Women in Ministry

Women in Ministry

The United Pentecostal Church International has always recognized the ministry of women, including ordination to the preaching and teaching ministry. Over the past several decades, the percentage of credentialed ministers who are women has declined, but in recent years there have been renewed efforts to affirm and encourage women in ministry. Let’s take a look at this subject historically and biblically.[1]

Historically the Roman Catholic Church has never allowed the ordination of women as priests, and until the mid twentieth century the many Protestant denominations followed this precedent by restricting pulpit ministry to males. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Holiness and Pentecostal movements recognized the ministry of women based on the anointing of the Spirit. For example, both men and women served in the leadership of the Azusa Street Revival. When William Seymour, the founder of the Azusa Street Mission, died, his wife, Jennie, became the pastor. Maria Woodworth-Etter was the featured evening speaker of the 1913 worldwide camp meeting in Arroyo Seco, California, that served as a catalyst for the emergence of the Oneness message. In the earliest Oneness Pentecostal ministerial directory that we have (1919), 203 of 704 ministers, or 29 percent, were women.

In the UPCI women have served as general youth secretary, general Sunday school secretary, district youth president, district home missions director, Bible college president, national board member (outside North America), and General Conference evening speaker, as well as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries. Currently, several key offices are restricted to males: all district board members, district global missions directors, and men’s ministry officers. However, other key offices are open to women: general superintendent, assistant general superintendent, general secretary, general global missions director, and other general and district offices not already named. The reason for these distinctions appears to be more cultural and historical than theological.

The proportion of women ministers has diminished over the years probably due to several factors. First, the early Pentecostal movement was about two-thirds female, but as more men entered the movement and as it became more socially accepted, men increasingly assumed leadership roles. Second, there was a backlash against the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as Pentecostal women did not wish to be identified with the attitudes and mannerisms of worldly women who fought against biblical morality. Third, Pentecostals were influenced by the theological and social positions of Fundamentalists, who strongly opposed women in ministry. Consequently, many Pentecostal women fulfilled their ministry without seeking ministerial credentials. Often, those who experienced a ministerial call married ministers and worked alongside their husbands without seeking credentials of their own.

In the Old Testament God used women as judges and prophets. (See Judges 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Isaiah 8:3.) The new covenant opened the door for greater involvement in ministry by everyone including public prophecy (anointed proclamation) by both male and female (Acts 2:17; I Corinthians 14:31). The general principle is that in the body of Christ opportunities are not restricted on the basis of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender (Galatians 3:28). In the early church, women served in various leadership and ministry roles. The daughters of Philip were prophets (Acts 21:9). Priscilla was a teacher and apparently a pastor along with her husband, Aquila (Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3-5). Phoebe was a deacon (Romans 16:1). Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Euodia, and Syntyche were Paul’s coworkers in the gospel Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:2-3). Junia was an apostle along with Andronicus, apparently her husband (Romans 16:7).

In dealing with a situation in Ephesus, Paul explained that women were not to usurp authority over men but were to minister under proper spiritual authority (I Timothy 2:11-12). Apparently some women there had begun teaching contrary to the established doctrine of the church. Thus he instructed Timothy, the overseer, that they had no authority to teach but needed to be silent. Because of a problem in the Corinthian church, Paul also explained that women were not to interrupt a public assembly to ask questions (I Corinthians 14:34-35). The instruction to be silent is not absolute but specific to the conditions being addressed. Otherwise, if interpreted absolutely, women could not sing, pray aloud, testify, or teach Sunday school, contrary to the principles of New Testament ministry that we have already seen. Paul taught that women could speak in public worship as long as they did so with proper respect for authority and while upholding their feminine identity (I Corinthians 11:5-6).

Bishops (pastors or elders) are to be the husband of one wife (I Timothy 3:2). This statement means they must follow the moral teaching of the church with regard to marriage. While it is phrased in terms of the typical or generic case of males, the purpose is not to imply additional qualifications of being male and married. Otherwise, single males such as Jesus and Paul would not have qualified.

In summary, we should recognize the ministry of women as long as they follow biblical authority in the church and in the home. The same is true of men. Women are not to imitate men but are to exercise their ministry in distinctively feminine fashion, for God has called them as women. Indeed all ministers are to fulfill their ministry in the context of their own unique identity, personality, gifts, and calling. The ministerial or pastoral style of a woman will be different from that of a typical male, but it can still be effective. In fact, we need different types of ministries and churches to reach our diverse population. We need every available worker in the harvest. Those who are dying need immediate attention, and it doesn’t matter whether the physician is male or female. We urgently need more preachers, teachers, pastors, pastoral counselors, and missionaries who can minister effectively in a variety of ways and relate to different kinds of people. There are many reasons why women in ministry should receive ministerial credentials: accountability to spiritual authority, validation of ministry, credibility inside and outside the church, participation in ministerial fellowship and decision making, and establishing of role models for young women who are seeking God’s will. Our world desperately needs more Apostolic ministers, both male and female.[2]

[1] For a historical discussion see Bernard, History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 3. For a scholarly biblical discussion see Bernard, Apostolic Life, ch. 33. For an exploration of the issue in fictional form see David Norris, Cara’s Call (Florissant, MO: Apostolic Teaching Resources, 2011), available from Pentecostal Publishing House.

[2] This article is adapted from David K. Bernard, The Apostolic Church in the Twenty-first Century (Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press, 2014), 85–88. For a more extensive discussion of passages of Scripture that are sometimes interpreted to forbid women from serving in certain ministry or leadership roles—including I Timothy 2:11-15; 3:2-4; I Corinthians 14:34-35—see pages 89–94 of the same book.

Women in Ministry

General Superintendent’s News Bulletin – 4/7/16

News Bulletin from the General Superintendent


General Superintendent David K. Bernard

Attendance Report
At the request of the General Board, the General Sunday School Division is making a concerted effort to collect three vital statistics for the UPCI: (a) Easter attendance or other peak attendance, (b) number baptized in one year, and (c) number receiving the Holy Ghost in one year. We will not report statistics for individual churches, but districts will report their totals, and we will publish the district and general totals for the US and Canada. The other nations of the world already report these statistics through Global Missions. We would like to report them for North America so that we can evaluate where we are, celebrate our progress, and plan for the future. I urge all pastors and churches to assist in this endeavor.

Tour of Israel
I invite you to join the General Sunday School Division, its director Steve Cannon, and me on an unforgettable tour of the Holy Land on February 6-15, 2017. My wife and I are excited to host this tour to Israel for the second time. For more information, see mjrupci.com or contact David Sagil at djsagil@sbcglobal.net.

Higher Education in the UPCI
Spring is the time when many students make plans to attend college in the fall. The UPCI has seven endorsed institutions of higher learning. I am happy to recommend them for the pursuit of a Christian education. For further information, please see their respective websites.

Urshan College (UC) and Urshan Graduate School of Theology (UGST)
Since the UPCI owns and operates UC and UGST, I will provide further information and answer some recent questions. UC and UGST operate as the Urshan System under one administration and board. Urshan is unique among UPCI educational institutions in three ways: (1) It is owned by the UPCI. (2) It has expanded beyond a Bible college model. In addition to bachelor’s degrees in Christian Ministry and Music Ministry, UC offers an associate’s degree in General Studies and bachelor’s degrees in Organizational Leadership, Music, Human Services, and Communication Studies (fall 2017), with further expansion planned in the future. UGST offers master’s degrees in Theological Studies (48 hours), Christian Ministry (48 hours), and Divinity (72 hours). Both schools offer degrees through an online format for those who cannot relocate to St. Louis. (3) UGST is accredited and UC is seeking accreditation. UGST has been accredited since 2010, and its accreditation was recently renewed through 2022. The Urshan System is currently seeking regional accreditation, which will provide initial accreditation for UC. While UC cannot advertise or guarantee a definite time, it can announce to its constituency that its goal is to attain candidacy in 2018.

Significance of Accreditation. Not every school needs accreditation to fulfill its mission, but for Urshan, accreditation fulfills the following purposes: assistance, enhancement, and credibility for its academic programs; student participation in federal financial aid; widespread acceptance of its credits and degrees; qualification for desirable jobs and careers especially for teaching, chaplaincies, and bivocational ministry. Urshan is committed to sharing the benefits of accreditation with other UPCI institutions. UGST has approval to accept graduates of UPCI colleges into its accredited master’s programs. Once UC is accredited, it can offer accredited bachelor’s degrees to alumni of UPCI colleges through transfer, blend, and degree-completion programs. Thus, students can attend a Bible college of their choice while also earning an accredited degree if they so desire. Currently, UGST is the only Oneness Pentecostal institution of higher learning in the US that has its own accreditation as recognized by the US Department of Education. (To check an institution, go to ope.ed.gov/accreditation.)

Doctrinal Identity. Accreditation does not compromise Apostolic identity but actually underscores it. The accreditors for US Bible colleges require a trinitarian statement of faith. For seminaries, however, the premier accreditor is the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which encompasses all forms of Christianity and Judaism, both trinitarian and non-trinitarian. This is the accreditor for Harvard University Divinity School and for UGST. ATS requires schools to prove they are fulfilling their mission according to their advertised theological identity. Thus UGST must demonstrate that its curriculum and professors are truly Apostolic and that it prepares students for ministry in Apostolic churches. The Urshan System is seeking accreditation with the secular regional association that accredits the University of Missouri and the University of Chicago. This association accepts all types of religious schools.

The UPCI Articles of Faith is the doctrinal statement of the Urshan System. All faculty must affirm this position, and all students must uphold UPCI teachings on behavior and dress. All faculty and students must attend an Apostolic church. The theological faculty are credentialed UPCI ministers and annually affirm adherence to biblical teachings. The primary doctrinal teachers for both schools are Dr. David Norris and I. Typically I lecture in courses such as Introduction to Pentecostal Theology (UC), New Testament Foundations (UGST), and Systematic Theology (UGST). This semester I am teaching a total of 25 hours on subjects such as the Articles of Faith, Christology, Holiness, and Luke-Acts.

Campus. In December 2015 Urshan acquired its 22-acre campus in suburban St. Louis with a donation of about $3 million in equity from the Missouri District UPCI. The campus has a value of $5.25 million with a mortgage of about $2.3 million. Urshan has been servicing the mortgage for several years through lease payments, but now it owns the property. The campus has six buildings with about 200,000 square feet, including a historic chapel and a historic library built in 1840 and recently renovated. This property will now appear as an asset on the consolidated financial statements of the UPCI.

Publication of My Doctoral Thesis
My doctoral thesis has recently been published by Deo Publishing, a scholarly press in the UK. It is volume 45 of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series. To my knowledge this is the first book by a Oneness author on Christology to be published by a scholarly press. The book is available from the Pentecostal Publishing House at pentecostalpublishing.com. Here is PPH’s description:  “The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ represents an important Oneness perspective in the growing body of scholarly literature focused on the belief of the earliest Christians that Jesus was God. Through a careful study of II Corinthians 3:16-4:6 and consideration of the Jewish context from which Paul wrote, Brother Bernard has made a vital contribution to the wider academic community that, in the words of noted scholar Amos Yong, ‘will have reverberations not only for the next generation of theologians but also for anyone interested in the christologies of the earliest followers of Jesus the Messiah.’”

Sincerely in Christ,
David K. Bernard

General Superintendent’s News Bulletin – 4/7/16

A Pentecostal Response to HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”

graphic.pngMississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law Tuesday, April 5, 2016. This bill, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” seeks to protect “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”  Specifically it protects persons who believe the following:

(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;

(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage;

(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

It also prohibits the state government from taking any discriminatory action against persons, including clergy and religious organizations, which, based upon the above beliefs, have “provided or declined to provide” a variety of “services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration, or recognition of any marriage.” The bill further prohibits government discrimination against various specifically named persons who express or hold these beliefs, including foster parents, medical personnel, and government employees.

The UPCI applauds the protection of religious freedom under the US Constitution and acknowledges the value of legislation that protects that freedom. We believe that God’s plan is for human sexuality to be expressed in a marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3–6). Accordingly, we do not condone any sexual acts between persons outside such marriages, but consider them to be contrary to God’s will and the teaching of Scripture (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26–27; I Corinthians 6:9–10). We are thankful for governmental protection of our right to hold these beliefs in the US.

At the same time, we also want to express that we unconditionally love all people, recognize universal equality under the law, and support civil rights for all, including individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Jesus taught his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NKJV). He also challenged them, “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:31 NIV). The “neighbor” and the “others” are not qualified as being only those who share Christians’ commitment to Christian beliefs and practices. Indeed, Jesus even challenged his hearers to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44 NKJV). After all this is what Jesus has done for the whole world. Paul reminds us that “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10 NKJV). We oppose discrimination based on a person’s identity while affirming everyone’s religious freedom to endorse or not to endorse specific choices and lifestyles.

Some of our members may exercise the freedom guaranteed by HB 1523 and similar legislation not to support certain marriages based on their religious convictions and the teaching of Scripture. However, we encourage all our members to treat everyone with the utmost respect and courtesy, recognizing that every human is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

A Pentecostal Response to HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”