The machine that is systemic oppression is running wild these days; and while we’ll be considering how it relates to women in this post, systemic oppression extends far beyond sexism. The Engaged Pentecostalism community of writers will continue exploring the topic moving forward.
Women’s Right to Vote
Fortunately we settled the matter on women voting about 100 years ago! Yes, our great-great-grandmothers could not vote. When I tell my kids that, they are shocked. I can see their minds trying to come up with reasons why women would be kept from voting. So far they’ve come up with nada.
Now clearly we have the benefit of history, but I must say, it is difficult to figure out how there was a time in our history when women (and, of course, many others) were not allowed to vote…
…and by “a time in our history,” I mean TODAY, as in right now.
The Assemblies of God and the Foursquare Church (Pentecostal) denominations fully ordain women, meaning they get to vote on church matters. The other Pentecostal denominations, to my knowledge, do not.
In fact, the Church of God (Cleveland) just voted last year at their General Assembly to retain an all-male leadership structure. What is so interesting about that situation is that a group of men voted on whether or not to allow women to vote. And based on the actual seating arrangement at the COG General Assembly, women are literally relegated to sitting silently in the stands while the men on the floor discuss important matters, such as women’s ability.
Sure, Pentecostalism exists because of women, and yes, women have been integral to Pentecostalism’s success globally.
But, do we really want women to be our superiors?
…um, I mean, but do we really believe God has equipped women with the ability to lead and vote? Wait, give me a second to find a better excuse…
Although they were also integral in every area of the church early on, women have been the primary leaders in missionary work throughout Pentecostal history; and you know what, denominational officials are thrilled with that! The more Spirit-filled women they can export, the more likely stateside governmental structures can remain intact.
My (somewhat caustic) comments could continue ad nauseam; yet, there is another important thing to notice.
Let’s just go out on a limb and say that the group of men vote to allow women to vote. Is that really a victory?
Let me rephrase: if a group of men graciously stoop down to the lowly women around them and generously let them sit at the prestigious masculine table with them, is that a victory?
One more try: is it a victory if it requires men to bestow value and ability onto women?
In other words, the oppressive system remains intact even if women are allowed to vote since it was only possible because men said so.
Women, we now allow you to ascend to our level…
Women Leader Issues
I’ve heard all my life that it is a bad idea to allow women to lead. Unsurprisingly, most of the reasons given for this are on par with…
Let me give you three examples I’ve repeatedly heard:
One gem is that it would be uncomfortable if a husband and wife both served in leadership roles; what if they disagreed and then problems move into the home? I mean, think of the children!?!
Another doozy involves women’s ever-so annoying emotions. I mean, come on, women can’t handle things like numbers and inappropriate jokes…I mean…prayer requests! They’re always on the brink of tears for goodness sake. I mean, think of the church!?!
The last one is probably the best: “I would just never feel comfortable attending a church with a female pastor.” If everyone shares that feeling, then no one will go to church, meaning everyone will be left behind. I mean, think of the rapture!?!
It’s “neat” to watch how a group of men can agree on something like women’s rights.
But Joel, you say, they’re just following the Bible.
Oh, that’s right. Yes, the Bible as understood by men is the final interpretation! All those other interpretations from people like women or poor people or the marginalized really need a man’s touch to validate it. Sure, they’ve studied much longer than most men have and they have the academic credentials to back it up, but still.
Here’s the absolute truth of the matter: You find what you’re looking for in the Bible. If you’re convinced that Jesus was a white nationalist, you can find that blog and pamphlet. If you’re certain that God made women incapable of leading, you can find that, too. And if you’re sure that God is a gun-toting man, you’ll discover resources for that as well.
The point is simple: it is important for all believers to seek out a variety of interpretations, from a variety of perspectives, before making definitive claims about topics such as women’s leadership capacity. Once we do so, we discover that there is more to these discussions than we initially think.
Seek and Find
For example, let’s look at Professor and former President of the Society of Biblical Literature Phyllis Trible’s work, where we discover a different interpretation on the whole “woman coming from man” passage; she explains, “As issa (female) is taken from is (male), so ha-adam is taken from ha-dama (cf.2:7). Yet ha-adam is never portrayed as subordinate to the earth. On the contrary, the creature is given power over the earth so that what is taken from becomes superior to. By strict analogy, then, the line ‘this shall be called issa because from is was this taken’ would mean not subordination of woman to the man but rather her superiority to him” (98).
It’s inconvenient, though, to consider the context of the biblical authors, who were products of their cultures, which were patriarchal. It’s bothersome to look at the feminine metaphors for God. And, it’s upsetting to have to reconsider our oppressive systems.
But reconsider we must because our Pentecostal history and theology rebukes any and all forms of oppression. Furthermore, by denying women leadership positions, we are saying we’d rather rely on (a few) men’s ability rather than the Spirit that empowers and equips all people for ministry.
The only solution I can envision is not that men allow women to lead and vote. Instead, it is that we men repent and turn from our wicked ways, then perhaps God will hear our voice and heal our land.
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.