Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry

Informing a Dialogue on Gender, Church, and Ministry

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Editor(s): 
Margaret English de Alminana, Lois E. Olena
Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies

Review

In this ambitious addition to the “Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies Series,” editors Margaret English de Alminana and Lois E. Olena seek to address what Bernice Martin calls “the gender paradox” of pentecostal and charismatic movements (372). Simply put, while the contributions of Pentecostal women are considered essential to both movements, the voices of women often remain forgotten, rejected, and marginalized within them. Similarly, pentecostal scholarship often perpetuates this dynamic, relying too readily on male sources and overlooking too easily the challenges of women within the movements. As such, de Alminana and Olena bring together articles from multiple disciplines in an attempt to address both of these shortcomings. This dual focus—on the church and the academy—is more than appropriate, as both editors are professors at Assemblies of God affiliated institutions, both have served as Executive Directors to the Society of Pentecostal Studies, and both have served in ministerial capacities throughout their careers.

While this duality of focus allows the volume to reach its highest heights, it also renders some chapters hard to place in reference to the volume’s stated goals. To help alleviate this, each chapter is preceded by an editorial section that places it within the wider academic and ministerial debates. The book is arranged in four sections. The first section focuses on biblical studies and provides pentecostal, egalitarian readings of key texts in the Old and New Testaments. Zachary Tackett’s chapter then places these readings within a historical framework that explains why egalitarian praxis continued to face opposition in both pentecostal and charismatic movements. The second section provides historical sketches of prominent pentecostal women in the United States. Some of the chapters within this section are the strongest of the volume in that they directly address the problems of male-centric historiography by providing histories of prominent women whose impact are often misrepresented. For example, de Alminana’s history of Florence Crawford is an authoritative shot-across-the-bow to “orthodox” histories of Azusa. Similarly, Amy Artman’s focus on Kathryn Kuhlman and the medium of the talk show illustrates how important Kuhlman was for the mainstreaming of charismatic forms of spirituality.

The third section provides historical and contemporaneous examples of women in ministries outside of the United States, and the fourth section provides a sampling of the challenges facing Pentecostal women today. These final sections include chapters from both academics and practitioners, and range in disciplines from historical studies, to pastoral ministry, to sociological analysis, and as such, tracing the common theme among them can be difficult. With that said, several chapters stand out. Denise Austin and Jacqueline Grey’s brief historical overview of women leaders provides an outline for a female counter-history to Australian pentecostalism; the strong womanism of Estrelda Alexander’s chapter provides an ethical clarion call for the pentecostal academy to more fully engage liberationist theology; and Peter Althouse’s analysis of the feminine body in healing prayer insightfully draws out the cultural paradoxes embodied in one form of pentecostal prayer.

Overall, this volume represents a strong addition to scholarship on women and the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. Still, it does have a few drawbacks. The multi-disciplinary nature of this volume and its desire to address both academic and ministerial audiences render it uneven at points. Some chapters seem to be addressing wider academic debates, while others seem to be offering pentecostal ministerial prescriptions. Finding an audience outside of the pentecostal academy might be hard—especially considering its price point of $95. Furthermore, the volume represents an overwhelmingly white, North American perspective. While the geographic aspect of this bias is acknowledged (3), a greater diversity could only have made it a stronger volume, especially considering the double burden of marginalization faced by many women of color. With that said, this book generally achieves its stated purpose by foregrounding the lives, work, and thought of Pentecostal and charismatic women past and present. It makes clear that there is a dire need for more scholarship in this area while beginning the task of filling the lacuna. One can only hope that more focused works will build from where this volume leaves off.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Alex Mayfield is a doctoral student is mission studies at Boston University School of Theology.

Date of Review: 
June 21, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Margaret English de Alminana is Associate Professor of Theology at Southeastern University and Executive Director of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. She has authored Removing the Veil (2008), numerous articles, and reviews.

Lois E. Olena is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Jewish Studies at AGTS. She published Stanley M. Horton: Shaper of Pentecostal Theology (2009), Children of the Calling (a co-edited Festschrift with Eric Newberg, 2014), numerous book chapters, and articles.

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