Milestones in the Struggle for Gender Justice



c.1810    Nancy Mulkey, daughter of John Mulkey of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, began joining her father on preaching tours and gained a reputation as a powerful, spirit-filled exhorter. The Mulkeys were so effective in evangelizing for the Stoneite movement along the border between Kentucky and Middle Tennessee that even today 27% of the residents in Macon County, Tennessee are members of the Church of Christ, the highest percentage of any county in the United States.


1812    Nancy Grove Cram (1776-1815) left her home in New Hampshire to evangelize the Oneida Indians in New York for the Christian Connexion. But finding little success there, she moved on to evangelize Charleston, New York, where she attracted large numbers. She then went to Vermont to find an ordained minister who would come baptize her converts and organize the church in Charlestown.


1816    Abigail Roberts began her own itinerate evangelistic ministry after Nancy Cram converted her from her Quaker upbringing to the Christian Connexion.


1821    Nancy Towle (1796-1867), having been converted by Elias Smith in 1818, left her home in New Hampshire to spend fourteen years as a traveling evangelist of the Christian Connexion but preaching without regard for denominational lines.

(See Judith Bledsoe Bailey, Nancy Towle, “Faithful Child of God,” 1796-1867, MA thesis, College of William & Mary, 2000, online at:


1828    Mary Graft, Mary Morrison, and Mary Ogle, “the three Marys” received a visit from Thomas Campbell and were persuaded of the truth of his preaching. They established the Somerset (Pennsylvania) Christian Church, which grew to over 500 members by 1840.


1888    Selina Moore Holman (1850-1915), published a letter to the editor of the Gospel Advocate, beginning a series of exchanges between her and David Lipscomb in which she argued that the Bible endorsed women as teachers in the church. Holman was the president of the Tennessee Christian Women’s Temperance Union, and her husband was a medical doctor and an elder in the Washington St. Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Tennessee. (, which reproduces Lisa W. Davidson’s entry in the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 402.)


1889    Clara Hale Babcock (1850-1924) was ordained at the Erie (Illinois) Christian Church. She was a popular evangelist who went on to pastor eight different congregations in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and Ontario.


1892    Sarah (“Sadie”) McCoy Crank (1863-1948) was ordained at the Marceline Christian Church, in Illinois. She started preaching in southwest Missouri at the turn of the century; thus, most of the churches she served were in this area. In her eulogy, E.T. Sechler reported that, “She organized or reorganized 50 Christian churches, led in the building of 18 houses of worship, baptized approximately 7,000 persons, and conducted 1000 funerals” (The Christian Standard 84 [Nov 6, 1948], p. 734).


1913    Silena Moore Holman published “The Woman Question” in the Gospel Advocate.


1982    Bobbie Lee Holley became editor of Mission Journal, which was published from 1968 to 1986.


1984    Kathy Pulley was the first woman to preach a Sunday morning sermon at the Brookline (Massachusetts) Church of Christ. Pulley later became Professor of Religion at Missouri State University.


1986    Micki Pulley (now Pulleyking) and Tim Willis were installed as co-ministers of the Brookline (Massachusetts) Church of Christ. Pulleyking went on to serve as Pastor of the Billings (Missouri) Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Senior Instructor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. Willis later became Professor of Old Testament at Pepperdine University.


1987    The Brookline (Massachusetts) Church of Christ published a statement that it was a fully gender-inclusive congregation in the Church of Christ, open to the full participation of women in all aspects of congregational life and ministry.


1988    The elders of the Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas announced that they would beginning seeking ways to use the gifts of women in leading the worship of the congregation.


1989    Publication of Deacons: Male and Female: A Study for Churches of Christ, by J. Stephen Sandifer. Sandifer, minister of the Southwest-Central Church of Christ in Houston, surveyed the history of women deacons from the NT to the Restoration Movement.


1990    The Cahaba Valley Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama appointed four women and eight men to serve as deacons.


1993    Publication of Distant Voices, by Leonard Allen (Abilene: ACU Press). Chapter 4, “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy,” introduced many readers for the first time to the stories of 19th-century women evangelists in the Stone-Campbell Movement.


1993    Publication of Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, Volume 1, edited by Carroll Osburn (Jopline: Collegeville Press). Volume 2 would follow in 1995. This collection of essays from a variety of Church of Christ scholars dealt with most of key passages and challenged many patriarchalist assumptions.


1994    The Cahaba Valley Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama hired Katie Hays and Lance Pape as youth ministers but soon assigned both of them to serve in their regular preaching rotation.


1995    Pepperdine University hired Fran Grace its first female, full-time, tenure-track assistant professor in Religion, where she taught until 1995, before moving to the University of Redlands. A specialist in American Religious History, Grace is the author of Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life (Indiana University Press, 2001).


1996    Leaven journal 4.2 was devoted to the topic of “Women and Ministry.”


1999    The West Islip (New York) Church of Christ on Long Island hired Katie Hays and Lance Pape as co-ministers.


1999    The Plymouth Park Church of Christ was formed in Irving, Texas from the merger of two prior congregations. Among the stated foundational beliefs of the new congregation was the principle that they would choose elders, deacons, teachers and worship leaders on the basis of their gifts and abilities, regardless of gender.


2001    Abilene Christian University hired Dr. Jeanene Reese as its first female, full-time, tenure-track assistant professor of Bible & Ministry. Reese is the author of Bound and Determined: Christian Men and Women in Perspective (Leafwood, 2010).


2001    Publication of Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal, by Carroll Osburn (Abilene: ACU Press). Osburn, Professor of New Testament at ACU, rejected the extreme positions of Patriarchalism and Radical Feminism in favor of the more moderate position of “Evangelical Feminism.”


2001    The web site was launched to promote gender justice in the Churches of Christ, with Lance Pape as creative designer and webmaster, Katie Hays, Joe Hays, and Christopher Hutson adding content, and Mary Lou Hutson funding the start-up costs. Jeanine Thweatt-Bates became the webmaster in 2013.


2001    Come Before Winter (, founded by Karen Alexander, held its first retreat for the spiritual renewal of missionary women in Campinas, Brazil.


2001    Pepperdine University appointed D’Esta Love as the first-ever Chaplain of the University. D’Esta Love and Stuart Love are also co-editors of Leaven: A Journal of Christian Ministry, since it began in 1990.


2002    Publication of Trusting Women: The Way of Women in the Churches of Christ, edited by Billie Silvie (Orange, CA: New Leaf Books), in which nineteen women told their stories about life and ministry in the Churches of Christ.


2005    The Women In Ministry Network ( held its first conference of women ministers in the Churches of Christ. Since then, the annual conference has been held in various cities, including Rochester, Dallas, New York, and Kansas City.


2007    Kindalee (“Kindy”) Pfremmer DeLong received her PhD in Theology (New Testament Studies) from Notre Dame. DeLong then became the first female faculty member credentialed with a PhD in Biblical Studies at Pepperdine University. She is the author of Surprised by God: Praise Responses in the Narrative of Luke-Acts (Walter de Gruyter, 2009).


2008    Leaven journal 16.1 was devoted to the topic, “Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy.”


2010    The web site Half the Church ( was launched by Stephen Johnson to promote women in ministry among Churches of Christ.


2011    The Heights Church of Christ in Houston, Texas hired Ann Bayliss as co-minister to share preaching and ministerial duties with Lynn Mitchell, who had been serving there since 2004.


2012    Leaven journal 20.4 was devoted to the topic of “Gender Inclusion among Churches of Christ.”


2013    The web site 1 Voice 4 Change ( was launched to promote gender equality in Churches of Christ.