Women … Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

Ok hello! Better late than never, right…?! Today’s post was inspired by Braden Matson, in a meeting yesterday morning. (I feel it’s appropriate to cite inspiration where inspiration is due). We were discussing a particular Gen X male preacher who is very talented at expounding Biblical passages, but has strong views on women in ministry. So strong, in fact, that to be associated with his ministry, a signed statement is required to prove alignment with these  views  – mainly that women should not preach, except to other women (and apparently they shouldn’t really work either, they need to care for children). I personally love his preaching, and have examined his statement, only to realise this fine print meant I would have been excluding myself from my job! While talking to Braden,  I exclaimed, “You can’t be Pentecostal and sign that statement”… and Braden responded “Well, you can, Tanya… but I personally couldn’t”. He’s right of course. Anyone could sign that statement, and maybe not even realize what they were doing. And I’m sure the network is appealing to Pentecostals looking for a more Biblical basis to teaching. It’s kind of like being offered a tasty expensive meal but realizing that to fit the budget, dessert needs to be vanilla ice-cream eaten at home.

It was not my intention in this particular post to discuss whether women should or should not preach in public. For those who are interested there is a great book called “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis” that is a fantastic further resource for people who do want to explore the Biblical and Cultural nuances of the topic – and maybe I’ll expound in another post. But I don’t want to go back to this discussion today because, within the movement of which I’m a part, this discussion must have been had much earlier in a previous century. I assume so, because I’ve never had a discussion about it! While of course, I have found myself in discussions as to whether I was appropriate for certain roles, and I have even encountered misogynist men, I have never been excluded from any church volunteer or staff position on account of my gender.

Why? Well, a couple of weeks ago I collected this quote, and kept it on my desktop, waiting for a moment to share. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. Shane Clifton comments, quoting Barry Chant:

“Pentecostalisms’ uniqueness includes local leadership, a middle class rather than poor constituency, and a unique role for women in ministry, with “the first Pentecostal church being pioneered and pastored by a woman, Sarah Jane Lancaster, and over half of the assemblies established prior to 1930 brought into being by women, and often led by women as well.” [1] [2]

What really fascinates me, is that while I have reaped the benefits of the debates, discussions and eventual conclusions of our movement, the history of Sarah Jane Lancaster is almost completely excluded from Australian Pentecostal memory!!

Many people (as Bediako suggests, again another post) believe that history is crucial, and that a people without a strong sense of history are not grounded, and unable to move forward. I personally, am really encouraged by Sarah Jane Lancaster. Not only is it acceptable in my mind that I be a pastor, in our movement, it is acceptable for a woman to be a Senior Pastor. And for all those Pentecostals who don’t agree… please refer to the quote above!! If we were to go back on this now, it would not only be bizzare, it would be hypocritical.

So, here’s to all the women who put their ears to the wind, seeking a whisper from the Spirit to go and pioneer a work that would make Him proud. Here’s to the ones who persevered in the Australian outback, and now have a movement of many thousands to speak for their names. Here’s to the ones who worked side by side along men, pastoring faithfully, speaking week in and week out, teaching humility, patience, faithfulness, Godliness. Here’s to the ones we’ve forgotten… Here’s to the women who founded our movement.

[1] Chant, “Spirit of Pentecost,” 523-542.

[2]  Shane Clifton, “An Analysis of the Developing Ecclesiology of the Assemblies of God in Australia,” Australian Catholic University 2005.

2 thoughts on “Women … Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

  1. I LOVE this post. And totally agree. I need to find a copy of “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis” it sounds like an excellent read. xxx

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