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Wesley Bible: A Study Guide

Journey of Faith: Session 6

By Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D.

"The best of all---God is with us" ~John Wesley

Phoebe: A daughter of the church

Before this Bible Study, the facilitator should visit the website for the Women's Division at http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/wesleywomen.stm  and gather basic information needed on women who worked in early Methodism such as Grace Murray (Bennet), Mary Bosanquet, Eliza Bennis, Jane Cooper, and Sarah Mallet 

Scripture Romans 16: 1-23

Divine reading, lectio divina

  • Take a bite. Lift up in your heart each name mentioned in the assigned reading. 
  • Stay with the words that are associated with different offices, duties, and ministries
  • Savor the essence of the ministry of the early churches. Talk with God about what God is calling you to do. 
  • When the Word of God becomes part of you, pray how you can engage people and resources for the furtherance of God's reign on earth. 



  • What do you see in Romans 16:1-23?
  • What is Paul doing in this chapter?
  • How many persons are mentioned in this chapter?
  • How many women are mentioned?
  • Name the different offices, functions, duties, and ministries in the church.
  • What do you know about Phoebe in particular?

(More questions can be framed that draw on the realities in the story which allow the readers to sharpen their observation and enter the story and the discussion easily)


  • What kind of ministry does Phoebe do in her church at Cenchreae? 
  • New Revised Standard Verson and New Living Translation refer to Phoebe as a "deacon" in Romans 16:1. 21 Century King James Version and American Standard Version refer to Phoebe as a "servant" of the church. Contemporary English Version refers to her as a "leader" of the church. Which translation do you prefer? Why?
  • Which translation do you not prefer? Why not? 
  • Who are some of the women leaders of the church who have influenced you in your life? 

(Questions that refer to personal experiences and the shared experiences from their own contexts)


  • Have those women leaders been assigned a secondary role in their churches?
  • What kind of a church do you think she has in Cenchrea? 
  • Read Romans 16:5. What kind of a church is mentioned here? 
  • Why did the early Christians gather or assemble in houses? 
  • The Greek word for church mentioned is ekklesia which means gathering or assembly. Have you heard about "house churches" in today's context?   
  • Look at a map of Paul's Journeys, and find out what it entails for Phoebe to go from her church to Rome bearing Paul's letter.  
  • What kind of images do you have of a deacon and a deaconess? Read Philippines 1:1. Paul mentions "bishops and deacons." The deacons mentioned here may be leaders in the church, just as Phoebe was.  
  • What kind of reception is the receiving congregation in Rome supposed to give? 

(Questions that help the readers to move into the next level of ideas, values, and  key thoughts in the story)


  • What kind of courage does Phoebe offer for engagement in today's mission? How can you witness to God's grace in your context?  
  • What kind of courage do the women in Romans Chapter 16 offer for engagement in mission? What are some of the ways in which you can engage in love-in-action?   
  • What are some of the leadership qualities that can bring about transformation in the church? What are the spiritual practices that need to undergird such a leadership?  
  • How are you going to equip yourself as a leader, in your own way serving God in the church and community?  

Wesleyan Core Term: Women's Leadership
Paul concludes the epistle to the Romans by greeting key individuals who worked with him. Chapter 16 provides the strongest evidence we have of his conviction that the Holy Spirit gifts both women and men for all areas of ministry. Paul's actual ministry showed openness to women. He recognized a woman deacon, women co-workers, and a woman who was "prominent among the apostles" (v. 7)…John Wesley also recognized women's gifts, and women were able to exercise leadership in the early Methodist movement. In their affirmation of women in ministry, Wesleyans incorporated as precedents the ten women Paul mentions in chapter 16. (The Wesleyan Study Bible,  page 1385). 

Visit http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/wesleywomen.stm  and gather information on selected women leaders in early Methodism:  

  • Grace Murray (Bennet)  
  • Mary Bosanquet 
  • Eliza Bennis  
  • Jane Cooper  
  • Sarah Mallet   

See the ministry of women of Wesley times.

Wesley used the potential of women's leadership in early Methodism. One such example is Grace Murray (Bennet), an early band leader. Wesley appointed her as a class leader in a newly organized Society at Newcastle, England. She traveled through many northern counties in order to work with the female societies. She even traveled to Ireland for that purpose. Grace Murray was a traveling evangelist and church leader like Phoebe in the early church. 

For women leaders in Wesleyan times, engagement in mission was to experience the freedom in Jesus Christ, and bring about transformation around them. They visited prisons, led classes and bands, worked among children, preached, and organized women's groups. 

Mother's Day in the U.S.:
The original intent of the Mother's Day, started way back in the mid-1800s , was a secular day set  apart for mothers to advocate for the much needed social reform of the day. Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe were instrumental in this. 

The church today celebrates this day as the Festival of the Christian Home. It is a day to dedicate ourselves anew to engagement in mission in order to address the issues that impact women and children.  

Prayer: O God who raises your daughters and sons into your service in the church and the world, make us joyful leaders and co-workers with you. Often it means swimming against the current. Strengthened by your constant presence, we make it home. Amen.  

Click HereJourney of Faith: Session 7

v Kosuke Koyama in his book, No Handle on the Cross. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1977, p. 71.   

This Bible study was also published by United Methodist Publishing house; a print-friendly PDF can be downloaded from their site.

Last Updated: 03/17/2014

© 2014 United Methodist Women