Should ladies have the right to vote for their own rulers in the elections of church officers? The question is scriptural, practical and perennial; and, as it deals with ‘rights,’ it sometimes incites fervor in those whom the question affects. What saith the Lord?
An Analysis of Rutherford and M’Crie on whether Ladies have the Right to Vote for Church Officers 2015, 21 pages, with Samuel Rutherford and Thomas M’Crie appended on the subject
Rev. Fentiman analyzes the alternative positions of Rutherford and M’Crie on the question and comes to a third middle viewpoint in-between both. His conclusions are:
(1) The voting of ladies was defended and practiced during the best time of the Church of Scotland;
(2) Voting in elections for Church officers is not an act of ruling;
(3) The grammar and context of Acts 6 does not exclude ladies;
(4) The exegetical argument from ‘no male nor female’ (Gal. 3:28) for every-member-voting, grounded on church membership, is strained and inconclusive;
(5) There is a third, middle-view in-between the alternatives of every-church-member voting and head-of-household voting;
(6) The congregation’s consent to its rulers is necessary by natural law, and Scripture enforces this natural right;
(7) This is the substance of all that presbyterians have ever generally
desired to maintain from the pertinent passages of Scripture;
(8) The congregation holds this right of election in common, though this does not specifically stipulate that each member has the right of a particular vote;
(9) The method of election in discerning the will of the congregation is not clearly prescribed by scripture and is hence indifferent;
(10) This was essentially the view of M’Crie.
Thus, the election of officers, whether by the vote of every church member, the heads-of-households, the session of elders (in their representative capacity) or otherwise, is indifferent and adaptable.
Rutherford, Samuel – Ladies have the Right to Vote in Ecclesiastical Elections 1644 2 pages, being pp. 476-7 of his The Due Right of Presbyteries, with a 3 page Introduction by Rev. Travis Fentiman
Rutherford argues that ladies have the right to vote in ecclesiastical election as the right of election of officers is a privilege, not an act of ruling, and it belongs to the every member of the Body of Christ, as there is no ‘male nor female… in Christ Jesus.’ (Gal. 3:28)
Kayser, Phillip – Universal Suffrage: a History and Analysis of Voting in the Church and Society 2007, 21 pages
This is the fullest and most detailed argument against ladies voting in both the Church and State.
M’Crie, Thomas – On the Right of Females to Vote in the Election of Ministers and Elders 1822, 8 pages, a letter, re-edited and with explanatory footnotes.
This is the classic, historic piece arguing ‘no.’ M’Crie’s letter is a model of principle mixed with humility and charity. M’Crie was an early 1800’s Scottish presbyterian of the Seceder tradition, and a foremost historian of the Scottish Covenanters.