THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN IN THE ONENESS MOVEMENT
BY THETUS TENNEY
The ministry of women in the Oneness movement is the outgrowth of a long procession of strong women whose roots reach back through history and are firmly fixed in the Scriptures. The Word of God is rich in the accounts of women whom God honored.
Throughout the Scriptures many women were significantly used and blessed of God. Women whose lips uttered, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4) are an integral part of the ministry of women in the Oneness movement. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was also the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
The crowning act of creation was woman. Eve, the mother of all men, was the first to reveal Satan’s activity among men. Although she fell prey to Satan’s plight, God entrusted to her the first promise of redemption.’ That promise would be fulfilled through another woman, Mary. “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).
It may be significant that in the types and shadows of the law, “which was a figure for the time then present” (Hebrews 9:9), “if any one of the common people sin” the sin offering was to be a female of the flock as also was the trespass offering “if a soul sin.” (See Leviticus 4:27-28; 5:1-6). When God became flesh to reconcile and redeem the world, His sacrificial body was born of a woman. The peace offering, indicative of fellowship, could be either male or female and has as its New Testament counterpart Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is also interesting to note that the laver, the shadow of baptism (which replaced the male-oriented sign of circumcision), was made of brass from the looking-glasses of the women. 2
Worthy of mention is the fact that the hangings at the doors in the Tabernacle, the cloths for service in the Holy Place, and the garments of the priest were woven by women. Perhaps this is a shadow of the weaving by a woman of the sinew and bone of our High Priest, our entrance into the Holy of Holies. 3
Just as God created male and female and gave dominion unto them, the promised seed was entrusted to godly men and women. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah nursed the nation of Israel.
As time passed, the destiny of God’s people seemed to lie in the hands of a woman, Jochebed, the mother of Moses. He became the great deliverer from the imprisonment of slavery, but the hinges upon which the door of deliverance swung were women. Jochebed, a slave woman with raw courage, strong faith, and hope-filled vision risked her life to save her baby. Young Miriam, his sister and protector who later served with him as a prophetess, sensed the moment of destiny and courageously approached Pharaoh’s daughter, who became the third woman upon whom the plan of God hung suspended. 4
The faith of Rahab extended the line of scarlet thread into the lineage of Jesus Christ. 5
Chosen by God, Deborah, the wife of an obscure man, was a prophetess and a judge in turbulent times compounded by frightening complacency. A woman of anointing and leadership, she was commanding on the front lines as another woman, Jael, won the battle on the home front. The records of the Scriptures crown them both. 6
There was Ruth who took the risk and became the great-grandmother of David. And Hannah, who prayed until God opened the womb He had closed and she brought to birth a son who brought a nation to its knees and forever altered the course of the Israelites. 7 And there was Abigail whose ingenuity spared David a wrathful revenge. 8 II Samuel 20 records the story of a wise woman who singly saved her city.
Four of the mighty miracles of Elijah and Elisha involved women: the widow of Zarephath, the widow of the prophet with her two sons, the great woman of Shunem, and Naaman’s maid. 9
Esther, with anointed beauty and brains, became the instrument of God to save the entire Jewish nation. 10
Huldah the prophetess was possessed of a profound knowledge of the law and a strong perception of the ways of God. She dwelt in the college in Jerusalem and her husband was the keeper of the priests’ wardrobe.” W a scroll was found in the temple, it was to Huldah that King Josiah sent his messengers, among whom were the high priest and scribes. Not only did she verify that the scroll was an authentic record, but she convinced the messengers that the holy God of Israel would bring evil upon them for their idolatry. The nation was turned around as the king now pledged the people to once again follow the commandments of Jehovah God. Huldah the prophetess was a great part of the revival under Josiah. 12
On and on, down through time they march, the named and the nameless women who served only the one true God: the lover-bride of the Song of Solomon, the prophetess wife of Isaiah, the nameless nurse of Mephibosheth, the maidservant of En-rogel, Rizpah the faithful mother, women whose strong faith and courageous lives have influenced all who have named the name of the mighty God.
Travail, a word pregnant with meaning and used throughout the Bible, refers directly to women. It is first introduced in Genesis as a result of the curse, but is used in Galatians concerning Paul’s
ministry and in Revelation concerning the birth of the Redeemer. 13 From the curse to the blessed birth, women have exemplified travail in its spiritual power.
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is the personification and composite of God’s woman. A multi talented individual, she used her skills to create a haven for her husband and her children and extended herself to those near and far. She was astute in business, decisive, compassionate, devout, energetic, organized’ and respected.
There are four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy Of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. 14 Each seems to unfold God’s dealing with women. Tamar redeemed a promise. Rahab became the link of salvation for her household. Ruth was redeemed by her kinsman. Bathsheba the transgressor also bore the chosen son.
There are three women used to announce the birth of Jesus: Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna. 15 At the annunciation by Gabriel, Mary’s words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), give us our loftiest conception of a servant of God. As the passage of Scripture progresses we sense Mary’s quietness of spirit, her admirable self-control, her devout and gracious gift of oneness with God, and her understanding of His promises to Israel. Later we see how she not only brought God to the world in flesh, but also launched His public ministry in Canal We see her at the cross and again in the upper room.
Elizabeth was the first to receive and believe the event of the virgin birth, the first confessor of Jesus as Lord. 16 Anna was the first public witness of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. 17 While Simeon
received the promise and was ready to die, Anna gave thanks and published the news to all who looked for redemption.
In the New Testament, women who accompanied Jesus Christ are mentioned.
From the Scripture we can determine that they “ministered unto him of their substance” (Luke 8:3). They were women of varied backgrounds and experiences, but women involved in the ministry
Many of the miracles in the ministry of Jesus Christ involved women: the woman with the issue of blood, the daughter of Jairus, the crippled woman of Luke 13, the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman, the widow Nain, and Mary Magdalene, to name but a few.
The gospel of Jesus Christ–the message of His death, burial, and resurrection–was first proclaimed via women. Women were last at the scene of His death; 18 women were first at the scene of His burial; 19 and a woman was the first witness and reporter of His resurrection. 20
To a woman Jesus ascribed a worldwide memorial for her acts of kindness in His anointing. 21
Jesus commended Martha’s sister, Mary, for her diligent attention to Him. “Luke’s picture of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet in the posture of a disciple has been called perhaps the strongest and clearest affirmation on the part of Jesus that the intellectual and spiritual life was just as proper to women as to men.”22
To a woman Jesus preached the mighty message of living water. 23 For the traditionally doomed adulterous woman, Jesus intervened with one of Scripture’s most beautiful displays of grace: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
All of these women, strongly rooted in Judaism, believed in one God.
With the act of the gospel completed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the New Testament church was inaugurated.
Unusual as it was in the Jewish tradition of the times for women to be involved in spiritual matters, it is recorded in Acts 1:14 that women were included in the 120 in the upper room on Pentecost, the birthing room of the church. The promise of Acts 2 includes women-daughters and maidservants. The four daughters of Philip exemplified fulfillment. After the church was established it was Paul with his prolific writing who gave structure to the church. He also gives us an interesting insight into women in the early apostolic church–an insight not often discussed in our movement today.
Dr. David Scholer, Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Early Church History at North Park College and Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, who regularly teaches a course entitled “Women and Ministry in the New Testament,” has shown that Paul included women in his ministry circle. In fact, Paul had at least nine women as co-workers in the gospel ministry. 24
After the days of the apostles, the role of women in the church diminished. Their devoted faithfulness is often noted, but general recognition is lacking except for the exceptional few.
Through the Middle Ages we find a rich heritage of faithful women. Some were martyrs. There are records of countless women who spent their entire lives in Christian service. As society changed and Christianity adapted new cultures, there were major changes in the role of women. One writer notes that: holy living, charismatic phenomena, and emotional ecstasy all became a means of gaining recognition in a church that placed enormous emphasis on hierarchical office holding. For women more than men, it seems, this charismatic element often became the standard for advancement in the church-or at least for recognition within the community of believers. 25
The same writer aces on to say:
Perhaps the most pronounced shortcoming of women in the church during the medieval period was their lack of true ministry. This period of church history had a high proportion of women in “professional” ministry. Yet the effectiveness of this ministry is questionable…. It was a failure of the church at large. The work of charity and the commitment to evangelism that so distinguished the Christians in the early centuries was no longer a primary function of the church. But wherever the blame is placed, the ministry of women in the Middle Ages was frequently of little effectiveness and profit. 26
Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century theologian, did a considerable amount of writing on the subject of women, invariably in a derogatory manner. 27 He strongly proclaimed that women were unsuited for any meaningful role in society or the church. The restrictions placed on women by the theologians corresponded closely to canon law. Women were denied the right to baptize or to take communion to the sick. Society and the church viewed women as lesser beings. Many theologians and writers of the day demeaned women in every imaginable way.
Some of the religious sects born out of the times, however, accorded women more equality than others. For instance, the Waldensians denied the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and emphasized the authority of the Scripture and the need for all to study it. They were noted for lay preachers and evangelists. “The Waldenses went still further in shocking old-time custom and claimed the right to preach for women as well as for men.” Apparently they were allowed to preach and to administer baptism and communion. Whether the women were permitted to minister to both men and women or were limited to ministry to their own sex is unknown. Nevertheless, they participated more fully than did those women who remained under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church. 28
Another sect, the Taborites, were viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as a heretical cult. They were “fundamentalists in the tradition of John Wycliffe and wished to confine doctrine to what was explicitly stated in the Bible.” This group permitted women to be preachers. 29
The Christian church experienced a great time of upheaval in the sixteenth century. What did the Reformation era have to offer women in the church–women who desired meaningful ministry? On the spiritual level, it was certainly a period of time that offered women a fresh look at Scripture, with an emphasis on personal salvation through faith in Christ. But beyond the realm of personal faith, there was no significant place for women in religion. Anabaptists permitted women to engage in charismatic ministries. To be sure, women rose above their prescribed role. Through political, social, or personal prestige, they often wielded considerable power, but in religious matters their influence was achieved in spite of the Reformation mentality, certainly not because of it. 30
It was during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries that significant numbers of women became involved in dissenting religious movements for the first time in history. Many were viewed as radical and outside the sphere of respectability. Yet it was in these ranks that women were offered opportunities not available in secular or religious life. Keith Thomas has suggested that the educational and religious restrictions placed on women during this period may have prompted women to engage in prophetic ministries. It was the only avenue of public expression open to them. 31
Women preachers were not uncommon among the early Baptist congregations, though the number of them was certainly not large. Most commonly they preached in their own homes. 32 most significant role that women played in Baptist church circles was their foundational work in the development of churches. Many Baptist churches would not have survived without the active participation of women in the developmental stages.
In the mid-sixteenth century another movement that permitted women to take an active role in ministry were known as the Fifth Monarchists. They proclaimed an imminent future where women would enjoy complete equality when they ushered in the reign of Christ as the fifth monarchy (the previous four being the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires).
Cotton Mather, an eighteenth-century Puritan, represents well the changed attitude toward women on the American scene. He made a point of counteracting sexism in the church and society. “The influence of Cotton Mather and others paved the way for Jonathan Edwards and other revivalists . . . who were conscious of the indispensable role women played in community wide evangelistic efforts.” 33 Generally, revivalists offered women a more meaningful role than did the established churches. While Jonathan Edwards found no place for women in a public preaching or teaching ministry, he was open to women expressing themselves on spiritual and theological issues. His wife, Sarah, did not aspire to a ministry role beyond that of pastor’s wife, but her role was characterized as “hardly inferior to that occupied by her husband.” 34
Time does not permit me to detail the lives and impact of women like Susanna Wesley, Sarah Crosby, Margaret Fell, and others. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries provided women with more opportunities for ministry than they had previously enjoyed, but only if they were willing to defy male leadership in the institutionalized churches or be associated with sectarian movements and endure the scorn of respectable society.
Victor Hugo declared that “the nineteenth century is woman’s century.” Hugo was well aware of the progress women were making in religious endeavors. Virtually every woman who conducted a public professional ministry during the nineteenth century testified of a special call from God, and some of these women had very prominent public ministries. Among their numbers was the great triumvirate of Phoebe Palmer, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Catherine Booth, whose lives and ministries had much in common. All of them were members of husband-wife teams, with the women more prominent or equally prominent in each case. They all had several children and they all were very much a part of the Holiness-Deeper Life movement. 35
Phoebe Palmer (1807-74) is often referred to as the “mother of the Holiness Movement” and was considered possibly the most influential woman in nineteenth-century Methodism. She began her ministry in the 1830s with a “Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness” which she continued for some twenty years. “Hundreds of Methodist preachers, including at least two bishops and three who were later to hold that office, were sanctified under Mrs. Palmer’s influence. The Guide to Holiness, printed in Boston, publicized her work and served as well to unite and inspire the clergymen great and small who shared her concern.” She was described by a well-known minister as “the Priscilla who had taught many an Apollos the way of God more perfectly.” 36 Phoebe Palmer’s successful informal prayer meetings inspired other women to begin the same type of ministry, and dozens of these meetings sprang up all over the country. According to Timothy Smith, historian, “These intimate little gatherings brought together the most earnest Christians of all evangelical sects under the leadership of women.” 37
Criticism of Phoebe Palmer’s preaching in England in 1859 thrust Catherine Booth (1829-90) into a public defense of women in ministry. In a pamphlet entitled Female Ministry; Or, Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel she emphasized the biblical precedent for women in ministry and noted as well the personal leading of the Spirit: “If she has the necessary gifts, and feels herself called by the Spirit to preach, there is not a single word in the whole book of God to restrain her, but many, very many, to urge and encourage her.” 38
Married to a Methodist preacher, Catherine Booth herself had not preached when she wrote her defense pamphlet. The following year on Whit Sunday she stood up in front of a crowd of more than a thousand at the close of her husband William’s sermon. Her first words when she rose to speak were, “I want to say a word.” William was as surprised as anyone when she made her sudden announcement, but he quickly recovered, and when she had finished, he announced that she would preach that evening. A short time after her debut, her husband suffered a long illness, which facilitated opening the door of her own pulpit ministry. 39 William and Catherine Booth are the founders of the Salvation Army. A grandson, William Booth-Clibborn, was among the early Oneness believers. The spring 1986 issue of Heritage (the Assemblies of God historical society newsletter) was a special issue dedicated to “Women in Ministry.” Included therein is the story of Mary Moise of St. Louis. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Maria Christina Gill Moise devoted most of her time and effort to “rescue ministry.” Her work with wayward girls won first prize in the 1904 World’s Fair, which was held in St. Louis. She established an inner-city mission. According to the article by Wayne Warner, Assemblies of God archives director:
Mother Moise had no restrictions on the types of people who came through the doors at 2829 Washington. Her southern hospitality–coupled with a strong dose of discipline–awaited people down on their luck, prostitutes, people wanting prayer and help for various needs, preachers passing through the city, and future preachers.
The future preachers received ministerial training under Mother Moise’s leadership. The training might have been heavy on street ministry and living by faith, but many would look back with
appreciation for the time they spent at Mother Moise’s faith home.
One of the future preachers who came to Mother Moise’s home was Ben Pemberton, or “Brother Ben” as he was widely known.
Ben Pemberton was a close friend of Andrew Urshan. Mr. Warner goes on in his article to note that during the last twenty-five years of her life, Mother Moise accepted a belief which “raised some eyebrows and strained some friendships…. The first jolt came when she was baptized in ‘the name of Jesus, thus uniting with the Oneness wing of the Pentecostal movement.” A Oneness woman is often remembered as one of the first Pentecostal social workers. 40
Although they were not a part of the Oneness movement, Aimee Semple McPherson and Maria Woodworth Etter did much to break down barriers for women in the pulpit. It is said of Maria Woodworth Etter that “in 1912-13, when she was approaching 70 years of age, she held her largest revivals, many of them in camp meeting settings.” 41
There were others, single and married, leaders in the temperance movement, ministers in pulpits across the country, women in education. They were all nineteenth century voices ringing loud and strong in what Victor Hugo had been correct in calling the “century for women.” Women made great gains in organizational work, particularly in regard to home and foreign missions and humanitarian endeavors. Equally significant was the prominent role women played in sectarian movements that flourished in the nineteenth century. But by the end of the century, women still had made very little official headway in the established churches. The vast majority of institutionalized churches barred them from ordination and from equal status on the lay level as well. 42
This was to change somewhat in the twentieth century, especially among the Pentecostal and Holiness movements.
The early years of the twentieth century brought little change in the position of women in the established mainline churches…. Most women accepted their inferior status as society’s and Scripture’s place for them, and they willingly filled the roles that were described as women’s work. In the sectarian movements, however, the case was significantly different. The holiness movement and the emerging Pentecostal movement, like sectarian movements of previous centuries, offered wide opportunities for women and some of the most influential voices in the early twentieth century were those of females. 43
The year was 1901; the place was Topeka, Kansas, in Bethel Bible School, a Bible school founded and conducted by a minister named Charles Parham. Parham had been away on an evangelistic tour and assigned the students to research the biblical evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost while he was gone. Upon his return, a chapel meeting was held. It was the unanimous opinion of the student body that the evidence of tongues accompanied the infilling of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament church. In an all-night prayer meeting, shortly after midnight, January 1, 1901, Miss Agnes Ozman felt directed to ask Brother Parham to lay his hands on her and pray for her to receive the gift. She began speaking in tongues and thus began a new era for the church, initiated by and sounding forth from the lips of a woman. In my own state of Louisiana, a woman, Alice Taylor of New Orleans, was the first to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
As the fire of this message spread across the nation and around the world, attention centered on Azusa Street, a Los Angeles mission that experienced a phenomenal growth and spirit of revival with effects felt around the world. It all began at the invitation of a woman. A young woman named Neely Terry invited William Seymour of Houston, Texas, to visit the Holiness church she attended, which was founded and pastored by Julia Hutchins. Seymour came, and although the pastor rejected the Pentecostal message, Seymour started prayer meetings in a private home and the Azusa Street revival was born. Seymour soon sent for Lucy Farrow, a Holiness minister in Houston who had persuaded Charles Parham to enroll Seymour in his school there. Lucy Farrow was
instrumental in the revival in Los Angeles. 44
Although most of the leaders of Pentecostalism were men–Parham, Seymour, G. B. Cashwell, Nickolas Holmes, J. H. King, C. H. Mason, A. J. Tomlinson and others–women were not excluded from their ranks…. William J. Seymour is generally credited with leading the Azusa Street revival . . . but with him was Lucy Farrow. 45
Women were an integral part of the Azusa Street ministry. Without question the central figure of Azusa Street was William Seymour, the black minister who brought the message of tongues from Houston to Los Angeles. However, what historians rarely mention is that his beloved wife, Jennie was “the woman behind the man.” She received the Holy Ghost at a prayer meeting in the cottage at 214 Bonnie Brae Street before the Azusa Street mission officially opened and possibly before Seymour himself. 46 After Seymour’s death she pastored the Azusa Mission through its final years before it closed in 1929. 47 The Azusa Mission was carefully organized along scriptural guidelines. There were twelve chosen responsible for examining candidates for license as missionaries and evangelists. The twelve comprised the Credentials Committee, which, after the applicants had been approved, laid hands upon them and prayed for them as did the apostles of old. Of the twelve, seven were women: Sister Evans, Sister Lum, Sister Florence Crawford, Sister Jennie Moore (to be Mrs. Seymour), Sister Prince, Sister Rachel Sizelove, and Sister Phoebe Sargeant. 48
With this phenomena of tongues came a new burst of evangelism.
(FIorence Crawford] was the first of the Azusa “converts” to take the message on the evangelistic circuit. She began in Los Angeles and then went on to Oregon, Washington, Minnesota and Canada before settling down in Portland in 1907, where she established her headquarters. There she founded an extensive city mission work, which included two auditoriums with a combined seating capacity of more than 3,000. 49
The Apostolic Faith, the official newspaper issued from the revival center on Azusa Street, carried multiple reports of women involved in evangelism both at home and abroad. Volume 1, number 1 of this periodical reports that a Sister Wettosh, a German lady of Pasadena who was marvelously saved and healed, “has gone out to carry this Gospel. Her destination was Reno, Nevada.” 50 A gospel band went out from the Azusa Street Mission intent on carrying the gospel message to Oakland. Among those listed as members of the gospel band were three women:
Sister G. W. Evans, Sister Florence Crawford, and Sister Louise Condit. Reports back from this group noted that some sixty-five received the Holy Ghost in their meetings. 51
When Brother Andrew Johnson went to Jerusalem in missionary work, he was later joined by three women: Louise Condit, Mrs. Bushnell, and Lucy Leatherman. 52
Issue number 2 of The Apostolic Faith dated October 1906 bears this report:
Sister Lizzie Frazer of Colorado Springs, Colorado was one of those who received the gift of tongues when the Palestine Missionary band passed through there. She writes that she expects to go to India with a band of missionaries next month. The Lord has given her wonderful equipment. 53
That same issue carries testimonies of various people receiving their Pentecost and includes this report from “Sister Hutchins who was en route to the west coast of Africa: Sister Hutchins is preaching the Gospel in the power of the Spirit. She has received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Uganda language, the language of the people to whom she is sent.” 54
Sister Lucy Farrow, whom The Apostolic Faith referred to as “God’s anointed handmaid,” came to Los Angeles from Houston, Texas, with the full gospel message. It was reported that “God has greatly used (her) as she laid her hands on many who have received their Pentecost and the gift of tongues.” She was originally from Norfolk, Virginia, where she was sold into slavery as a young girl. God called her to return to the area of her childhood. 55 She reported from Portsmouth, Virginia: “We had a glorious meeting last night…. There is much to be done…. I came through New Orleans and changed cars there, and laid hands on two sick, and sowed seed on the way from Houston here.” 56
Sister Farrow’s final report before sailing for Africa herself was that about two hundred souls had been saved in Portsmouth. 57
The great chronicler of the era, Frank Bartleman, stated that “the color line has been washed away in the blood,” referring to racial discriminations. 58 So it was also with any discrimination against women of the gospel work. Several of the published issues of The Apostolic Faith carry many sermons signed by women. They were carriers of the good news to their generation just as the men were. Truly, all stood equal at the foot of the cross.
Many of the foreign missions endeavors were undertaken by women. Mary Johnson and Sister Nelson were led to Calcutta, India. Frank Ewart, in his book, The Phenomenon of Pentecost, documents that the initial outpouring in India came as a direct result of the prayer and fasting of a native Christian woman, Pandita Ramabai. 59 Sister A. G. Garr was an integral part of the work in India as well. A report in one issue of The Apostolic Faith notes that two sisters went into South China as “outgoing missionaries.” 60 Kate Knight mentioned a Sister Gardner in her report of the revival in Dholka, Gujarat, India. 61
It was a woman, Sister Mary Galmond, to whom the Lord gave the prophecy of the great San Francisco earthquake. 62
A report from Pueblo, Colorado read:
Pueblo, Colorado is a city of many nationalities.
In the steel works alone that employs 500 men, 17 languages are spoken. There are Greeks, Chinese, Japanese, and many others. This is a wonderful field. The Lord had opened up a mission there when the Pentecostal message came. The woman in charge of the mission went right to seeking and received the baptism and before she got off her knees was speaking in Chinese. One day when she was speaking, the Spirit began to speak another language through her. Nobody understood until they saw some uneasiness manifested in the back of the room where some Japanese were sitting. They began to wring their hands and cry and bury their faces in their hands. Someone went to them and they said, “Talk my tongue. Tell me all about my God how He died for the Japanese.” They had never heard anything like that before. 63
And they heard it first from the lips of a God-called woman. Time will not permit me to list every name and convey every Azusa Street report. There were husband-and-wife teams, sisters who traveled together, sisters who traveled with their brothers, women who traveled alone . . . all for the sake of the gospel. They preached, they sang, they played instruments, they witnessed on street corners, they prayed in brush arbors and in storefronts. They were women involved in ministry in the early days of the Pentecostal movement.
Aeron Morgan, chairman of the Executive Council of the Assemblies of God, writes:
The Pentecostal movements have been ahead of their time (in respect to women within the ministry of the church), for at the turn of the century the revival saw a great number of women emerging to take leading roles in preaching and ministries. There were a number of outstanding preachers who were in great demand for conventions and conferences. Some women planted churches. Others were evangelists conducting fruitful campaigns. 64
Just as two thousand years ago, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), in 1901 it was a woman who first spoke with tongues in Topeka, Kansas, and in the Azusa Street story it was reportedly a woman who first received the outpouring. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, women played an integral role in the propagation of the gospel message around the world. Our church history has been enriched by the productive ministry of women.
In the 1930s and 40s women preachers were still quite prominent within our ranks. My own mother, Johnnie Ruth Caughron, an ordained minister, worked as a team with my father, travelling in evangelistic work and building churches. She and many others were women of great anointing and skilled in preaching. They frequently preached in conferences and camp meetings, as well as in their own local meetings. Among these were Lyndal Krauss, Ruby Keyes, Nona Freeman, and Maryalice Paslay.
During these early years of our movement there were other prominent women distinctly anointed and respected in the ministry. Among them were Oma Ellis, great woman of faith; Allie Richey, song leader at the historic Elton Bible Conference in 1915 and mother of the Glass family of preachers (including George L. Glass, Sr. and Arless Glass); Mary Bowen, who with her husband founded a church in Houston, Texas; and Carrie Eastridge, missionary to the Navajo Indians. Names of honor among us, such as Goss and Witherspoon, also had a feminine prefix of ministry–Sister Goss and Sister Witherspoon were both respected ministers of the gospel. Jessie Norris is herself a legacy as a teacher of the Word. Time again forbids the details of such great women as Pearl Champion, Eva Hunt, Maude LaFleur, Mary Hite, Sister Rowe, Mary Williams, Danita Barnum Davis, Bernadine Caldwell, Hazel Simpson, Willie Johnson, Nell Morgan, Florence Swinford, Mildred DeVille, Harriett Marling, and many others who were actively involved in ministries of various sorts.
In a chapter entitled “My First Interesting Meeting with a Pentecostal Person,” Andrew Urshan details in his book Pentecost As It Was in the Early 1900’s the story of his encounter with a Pentecostal woman in Chicago who invited him to attend a church service. He states, “I could not keep away, so I had to go and see for myself if those things I had heard from that lady were true.” As a result Brother Urshan attended a Pentecostal meeting and was eventually led into the Oneness truth. 65
Howard Goss, a strong voice in our Pentecostal history, attended meetings held by Charles Parham and “after personal witnessing by Mrs. Arthur’s sister, he went forward to the altar.” 66
My husband, T. F. Tenney, was converted under the ministry of a woman, Nila Ruttlege Mean, who has, along with her husband, established many congregations in eastern Canada.
The mission fields have felt the impact of women. Mother McCarty pioneered in India; Mother Holmes in Africa. Sister Sheets, with her husband, pioneered in China. Mother Gruse, LaVerne Collins, Valda Russell, Bessie Varnado, Salley Lemons Morley, Mollie Thompson, Lavergne Larson, Ruth Drost, Elsa Lund, Helen White, Margaret Calhoun, Ellie Hansen, Fern Scism and her mother, and Wilma Nix have blazed foreign trails and helped build the structure of the church in nations around the world. Nona Freeman is the epitome of missions.
A strange phenomenon has occurred in the recent past. Recognition of women in pulpit ministry has increased in many denominational churches, some of which had previously rejected them. Between 1956 and 1977 five of the largest major denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, and Episcopalian) reversed their opposition to the ordination of women. Eighty Protestant denominations in America now allow ordination of women. The largest number of women in pastorates is in the United Methodist Church, where the placement system has provided
more opportunities for women. At the same time, it seems that recognition of women in pulpit ministry is on the decrease in those movements which first accepted it. The Nazarene Church has reported a decline.
Within our own United Pentecostal movement we have seen women continually involved in ministry in various capacities but with limited acceptance in the role of preacher and/or pastor. Women missionaries have preached in concert with their husbands and ministered solo while their husbands ministered elsewhere on the field. Yet few of them have been licensed as ministers. Many ministers’ wives evidence a true anointing of ministry without official recognition.
It is interesting to note that in American society, as the role of women in the workplace and traditional churches has become more prominent, their visible role in the Oneness movement seemingly has diminished. In many churches, women’s involvement in ministry has been relegated almost totally to Sunday school teaching, Ladies Auxiliary activities, and musical involvement. In early days of our movement, singing and worship were often led by women but this, too, has greatly diminished in recent years.
Roberta Hestenes, in an article entitled “Women in Leadership: Finding Ways to Serve the Church” recently published in Christianity Today, makes the following observation:
Even though Pentecostal and Holiness movements had affirmed full partnership for women in ministry from the 1880s onward, after World War II the evangelical movement largely affirmed traditional roles for women in the church. Women were to be quiet supporters, working behind the scenes as enablers of the men who filled the visible and formal leadership positions. They could use their gifts for leadership in ministries to women and children but not in ministries that involved men. Women could plant churches and preach on the mission field, but they were not to preach in their home churches. Conservative Christians in the ’50s and ’60s assumed that Christian teaching forbade women from entering seminary, seeking ordination, or expecting to serve in
salaried leadership positions within the church. Ironically, these same Christians seemed unaware of the number of early leaders like John Wesley, A. J. Gordon, Charles Finney, and B. T. Roberts who affirmed full freedom for women in all areas of the ministry. 67
In another quote she said:
Committed feminists are both a result and a cause of major change in the way in which the culture treats women…. Some conservative Christians have reacted so strongly against the movement that they have created a backlash. Possibilities once open to women have now been closed. 68
Although movements like ours led the way in early days with open doors to women, we are hardly keeping pace now. There seems to be a mindset allowing women to be more active than in recent years, but few with any official recognition. In the state of Louisiana, of 640 licensed ministers, 44 are women (6.9 percent). 69 In the United States and Canada, out of a total licensed ministry of 6,923, 410 are women. This is 6.3 percent of our total ministry. Out of a total ordained ministry of 3,842, 170 are women, 4.6 percent of our ordained ministry. 70
In comparison’ in the United Church of Christ 10 percent of its ordained ministry are women. In the United Methodist Church women make up a little over 6 percent of all pastors. There is one woman bishop in the Methodist Church. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has ordained over one thousand women in the last thirty years. Approximately one-half of the Salvation Army’s commissioned officers are women. Their chief officer is now a woman. In the ’83-’84 seminary enrollment of the Lutheran Church 36.5 percent were women. Out of the 10,386 churches in
the Assemblies of God, 259 are pastored by women and 3,507 women hold credentials. In 1980, 14.3 percent of their licensed ministers were women; in 1986, 13.9 percent. 71
According to Joel 2 and Acts 2 there is to be a joint effort of men and women involved in the last-day revival. In some circles we are seeing a recurrence of husband and wives ministering as a team. “The Lord gives the command; the women who proclaim the good tiding are a great host” (Psalm 68:11, Ellicott). According to the Word of God and in tribute to the multiple numbers of faithful women from our early days as a movement, may the doors remain open to the women of the Oneness movement.
In addition to pulpit ministry, the women of our fellowship have made great contributions through the Ladies Auxiliary. Mary Cole served as the first president, appointed in 1953. The Mothers Memorial offering was instituted during her administration, the first in 1956. Over ten million dollars have been contributed to the various functions of our movement through this program. Sister Cole was succeeded by Sister Ashcraft as Ladies Auxiliary president. Vera Kinzie and Melissa Anderson now serve in leadership of the Auxiliary. Vida Lee Clark has served for over thirty years as the Louisiana District Ladies Pentecostal Auxiliary president.
In recent years a fast-growing trend of various meetings pertaining to ministry to women have sprung up. Most of our districts now have a meeting of this type. Interest and attendance have been
phenomenal. The Louisiana District Women’s Conference is among the largest conferences of women in the nation.
It would probably be staggering to us to know the power and strength added to our movement by the prayer, intercession, and fasting of women. It would probably be equally staggering to know how many of our churches owe their financial existence to hardworking, resourceful, and unselfish women. The warm ministry of hospitality among our churches and our ministry can be greatly attributed to women.
In conclusion, let me mention some of the contemporary women leaders in our fellowship. Vesta Mangun has had a twofold quickening on our entire fellowship–the necessity of prayer and soul winning. Janet Trout is a multi talented woman who, with her husband, has founded two churches. She also served in her early years in Jamaica. She is the director of Kent Christian College. Agnes Rich has evangelized, pastored, and founded four churches, one of which she is currently pastoring in Grand Island, Nebraska. Helen Cole has had a fruitful ministry at home and abroad. Marilyn Gazowsky has successfully established a church in San Francisco. Dorothy Underwood and Ruth Hays have proven ministries in pastoral service. Ruby Martin has faithfully taught in our Bible schools. Mary Wallace will be thanked in succeeding generations for her books detailing the stories of many Pentecostal women in the Oneness movement. I strongly recommend her books, Pioneer Pentecostal Women (volumes I and II), to give valuable information time will not allow me to share.
Multiple women have honed their abilities and fired their burden to become outstanding as writers, speakers, composers, and leaders in various ministries of our movement.
May I borrow from the writer of Hebrews: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of . . .” the many women who have added their strength and ability to the Oneness movement.
1. Genesis 3:15.
2. Exodus 38:8; Colossians 2:11-13.
3. Exodus 35:25; 26:31, 36; 27:9, 16; Exodus 28, 39.
4. Exodus 2:1-10.
5. Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5.
6. Judges 4, 5.
7. I Samuel 1; 3:20; 4:1.
8. I Samuel 25.
9. I Kings 17:8-24; II Kings 4, 5.
10. Book of Esther.
11 Kings 22:14.
12. II Kings 22:8-20; II Chronicles 34:22-28.
13. Galatians 4:19; Revelation 12:2.
14. Matthew 1:3, 5, 6.
15. Luke 1, 2.
16. Luke 1:41-45.
17 Luke 2:36-38.
18. Luke 23:49.
19. Luke 23:55-56.
20. Luke 24:1-11.
21. Matthew 26:13.
22. Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld, Daughters of the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 27-28. See Luke 10:38-42.
23. John 4:5-42.
24. See the Appendix to this paper for a reprint of David M. Scholer, “Paul’s Women Co-Workers in the Ministry of the Church ‘ Daughters of Sarah, 6:4 (July/August 1980), 3-6.
25. Tucker and Liefeld, 130.
26. Ibid., 170.
27. Ibid., 164.
28. Ibid., 162-63, quoting Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 3:177, 476.
29. Ibid., 163-164, quoting Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 6:393 and Rudolph Heinze, “Taborites ‘ New Intemational Dictionary of the Christian
30. Ibid., 205-6.
31. Ibid., 210.
32. Ibid., 224.
33. Ibid., 234.
34. Alexander V. G. Allen, American Religious Leaders: Jonathan Edwards (Cambridge: Riverside, 1890), 197.
35. Tucker and Liefeld, 261.
36. Timothy L. Smith Called unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes, the Formative Years (Kansas City, Mo.: Nazarene, 1962) 12, 20.
37. Ibid., 20.
38. Tucker and Liefeld, 264.
39. Ibid., 264.
40. Wayne Warner, ea., “Special Issue: Women in Ministry,” Assemblies of God Heritage (Springfield, Mo.: Assemblies of God Archives), Spring 1986.
41. Tucker and Liefeld, 363.
42. Ibid., 290.
43. Ibid., 359.
44. Gordon Lindsay, comp., They Saw It Happen (Dallas: Christ For The Nations, 1983), 13.
45. Tucker and Liefeld, 360.
46. Fred T. Corum, comp., Like As of Fire (A Reprint of the Old Azusa Street Papers) (Wilmington, Mass. 1981), vol. 1, no. 8, p. 3.
47. Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street (South Plainfield, N.J.: Bridge Publishing, 1980) xxiv.
48. Corum, vi.
50. Corum, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 2.
51. Ibid., p. 4.
53. Ibid., vol. 1, no. 2, p. 1.
54. Ibid., p. 1.
55. Ibid., vol. 1, no. 1, p. 1.
56. Ibid., vol. 1, no. 2, p. 3.
57 Ibid., vol. 1, no. 4, p. 3.
58. Bartleman, 54.
59. Frank Ewart, The Phenomenon of Pentecost, 158-70.
60. Corum, vol. 1, no. 11, p. 1.
61. Ibid., vol. 2, no. 13, p. 4.
62. ibid., vol. 1, no. 2, p. 2.
63. Ibid., vol. 1, no. 4, p. 4.
64. Aeron Morgan, “Women Can Minister, Too.” Morgan is chairman of the Executive Council of the Assemblies of God, pastor, visiting lecturer at the International Bible Training Institute.
65. Andrew Urshan, Pentecost As It Was in the Early 1900’s (Portland, Or.: Apostolic Book Publishers, 1923, 1987) 25-40.
66. Lindsay, 11.
67 Roberta Hestenes, “Women in Leadership: Finding Ways to Serve the Church ‘ Christianity Today, October 3, 1986, 41-51.
68. Ibid., 10-11.
69. Statistics obtained from the district roster, C. E. Cooley, Jr., district secretary.
70. Statistics obtained from Betty Braddy, Church Administration United Pentecostal Church International, Hazelwood, Mo.
71. Sam Justice, ‘Women Ministers: How Are They Being Accepted ‘ Ministries, Fall 1984, 6471.
Paul’s Women Co-Workers in the Ministry of the Church’
By David M. Scholer
The last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans mentions twenty-nine persons, one by way of special commendation (16:1-2) and the others in a series of personal greetings (16:3-16). Often such lists of names in the Bible are overlooked or dismissed by some as of little interest or importance. Such lists, however, provide personal and historical details which may well be helpful in understanding or applying the situation covered by the passage. This list in Romans 16 is significant for the information it provides on Paul’s women co-workers in the ministry of the Church, for ten of the twenty-nine persons mentioned here are women. Apart from Priscilla, none of these women is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Although biblical scholars are giving increasing attention to this data about Paul and women, the information contained here is still not widely known or appreciated within the Church today.
Three of the ten women greeted are mentioned with very little information included. In fact, two of them are not named. Julia and Nereus’ sister (16:15) both are simply greeted without comment. The mother of Rufus (16:13; see Mark 15:21?) Paul considers to have been a mother to him, too. In spite of the lack of information on these women, it is reasonably certain that they must have had some importance in the Church to be included in this list of greetings.
Four of the women greeted by name can appropriately be grouped together: Mary (16:6), Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis (16:12). All of these women are said to have worked very hard in the Lord (the words “in the Lord” do not appear in 16:6, but otherwise the designation is parallel). This could appear to be a rather innocent comment by Paul and has often been understood to refer to tasks which are menial and/or distinctively assigned to women.
However, the Greek verb translated “work very hard” (kopiao) is used regularly by Paul to refer to the special work of the gospel ministry. Only twice does Paul use it in a common or secular sense, and in both of these instances it is used within a proverbial expression (Ephesians 4:8; II Timothy 2:6). Paul frequently uses the term to describe his own apostolic ministry (I Corinthians 4:12; 15:10; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; Colossians 2:29; I Timothy 4:10; see also Acts 20:35). Paul also uses the term to refer to the work of others in the ministry, leaders and persons of authority in each case (I Corinthians 16:15-16; I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 5:17). In each of these three cases in which Paul refers to the “very hard work” of others, his context also stresses the need to respect for and submission to such workers.
It is clear, then, that Paul uses the verb “work very hard” to refer to persons who are engaged in the authoritative work of ministry within the Church. Thus, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis were four women who “worked very hard” in the Church’s ministry. This is made even more clear by the phrase “in the Lord” used with the verb “worked very hard” in connection with the latter three. In this connection, attention should also be drawn to Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3), two women who Paul describes as having “. . . contended at my side in the cause of the gospel” (4:3, NIV).
In Romans 16:3 Paul greets Priscilla and Aquila, a wife and husband “team” mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (Acts 18:2; 18:18; 18:26; I Corinthians 16:19; II Timothy 4:19). Not only does their frequent mention indicate their importance in the Church, but it is said that believers met in their home, that they traveled with Paul and that they instructed Apollos, an important early teacher in the Church. In his greeting in Romans (16:3-4) Paul speaks of their deep personal commitment to him and their recognition throughout all the Gentile churches. It should not be missed that, in spite of the general cultural position of women in the first century A.D. in the Roman Empire and especially married women, Paul names Priscilla first. She is also named first in three of the five other references to her and Aquila in the New Testament (Acts 18:18; 18:26; 11 Timothy 4:19).
Paul designated Priscilla and her husband Aquila as “. . . my fellow workers in Christ Jesus’! (Romans 16:3, NIV). Paul uses the term “fellow worker” (synergos) regularly for other leaders in the gospel ministry, including Urbanus (Romans 16:9), Timothy (Romans 16:21), Titus (II Corinthians 8:23), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), Clement (Philippians 4:3), Philemon (Philemon 1), Demas and Luke (Philemon 24) and several others (Colossians 4:11). He also considers Apollos and himself God’s “fellow workers” (I Corinthians 3:9). It is in this group of people who take leadership in the ministry of the gospel that Priscilla, without any distinction related to her sex, is included as well as her husband Aquila.
Phoebe, commended by Paul at the beginning of this chapter (16:1-2), is usually assumed to have been the one who carried Paul’s letter to Rome to its destination (Paul wrote Romans from Corinth; Cenchrea, Phoebe’s city, was the eastern seaport of Corinth). Paul asks the Roman church “. . . to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you . . .” (16:2, NIV). In this context of his concern for Phoebe and her reception at Rome, Paul describes Phoebe with two designations (as found in the NIV translation): “a servant (diakonos) of the church in Cenchrea” (16:1) and “a great help (prostatis) to many people” (16:2).
Although the designation of Phoebe as diakonos has often been understood to be a reference to the office of deaconess (so, e.g., RSV, JB, Phillips), this option is unlikely. There was no feminine term “deaconess” in first century A.D. Greek; later Christians coined the term for a developing office of women “deacons.” Those passages in the New Testament which seem most likely to refer to the Church office of deacon (I Timothy 3:8, 12; Philippians 1:1) mention the deacon in conjunction with the bishop. Although a woman “deacon” is a possibility (I Timothy 3:11 may refer to such), it is very dubious that Phoebe should be called a “deacon.” Paul’s general use of the term diakonos makes another option much more likely.
Apart from the “deacon” texts (I Timothy 3:8, 12; Philippians 1:1) and two texts which use diakonos of a non Christian person or action (Romans 13:4; Galatians 2:17), Paul uses diakonos to refer to servants or ministers of the gospel. He makes general references to this connection (II Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23) and designates certain persons as diakonoi (servants/ministers-so translated variously in the several passages by the RSV and NIV): Christ (Romans 15:8); Apollos (I Corinthians 3:5); Epaphras (Colossians 1:7); Timothy (I Timothy 4:6); Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7) and himself (I Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25).
Thus it would seem that to understand Phoebe’s designation most accurately in Paul’s context would be to understand that Phoebe is a minister/servant of the church in Cenchrea. (Helen Barret Montgomery’s 1924 translation of the New Testament is the only one known to me that translates “minister” 2; several translations have translated “servant,” but it is not usually clear to the English reader that it is the same designation that various leading men “servants” of the gospel have received.) Earl E. Ellis, a prominent evangelical New Testament scholar, in an article on “Paul and His CoWorkers” some years ago (1971) had concluded that diakonoi in Paul referred to a special class of co-workers who were active in preaching and teaching.
Paul also calls Phoebe a prostatis (a noun in Greek). Translations of this term vary widely: good friend (NEB; TEV); looked after (JB); helper (RSV); great help (NIV). This is the only occurrence
of the term in the New Testament (the masculine form of the noun does not occur in the New Testament either). In the Greek of the New Testament period the term was a relatively strong term of leadership and was used in both pagan and Jewish religious circles. The verbal form of the term does occur in the New Testament (proistemi), only in Paul. Apart from two instances (Titus 3:8, 14), Paul uses the verb in connection with leadership in the Church (Romans 12:8;1 Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 3:4, 5, 12). Thus, it is probable that the use of the term prostatis for Phoebe is meant to indicate her position of leadership within the Church (Helen
Barrett Montgomery’s translation here is “overseer”).
In the light of the evidence in Paul’s own letters concerning his use of language, Phoebe appears clearly as a significant leader in the Church, a minister in the Cenchrean church and part of Paul’s circle of trusted coworkers in the gospel.
The last woman to note among the ten in Romans 16:1-16 has very often been hard to find in most English translations. Her name is Junia (16:7), but in most translations the name has appeared as Junias, a male name (e.g., NIV: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was”). One possible explanation for the confusion over the gender of the name has to do with its grammatical form as the direct object of the verb “greet.” In Greek both Junia and Junias would have exactly the same spelling (Julian) as the direct object of a verb.
However, the issue is not actually that simple or innocent. There is considerable evidence that Junia was a common Latin female name in the Roman Empire (Andronicus was also a common Latin male name). There is, however, no evidence that Junias was used as a male name at this time; it is only an hypothesized short form of the attested name Junianus. John Chrysostom (who died A.D. 407), one of the first Greek fathers to write extensive commentaries on Paul, and known for his “negative” view of women, understood that Junia was a woman. He marvelled that this woman should be called an apostle. In fact, according to scholar Bernadette Brooten, the first commentator to understand Junia as the male name Junias was Aegidius of Rome (A.D. 12451316). Ever since then Junias has been the common reading in Romans 16:7.
The actual “problem” arose in connection with the clause describing Andronicus and Junia as “outstanding among the apostles.” Although this clause could be construed to mean that Andronicus and Junia were well known to, but apart from, the group of apostles, its natural meaning in Greek is that they were outstanding as apostles. This would then mean that the woman Junia is recognized as an apostle by Paul in Romans 16:7! So much is the is the weight of the traditional understanding of the New Testament on women against this that the most authoritative dictionary for New Testament Greek (the lexicon of Walter Bauer) declares that the name must be the male Junias since the person is called an apostle.
It is true that Paul nowhere else explicitly names any other person than himself and members of the Twelve as apostle. However, his general use of the term apostle (e.g., 1 Corinthians 4:9; 9:5-6; 12:28-29; II Corinthians 11:5, 13; 12:11-12) implies that others bore that title in the early Church (see also Acts 14:4,14).
Only a few translators have recognized Junia as a woman apostle, including the KJV, Helen Barret Montgomery, and F. F. Bruce (in his 1965 expanded paraphrase of Paul’s letters).
Romans 16:1-16, then, in an incidental way allows us to see that Paul had several women co-workers in the Church’s ministry. Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis (as well as Euodia and Syntyche mentioned in Philippians 4:2-3) all shared in the hard labors of the gospel ministry. Priscilla also was a fellow worker with Paul in the ministry. Phoebe was a minister of the Cenchrean church and a Oleader in the Church. Junia was, along with Andronicus (her husband?), an outstanding apostle. When the issues of Paul’s view of women in the church are addressed in reference to such texts as I Corinthians 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:8-15, these women co-workers in the ministry must not only not be forgotten; they must be accounted for in the overall assessment of Paul’s view. 3
1. This article is reprinted with permission from the Daughters of Sarah 6:4 (July/August 1980), 3-6. It has also been reprinted in the Atlantic Baptist 23:4 (April 1987), 19-21.
2. Note now that the Revised English Bible (Oxford University Press/Cambridge University Press, 1989) also translates “minister” for Phoebe.
3. In addition to the nine women discussed here, one may also include women leaders of Pauline house churches: Chloe (I Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and Lydia (Acts 16:1415, 40).
By Catherine Chambers
I appreciate the comprehensive study Sister Tenney has presented concerning the ministry of women in the Oneness movement. She has traced the history of women from the creation until this present day, including women from the Old and New Testament. These Bible women all believed in the oneness of God according to Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”
The word ministry has several definitions. It includes the clergy, a person exercising clerical functions, and ministers of government, such as ambassadors, diplomatic representatives, or agents.
It also refers to the function of aiding or serving. I believe every child of God has a special God-given ministry.
In the Levitical priesthood, the sons of Levi were ordained to minister in the Tabernacle. The ministries of the majority of the Old Testament women were confined to contributing their abilities to the adorning of the Tabernacle, the care of the home, and the teaching of their children. Thus the oneness of God was instilled in the hearts of the future generations.
The women of the New Testament were also Oneness women. When God was manifested in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, many women believed and followed Him. Jesus chose twelve men as His apostles, but many women ministered to Him in many ways. Martha ministered to His physical need for food. Mary and other women ministered to Him with love and adoration from His birth in the manger to His death at Calvary.
On the Day of Pentecost, Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled and a new door was opened to women of all generations: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29).
The plan of salvation is for all. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
At the turn of the century honest-hearted men and women began seeking God for the baptism of the Holy Ghost as recorded in the Book of Acts. God poured out His Spirit once again upon all flesh. The Holy Spirit further led them into the truth of the Oneness message, which had been generally hidden for some time. Those who believed and accepted this truth were ostracized and forced to leave the trinitarian fellowship and form a new Oneness organization. Thus there was a return to the original one-God message of the Bible.
I am a second-generation Pentecostal, having come into the church in the year 1928. At this time some of the elders of the church believed that women should have no part in the public ministry of the church. They referred to I Corinthians 14:3435, which reads as follows: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” They also used I Timothy 2:11-12: “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
Further study of these passages of Scripture revealed, however, that they referred to a Jewish ordinance under the law. Women were not permitted to teach or read the Scriptures in the assembly or even to ask questions. This is still practiced today in the Orthodox Jewish synagogues. It was permitted for any man to ask questions, object, altercate (dispute with zeal, heat, or anger), argue, contradict, disapprove, and so on in the synagogue, but this liberty was not allowed to any woman. Paul disputed with the Jews in the synagogue in Acts 17:17. In the early church in their zeal and new-found liberty in Christ, women were being offensive and speaking out of turn, asking questions and entering into discussions in the church. Paul was teaching the Christian women that such behavior was still offensive, improper, and unbecoming in the church and should not be practiced.
All that the apostle opposes here is their questioning, finding fault, disputing, and so on in the Christian church, as the Jewish men were permitted to do in the synagogues, together with the attempt to usurp authority over the man, by setting up their judgment in opposition; for the apostle had in mind especially acts of disobedience, arrogance, and so on of which no woman should be guilty who was under the influence of the Spirit of God. “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40).
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted the prophet Joel’s prophecy, which included, “Your daughters shall prophesy.” The definition of the word prophesy is:
1. To utter by divine inspiration
2. To predict, foretell
3. To speak as if divinely inspired
4. To give instruction in religious matters: preach
5. To interpret or expound the Scriptures
According to the prediction of Joel, the Spirit of God was to be poured out on the women as well as the men, that they might prophesy. And they did prophesy or teach, as is evident from what Paul says in I Corinthians 11:5: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head.” I Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
Prophecy is listed in I Corinthians 12 as a spiritual gift: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (verse 1). [Everyone has some type of function in the church:] “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (verse 27). land one function in the body is the ministry of ”helps”:) “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (verse 28). Paul further admonishes the church to covet earnestly the best gifts and to use our God-given gifts in love.
In 1945, the year of the merger, there was no organized Ladies Auxiliary Division in the United Pentecostal Church. Some of the elders of the church were afraid the ladies would usurp authority if they were organized and would press for equal rights.
Sister Mary Cole, however, was appointed by the General Board in 1953 and was instrumental in allaying the fears of many of the brethren. She discreetly and submissively worked with the ministry to help organize what today is appreciated and enjoyed as the Ladies Auxiliary of the United Pentecostal Church International. Many women have found a direction for their ministries of aiding and serving others around the world.
I have observed through the years that the majority of Pentecostal women are most comfortable in the role of helpmate to their husbands, serving and ministering within their own capacities and
callings as they are led by the Spirit.
God has given each of us special talents. They are God’s gifts to us. How we use our talents is our gift to God. As in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), one servant was given five talents, another two, and another one. They were not judged by the amount of talents they received but by how they used their talents.
Some women seem to have many public talents that they are using to further the work of the kingdom. Many women, however, may never be seen using their talents publicly, but their talents of helping behind the scenes wherever a need is presented will not go unrewarded.
There is no greater ministry than the ministry of prayer and intercession for the lost. Many outstanding men of God attribute their success in the ministry to a praying woman (a mother or wife) who was never acclaimed publicly but will one day receive her reward when she hears the words of the Master saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”
May we, the women of the United Pentecostal Church International, find our place in the kingdom of God and do our best in our particular ministry in submission to God and to our husbands and elders
Catherine Chambers works closely with her husband, S. W. Chambers who is superintendent of the Missouri District and former general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church Intentional.
By Janet Trout
The author has submitted to us an admirable overview of women in the Scriptures. In a refreshing and stimulating manner, she has illustrated the historical presence of women in the Oneness movement. Her presentation of women in recent church history is enough to convey to us the overwhelming impact of women in Christianity in the nineteenth century. Her research of Scripture is sufficient to support the credibility of female involvement in the ministry. She is to be commended for developing this panoramic view that provides for us undeniable evidence that God calls and anoints women to be vessels of honor in His kingdom.
The author is to be admired for refraining from taking advantage of this golden opportunity to castigate egotistical men who seek to deny women their place in the ministry. I noted that she did not
attempt to place blame on men for the low ratio of women in the ministry. Perhaps the paper should have addressed the absence, rather than the presence, of women in the ministry.
Commendably, the paper did not respond emotionally, as women often do, to the arguments heard so often that a woman has no right to preach. The records, both scripturally and historically, bear sufficient evidence. The author’s approach to demonstrating rather than demanding is a reasonable one. Women in the ministry should confirm their prerogative rather than demand it. Sister Tenney is also kind, as well as modest, in her use of the term “limited acceptance” with reference to the United Pentecostal Church International and women in the ministry. I quote: “Few have been licensed as ministers”; and I ask the question today, Who is at fault? Are women being denied admission, or are they failing to apply? Many women have a ministry but they have not sought licensing. One must exhibit confidence in one’s own calling before expecting others to do so.
Men must not be indicted for the decline of women ministers in our generation. The blame must rest squarely on the shoulders of women. It has been my observation, as well as my own experience, that where a true apostolic ministry exists, both the anointed and the Anointer jointly provide opportunities to exercise that ministry. A woman’s ministry will never rise any higher than her commitment to that calling. Opportunity will never supersede ability.
The spirit of women’s liberation is a greater hazard to a woman minister than her opponents. With the rise of prosperity and the abdication of women from the home, the career monster has devoured many a capable lady. As women became aware of new opportunities in other fields, their energy was diverted. Clearly, women have made their choices–they have chosen to work public jobs and climb corporate ladders–it is a choice.
While a few dissident men whine about a woman’s right to preach, a host of pastors have welcomed women into their pulpits. If her ministry is intelligent, if her delivery is not masculine, if her
attire is feminine, and if her preaching is anointed, a woman will never lack a pulpit to preach in. Women who have failed to be accepted need to take another look at themselves.
The United Pentecostal Church International needs women in its ministry. Every division would be benefited by the presence of a woman as an honorary member of its committee. The woman’s touch could enhance every facet of our organization from the Youth Committee to the General Board. In many cases, serious decisions are made that involve women and families without the perceptive presence of a woman. While there is neither male nor female in Christ, there is in the boardroom.
However, to function as a woman among men, she must first be a lady, dress like a lady, and act like a lady, and deference is a necessity. To seek “equality” is undesirable at best and unacceptable
Finally, brethren, I want to commend Thetus Tenney for her unswerving commitment to represent Oneness Apostolic women in non-Oneness circles. This commitment has brought to her unjust criticism, but to us she has opened avenues of opportunity to share this exciting truth–the Oneness of God. I want to thank the designers of this Symposium for recognizing the role of women in the Oneness movement.
Janet Trout is an ordained minister who serves as director of Kent Christian Academy and Kent Christian College, as business manager of Kent Christian Center, and as associate in pastoral affairs and director of Christian education for both the First United Pentecostal Church of Dover, Delaware, and the First United Pentecostal Church of North East, Maryland.
Thetas Tenney is a women’s leader who conducted a series of national conferences for women and who speaks frequently in various women’s meetings. She is the publisher of “Focused Light,” a monthly study letter for women, and she has published several books and pamphlets. She also works closely with her husband, T. F. Tenney, who is the superintendent of the Louisiana District of the United Pentecostal Church International and who was formerly pastor, director of Foreign Missions, end president of the General Youth Division.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SYMPOSIUM ON ONENESS PENTECOSTALISM, 1988 AND 1990, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1990, PAGES 133-183.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.