Book Review: Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry: Informing a Dialogue on Gender, Church and Ministry | CBE International

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Book Review: Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry: Informing a Dialogue on Gender, Church and Ministry

First published at Equinox Publishing Limited. Reprinted with permission.

Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry: Informing a Dialogue on Gender, Church and Ministry invites the reader to understand the Pentecostal/ charismatic (P/c) movement from the epistemological loci of eighteen female (and two male) academics and practitioners. The contributors are sympathetic to the P/c movement and bring to the volume theological and biblical scholarship alongside varying degrees of ministerial insight and experience. Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of Church of the Four-Square Gospel, and revivalist Maria Woodworth-Etter are deliberately absent from this work for two reasons. First, there already exists extensive research on the lives and ministries of these two women. Second, this work intends to demonstrate that the contributions of McPherson and Woodworth-Etter to the P/c movement were not anomalies. They, along with the women discussed in this volume, respond to a context that, while dependent on female gifts, is limiting to their voices and perspectives (p. 2).

Bookended by an extensive introduction and afterword by Margaret English de Alminana, each of the volume’s fifteen chapters is additionally preceded by an editor’s note. The chapters are sectioned under four headings. Part 1, entitled “Biblical and Historical Roots”, begins with a chapter by Melissa Archer which offers a “Pentecostal reading of New Testament Texts” as support for female ministry and leadership. This is followed by Mimi Haddad’s chapter, which presents a model of egalitarian governance rooted in the Old Testament. The final chapter of this section by Zachary Tackett outlines the challenge a historic counter-cultural Pentecostal ecclesiology presents to dominant gender systems. Tackett analyses “the development of American Pentecostals’ praxis” as it relates to “women as proclaimers of the gospel” (pp. 73–4).

Part 2, entitled “Historical Exemplars”, begins with volume co-editor Alminana’s critical historical discussion of Florence Crawford, an Azusa Street pioneer and the founder of Apostolic Faith, Portland. Alminana focuses on Crawford’s egalitarian influence on the Azusa Street Mission. She presents challenges to the prevailing view regarding the Apostolic Faith mailing list, purportedly stolen by Crawford, and Crawford’s subsequent relationship with William Seymour. Jenny Miskov explores the healing ministry of Carrie Judd Montgomery in chapter 5. Montgomery is described by Miskov as helping to shape the ministry of divine healing through healing homes and theology. Amy Artman presents the innovation of Kathryn Kuhlmann demonstrated in the utilization of the media of television, through which charismatic experiences were broadcast into American homes. In the final chapter of section two, drawing on exemplars from late 1940s America through to more contemporary personalities, Kate Bowler traces the evolving role and involvement of women in the development, message, and practice of the “prosperity gospel”.

Part 3, on “Global Exemplars”, presents individual and ecclesial P/c ministries founded and/or directed by women from a “representative sampling of several nations and streams” (p. 24). Focusing on Australia, Denise Austin and Jacqueline Grey portray the “‘Outback Spirit’ of Pentecostal Women Pioneers”. Linda Ambrose’s chapter outlines the ministry and feminist ideologies of Canadian Bernice Gerard, preacher, chaplain and politician. The final two chapters by Lois Olena and Elizabeth Grant, respectively, examine the work of American Pentecostal women in non-Western and non-Christian contexts. The last section explores the distinctive concerns of female leadership and ministry. A chapter by Loralie Crabtree and Joy Qualls considers three church planting strategies and offers church planting as an option to women called to senior pastoral roles. Estrelda Alexander’s chapter promulgates liberative justice as an aspect of “Spirit infilling”. The following chapter, by Stephanie Nance and Ava Oleson, offers a “theology of co-gender ministry” as a collaborative model of church leadership. The authors accept that this “new normal” model, although biblical, will occur in stages but is one in which the imago dei is expressed in both genders. The final chapter of the book by Peter Althouse is grounded in the theology and sociology of the body. It explores healing as practiced by Christian Healing Ministries, a charismatic organization based in Florida. In the chapter, Althouse attends to women as leaders in and recipients of prayer and healing.

The editors of Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry make no apology for the western perspectives presented but state that they try to provide access to global voices of Pentecostal and charismatic women. However, they do so in ways that are illustrative rather than comprehensive (pp. 3, 5). “Illustrative” accounts of global voices include a reference in chapter 8 to Mary Querro, an Australian indigenous “ordained worker” who confronted racism and worked among indigenous people. Querro influenced her granddaughter Desley Barba, who along with her husband founded and pastored several minority churches (p. 210). Another example is Mary Kum Sou Yeung, who pioneered “successful churches, schools, refugee shelters, kindergartens and aged care homes in China and Hong Kong” and “preached in churches in Australia and New Zealand” (p. 209). Malaysian-born Jeannie Mok is also referenced for her work among migrants (p. 219). Minority women are presented as recipients of majority women’s hospitality and as exemplars of the work of North American missionaries to Muslims in majority world contexts. A title revision would alert the reader to the voices the volume represents. It is my hope that the editors will address the issue of majority world voices in volume 2. That said, this is an overdue contribution to P/c studies. It offers a corrective through historical record and testimony which privileges the voices of P/c women thereby contributing to advancing a “new normative epistemological account” of women’s religious lives (p. 11).

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