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Prophesying Women and Ruling Men: Women’s Religious Authority in North American Pentecostalism
Department of Theology, Lee University, P.O. Box 3450, Cleveland TN 37320-2450, USA
Received: 12 June 2011; in revised form: 15 August 2011 / Accepted: 19 August 2011 / Published: 29 August 2011
Abstract: The issue of religious authority is one of the main reasons why women have been allowed to participate in Pentecostal churches, and why they have been limited. Women are granted access to ministering authority, but not governing authority. Charles Barfoot and Gerald Sheppard have noted the presence of these two types of authority to be operative within Pentecostalism and have associated them with Max Weber’s typology of prophet and priest. However, in their attempt to describe the history of Pentecostal women in ministry with these categories, Barfoot and Sheppard present the paradigm as one of displacement rather than coexistence. The result is a problematic and misleading account of Pentecostal women in ministry. However, the issue is not Weber’s categories, but how they employ them. The purpose of this article is to utilize the distinction between prophet and priest to differentiate between two types of ecclesial functions and their concomitant religious authority, rather than to differentiate between two periods of Pentecostalism. A brief history of Pentecostal women in ministry is presented, wherein examples are offered of how women in the Church of God, the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel operated in the prophetic realms with a ministering authority, but were largely prohibited from the priestly realms and its ruling authority. As these examples demonstrate, the history of Pentecostal women in ministry is told best when the simultaneous existence of the prophetic and priestly functions are recognized, and ministering authority and ruling authority are connected to these two functions.
Keywords: Pentecostalism; religion; women; gender; leadership; ministry; authority; power
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Stephenson, L.P. Prophesying Women and Ruling Men: Women’s Religious Authority in North American Pentecostalism. Religions 2011, 2, 410-426.
Stephenson LP. Prophesying Women and Ruling Men: Women’s Religious Authority in North American Pentecostalism. Religions. 2011; 2(3):410-426.
Stephenson, Lisa P. 2011. "Prophesying Women and Ruling Men: Women’s Religious Authority in North American Pentecostalism." Religions 2, no. 3: 410-426.