The old adage, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” certainly rings true at Moody Bible Institute (MBI). The story of the founding of this well-known Christian institution provides a classic example of a strong alliance between a man and a woman. It also demonstrates what all too often happens: that history does a better job of remembering great men than the great women in their stories.
In American evangelical history, the 19th century revivalist, Dwight L. Moody (1836-1899) stands tall as MBI’s founder. Less known is Emma Dryer (1835-1925), the woman and experienced educator he met in 1870.
Dryer was the original visionary, inspiration, and impetus for the school.
Also noteworthy is that fact that from its founding, MBI was ahead of the curve in their commitment to train women for vocational ministry. Long before Christian colleges and seminaries were admitting women and decades before women gained the right to vote, MBI was training women.
Moody and Dryer shared the conviction that training women for ministry was strategic for the spread of the gospel in America. Together they were intentional about acting on that commitment. Initially their educational efforts focused on women’s significant potential as evangelists to reach other women and children.
But their alliance created a new and broader vision as Moody recognized Dryer’s giftedness as an educator, Bible teacher, and evangelist. As the story goes,
“Moody asked Dryer to oversee a ministry specifically to train women for evangelistic outreach and missionary work. Under Dryer’s leadership, the training program grew rapidly, and so did her desire for this ministry to reach men as well as women. She continued to pray that the Lord would place the idea for such a school on Moody’s heart.”
After founding two schools in Massachusetts (one for girls and a second for boys), Moody ultimately came to share her vision for a school in Chicago. In 1886, he launched the Chicago Evangelization Society that ultimately became the Moody Bible Institute.
MBI is mindful and proud of their feminine heritage and the accomplishments of their female graduates. Their 2017 Missions Conference will highlight the legacy of their feminine side and pay tribute to a constellation of female leaders that Moody trained.
So this Monday, October 9, I’m heading for Chicago where I’ll be speaking on the Blessed Alliance at MBI’s 2017 Missions Conference. This is one place where men and women serving God together comes with a long history.