Female Ordination Controversy in Methodist Episcopal Church
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Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) and Anna Oliver (1849-1892) both were active female leaders within the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC). Both women felt called to ministry and Oliver even became the first female to graduate from a Methodist seminary in 1876.

In 1880, both women applied for ordination within the MEC, and their requests drew controversy. The MEC allowed women to preach in 1869, but full ordination, including the right to administer sacraments, was not permitted. Oliver even wrote and distributed pamphlets for the General Conference detailing why female ordination should be permitted.

Ultimately, both women were denied ordination based on their sex. Shaw left the MEC in 1880 and joined the Methodist Protestant Church, where she was ordained the same year. Oliver remained in the MEC, though she lost her appeal to be ordained.

This event ignited numerous debates among the Methodists regarding female ordination that persisted into the 20th century. The MEC granted limited female clergy rights in 1924 and ultimately full ordination in 1956.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Women and Religion
Methodist Religious Events and People in American History
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Women and Religion in American History
Methodist Religious Events and People in American History
Religious Groups
Methodist/Pietist Family: Other ARDA Links


Anna Howard Shaw- Hathi Trust- from The Story of a Pioneer by Anna Howard Shaw

Anna Oliver portrait- Wikimedia Commons
Book/Journal Source(s)
Reid, Daniel, Robert Linder, Bruce Shelley, and Harry Stout, 1990. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL.
Lippy, Charles H., and Peter W. Williams, 1988. Encyclopedia of American Religious Experience. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Web Source(s)
Anna Howard Shaw's Encyclopedia Britannica Biography
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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