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Women In Ministry ­ An Editorial

by James K. Bridges

Enrichment Journal Spring 1997

By the time the Assemblies of God came into existence in 1914, a host of Spirit-filled women evangelists and pastors were already ministering and making a strong spiritual impact across the United States. For example, Sister Maria Woodworth-Etter was packing out her 8,000-seat tent from coast to coast. My Bible college mentor, William Burton McCafferty, told his students that Sister Woodworth-Etter was one of the most anointed preachers he had ever heard.

Florence Crawford was a worker in the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in 1906 and later moved to Portland, Oregon, where she founded and pastored the Apostolic Faith Mission. It became the largest Pentecostal work in the Northwest. She helped Ernest S. Williams, our former general superintendent, obtain Azusa Street ministerial credentials from W.J. Seymour. Williams ministered with her for some time in Portland. He later described her as an outstanding preacher and a strong administrator.

Capable women in ministry arose from every region of the country: Marie Brown in New York, Mother Barnes in Missouri, Mother Hayes in Texas, Alice Reynolds Flower in Indiana, Alice Luce in California, to name a few. Having such outstanding women already exercising their ministries, our Fellowship granted credentials to women even in its formative years. As Pentecostal people we knew the prophecy of Joel, quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, included both men and women recipients of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and that women would be among those who would exercise the gift of prophecy (Acts 2:16­18).

Consequently, from early in its history the Assemblies of God has ordained women. God has mightily used the women of the Assemblies of God in ministries of all kinds such as pastoral, evangelistic, missionary, teaching, and administration.

Because my parents and my wife’s parents were all credentialed with the Assemblies of God, I have long been accustomed to hearing women preachers. As a matter of fact, when my mother-in-law, Mattie Sterling, was in her prime I would just as soon hear her preach the gospel as any preacher I know.

As a pastor, some of my most successful revivals were held by women evangelists. One of my most memorable revivals was with Reba Mercer, North Texas District Women’s Ministries (Women’s Missionary Council) director for 25 years. What a great preacher she was!

While the ministry of women in the Assemblies of God has made its mark in the pulpit, it has equally impacted the church in other areas such as teaching, serving, and intercession. My earliest recollection of true Pentecostal intercession came from watching and listening to my maternal grandmother intercede in prayer for her family, the church, and a lost world. By observing Granny Clifton praying, I learned what genuine spiritual warfare was all about. I saw firsthand the effectiveness of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the power of praying in tongues when she had reached the end of her ability to intercede in English.

When speaking of women in ministry, we often overlook the role of the minister’s wife. Yet, next to a divine call, nothing is more crucial to a successful ministry than the minister’s companion. She is in ministry and should be honored for her role. Without her, her husband would have little, if any, ministry.

When we look at women in ministry who have impacted our Fellowship, we observe certain characteristics of modesty, propriety, spirituality, anointing, giftedness, and commitment. They have not sought the favor of this world but have exercised their gifts with wisdom and integrity, seeking to please Him who called them. Examples of such remarkable women are Lillian Trasher, Hattie Hammond, Josephine Williams, and—still ministering among us—Huldah Buntain and Opal Reddin, to mention a few.

God is using the ministry of women in our Fellowship to help make the Assemblies of God what He intends us to become. May He continue to raise up self-effacing, scripturally sound, genuinely Pentecostal women for effective ministry.

James K. Bridges is the Assemblies of God general treasurer, Springfield, Missouri.