As one might imagine, the early Friends’ insistence on the equal ministry of women stirred up trouble. Indeed, many Quakers were beaten, tortured and imprisioned; many more lost social standing or had their property seized. If the ministry of women had been a secondary concern, Friends might have understandably given way. Better to compromise on a non-essential than to see your friends and family attacked, even killed! So why were Quakers willing to suffer terribly to uphold the ministry of women? The answer is simple: The spiritual equality of women is not an “extra” that Christians can take or leave – it is one of the essential marks of a people who are being led by the Holy Spirit.
The Quaker experience is a profound reversal of the natural order. Where death once reigned, we are now abundantly alive; where we had previously been enslaved by hatred and selfishness, we find freedom. Quakers recognize that this amazing transformation is the fulfillment of God’s intention for the creation. When we are in Christ, everything old passes away and there is a new creation. None of the old rules of sin and death apply.
When the Lord is present, human distinctions fade into the background. It is not about us anymore. Instead, all our focus is on Jesus. When we are gathered in his power, we discover for ourselves that“there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.”