What went through the minds of those members of Nolin Presbytery as, on Tuesday, November 5, 1889, they set apart diminutive Louisa Mariah Layman Woosley as an ordained minister of the Gospel? Were they aware of the monumental step they were taking? Did they realize the significance it would have in the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination and, indeed, in the reformed family of churches?
Louisa Woosley was, like True Grit's Mattie Ross, "a Cumberland Presbyterian and proud of it." In a ministry that touched seven decades, Louisa never left the Cumberland fold. In 1906, when a large portion of Cumberland Presbyterian clergy left for the Presbyterian Church, Louisa remained to watch her detractors depart.
With her ordination in 1889 came a battle on the synodic and denominational level over the ordination of women and the place of women in God's plan. It was not until after the so called liberal clergy departed in droves in 1906 that opposition to her ordination withered and not until 1920 that women were denominationally recognized as fit to be ordained.
It seems so obvious today. Simply, our God is not limited by our prejudices over who is, or who is not, needed to serve the Kingdom Still, over six generations later, there are still those in Christendom, even in Presbyterianism, that deny the power of God to use women to spread the gospel as ordained clergy.
This is not the case in the communion called Cumberland Presbyterian. While women may still struggle with salary equality and may sometimes have a harder time finding a church to pastor, there is not a presbytery in either Cumberland Presbyterian denomination which would deny the right of Cumberland Presbyterian women to be ordained.
On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Louisa Woosley's ordination, this volume celebrates Cumberland Presbyterian clergy women. It includes the heartfelt preaching voice of women across the spectrum of Cumberland Presbyterianism, 69 sermons in four languages from three continents. There can be no doubting the sincerity of that voice.