Category Archives: Gender Equality

Holiness, Healing and Helping the Poor: The Ministry of Nelly Hall

In a time where it was controversial at best and impossible at worst for a woman to preach, Swedish evangelist Nelly Hall (1848-1916) gathered crowds of thousands of people as she preached about salvation, holiness and discipleship.

She was part of the holiness movement, and according to church historian David Bundy, the Holiness Union of Sweden would probably not have existed without her (1).

After being inspired by the preaching of American Methodist evangelist William E. Boardman, and after visiting the Salvation Army’s headquarters in London, Hall decided to become a full-time preacher (2).

For 20 years she traveled around Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the US. As she preached the Gospel, she also prayed for healing. Opera singer Ida Nihlén joined her to sing hymns and Gospel songs.

She was a frequent speaker at the Torp conference, a center for revivalist spirituality in central Sweden that still occurs annually to this day, gathering thousands of believers.

Bundy concludes:

”From the Holiness revivalists in London, she brought elements of social justice and ministry to the poor, the freedom of women to preach and teach, the use of healing as an evangelistic tool, and the understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit as a gift of God that transcended denominational boundaries as well as an international network of ministry.”(3)

Hall clearly shows us that it’s not only possible to combine a charismatic, evangelistic ministry with a passion for justice and women’s rights – it’s the best way to do ministry!

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

References

(1) David Bundy, Visions of Apostolic Mission, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2009, p. 114.

(2) Gunner, Gunilla, “Nelly Amalia Hall”, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon, https://skbl.se/sv/artikel/NellyHall

(3) Bundy, Visions, pp. 114-115.

Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

Throughout Christian history there have been stories of great heroes of the faith.  These heroes ranged from those who conquered social and systemic injustice and oppression, those who preached the Gospel courageously, those who taught children, and those who wrote theological tomes.  But what truly made these individuals heroes?  Aside from the fact that God greatly blessed these women and men and allowed them the opportunity to shine, the main reason these people changed the world, is because they lived into the calling and giftings that God assigned for them.

There are two main lists in the Bible looking at Spiritual gifts.  These are Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  Although there may be many additional gifts that didn’t exist in Biblical times (such as an uncanny use of social media and promotions for church work), the basics have stayed the same millenia later.  To give an idea of the various gifts which one  can possess, there are gifts of EDIFICATION (including: prophesy, teaching, exhortation, and encouragement), COMPASSION AND SERVICE (practical service, generosity, hospitality, mercy), and LEADERSHIP (apostleship, teaching, preaching, and evangelism).

Now in the church, the majority of gifts are not debated.  For example, both men and women can be able administrators, both can be encourage, and both can be generous with time, talents and treasures.  Yet, the issue arises when it comes to matters of leadership.  In some churches both men and women are able to accept roles such as deacon, elder, pastor or bishop, but in many others these roles belong solely to men.  Does that mean then that women were somehow bypassed when it came to giving out the spiritual gifts or does it mean that women are somehow inferior and therefore not eligible for these roles? Continue reading Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Narrative is the story through which we view reality.  We all have narratives that help us interpret our lives.  The Bible also is a narrative that helps us interpret reality.  There is a narrative that has floated around Charismatic and Pentecostal circles whenever anxiety surfaces around women co-leading with their husbands in marriage and having leadership roles in the Church and political world.  The Jezebel Spirit teaching comes from a false narrative drawn from 1Kings 16-21. 

Who was Jezebel in the Bible? 

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who descended from a number of wicked kings who had each become progressively more evil in their ways.  Ahab was the son of Omri who was the son of Zimri who was the son of Elan who was the son of Bassash.  Each of these kings were idolaters, men of violence who did not keep the Torah, in fact this was said of each king:

“Baasha had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:7

Of Zimri, “ for he, too, had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:19

 “Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” 1kings 16:25

“Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  1Kings 16:30

Ahab had come from a family of wicked kings who had long practiced idolatry with each subsequent generation becoming more and more evil in the site of the Lord.  The intent of the author was to show that Omri was more evil than the kings before him and Ahab even more evil that Omri and all the others before him. Continue reading Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

I still remember my first experience of being told I couldn’t do something I wanted to do.  I was only four years old and my Sunday School teacher asked us to go around the room and share what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Without any hesitation I blurted out “I want to be a pastor.”  My teacher, who was warm and friendly, stooped down, put her arm around my shoulders and said “honey, women can’t be pastors.”  I remember being utterly confused.  I had always enjoyed lining my teddy bears up after church on the steps of my house, singing Bible songs, and pretending to preach sermons.  This is something I liked doing and that my parents always encouraged in their own ways.  Obviously, four was too young to understand the theological implications of such a bold statement – there was no possible way I could have known at the time that this has been a grey area debated over the centuries with Bible believing Christians on both sides of the fence.  All I knew was that I was being told I couldn’t do something that in my very core I felt I wanted to do, that I was called to do, that I was meant to do.

Since then, I have occasionally faced discouragement as a woman in other areas and I know that I am not alone.  Thus, when I was asked to write this blog for PCPJ, I opened up my Facebook by posting an open question: “To all my Christian Women friends, what are you tired of hearing?”  The results poured in and surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) nearly everyone said the same things but in different ways.  I also took this offline by asking Christian and non-Christian women alike what they were tired of hearing, and I discovered that these very same issues often permeate into the lives of even those who are not religious.  That is to say, culture and tradition, often overshadow the truth and sometimes churches lose sight of what is Biblical and historically accurate in favour of what has simply been passed down to them or what they have been taught without further investigation.

Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the most common themes that women addressed when asked this question: Continue reading 10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

1On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.  Luke 13:10-17 

Is the main point of this passage about healing?  Is the main point of this passage about our focus and mission as God’s people?  These are two of the many questions I puzzled about as I reflected.  And the answer is yes… This passage is about healing and yes this passage is about the focus and mission of God’s people.

Continue reading Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

Upfront, I need to state that I am not for abortion, I believe in life and life abundantly. I believe that the Bible teaches the infinite worth and value of human beings which includes unborn children. And I believe unborn children are human beings.

I also recognize the gray areas of abortion and I acknowledge the wide disagreement about when life begins. I don’t claim to know all of the science around this debate but wish to speak to some of the Patriarchy surrounding it. I also acknowledge that at times women are faced with difficult decisions around birth, illness, and other medical situations that threaten the lives of mothers–I offer no judgement. And finally, I acknowledge how political abortion is and how it is used to bolster power and how it is co-opted by politicos to target our fears and moral anxieties in order to gain our votes.

I feel a little nervous about entering this sphere of discussion because it is heated and can at time be filled with lots of angry words. But I am speaking up because I believe that Patriarchal thinking is embedded in much of the pro-life dialogue. And that bothers me. Continue reading Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

In the mid-60’s Bob Dylan sang a song which was not only prophetic in its insights at that time of massive cultural shift but continues to be as relevant now. The words are below and you can hear his dulcet tones in this video:

The changing times are nothing short of astounding, for two reasons. One is that we in the West never expected to see in our lifetimes such thinly disguised hatred, cruelty and the normalising of heinous policies coming from ordinary members of society, (although there are enough precedents – see Nazi Germany, the slave trade operating out of Great Britain and the southern states of America, and the Spanish Inquisition to name just a few) to disenchant us of our illusory state of niceness. 

The emergencies of our world are too numerous to write but among the most prominent are the way in which multiple nations refuse to accept refugees – ‘we are full and our economy can’t sustain helping refugees, plus, they’re different to us’ being the most common reason given by the more prosperous countries. An even greater crisis is the blind refusal of governments to acknowledge that the delicate ecology of our planet is being trashed, driving us to the destination of a world we will not recognise. 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Continue reading THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

The Challenge of Followership

Leadership! It’s a fraught word, describing an even more fraught set of ideals. Leadership, in the final analysis, is neither good or bad. It is amoral. Like the notes on the musical scale and the letters of the alphabet, the essence of leadership, according to John Maxwell, is influence. When people are gifted as leaders, or in some way attain a leadership title, they walk in positions of influence. 

And therein lies the rub, because a culture is set according to the heart of the leader and those they surround themselves with, for good or evil, for strength or weakness. Someone whose influence leads people where they otherwise may not have gone, be it morally just or morally reprehensible, is setting or changing a culture for the duration of their leadership and beyond. That is, technically, good leadership, be it ever so terrible in its outcome. Nations, churches, organisations rise and fall on the way in which they’ve been led.  In 2019 the various modes of leadership across the planet denote that we, as citizens of the world, are in serious trouble.

In the face of drastic climate change in which the earth is vomiting the symptoms of its travail in torrents of floods, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, mud slides, volcanic eruptions and other ‘un’natural catastrophes across the planet, one group stands as the voice of reason, crying out for the influencers of the world to pay attention and change course before it’s too late. The other group, like the people in Noah’s day, keep working, consuming, using, spending and playing as though there’s no tomorrow – which one day may be true. Continue reading The Challenge of Followership

Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against

The spate of recent headlines about sexual abuse and victimization in the Church have made clear the prevalence of these crimes. The revelation of decades of abuse by Southern Baptist pastors and complicity by denominational leaders is only the most recent example. Willow Creek Community Church is still addressing the reverberations of trauma surrounding accusations of harassment against women. Sexual abuse is rampant outside the church as well. According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in the United States “has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).”[1]Much-needed discussion surrounding prevention and accountability in leadership is beginning to take place. Churches must also address how they treat women who have been sexually abused, both within and without the church.

In addition to these needed reforms, Christians must examine how our underlying theology may continue to damage victims rather than offer redemption. If what is preached from the pulpit, embodied in song and worship, and internalized by the congregation does not offer a message of hope and healing for those who have been abused, it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, our understanding of atonement—how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings us into reconciliation with God—must be examined carefully.
Continue reading Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against

Blooming Through Cement

Have you ever noticed the tenacity of a flower that blooms through the cracks of a sidewalk?  All around is the hard surface of cement but in the crack the flower has found a way to poke its head up, push through the earth and bloom.  Becoming whole, becoming adult has been for myself a journey in which it has felt as if I were trying to bloom through cement.  What is this cement?  Having come through it, I now have a name for this cement–Patriarchy.

Patriarchy in my life has been the hard surface through which I have tried to bloom.

I grew up in a small rural Charismatic church led by a pastoral couple.  She preached as much as he did and I had my first picture of what a strong Christian woman might be like.  While the little church was not the picture of emotional health, I had been given a picture of a man and woman working together for the sake of the gospel.  The Apostle Peter said this about Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

This is a picture of restoration.

By the Spirit men and women would speak, by the Spirit a new community in Christ would be formed.  In this new community God’s people would become whole–once again partners with God and one another to bring healing in the earth. Continue reading Blooming Through Cement