Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What If All Churches Treated Women as Jesus Did?

by Mimi Haddad
Reprinted from God's Politics Blog Net 11-25-2008

Do you wonder why the words and deeds of Christ are not given more attention in the current gender debate? If all of scripture points to Jesus, and if Jesus’ treatment of women was radically different from his culture, even his religious culture, how do the life and words of Christ inform us today? For clearly Christ not only opposed abuse and patriarchy—the devaluation of women—he also found opportunities to promote women’s ultimate destiny as bearers of God’s image and joint-heirs of God’s eternal kingdom. Perhaps that is one reason women were so drawn to Jesus. Here is one example, though there are many more.

The religious taboos of Christ’s culture viewed female bodies as impure and inferior. This worked to exclude women from spiritual service and support—a practice Jesus opposed. By allowing an “unclean” hemorrhaging woman to touch him—which according to Jewish tradition made Jesus unclean as well—Christ brought physical as well as spiritual healing! By announcing that this hemorrhaging woman was ill, not unclean, Christ welcomed regular contact with women and made it possible for them to share in his work along with his disciples (Mark 5:25-34). As John Dehousaye observed in the Spring 2006 issue of Mutuality, Jesus made it clear that it is not what the body touches or what comes out of the body that makes us unclean (Mark 7:8). Rather it is what abides in our hearts: “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit…” (Mark 7: 10-21). Religious taboos may have an appearance of righteousness, but, as Christ suggested, these taboos comprise vain worship because it overlooks the commands of God by holding to human traditions (Mark 7:7-8).

Human tradition, in nearly every culture, taught that women were, by virtue of their gender, less rational, less morally pure, less intelligent, and therefore ill-equipped not only for leadership, but also for equal partnership with men. Jesus breaks company not only with the patriarchy of Plato and Aristotle, but also with his own Jewish religious traditions which often excluded women from most service in the synagogues. Jesus engaged women theologically and expected women to respond not as a separate class, but as people, as disciples. Jesus ignored holiness taboos, and Paul did the same. Like Jesus, women were among Paul’s closest coworkers—those who labored beside him in the gospel. Jesus treated women as he did the male disciples; he encouraged them to learn at his feet rather than insisting they return to their gendered spheres of work.

What would happen if all churches treated women as Jesus did—as disciples and as authentic heirs of all God’s kingdom?

If you resonate with Haddad's thoughts and are a member of Facebook, please consider joining the "Free Our Church of God Women to Serve" Group. This group is open to all, COG members and non-COG members. If you would like to add your voice to the cause but do not have a Facebook account, please consider setting up an account (it's free!) and joining the Group.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to the Margins

My friend, Mike McMullen has written a very helpful post on the recent uproar over the very offensive Washington Post cartoon lampooning Pentecostals and especially speaking in tongues. He wrote a brilliant letter to the Editor of the Post. Thank you, Mike.

When I first saw the cartoon, in emails sent by several friends, I was offended but also immediately reminded of the cartoon, above, which appeared in the LA papers during the Azusa Street Revival. The Revival was extensively "covered" (and ridiculed) by the press. This cartoon, by the way, is excellent proof of the kinds of manifestations which were going on at 312 Azusa St.

In the latter part of the last century, and early part of this one, in the US, Pentecostals have seemed to "come of age" and moved from the wrong side of the tracks to the places of power and affluence: Pentecostal ministers are often consulted in the way Billy Graham once was, there have been some Pentecostal layperson who have made it to high level government positions, etc., etc. This rise to prominence (or "rush to respectability" as Steve Land has called it) has often, but not always, been accompanied by a compromise of doctrinal distinctives and holiness standards. In fact, in the mind of the Press, some scholars, the American public and even some Pentecostals, there is little difference between Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and Pentecostals. This may be lauded by some, but is grieved by me.

The good news in this political season (and there has been little of it, IMO) is that we may not be as mainstream as we have believed. We have been marginalized by the Post. Maybe they see a Movement that we are unable to see in our too-comfortable offices, houses and churches on the right side of the tracks. I pray they are right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ordination of Women

I am posting a short paper I was asked to prepare for the Doctrine and Polity Commission of the Church of God (2 years ago). It has not been published elsewhere.

The purpose of this paper is to examine briefly the theological interpretations and hermeneutical decisions made by leaders and ministers within the Church of God with regard to women in leadership. It is hoped that this examination will raise awareness of the traditions inherited by the Church of God and outside influences that still hold powerful sway in the life of the church. A reading of early General Assembly Minutes and the Church of God Evangel
reveals that women were active in most levels of ministry of the church life. Women evangelized, planted churches and served as pastor for those they established.
Like the rest of the Pentecostal movement, the egalitarian and charismatic nature of this early period eventually evolved into a more structured institution with barriers falling along both racial and gender lines.
While there are many contributing factors, such as the interesting dance between the holiness people and the pervading culture, the “redemption and lift” of Pentecostals and what Land has identified as the “rush to respectability”, there are two factors in the history of the Church of God which have held tremendous sway.
The first factor is the interpretation of women in leadership first articulated to Church of God readers by A. J. Tomlinson. In 1913, A. J. Tomlinson published his passionate plea for the “mustering” of the Army of the Lord: the Great Church of God, The Last Great Conflict: “Oh for a million men and women to burst forth, with such holy ambition, with every unused power in full use, like mad-men to strike terror and fear to all the half hearted religionists of the day!” However, in the next chapter, titled “Joy and Rejoicing”, Tomlinson begins to present his interpretation of the biblical role of church government. He declares, “Church then means government—Christ’s government; His Church.” He continues, as if responding to a question, “Here then is where women are to keep silence: that is, they are to have no active part in the governmental affairs.” Citing 1 Corinthians 14, Tomlinson continues by discussing the regulation of tongues. He concludes, “There were no women speaking in the council at Jerusalem: no one talking in tongues. They were a judicial body, searching for and applying the laws to a particular case.” The implication is that the Holy Spirit does speak through women in prophetic ways, such as with messages in tongues. But because the business of the Council is governmental, specifically, judicial, then this type of spiritual manifestation is not needed, and therefore, women’s input is non-existent. The great irony, even inconsistency, of this argument is that the Assembly minutes are replete with confirmation of business decisions through messages in tongues and interpretation. In 1914 it is a message and interpretation that confirms Tomlinson’s appointment as General Overseer, which is understood to be an appointment in perpetuity. This interpretation of woman’s role in the church appears to be unique to Tomlinson. Others, like the Assemblies of God, were more likely to interpret Paul as restricting women from pastoral roles.
In all fairness, the early leaders of the Church of God, like those in other Pentecostal denominations, were concerned with finding the “Bible Way” of leading the church. A. J. Tomlinson was absolutely certain that one form of church government could be found within Scripture. While he was obviously influenced by outside models (i.e., other denominations, the railroad and the United States government), his heart was to use the New Testament as the rule for faith and practice. While it is clear that this literalistic interpretation does not prevail for Tomlinson, others in the Church of God and the larger Pentecostal movement, where a more dynamic, Spirit-driven interpretation is preferred, on this issue he seems to take a more fundamentalist approach. Tomlinson, and others after him, in dealing with this issue utilized a literalistic reading of the English New Testament text, seeing no room for women to serve as deacons, elders or bishops. It should be noted, however, that this more fundamentalist reading on the matter was not the only model available to these Pentecostals. Wesleyan and Holiness leaders, contemporary with the early Pentecostals, such as the Salvation Army and B. T. Roberts of the Free Methodist Church, encouraged full participation of women in all areas of the life of the church, including the arena of leadership.
Tomlinson’s own inconsistency with regard to hermeneutical practice, specifically in his interpretation of Paul’s instructions, can be seen with his endorsement of a woman as lead teacher at the Bible Training School, established in 1918.
In 1917, Tomlinson proposed the idea of a Bible Training School for the purpose of equipping both men and women in the “Bible and missionary training.” The Assembly voted to establish such a school with Tomlinson as Superintendent but he appointed a woman, Nora Chambers, a licensed evangelist, as primary teacher. Chambers taught Bible to both men and women. Apparently, Tomlinson “suffered a woman to teach.”
This selective literalist hermeneutic became the predominant position, an oral tradition, in the church with regard to women in leadership. Its implications are easily seen in the church’s regulations excluding women from the Church and Pastor’s Council and the rank of Ordained Bishop, both positions which include the responsibility of making “business decisions” for the church, local and international.
The second major contributor to the current interpretation is the influence of Evangelical and Fundamentalist interpretations of certain texts on the Pentecostal community. The Tomlinsonian interpretation has been fortified for the Church of God by its close association with those in Evangelical Churches. As the Church of God and other classical Pentecostal denominations embraced the Evangelical movement, most conspicuously by joining forces in 1948 with the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals, so too it adopted its view of family and women’s roles. This view, often asserted to be the biblical view of family, was in reality “a family lifted out of nineteenth-century industrialized Europe and North America.” Pentecostal families were much more likely to resonate with more prominent historical (and biblical) models where the family was “an economically productive unit.” In this model, family members farmed or worked together to sustain the family. The “stay at home mom” was a luxury not often enjoyed by non-middle-class families.
Interestingly, in 1948, the year of the NAE charter, the nomenclature for ministerial ranks in the Church of God changed. The rank of Evangelist was eliminated and the rank of Licensed Minister was instituted. However, women’s credentials remained unchanged; women were ‘granted Evangelist’s Certificates. The implication of this move is that the Assembly did not want to silence the charismatic call of the woman who was an evangelist, but she was not recognized as professional clergy. Tomlinson’s legacy lived on. His statements of 1915 could have been voiced in 1948 and the years following: “Let the good sisters feel at perfect liberty to preach the gospel, pray for the sick or well, testify, exhort, etc., but humbly hold themselves aloof from taking charge of the governmental affairs.”
In 1994, however, the first real challenge to Tomlinson’s view was seen in the redefining of the understanding of the constituency of General Assembly. In that year, it was decided that the General Assembly, the highest governing body of the Church of God, consisted of all members present, male and female.
In 2000, the title of the second rank of licensure for Church of God ministers was changed to “Ordained Minister”, in effect, granting ordination to women. However, women were still excluded from the highest rank, “Ordained Bishop”, and thereby from positions of influence.
Now, only 4% of credentialed ministers in the Church of God in the United States are women. Women are restricted from advancing to the level of Ordained Bishop. This “stained glass ceiling” prevents, then, their direct influence in the decision-making processes of the church. By virtue of the limitations of their ministerial rank they cannot be appointed to most leadership positions in the church. They do not have voice in the General Council. On a state level, most Administrative Bishops will not appoint a minister who is not an Ordained Bishop to the larger churches or to serve as District Overseers. Only in mission states or territories may ordained ministers serve on State Councils. This decline in the number of women being credentialed reveals that while women may on the local level be involved in pastoral functions, they are not doing it in official capacities, at least as far as the General Church is concerned and are therefore a less than significant voice.
It seems that the contemporary Church of God has held to Tomlinson’s interpretation of the role of women, but now couches its position in terms of staying true to Scripture. There is a fear that the move to give women rights in the area of leadership would move us toward the “slippery slope” of liberalism and “open the floodgate” for liberal interpretation. For many, the need to identify themselves as conservatives in the area of scriptural views, and the fear of being identified as otherwise, has allowed them to uncritically accept the interpretation of those within Fundamentalist circles. The question before us is, is it possible to be conservative on Scripture and other issues, while holding to an egalitarian view of women in leadership.
In an attempt to begin to answer the question, one should look at groups such as the Free Methodists who believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the sanctity of human life, opposition to homosexuality, gambling and worldly forms of entertainment, but who maintain that women can be full participants and leaders in the Body of Christ.
To be true to who we are, descendants of Wesley who enjoy the full blessings of Pentecost, it is vital that we recognize the prophethood and priesthood of all believers. It is a matter of fidelity and faithfulness.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grieved....Once Again

I've just received word that the Church of God General Council (ordained bishops) once again has voted not to allow women to serve on the Church and Pastor's Council at the local level. I'm not Calvinist, but maybe it was the Providence of God that kept me from being at the Assembly this year. I don't think I could have handled another defeat like this very gracefully.

I have several comments to make:

1. If men in this church would get as worked up about the injustice of this issue as they do about the financial situation of the church maybe we would see some change.

2. I don't know how much longer we can expect to keep qualified women as members, much less ministers in this Church.

3. This is not a liberal-conservative issue, as it is often framed. There are MANY theologically conservative denominations which allow for this kind of local church leadership (Pentecostal Holiness Church, Nazarene, Foursquare Gospel, etc.)

4. This kind of injustice and prejudice and oppression is sin.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Time to Get Political

I hate years in which the General Assembly and Presidential elections coincide. Maybe it's because of the amount of tongue-biting I have to do.

Late yesterday the General Assembly agenda was posted. There are many, many things on this agenda on which I have an opinion (are you surprised?) but I shall refrain and speak only to one issue. And yes, it's the one you all know I will speak to as I have time and time again.

Actually, the way I was notified that the agenda had been posted [I had been looking for it for a month or so] was through one of my former students, a female, who emailed and said, in so many words, "Am I reading this right? Is the issue of the restrictions on women in ministerial leadership not on the agenda....again?" So, I quickly took a look. And she's right. What is there is a very helpful item about women on the Church and Pastor's Council. I very much appreciate the way this is presented (though it is wordy) and pray that reason will prevail...if the General Council even gets to the item, since it is item 13.

However, once again, the cry of both women and men in this denomination has not been heard and the talents and leadership gifts of women in this church will be at best, ignored, at worst, abrogated. Either choice will not only wound the called and gifted women of this church, but will also feed and cultivate the church's malady. I have written elsewhere that it is a violation of our Holiness-Pentecostal identity to discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity, or race.

Ironically, this morning I read an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times about the need for a "Sex Speech" in keeping with Obama's much needed and much lauded race speech. Many of the issues which Kristof raises parallel those in our church (and other churches). He writes, "Racism is deeper, but sexism may be wider in America today." I have seen great signs of hope in the COG in the last few years with regard to our racism. The General Council stepped up to the plate and made history by electing an African-American to a position of power in the denomination. But, as Kristof says, sexism may be a wider issue. Our racism was a deep cultural sin, for which we repented and made restitution. But our sexism is a wide issue, a sin against women and the Body of Christ, which is legislated by our polity.

Kristof continues, "Usually, the male is perceived as a better fit for executive posts — even among well-meaning people who are against gender discrimination, and even among women." He concludes, "But if Mrs. Clinton was hurt by gender, her problem wasn’t misogynists so much as ordinary men and women who believe in equal opportunity — but also are conditioned to think that a president speaks in a gravelly voice." Sadly, many in the COG are similarly conditioned. And the saddest part of this is that we are mirroring society, rather than providing a contrast-image to the world.

This is not about rights and privileges. It is not a liberal or conservative issue. There are numerous conservative evangelical and Pentecostal denominations which give full rights to women. This is about Holiness.

I could go on and on, but I won't. But you should.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Frank Bartleman on War

"Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God.' Ps. 51:14. Truly a stern warning for these present days, for 'whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer' (1 Jno. 3:15), and we cannot wish the death of any man without hating him. Here is a supreme test on the church today, and multitudes are falling. 'If any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.'---Rev. 13:10. 'They loved not their lives even unto death.'---Rev. 12:11"

"When we have a holy Devil and a holy hell, then we shall have a holy war. I speak of the earthly situation. 'War is hell.'"

"Russian despotism, German militarism and English imperialism together spell 'devilism.' 'England's menace' is not nearly so serious as the "Christian menace,' the menace to the Christian spirit through hatred of the enemy in war, especially in England. London is plastered with the placard, 'Our war on German trade.' Thank God, no true Christian is neither 'made in Germany,' nor in England. We are 'made in heaven.'"

[Fr. Frank Bartleman, "The Situation in Europe", The Bridegroom's Messenger Vol. VIII No. 168 (March 1, 1915), p. 1] Bartleman had just returned from an extended preaching tour of Europe.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Am I Doing?

Time is flying by and I feel it slipping away! This morning I'm trying to do an assessment of what I've been doing, what I still need to do and how much time I have to do it in. Don't have time to blog and assess so I'm combining the two tasks.

1. Reading and taking notes from The Bridegroom's Messenger. This is a never-ending project. I used copies from microfilm for my PhD research (1907-1910) and that was a challenge, as the type is so small. I am now working through the years 1911-1917. It is even worse. Apparently the originals deteriorated and the copies I have not only have microscopic type but they have faded places, shadows running through them, fold lines, etc. I've scanned several years' worth and that allows me to "zoom" in and increase type size but it is still a huge challenge.
2. I managed to find a copy of the 1914 edition of J. H. King's From Passover to Pentecost on ebay for $10!!! Unheard of!! I've never even seen a copy of it. This is the original version and there are only about 5 extant copies...or so the historians thought! There may be more out there somewhere. Anyway, the later editions were edited somewhat and added to (by King). I can now compare/contrast the 2 and see what changed, speculate as to why, etc. You know, text criticism.
3. I've worked through another version of King's testimony of Spirit Baptism (from the 1914 book), comparing it to another version (reprinted in a book of his sermons).
4. I've read R. B. Hayes' and L. H. Rouse' books (early PH and COG) and recorded SB experiences.
5. I re-read The Whole Truth, this time looking for SB rather than healing testimonies.
6. Re-read The Doctrines and Discipline of the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission of Los Angeles, Inc. with SB rather than healing in view.
7. Read The Promise (1 issue) an early Pentecostal publication out of Toronto.
8. Read Christ, God's Love Gift J. H. King sermons.
9. Read Religion and Healing in America and Healing in the History of Christianity and wrote a book review for Pneuma.
10. Did work for SPS, went to meeting, did more work for SPS following the meeting.
11. Did my annual review and projections paperwork for the Seminary.
12. Read/marked/graded a senior paper.
13. Read/marked and sat on dissertation committee, listened to defense for D.Min. project/dissertation.
14. Kept up/renewed correspondence with other Pentecostal scholars.

Still to do:
1. Finish The Bridegroom's Messenger
2. Re-read The Church of God Evangel
3. Re-read The Pentecostal Evangel.
4. Re-read Durham.
5. Look at early Pentecostal songs.
6. Read Estrelda Alexander's new book for review, Limited Liberty.

This is another PhD thesis!! Somebody stop me!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Latino Pentecostals

In the current issue of Sojourners:
It’s easy—and human—to apply labels according to our assumptions. But we know that categorizing anything, especially whole groups of people, is risky business. Latinos are frequently seen as a monolithic community—particularly by pundits and pollsters in this election season—but as our writers tell us, they’re anything but. Former Sojourners staffer Aaron McCarroll Gallegos and Azusa Pacific University professor Arlene S├ínchez Walsh look at one of the most misunderstood groups, Latino Pentecostals, and write about the ways in which Latino Pentecostals are not only defying labels, but defining themselves.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter's Challenge to Empire by N. T. Wright

Where then is God in the war on terror? Grieving and groaning within the pain and horror of his battered but still beautiful world. Stirring in the hearts of human beings the desire for a more credible structure of global justice and mercy. Burning into the imagination of human beings a hope that peace and reconciliation might eventually win out over suspicion and hatred, that the world may be put to rights and that we may anticipate that in the present time. The Christian gospel, revealing the mysterious God we discover in Jesus and the Spirit, offers a framework for discerning where God is at work in the midst of the dangers and opportunities that confront us. All of us in our different callings are summoned to this task; some of you, perhaps, to make it your life's work. Jesus is Lord. The Spirit is powerful. God is doing a new thing. Let's get out there and join in.

Read the lecture excerpt here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Society for Pentecostal Studies 2008

Just returned from the meeting at Duke University. I always enjoy the joint meeting with the Wesleyan Theological Society. Corky and I drove to Durham on Wednesday evening and the rest is a blur! The program highlights, at least for me, were:
  • hearing Jurgen Moltman
  • a panel discussion on peacemaking with Stanley Hauerwas
  • Randy Maddox discussing Wesley's relationship with science
  • Terry Cross' presidential address
  • Corky's presentation
(These lists are not exhaustive.)

The event highlights, as always, were seeing old friends and colleagues, some of whom I don't see but once a year [Frank Macchia, Allan Anderson, Blaine, Charette, Jennie Evert Powers, Mel Robeck, David Reed, et al], making new friends [Terry LeBlanc], meeting scholars I haven't met before [again, Terry LeBlanc, Joel Halldorf, Bernie van der Walle].

The good and frightening (and humbling) news is that I was elected 2nd Vice President of the Society. This means that in 2010, when I am 1st Vice President I will plan the program which will be at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and in 2011 I will be President, delivering the presidential address.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

We are not unaware of the power of narrative and story. After all, it is through narrative God chooses reveal Who He is. It is Narrative that tells us how God has acted in history. And it is how my story intersects with God's story which I reflect upon as a Believer. One form of story which we don't often teach in Seminary is the novel or fictionalized story which may convey how God communicates and communes with us. There are obvious examples in Christian history: Pilgrim's Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia, Hinds' Feet on High Places. I vividly remember a lecture on the Incarnation by Dr. Gause in which he read a Walter Wangerin parable from The Ragman and Other Cries of Faith. One recent contribution is The Shack by son of missionaries, William P. Young. For the theology student who is put off by the idea of reading fiction, let me tempt you with the profound discussions of Trinity, Christology, ontology, theodicy, etc. For the counseling student, this is CPE in a little over 200 pages. For the missiology students, missio Dei is an undergirding theme. For my female students...well, just read it! This work may pull together much of what we've all been trying to say for over 20 years. Visit the website, read the forums, read Young's biography. Most of all....read The Shack!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Excellent Resource: Theology Topics

Click on the post title to link to an extremely helpful Wesleyan theology resource.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lessons From Down Under by Lee Grady

Lessons We Must Learn From the Aussie Church

Jack and Carol Hanes were forced to make lots of cultural adjustments when they arrived in Australia in 1987. The couple moved to the Sydney area from Arizona to start a church, knowing that the Christian population was tiny. They soon learned that if they were to be successful in this very secular society they would have to modify their American style and do things the Aussie way.

As it turned out, the Aussie way worked pretty well.

Today, Jack Hanes is the director of missions for the Assemblies of God (AOG) in Australia, and the group has become the largest Protestant denomination in the country. Currently the AOG is planting one new church every four days in the country—an impressive statistic when compared to the sluggish growth of churches in the United States.

Hanes' own congregation, Penrith Christian Life Centre, located 40 miles north of Sydney, has grown to 2,000 members since he and his wife started it 21 years ago with a handful of believers meeting in a hotel. Meanwhile, the massive Hillsong Church, also affiliated with the AOG and located in Sydney, has grown to 20,000 members and is one of the most influential churches in the world because of its popular worship recordings and TV broadcasts.

This week I asked Hanes, who is 55, what he believes American pastors could learn from the Aussies' out-of-the-box approach to church. He gave these seven reasons why churches are growing Down Under.

1. Christians aren't religious. The typical Australian is a lot more earthy and irreverent than his formal British counterpart. Because the country was started as a penal colony, it doesn't have a churchy culture. Hanes says this can be an advantage when you are trying to reach unbelievers with the gospel. People don't dress up, they don't wear hypocritical masks and they tend to be bluntly honest. "It's refreshing," Hanes says.

2. They have a wild, daring spirit. Americans fell in love with Aussie wildlife expert Steve Irwin, the infamous Crocodile Hunter who died in 2006, because of his playful and audacious taunting of dangerous reptiles. Hanes says a similar willingness to take risks characterizes the Australian church, which is less mired in tradition than American church groups. "Aussies don't have to be safe and secure. We know God wants us to risk everything. We could not do that if we weren't crazy," Hanes says.

3. They are aggressive about church planting. Several years ago AOG leaders in Australia began to focus on multiplying their movement rather than just maintaining churches. They did this by eliminating useless denominational bureaucracy. Today every major leader in their organizational structure in Australia is a working pastor who is involved in a hands-on way in church planting. There are no "fat guys sitting behind desks in denominational offices making $300,000," Hanes says with typical Aussie frankness.

Hanes makes a painful comparison between Australia's lean church-planting machine and the multilayered AOG hierarchy in the United States. He says one Aussie minister visited the AOG's headquarters in the U.S. four years ago and learned that leaders were celebrating the fact that they had millions of dollars in the bank—even though church planting was flat. "Can you imagine if Jesus came back and we had millions in the bank?" Hanes asks. "I'd rather we had no money in the bank because we had used all the money for missions."

4. Their worship is fresh and vibrant. Worship from Australia has dominated the Christian music scene since the mid-1990s, after Hillsong Church's band, led by Darlene Zschech, first released their popular chorus, "Shout to the Lord," in 1993. Today Hillsong music encircles the globe, its annual worship conference attracts 40,000 people and their youth band, Hillsong United, is setting trends for Christian teens. Hanes' wife, Carol, says she believes God's anointing has stayed on this Aussie music because it is based in a local church—not in a music industry that is driven by sales, profits and concert schedules.

5. They give sacrificially. Unlike those in the United States, contributions made to churches in Australia are not tax-deductible. Yet many Aussies give extravagantly to missions and church-planting ventures. In 2007 Hanes' church gave more than $1 million to missions and started more than 700 churches in India. "And church leaders here don't ask the people to give what they are not willing to give themselves. We lead by example," Hanes adds.

6. They focus on youth. Australia is a young nation, and Hanes' church mirrors the population: The average age in his congregation is 27. "I don't know of one church in Australia that is filled with old people," he says, "except some of the mainlines." Aussie Christians see the potential of giving young people ministry credentials so they can pioneer churches.

Hanes points out that in Iraq today, 19-year-old soldiers lead squads of 48 men. They are trusted to fight battles for us. "Yet we won't let people that age preach in our pulpits until they are 'proven.' Something is wrong with that," Hanes says.

7. They release their women. "There is a recognition here in Australia that if a woman has a gift, you make room for her in the church," Hanes says, noting that the AOG has many ordained female pastors. The growing list of prominent women ministers in Australia includes Margaret Court, a pastor in Perth; Christine Caine, a Bible teacher based in Sydney; Donna Crouch, a lead pastor at Hillsong; Royree Jensen, a pastor in Brisbane; and Zschech, the Hillsong vocalist who is arguably the most recognizable worship leader in the world.

Hanes dreams of a day when the same innovative approach to ministry that is transforming the churches of Australia will one day sweep across America. After spending this week in Sydney and seeing these innovations with my own eyes, I share his enthusiasm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lula Jones, Church Planter

Lula Jones was a pioneer in the early Church of God, planting numerous churches in Florida. Visit the University Church website to view a short video which tells the story of Sister Jones' revival and her arrest for "disturbing the peace". Those who've taken my Women in Pentecostalism class will remember the story and her daughter, Bonnie Brannen's own story of evangelistic work in Tennessee and Louisiana.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Religion and Healing in America

I've been working through this fascinating volume for the last couple of days. It is an interesting collection of scholarly articles on varieties of healing views, practices and theologies within the US. The views/practices represented come from traditions as varied as Pentecostalism, Catholocism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Wicca, Judaism and Native American Religion(s). The practices are as varied as the backgrounds. What has emerged is that in almost all of these traditions, the role of the community is vitally important and the healing itself is often communal in nature. I'm not surprised. In spite of our "rugged individualism" in America, we realize, especially at our most vulnerable postion (as illness often is), how much we need others for our survival and well-being.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


According to the Association of Theological Schools, "Sabbatical leave should be conceived of by the teacher and the administration as a time for deeper study, research, or writing. Where possible, location in another center of learning will add breadth to the point of view."

As of yesterday, January 2, 2008, I am officially on a sabbatical, my first. For the next semester, I will spend my time doing one of the two aspects of my academic ministry that I enjoy most: research and writing (the other is teaching in a classroom). The eternal dilemma for the academic is that the two activities (research and teaching) are eternally wedded but sometimes work against each other. Hmmmm....marriage seems to be an appropriate metaphor! I suppose the theory is that we research/write for several years and then spend years teaching what we learned, and then the cycle repeats itself. Unfortunately, one is expected to write and publish all along the way, not just every few years. Beyond the guild's expectation is my own. And even beyond that is my heart and desire. When one is called and gifted for a task, it is frustrating not to be able to do so. I can honestly say that the crunch of PhD research, though sometimes overwhelming, was absolutely fulfilling. I love reading the thoughts of theologians, analyzing, interpreting and constructing. I hope these words will encourage my former students, now colleagues, who are beginning this process. Pace yourself, enjoy yourself and see it as your "spiritual worship".

The third element which vies for the attention of the Academic is the committee/shared governance aspect of the Institution. This varies from school to school, I would imagine. Some seem to find their gift and calling here. For those with administrative gifts, committee work is quite fulfilling. For me, to use the marriage analogy again, the committee work is the "budgets, housework, home repair, etc." of my academic life. It's necessary, it supports the other, but it is not THE thing.

I am blessed to work with good colleagues, good administrators and good students. As a result of their support, I plan to have a productive and rewarding semester!

My plans, specifically, are to continue working on my research into early Pentecostal experiences of Spirit Baptism. I began this work over a year ago with a one-hour research seminar and followed-up on that work in a chapter for the Gause festschrift. That piece is titled "O Boundless Love Divine". In addition, I want to "write-up" the research I've done on post-WW2 Healing Evangelists interpretations of the longer ending of Mark. I also plan to work on a couple of ideas I have for lay-level curriculum.

I'll try to remember to come out of the ivory tower from time to time and report on my musings and findings.