Historically, women have been allowed to prophesy within Pentecostal churches since this role is specifically mentioned in the Bible as being appropriate to both genders. Many women have played important pastoral roles within churches even though in the eyes of some people this violated St. Paul’s injunction that women remain silent in the church (Miller & Yamamori, pg. 209). With the inception of Pentecostalism, tongues and healing were deemed to be part of Spirit-filled living. This new Gospel spread rapidly in America in the early decades of the twentieth century, and one of the factors relating to its spread was that very early in their history, Pentecostals recognized the vital role that women could play in Spiritual awakening. They utilized them as pastors, evangelists and missionaries. Although most of the leaders of Pentecostalism were men, women were not excluded from the ranks. Women were involved in every aspect of the movement as it spread throughout the world (Tucker & Liefeld, 1987, pg. 360). This paper will discuss the opportunities and restrictions that Pentecostalism has offered to women. The paper will also give examples of women who served in Ministry in the early twentieth century and discuss how Pentecostalism aided or hindered their ministry. OPPORTUNITIES THAT PENTECOSTALISM HAS OFFERED WOMEN
In the early years of the twentieth century, women had an inferior status especially among the established mainline churches. Women were denied leadership roles, and in churches where they were permitted to vote in conference sessions, they found themselves hopelessly outnumbered by men. Most women accepted this inferior status as society’s and scripture’s place for them, and they willingly filled the roles of that were described as women’s work. In the Pentecostal movement, however, the case was significantly different. One Pentecostal practice that varied from the norm of other churches was that of allowing women to preach. By the middle of the twentieth century, Pentecostals had more women preachers than any other branch of Christianity (Synan, 1997). Some of the most influential voices in the early twentieth century were those of females who believed their authority came directly from God. (Tucker & Liefeld, 1987, pg. 359). Pentecostalism allowed women to minister in nearly every area of the growing movement. Women preached, taught the Bible, administrated educational institutions, conducted evangelistic campaigns, founded local congregations and denominations, proclaimed the gospel on the mission field and wrote or edited numerous books and periodicals (Powers, 1999, pg. 313). Pentecostal churches ordained women in great numbers. Research shows that over 50 percent of all women who had ever been ordained were from Pentecostal and Holiness backgrounds. According to the 1990 report of the National Council of Churches, the Assemblies of God, which is the largest Pentecostal denomination, had led the way in affirming the ministries of women (Powers, 1999, pg. 313-314). Pentecostals have used Biblical passages to defend their practice of ordaining women and their ability to speak for God as fully empowered vessels of the Holy Spirit. They use three main lines of argument; 1. Baptism of the Holy Spirit qualified women to preach and prophesy: This is based on Joel 2:28, Acts 2:16-17 and the resurrection accounts in Matthew and John. Pentecostals argued that Jesus commanded women to go and bear witness to his resurrection and the Holy Spirit empowered them to bear this witness on the day of Pentecost. 2. Sanctification in the life of the believer: By virtue of redemption, women were released from the curse of sin and the inferiority associated with that curse and therefore the effects of that curse were no longer applicable to the community of the redeemed and restored in Christ. 3. The unity of male and female in Christ as depicted in Galatians 3:28.
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