24th June 2020

Views from the Manse – Rev W G Gillings

The Rev W G Gillings was a great Bible Scholar and preacher. He was the first minister of the church in St Kilda that became the Pakington St church. (Not the earlier Baptist church in Crimea St.) By the time he left in 1887 to take up missionary service in Bangalore his church had a congregation of 117 and a Sunday school of 250 scholars.

He was an interesting man for it is clear that he liked smart women.

Although the Rev Gillings lived in India from 1887 until his death in 1915 we know that his first wife was an outstanding woman because she was a Biblical scholar who had two articles published in the Victorian Baptist in 1892.

These were very well written and closely argued from the texts. She explored the topic of ‘Women’s Ministry: its Legitimacy and Power’ and in her articles reveals a high level of biblical scholarship.

The articles are too long to reproduce here but the following paragraph will illustrate the point.

Priscilla “expounded the way of God” more perfectly to Apollos, who was an ‘eloquent man’ and mighty in the scriptures”. Phebe was a ‘deaconess’ at Cenchrea and Paul’s helper. Trepehena and Tryphosa were ‘labourers in the Lord’, (Acts xviii and Romans xvi)’. Etc.

She concludes her first essay with:

‘The Corinthians seemed to value specially the ‘gift of tongues’. Perhaps it was outwardly most attractive; but they are taught that all the gifts are necessary, and to profit: for though the body is one, it has many members and all are necessary. The subject (being discussed in 1 Corinthians) is the body of Christ, and not meetings of the church, and the term everyman is the same as everyone, as shown in the above Scriptures’.

These articles were published after her death and in March 1892 The Victorian Baptist published an editorial in response, even though they had a plethora of articles dealing with the death of C H Spurgeon.

It reads as follows:

We published in our January and February editions two short articles from the pen of the late Mrs. Gillings, upon a woman’s position in the Church of God. Mrs. Gillings was a devout and diligent student of the Scriptures and her words will have a great weight for those that remember her. For our own part, we think she has made out a very good case for the right of her sex to minister the word orally and publically when called to do so. We confess that we have come very slowly to concede this point. We have been disposed to look upon such efforts as exceptionally warranted and always needing some apology. We think so no longer, and would be glad to see a general enfranchisement of woman (sic) within the church.

The Rev Gillings married again and his second wife had the sad task of writing a funeral notice for the Bangalore papers.

She was also a woman of letters for the notice is beautifully crafted.

It reads:

       ‘Mrs. G W Gillings respectfully informs her friends of the passing of her beloved and esteemed husband on July 16th 1915, in the 95th year of his natural life, the 75th year of his spiritual life and the 60th year of happy service for his Divine Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is not dead but sleeping ‘through Jesus’ ‘until the day break’.  

I would like to have met these women and wonder where they had been educated?


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