Rev Constance Oosthuizen: a Brief Tribute
We need to ask each other constantly: How goes it with your soul? - Because, the most powerful energy on earth is the human soul on fire.
Methodists ignited for mission need to be energised with their souls on fire. One such person was Rev Constance Oosthuizen who in 1946 speaks of her conversion after which she said she realised that God had a plan for her life in the mission field. At the time Rev Oosthuizen had no idea that the MCSA did not allow women to preach let alone candidate for ministry.
Rev Oosthuizen considered at the time of either joining the Salvation Army.
Rev Oosthuizen, was Ordained to the order of Deaconesses at the East London Conference in 1957. However her calling remained to administer Word and Sacrament. There was so much opposition by the MCSA (who by the way had already declared that we were one and undivided in 1958) that one Deaconess left and joined the Congregational Church and became ordained, Rev Una Smuts (of course black women never even featured on the landscape of the MCSA)
Through much struggle and determination eventually Rev Oosthuizen, the Conference allowed women to candidate for ministry in 1974. Rev Oosthuizen’s congregations and Circuit under the Superintendent Rev A Coates gave her confirmation of her call.
The opposition grew. One male minister at the time took her apart and said that she did not have gifts for such a calling. Her reply; “I told him that I was sure of God’s call.”
On the evening before the oral examination at Synod, the Chairman of the District told Rev O that he had no intention of passing her. The Synod expressed its mind in the affirmative.
After 21 years as a deaconess, the first white woman and only woman at the time, Rev Constance Oosthuizen was ordained on the 17th October 1976. What a joy.
Thereafter opposition continued including ecumenically where ministers and members of other denominations would not greet her. Some told her that if she came to share in a service in their church, she should not wear her clerical attire.
In 1979 Sister Mavis Mbilini was the first black women to be ordained as a Deaconess and in 1985 she became the first black woman to be ordained to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments in the MCSA.
Rev Purity Malinga became the first black woman and only woman to date to be made Bishop in the MCSA 1999 to 2008 (Natal Coastal District).
40 years on.... what gains? What struggles still confront our women in ministry? I would rather they speak for themselves
40 years ago the church reached a milestone decision to ordain its first woman. This was a highly significant moment of igniting mission to oppressed women in the church and world. The church, more accurately the MCSA Conference made this bold (and not all its members some were and still remain opposed to women in ministry) took a bold and courageous decision which probably went against the opinion and views of the majority of church members. God does not necessarily go with the opinions or decisions of the majority but does what is righteous and just for the liberation of the oppressed and marginalised.”
Extract from Synod 2016 address by Bishop Mike Vorster, Natal Coastal District
Photos Rev Jenni Sprong