Times are still a-changin’ for Canadian Gideons

GUELPH, ON—Until July, Nancy Blois could only watch her husband give out Gideon Bibles to students. Now she can give them out herself.

Originally founded as an association of Christian businessmen and professionals, the Gideons International in Canada, known for placing Bibles in hotel rooms and handing out New Testaments to Grade 5 students, now welcomes "Christian men and women of all vocations" to become members. The July 14 vote is the latest in a series of changes by The Gideons designed to give the Canadian body more autonomy.

Prior to the overwhelmingly positive vote (96.5 per cent in favor says Blois) women were only allowed to be non-voting auxiliary members who only could distribute Bibles to nurses, hospitals, doctors' offices and women's prisons.

"I thought it was wonderful to have women being able to do anything and everything," says Blois. "Women have yearned to use their gifts to move the ministry forward. Now we can double the Lord's workforce.

"Where I live [Stewiack, Nova Scotia], we've been part of a progressive camp where we've done things without being officially recognized. This [change] makes everybody feel that we're working within the laws of the country, the laws of integrity," says Blois, whose husband, Vernon, has been a member since 2003. Blois became a member in July.

The change has been coming for years, with many chapters using women more extensively despite The Gideons International prohibitions, says Canadian executive director Peter Marshall.

"My sense, on the day of the vote, was that there was a sigh of relief—that a breath of fresh air had been breathed into the ministry," says Marshall, who noted that the change was needed if The Gideons were to grow. With an immediate transfer of the 1,500 women in the auxiliary to full membership, membership numbers now reach 4,000.

Blois foresees a change in the image of the ministry.

"I've seen, [at] a few banquets lately, the grey hair has been changing to dark hair as we're already attracting younger, newer couples," she says. "Women have been waiting to see if they could become members because younger couples want to do ministry together."

And, as soon as women were allowed to become members, they were also invited to take on a leadership role, says Marshall, noting Sharon Braun accepted the role as national chaplain.

"Not only did membership accept her, there wasn't any hesitation and she immediately felt acceptance."

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