A great leader practices holistic, radical, other-oriented love and service. In asking the church to empower women as pastors and spiritual leaders, we are asking it to activate women to fully and freely love, lead, and serve.
Though limitations on women in institutional leadership continue, Holiness and Pentecostal women continue to carry out evangelistic ministries using the venues of revival and camp meetings as well as women’s conferences and conventions.
What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.
Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn was a womanist theologian, pastor, mentor, and civil rights activist who developed the concept of a “freedom-faith.” She is an important figure in Black history, women’s history, church history, and American history for her work towards a church and an America where all people are considered equal, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, or gender.
Stereotypes say women are too emotional to lead, while men are clear and logical leaders. But when we look at the Bible, we find that these stereotypes are not only incorrect, they are also unbiblical.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)
As a scholar of rhetoric and as a Pentecostal Christian, I notice that, although rhetoric and religion embody quite different theoretical perspectives, rhetoric, religion, and gender collide when we examine who is given the authority to speak and who is believed within the church.
But authors in this issue of Mutuality provide many examples of amazing evangelical pioneers from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries whose commitment to biblical authority and to fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission convinced them that women needed to be free to use their ministry gift s and equipped to answer God’s call wherever it led.