to remain an evangelist and preacher in rural Illinois, although she did venture often into Missouri, establishing congregations there as well. "During her ministry she baptized between five and seven thousand people, officiated at 361 weddings and more than 1000 funerals, organized or reorganized 50 rural churches, and was an active member of the Christian Woman's Board of Missions and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union" [ibid], and she did this all during a time when the "big names" in the church were debating with one another as to whether or not a mere woman should be allowed to open her mouth at all as a spokesperson for God. Sister Sadie did not let any of this discourage her; she just kept right on serving her Lord with the abilities and opportunities He gave her. She passed from this life on September 20, 1948 and is buried in Pennsboro Cemetery in Dade County, Missouri. May our God raise up more women just like her!!


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Readers' Reflections

From a Minister/D.Min. in California:

Hi again, Al. I greatly appreciate your balanced and biblical thinking! If you haven't read the book "The Spirituality of Wine" by Dr. Gisela H. Kreglinger, I recommend it for your perusal. About ten years ago I carried on an email discussion with three of my seminary classmates, all of whom had earned their Ph.D's, and were themselves professors of theology. All three held views opposite of what I had come to hold. About 20 years ago, my primary care physician prescribed two five-ounce glasses of red wine a day. At that time, I held the same views as my friends, so it was with trepidation that I followed my MD's recommendation. In the discussion of ten years ago, I was told that I shouldn't take ANY wine, because drinking wine "in any amount" was detrimental to the brain (as per the British medical journal "The Lancet"). When I researched this article in that journal, I found the conclusion was highly contested as being "unscientific." They also based their con arguments on the book by the Seventh Day Adventist scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D. So, we do have to go right back to Thomas Campbell's 3rd and 5th principals in the Declaration and Address. It's hard not to stick our noses in where we shouldn't.

From a Reader in California:

Al, I appreciate your Reflections that came today ("The Drunkenness Dilemma: Letting the Scriptures Draw the Line" - Reflections #826). From someone who has recovered from alcoholism by the grace of God, I can say without any fear of being wrong that for me, willfully drinking any alcohol would be sinful, and strangely enough it has nothing to do with the alcohol itself. I humbly asked God for help in relieving me of my obsession to drink alcohol, and He graciously saved me from this fatal obsession. For me today, drinking alcohol would show blatant disrespect to the One who saved me from it. I view it as crucifying Christ all over again. But that does not apply to everyone. I personally have zero reason to be around it, and I don't need to even be thinking about it. Today, for me, it is a symbol of my sinful past of which I want no part. My cardiologist tells me that a glass of red wine might be beneficial for my heart, but the potential damage it would cause me makes the small benefit not worth the huge detriment. The bigger question for a servant of God is: What brings glory to our Master? Some may say that drinking any alcohol does not bring glory to our Master. As someone who does not drink, I disagree. If there was something inherently sinful about alcohol, God would have clearly spelled it out in the Scriptures. As you mentioned in your article, the Scriptures are very clear that the overconsumption of alcohol is sinful. A sober (pun intended) and mature view of alcohol is what's called for. We need to use the brains God gave us. Strangely enough, as someone who completely abstains from alcohol for spiritual, and ultimately for health, reasons, I think I have a healthier view of alcohol consumption than I ever did before. Bottom line: stick to the Scriptures and you'll be fine.

From a Reader in Florida:

Good morning, brother, and thank you for sending out the most recent edition of Reflections ("The Drunkenness Dilemma"). So, here's a question for you (an extension of the topic at hand): Is what you wrote applicable to the use of marijuana (in states where the recreational use of it is now legal)? Some might say that one glass of wine, or one beer, or one hit/draw/toke (or whatever you want to call it) won't render you so "high" as to cause you to be impaired and lose control (which is the case with those who get drunk, stoned, or who are on strong prescribed medications). How does one address those who include the use of marijuana in this study? Thank you, as always, my friend. May God continue to bless you.

From a Reader in Georgia:

It seems to me that the overarching principle here is self-control: NOT "by others-controled," as in somebody trying to establish a "one drink rule" or whatever for all others. Anybody that enjoys a drink knows, likely from experience, what is and what is not too much, and much like eating to excess, drinking to excess has its own punishment as a warning to the wise! And also, like excessive eating, there are physical manifestations that allow others to know and to be encouraged to be a friend and have a chat with those abusing food and/or drink, and to even, in some cases, intervene. Seems to be a creative intentionality, if you ask me. What's interesting to me is the use of prescription drugs for various ailments. We know from secular history that many remedies also have negative results if used improperly. Cocaine was legal at one time, until the adverse effects of its abuse became obviously apparent. Yet, variants of this drug are still used today in various medicines. Medical marijuana is used today for the homeopathic treatment of various ailments and diseases, and it is legally prescribed in some areas. In other parts of the country, however, it could land you in jail. Is marijuana useful? Perhaps. Could it be used improperly (abused)? Sure. I think James kind of laid it in our individual laps when he wrote, "If we know the right thing to do and don't do it, we're messing up." What the "right" thing to do for one person, isn't necessarily the "right" thing to do for another. We each must answer for ourselves, as it should be! Keep stomping out ignorance, brother!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I tried beer as a youth, and I did not like the taste of it. I thought it must taste like urine, although I had no idea what that would taste like! I tried a sip of whiskey, and I didn't like having my throat and stomach set on fire. I tried wine when I was 15, and I got drunk on it. I don't remember anything about the taste. I spent the night throwing up and staggering to the toilet. The next day I was so weak I didn't think I could walk. Conclusion: If this was what "having a blast" was like, I did not want to waste my time being "blasted." I haven't tasted wine since. That said, I nevertheless agree with your article, and I appreciate the way you approached the topic. Closed-minded folks, however, those bound to traditionalism and negativity, will always condemn you as "wrong." Those who are former alcoholics will probably not give you a thumbs up either. The problem with drinking is not knowing where that line is between sobriety and drunkenness. Those who are former alcoholics know that for them there is no such line, thus they rightfully choose total abstinence as the rule for them personally. By the way, medicines can do the same thing. Some will "reason" to themselves, "If one pill every 4-6 hours gives me relief, then two pills will double that relief." Or, "I know I'm only supposed to take one pill every four hours, but it won't hurt to take one pill every hour; it'll just help me feel better." And who doesn't want to feel better?

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, when I started reading this one ("The Drunkenness Dilemma"), my mind went immediately to a motorist being pulled over and charged with a DUI. In our society, the mind automatically goes to alcohol as the source of this driver's impairment, but those who don't drink can also get a DUI for certain medicines they might be taking. Many of these medicines come with a warning against driving or operating dangerous machinery. I personally view alcohol in two categories: (1) I simply like a drink or two at times, and (2) I hardly ever take Advil, Tylenol, or other pain medicine, because when I am home, I have found a certain measured amount of alcohol will take care of the problem. After talking with my doctor, he simply sees it as substituting one form of a drug for another, with one working much quicker than the other. I am reminded of my grandfather using a BC powder under his tongue for quick relief, compared to waiting on a "solid pill" to take effect. Regardless, I wonder how many of the "never take alcohol" group are also in the "never take narcotic medicines" group?

From a Reader in California:

Al, I could write pages on the topic of your latest Reflections ("The Drunkenness Dilemma"), having grown up in NW Alabama. Here are some of my thoughts: (1) Churches of Christ NEVER did anything with Baptists, or other "denominations," and condemned them regularly from the pulpit, until the wet/dry referendum came to a vote. Then, suddenly, we were long-lost cousins fighting for a common cause. I was criticized greatly as a young preacher when I refused to join in the legal debate as to whether a county should be wet or dry. I believed it was the right of the people to decide that matter. (2) As you mentioned in your article, those who would scream the loudest against alcohol (to the point of telling us not to shop in stores that sold it, as shopping there was the same as condoning it), had no problems at all with prescribed medications that contained alcohol or worse. My father-in-law was a staunch opponent of voting for a wet county, but he always kept a jar of "toddy" for his cough (which was often just moonshine whiskey and honey). (3) My mother was told by her physician to drink small amounts of wine at her meals because she suffered greatly from dysmenorrhea. Some "good church folks" saw her drinking her small amount of wine (which did help her) in public once, and they did all they could to completely destroy her reputation in that small town.

(4) We were not to shop at stores and pharmacies that sold alcoholic beverages, but "good church folks" could shop at stores that allowed adolescents to purchase condoms for weekend activities, cigarettes, pornographic magazines, etc. It was just the alcohol that set off all the red flags. (5) So, you can imagine my abject surprise when I was first hired as a Minister of the Word at a church in southern California, and in one of the early elder's meetings the topic of discussion was which alcoholic beverages would be allowed for people renting our fellowship hall for weddings, birthday parties, etc. I stayed out of the conversation because I was still in shock that Church of Christ elders would even have this discussion. Bottom line: wines, champagne, and beer were approved (some of our members and church leaders grew up in European countries where wine was consumed the same way sweet tea was in the South), but whiskey, bourbon, tequila, etc. were not allowed in our building. (6) Last, but not least, were the highly emotional sermons "proving" that the wine of the NT was not alcoholic, in spite of the obvious textual proof to the contrary. Talk about jumping through theological hoops to reach a conclusion not found in the Scriptures!

From a Reader in Hawaii:

Al, I read an interesting phrase in Kittel. He wrote, "We can understand how Paul may formulate the pregnant saying that 'the poor in truth can make many rich, and those who have nothing yet possess all things' (2 Corinthians 6:10)." What is a pregnant saying?!

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