At the Beginning of Pentecostalism, It Was Common to See Women Preaching, Pastoring, and Leading

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In 1916 Maria B. Woodworth-Etter declared, “God is calling the Marys and the Marthas today all over our land to work in various places in the vineyard of the Lord; God grant that they may respond and say, ‘Lord, here am I. Send me.’ … My dear sister in Christ, as you hear these words may the Spirit of God come upon you, and make you willing to do the work the Lord has assigned to you.”

Following the example of their Holiness predecessors like Phoebe Palmer, and the Salvation Army’s Catherine Booth, women ministered prominently at the beginning of Pentecostalism.

“Fit men and women”

Charles Fox Parham established Bethel Bible College in 1900 in Topeka, Kansas, to “fit men and women to go to the ends of the earth to preach.” Agnes Ozman, the first to experience Spirit baptism, was an evangelist training for the mission field at Parham’s school. Parham ordained women and commissioned them to ministry, and these women assisted Parham in his evangelistic campaigns. He often left women in charge when he moved on to the next meeting.

Women also participated at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. The Apostolic Faith featured testimonies, articles, and reports of women evangelizing, pastoring, and going out as missionaries. At one point, at least six of Azusa’s twelve-member credentials committee were women.

In addition to approving and supporting numerous independent ministries, Pentecostal denominations issued ministerial credentials to women. The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) began in 1909 to acknowledge “women who engage in the ministry of the Word” by granting them evangelists’ licenses. By 1913, 12 percent of its ministers were women, with the percentage peaking at 18 percent around 1950. The Assemblies of God (AG) received ordained women into fellowship at its first General Council in 1914, and by 1936, there was one ordained woman for every four ordained men.

Women also founded Pentecostal denominations. Florence Crawford founded the Apostolic Faith Mission in Portland, Oregon, and Aimee Semple McPherson founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG). The ICFG early on boasted that 37 percent of its ministers were female.

In black Pentecostalism, Madgalena Tate founded the Church of the Living God, Pillar and Ground of Truth, while Ida Robinson founded the Mount Sinai Holy Church after hearing God say in a dream, “Come out on Mount Sinai and loose the women.” Both denominations allowed women to be not only pastors (allowed in a few other black Pentecostal denominations) but also bishops.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
David G. Roebuck

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