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Three Notable Women in Pentecostal Ministry

By Gary McGee

Interested in planting a church, starting a Christian school, or building a Christian retreat center? Read about three women who were in executive positions of ministry and leadership when "women in ministry" was more controversial than it is today. All three founded Bible schools and healing retreats, two planted and ran churches, and one directed the second largest missionary sending agency in the United States at the time. These three women, called and empowered by the Holy Spirit in the early 20th century, fearlessly launched ministries that trained key leaders important to the growing Assembles of God.

Early in this century Minnie T. Draper, Elizabeth V. Baker, and Virginia E. Moss established institutions which had worldwide influence.

Women ministers? Theologians and church officials have wrangled over this subject for years. The prece­dent for it on the American scene reaches back into the 19th century when several movements afforded women sig­nificant roles in Christian ministry. The Holiness movement, the Evangelical healing movement, and the foreign missions enterprise all provided them significant participation. This also characterized the emerging Pentecostal movement.

For many, the prophecy of Joel, cited by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, justified these activities. Joel’s word from the Lord stated: "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy ...." Thus, the Holy Spirit had authorized women to participate in the ministry of the

Church. Since that time, they have been involved in virtually every phase of mini­stry. However, their prominence has declined in recent decades.

Generally unknown today except to historians, the ministries of Minnie T. Draper, Elizabeth V. Baker, and Virginia E. Moss extended far beyond the states of New Jersey and New York where they lived. They were contemporaries with remarkably similar experiences and ministries. Following conversion, each received healing from a serious physical ailment. When news of the Azusa Street Revival reached them, each sought for and received the Pentecostal baptism. These experiences propelled them to­ward a ministry of evangelism, faith healing, education, and the promotion of foreign missions.

Their efforts in ministry consequently led them into positions of executive leadership. All three were instrumental in the founding of Bible institutes which produced significant numbers of men and women who assisted in the growth and development of several Pentecostal organizations, particularly the Assem­blies of God. Ironically, none of them ever held credentials with the latter. The last of the three died in 1921. Since the role of women in ministry is an impor­tant issue in our time, their contribu­tions deserve examination.

Minnie T. Draper


Minnie T. Draper

Born in Waquit, Massachusetts in 1858, Minnie T. Draper grew up in Ossining, New York. She never married and for a time supported herself and her mother through teaching. A Presby­terian, she faithfully attended a local church.

The strain of overwork broke her health and for nearly 4 years she lived as an invalid. Physicians were consulted but could not relieve her suffering. Hearing about the doctrine of faith healing, she was anointed with oil and prayed for at A. B. Simpson’s Gospel Tabernacle in New York City. Miracu­lous healing followed and at the same time, the Lord also "definitely sancti­fied and anointed her with the Holy Ghost and power." 1 Convinced as a result that Christ is the healer for every believer, she never again went to a physician or took any form of medicine. Her views on faith healing were shared by Simpson and others in the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Successful evangelistic work followed her healing and for many years she served as an associate of A. B. Simpson, assisting him in conventions that were held at Rocky Springs, Pennsylvania; New York City; and Old Orchard, Maine. A report on the latter, in the summer of 1906 noted that "the inquiry meetings on Divine Healing were led by Miss Draper and Miss Lindenberger, and thronged by earnest seekers, who frequently kept the leaders engaged through the entire afternoon." 2

It was through prayer for the sick that she was best known. However, she also chaired various committees and served as a member of the executive board of the Alliance until it was reorganized in 1912. 3

Since the role of women in ministry is an important issue in our time, their contributions deserve examination.

When news of Pentecostal happen­ings reached her in 1906, she was initially cautious. At the same time, however, she earnestly desired a deeper work of the Spirit in her own life. One night in her room, the Lord appeared to her and "hours elapsed wherein she saw unutterable things and when she finally came to herself she heard her tongue talking fluently in a language she had never learned." 4 As a result of this ex­perience, some of her colleagues who disagreed with the claim of tongues as the initial evidence for the baptism in the Spirit viewed her with suspicion and limitations were placed on her preaching ministry. 5 Undaunted, she remained in the Alliance until 1913, long after many other Pentecostals had chosen to leave.

Draper, nevertheless identified with Pentecostal believers and participated in the development of several important ministry enterprises. She assisted in the organization of at least two churches: the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly, Newark, New Jersey (1907), and the Ossining Gospel Assembly, Ossining, New York (1913). 6 A virtual "who’s who" served at the Ossining church during these early years including Frank M. Boyd, Christian J. Lucas, Harry J. Steil, William I. Evans, Ernest S. Williams, David McDowell, Robert A. Brown, and Allen A. Swift (some as interim pastors).

Her greatest achievements in Pente­costalism resulted from her involvement with the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly of Newark. In 1910, the Executive Council of the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly, Inc., organized "to maintain and con­duct a general evangelistic work in the State of New Jersey, in all other states of the United States and any and all foreign countries." 7 People often re­ferred to the Council as the "Bethel Board."

Most of the institutions founded by the board at Newark remained indepen­dent due to a restriction in the constitu­tion and bylaws. (The local congregation joined the Assemblies of God in 1953.) The personnel, however, often held credentials with the Assemblies of God. Men who pastored the church in­cluded Allan A. Swift and Ernest S. Williams. By the 1920s, this church had become widely known for its missions conventions and generous financial sup­port. In a series of articles in The Latter Rain Evangel on the major churches in the Pentecostal Movement, one writer observed that at the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly "it was a common thing to receive as much as seven to eight thou­sand dollars in a single missionary offering." 8

Draper served as the president of the board until her death in 1921, even though she was a member of the Ossin­ing church. The agency directed a mis­sionary society and eventually a Bible institute; the relationship to the local congregation remains unclear. Among others, the board included several weal­thy members of the Newark church (a banker, a lumber merchant, an heiress, and others). Their contributions re­mained in a trust fund which helped to finance the missionary enterprise until the stock market crash of 1929. 9 A publi­cation, the South and Central African Missionary Herald (later the Full Gospel Missionary Herald), publicized the activities of the organization.

They were contemporaries with similar experiences and ministries.

While not the first Pentecostal mis­sions society established in the United States, the Bethel agency, known as the South and Central African Pentecostal Mission, was second only to the General Council of the Assemblies of God in sponsoring, financing, and directing overseas evangelism before 1929. 10 By 1925, it had a budget of $30,150 derived from offerings and interest from the trust fund." 11

The board sent missionaries to South Africa as well as China, India, and South America. Missionaries, such as Ralph and Lillian Riggs (the former served as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God: 1953‑1959), George and Eleanor Bowie, and Edgar and Mabel Pettenger, went to foreign fields under its direction.

Another segment of the work at Newark envisioned by Draper and her colleagues, Swift and Lucas, was the es­tablishment of the Bethel Bible Training School (1916). They patterned the in­stitution after Simpson’s Missionary Training Institute at Nyack and partial­ly staffed it with graduates from there. The deans of the school included William W. Simpson (former Alliance missionary to China and Tibet who joined the Assemblies of God), Frank M. Boyd, and William I. Evans. Gradu­ates who joined the ranks of the Assemblies of God included Thomas Brubaker, Howard Osgood, and Paul and Dorothy Emery.

The school merged in 1929 with Cen­tral Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. Two faculty members and a number of students took up residence on the new campus. William I. Evans, the dean at Bethel, assumed this role at CBI; Ralph Riggs, an instructor at Bethel, continued this ministry and became dean of men. 12

Elizabeth V. Baker


Elizabeth V. Baker

Another important center for ear­ly Pentecostalism, established in Rochester, New York, resulted from the efforts of Elizabeth V. Baker, the eldest daughter of Methodist pastor James Duncan, and her sisters, Mary E. Work, Nellie A. Fell, Susan A. Duncan, and Harriet "Hattie" M. Duncan. From their ministry activities, spear­headed by Baker, came the Elim Faith Home, Elim Publishing House, Elim Tabernacle, and the Rochester Bible Training School.

Baker’s early life indicates a great deal of personal grief. Her first mar­riage, entered into before she was 20 years old, ended in divorce due to an abusive husband. Some time after this, she attended a lecture on the Ohio "Women’s Crusade," a forerunner of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She felt little interest until the speaker referred to the women who in the power of Christ courageously en­tered saloons to protest the sale of alcoholic beverages and knelt in the sawdust and on the sidewalks to pray. More than the temperance issue, Baker was con­fronted by the living Christ. She recounted that "I knew they could not have done it of themselves, and for the first time in my life I saw the power of Christ to transform and lift one out of the natural, enabling one to do what was impossible to nature .... It seized and held me in a grip such as I had never known." 13

Several years later (ca.1881), a severe throat condition threatened her health. Her second husband, a medical doctor, called in specialists to treat her, but her condition worsened. Finally she was anointed and prayed for by C. W. Winchester, pastor of the local Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church, who had come to believe in faith healing. Imme­diately after his prayer, she was able to swallow and her illness ended.

Baker and her husband eventually separated. This partially resulted from her embrace of the doctrine of faith healing and subsequent activities in that ministry. 14

By the time Baker and her sisters opened a mission and the Elim Faith Home in 1895, she had been influenced by the advocates of faith healing, the writings of George Muller which de­picted his life of faith, and the premillenial teachings of Adoniram J. Gordon. The faith home opened to meet the needs of those who sought physical healing and provide a place "where tired missionaries and Christian workers could for a time find rest for soul and body. " 15 A newspaper later reported that "the work was established on the faith principle, which means that it has been supported byfree‑will offerings, having no endowment fund, instead of the usual manner of raising funds bysubscrip­tion. It was believed that the free‑will offerings came in answer to prayer. " 16

Feeling directed bythe Holy Spirit to visit India, Baker traveled there in 1898 and met the famous Pandita Ramabai, director of the Mukti Mission. 17 This trip heightened the missionary vision of the sisters and their followers in Roches­ter. By 1915, $75,000 had been contributed to foreign missions – a consider­able sum for that time.

Other activities followed. In 1902, the sisters began to publish Trust, a periodical edited by Susan A. Duncan, devoted to teaching the doctrines of salvation, faith healing, the Holy Spirit, premillennialism, and foreign missions. Several years later the Elim Tabernacle was constructed, and in 1906 the Roches­ter Bible Training School opened "for the training of those who felt His call to some special work, but lacked the edu­cational fitness." 18

Their impact, particularly on the Assemblies of god personnel which they influenced, testifies to the relevance of Joel’s prophecy for 20th century Pentecostalism.

The news of the Welsh Revival in 1904‑1905 had impressed Baker and her sisters of the need for a similar oc­currence in Rochester. When word of the Azusa Street Revival reached them, they pondered for a year the Pentecostal baptism accompanied by speaking in tongues. Through study and prayer, they concluded that it was valid. At their summer convention in 1907, the participants sought for this experience and a Pentecostal revival followed.

The Duncan sisters were sensitive to the criticisms made by many about the legitimacy of women preachers. Baker justified her ministry because of a direct calling from the Holy Spirit. 19 With the construction of the Elim Tabernacle, they prayed that God would send the right man as pastor. When no one suit­able appeared, however, their leadership continued. Nevertheless, they re­fused ordination because they were women. 20

After Elizabeth V. Baker died at 66 years of age on January 18, 1915, her two sisters, Susan A. Duncan and Harriet "Hattie" M. Duncan, directed the ministries until they were too advanced in age to continue. The legacy of Baker and her sisters lived on through the students who attended their school. By 1916, 17 of the students had traveled overseas as missionaries. Two of them, Beatrice Morrison and Karl Wittich, had died in Africa by this time. 21 Other noteworthy Pentecostals attended, including Alfred Blakeney, John H. Burgess, Marguerite Flint, Ivan Q. Spencer, Ralph Riggs, Grace Walther, Charles W. H. Scott, and Anna Ziese. 22

Virginia E. Moss


Virginia E. Moss

With a great‑grandmother who had been a country preacher and a mother active in Women’s Christian Temperance Union crusades in the mid‑1870s, the idea of feminine involve­ment in preaching and social work was not new to Virginia E. Moss.

Born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, in 1875, Moss suffered from frail health and various ailments for her entire life. With her husband, she moved in 1899 to the area of Newark, New Jersey, where most of her ministry activities eventu­ally occurred, particularly in North Bergen.

A fall on ice when she was 13-years old left her with permanent spinal dam­age. By 1904, paralysis had spread from her waist to her feet. In that year she received a complete healing from this condition. With the healing came a con­secration to Christian service. She re­counted that from that moment she was "a new creature indeed – spirit, soul and body. I had crossed over Jordan and was in the land of Canaan, sancti­fied and filled with the Holy Ghost." 23

Her testimony was warmly received by many, but not by the pastor and mem­bers of the local Methodist church to which she belonged. Home prayer meet­ings with other believers led to the open­ing of the Door of Hope Mission on February 7, 1906. Although emphasiz­ing evangelism and faith healing, the mission also cared for wayward women.

Upon reading in a west coast publica­tion, The Triumphs of Faith published by Carrie Judd Montgomery, that the "latter rain" was falling, she began to seek for a deeper work of the Holy Spirit. Moss and several others traveled to Nyack in the summer of 1907 because "there a meeting was being held for the purpose of seeking God, and the bap­tism of the Holy Ghost and fire, and speaking in tongues." 24 One member of their party received the baptism in the Spirit and spoke in tongues at the meet­ing. After this, others at the Door of Hope Mission sought for the Pentecost­al baptism and consequently spoke in tongues; Moss also received after the Nyack visit. Nightly services were held through 1908 to assist other seekers; outstanding healings were also recorded.

Moss felt led to open a "rest home" (faith home) in 1909. This ministry, as well as her mission, enlarged in 1910 when property was purchased in North Bergen. There the work proceeded as the Beulah Heights Assembly. She con­sistently reported the Lord’s prompting for each new phase of ministry and His miraculous financial provision.

A view of the world in need of the gospel was never far from her thoughts. Moss’s mother had been called to go to India, but never went. Remorse over this failure haunted the mother, but the daughter determined to aid the cause of world evangelization. She recounted that the Lord spoke to her and said, "I want witnesses of my Word and Spirit to go forth from a Missionary Training School at Beulah." 25 Aware that many Pentecostals viewed formal theological education with suspicion since the baptism in the Spirit supposedly made this unnecessary, she nevertheless heeded Paul’s admonition to Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved unto God …" (2 Timothy 2:15) and opened the Beulah Heights Bible and Missionary Training School in 1912. 26

Many early graduates of this school distinguished themselves in Assemblies of God foreign missions. Two later field directors, Henry B. Garlock (Africa) and Maynard L. Ketcham (India and the Far East) had attended this school. Other notable graduates included Edgar Barrick (India), Frank Finkenbinder (Latin America), John Juergensen (Japan), Lillian Merian Riggs (Africa), Marie Stephany (North China), and Fred Burke (South Africa).

Virginia E. "Mother" Moss died in 1919 after directing the school for 7 years and the church for 13. Her zeal for ministry at home and abroad lived on in those persons she nurtured through her ministries. The church and school eventually became closely linked to the Assemblies of God. Later the school was renamed the Metropolitan Bible Institute and operated by the New York‑New Jersey District of the Assem­blies of God for several years.

It is noteworthy that all three women, Minnie T. Draper, Elizabeth V. Baker, and Virginia E. Moss, had been influenced by 19th century movements which allowed women significant parti­cipation. All three fulfilled executive positions of leadership. Draper’s ex­perience dated from her responsibilities and ministry in the Christian and Mis­sionary Alliance. These undoubtedly prepared the way for her work as chief officer of the Executive Council of the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly. The lead­ership of Baker and Moss can be attri­buted to the fact that they forged their own ministries and naturally assumed the responsibility for their direction.

The biographical and autobiographi­cal accounts of their lives reflect a deep spirituality. Prayer, faith, and the direction of the Spirit characterized their personal lives and ministries. The creative initiatives of these three women in ministry and the positive responses which they received, demonstrates the openness of many early Pentecostals to­ward a leadership role for women. Their impact, particularly on the Assemblies of God personnel which they influenced, testifies to the relevance of Joel’s pro­phecy for 20th century Pentecostalism.

Dr. Gary B. McGee is the distinguished professor of church history and Pentecostal studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Spring­field, Missouri.

ENDNOTES

1. Christian J. Lucas, "In Memoriam," Full Gospel Missionary Herald, April 1921, p. 3.

2. "Old Orchard Convention," The Christian and Missionary Alliance, August 25, 1906, p. 125.

3. The Fourteenth Annual Report of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, by A. B. Simpson (May 30, 1911), p. 204.

4. Lucas, "In Memoriam," p. 4.

5. Burton K. Janes, The Lady Who Came: The Biography of Alice Belle Gorrigus (St. Johns, Newfoundland: Good Tidings Press, 1982), 1:100.

6. For further information see Proclaiming Christ Until He Returns (Bethel Assembly of God‑75th Anniversary) (Newark, NJ: Bethel Assembly of God, 1985), and "The Ossining Gospel Assembly," Ossining, NY, 1974. (Mimeographed.)

7. Harlan P. Beach and Charles H. Fahs, eds. World Missionary Atlas (New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1925), p. 24.

8. "The Get Acquainted Page" (Presenting the story of Bethel Pentecostal Church, Newark, New Jersey), The Latter Rain Evangel, July 1936, p. 14; "The Home‑Going of Sister Minnie T. Draper of Ossining, N.Y.," The Pentecostal Evangel, April 2, 1921, p. 7.

9. Helen Calvert Boyd, "History of Early Days of Bethel Bible Training Institute" in Theresa LeDue Hartshorn, Memoirs of Bethel(Red Hill, PA: Paul and Dorothy Emery, 1979), pp. 3‑4; Fred Burke to Gary B. McGee, Decem­ber 14. 1985).

10. The most active Pentecostal missions society in Europe during these early years was the Pentecostal Missionary Union founded in Great Britain in 1909 by Cecil Polhill. For information, see Cecil PoIhill, "P. M. U.," Confidence, November 1909, pp. 253‑254.

11. Beach and Fahs, Atlas, p. 24.

12. For a discussion on the impact of the Bethel Bible Training Institute on Central Bible Institute, see Gary B. McGee, "For the Training of . . . Missionaries," Central Bible College Bulletin, February, 1984, pp. 4‑5.

13. Elizabeth V. Baker, et. al,, Chronicles of a Faith Life, 2nd ed. (Rochester, NY: Elim Pub­lishing Co., ca. 1926), p. 16.

14. For her later view on divorce and remar­riage, see Chronicles, p. 19.

15. Ibid., p. 51.

16. "Work Based on Faith in Prayer" (Foun­der of Elim, Mrs. E. V. Baker, Dies Suddenly), Democrat and Chronicle, January 19, 1915.

17. For further information, see William T. Ellis, "Have Gift of Tongues," Chicago Daily

News, January 14, 1908; reprinted "Pentecostal Revival Touches India" in Assemblies of God

Heritage, Winter 1982‑1983, pp. 1, 5.

18. Baker, Chronicles, p. 132.

19. Ibid., pp. 21‑22.

20. Ibid., p. 129.

21. For more information on Wittich, see Marian Keller, Twenty Years in Africa

(1913‑1933). (Toronto: Full Gospel Publishing House, ca. 1933).

22. Marion Meloon, Ivan Spencer: Willow in the Wind (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1974), pp. 22‑24.

23. Virginia E. Moss, Following the Shepherd (North Bergen, NJ: Beulah Heights Assembly and Bible and Missionary Training School, 1919), pp. 17‑18.

24. Ibid., p. 22.

25. Ibid., p. 32.

26. Ibid., pp. 32‑33; "Pentecostal Bible Schools," The Latter Rain Evangel, July 1912, p. 12.

Originally published in Assemblies of God Heritage, Spring 1985-1986, pp. 3-5, 12-13.Used by permission of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For additional historical information about women in ministry visit www.iFPHC.org.