This Just In: Notable Christian Women You Should Meet
By Ellie Corrow
March is Women’s History Month, which might cause some people to roll their eyes, but really it’s a great opportunity to consider the women in Church history who have taught us that there’s no cookie cutter model of biblical womanhood.
Let’s take a moment to meet a few women who, out of faithfulness to Christ, used their talents in service of their neighbors in a variety of ways. None of these women are perfect, and we certainly can’t endorse everything about all of them, but they are still part of the great cloud of witnesses we read about in Hebrews 12:1 and lived lives that confessed the grace and mercy of Jesus.
Phoebe the Diligent
First, in Romans 16 we encounter Phoebe. She only gets a few sentences in the Bible, which don’t seem to tell us a lot, but what they do reveal is pretty interesting. She is the person responsible for carrying Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, which is why she’s praised by Paul and recommended by him to the church there. We also know that she served as a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae, which is in Corinth. (Remember the two letters Paul writes to the church there?) Though these clues are small and tantalizing, we do know, at the very least, that she was trusted and respected by Paul to deliver one of his most important letters, which is really no small thing.
Margery the Devoted
Next, let’s meet Margery Kempe. Margery lived in England in the late 1300s, was married with about 14 children, and is believed to be the author of the first autobiography in the English language. Kempe’s autobiography details her various pilgrimages to holy sites, as well as her spiritual experiences—even some seriously weird ones! I didn’t know that there was such a thing as the gift of holy tears, which doesn’t sound like an especially fun gift, especially for the neighbors who had to listen to her crying all the time, so don’t try that one at home. But, strange religious practices aside, her autobiography details her devotion to Christ, desire to live a holy life, and the struggles that she faced while trying to understand her place in service to the Church.
Dorothy the Dynamic
Let’s stay in England, but hop ahead to the early 20th century and discover Dorothy Sayers. Dorothy Sayers was a pastor’s daughter, and one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford University. Dorothy was a prolific writer, mostly known for her Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, but she also wrote widely about classical education, the Christian faith, including apologetic works, and a series of plays on the life of Jesus called The Man Born to Be King, which C.S. Lewis (a friend of hers) read each Easter. Sayers’ religious writing was so well received that the Archbishop of Canterbury offered her a doctorate in divinity (which she declined). She also completed a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is still well regarded. Sayers often promoted a robust, doctrinal confession of Jesus, claiming that Christianity done right is anything but boring.
Maggie the Defender
For our last profile of remarkable Christian women, let’s move into the 21st century and meet Maggie Karner. Maggie served Jesus as a wife, a mother, and the LCMS director of Life and Health Ministries. In her role with the LCMS, Maggie tirelessly defended the sanctity of life with Christ-centered joy and compassion. In 2014 she was diagnosed with brain cancer and had to eventually step down from her official role in the LCMS, yet despite her illness, she did not stop confessing Christ. At the same time Maggie was battling her brain cancer a young woman named Brittany Maynard was fighting the same type of brain cancer. Brittany was public in her decision to take advantage of her state’s physician-assisted suicide laws and end her own life before she became too ill. Despite her own illness, Maggie chose to speak out, publicly offering to Brittany words of kindness and encouragement, reminding her that life is a precious gift. It’s so precious in fact it’s not something that can be willfully discarded, even when the road ahead seems so dark and scary. While she suffered due to her terrible illness, Maggie saw an opportunity to defend life, because she knew the One who rose to defeat death.
This is just a tiny sampling of amazing Christian women, who in some respects don’t seem to share a lot in common. I can imagine Maggie Karner or Dorothy Sayers telling Margery Kempe to pull herself together and stop crying all the time. However, I can also gather they were all grateful for Phoebe’s work in delivering Paul’s letter to the Romans. So many of us today are thankful for Maggie’s faithful witness and the pen of Dorothy Sayers. We don’t remember faithful women as merely an addendum to Church history, but rather because we rejoice in and give thanks for a good confession of Christ, from whomever it may come.
Deac. Ellie Corrow lives in Ballwin, Missouri with her son, Andrew, three dogs, and one cat. Not only is she on the board of Higher Things, she also serves as the missionary care coordinator for the LCMS Office of International Mission, providing support to 100 missionary families worldwide.
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