Spirit And Voice Toward A Feminist Pentecostal Pneumatology

Spirit And Voice  Toward A Feminist Pentecostal Pneumatology

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Pneuma 29 (2007) 189-213

Spirit and Voice:

Toward a Feminist Pentecostal Pneumatology

Andrea Hollingsworth PhD Student, Loyola University Chicago

[email protected]

Abstract

This article suggests that bringing feminist pneumatology and Pentecostal spirituality into dia- logue may provide new opportunities link women’s empowerment with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Following a brief overview of feminist pneumatology and Pentecostal spirituality, it expos- its Sarah Coakley’s pneumatology, arguing that her insights lead us to inquire about the ways in which Charismatic piety might contribute to the empowerment of Pentecostal women in the majority world today. The article then highlights sociological research which shows that Latin American women’s ecstatic experiences of the Spirit are frequently linked with an increased sense of personal subjectivity, and the ability to “give voice” in both public and private spheres. It concludes with a proposal for speaking of the Holy Spirit as the divine voice, suggesting that this may be one way to move toward a constructive feminist Pentecostal pneumatology.

Keywords

pneumatology, Pentecostalism, feminism, Sarah Coakley, Latin America

Introduction

Let us begin by naming the obvious: it is rather uncommon for the words feminist and Pentecostal to be placed adjacently in the title of an article. In fact, the two terms rarely end up in the same sentence — unless it is to draw attention to their differences. For many, positioning them side by side in a way that implies constructive and collaborative engagement may seem impossibly oxymoronic. At the very least, it begs a raised eyebrow or two.

Parts of this essay were discussed at the Gannon Center Women’s Studies Lecture Series at Loyola University (Chicago, Illinois) in November 2006, and at the Society for the Study of T eology Annual Conference (Cambridge, England) in March 2007. I thank Amos Yong, Aana Marie Vigen, Mark McIntosh, LeRon Shults and Ryan Hollingsworth for their very helpful comments and suggestions.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/157007407X237917

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Yet, writing as one whose political, theological, and spiritual worldview has been influenced (in part) by both Pentecostal/Charismatic spirituality and feminist theology, I am confident that these two realms of thought and life are not mutually exclusive. However, I do not wish to imply that bringing them into a constructive dialogue is a simple task. Feminism and Pentecostalism are both vastly diverse, and it is fundamentally misleading to speak of either as a monolithic entity. This means that any attempt to constructively relate feminist theology and Pentecostal spirituality is fraught with the danger of overgeneralization. Still, by and large, there are major differences between feminist and Pentecostal worldviews, and this makes the task of relating them complex.1 I believe, however, that shared values such as transformation, embodiment, and empowerment have the potential to bring them into greater collaborative dialogue with each other.

In this article, I wish to suggest that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a rich meeting ground for feminist theology and Pentecostal spirituality. While my argument is mainly geared toward feminist theologians, I hope that it will speak to a wide array of theologians who have pneumatological and/or Pente- costal interests. My thesis is that greater attention to Pentecostal spirituality in feminist pneumatology holds the potential for opening up new ways creatively and constructively to link women’s empowerment with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. After a general overview of feminist pneumatology and Pentecostal spirituality, I will exposit Anglican feminist theologian Sarah Coakley’s pneumatology, arguing that her insights lead us to ask about the ways in which Charismatic2 piety might perhaps contribute to the liberation and empowerment of Pentecostal women in the Two-T irds World today. I will then explore some spiritual and social aspects of the experiences of contemporary Pentecostal Latinas, whose ecstatic experiences of the Spirit are often accompanied by an increased sense of autonomy and the ability to give voice in public and private spheres. I will conclude by outlining a pro- posal for speaking of the Holy Spirit as the divine voice, suggesting that this may be one promising way to move toward a constructive feminist Pentecostal pneumatology.

1

The main difference between Pentecostalism and feminism is that Pentecostal ideology tends to be highly patriarchal (this will be discussed in a later section), whereas feminist ideology generally aims to challenge patriarchy and work toward women’s emancipation and empower- ment.

2

I will use the terms Charismatic and Pentecostal interchangeably throughout the article. Both refer to Christian religious groups across the globe that share an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and extraordinary spiritual gifts and/or experiences.

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Overview of Feminist Pneumatology and Pentecostal Spirituality

Feminist theology has generally paid far less attention to pneumatology than to other standard theological loci, such as Christology or soteriology. But when they have appeared, often as subtopics of other themes, feminist treatments of the Holy Spirit have almost always been shaped in large part by concerns for women’s empowerment.

Several prominent examples from the literature include Elizabeth A. John- son, who draws on the Wisdom (or Sophia) tradition, and speaks of Spirit- Sophia as the infinite, liberating divine energy that creates, renews, empowers, and graces all things — especially women’s bodies and the earth.3 For Cathe- rine LaCugna, the Holy Spirit is the dynamic, active relating of humans to God and each other in loving, nonhierarchical communities that are partaking in the mutuality of the trinitarian life.4 In her book The Body of God ,5 Sallie McFague builds on the biblical Spirit/ruach (breath) connection to construct a panentheistic pneumatology in which the world is God’s body. In her more recent book, Life Abundant, she alludes to the Spirit as the divine power that orients us toward practical ways of living that empower women and oppressed others, and sustain the planet.6 Ivone Gebara directly links the Spirit with women’s liberation: “The power called freedom for many women is like being pregnant with the Spirit.”7 The themes of liberation, life, and diversity are also upheld in the work of Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, who constructs a “feminist maternal pneumatology of mutual recognition.”8 T us, speaking broadly, we see that liberation, equality, mutuality, and empowerment have been key themes to arise within feminist theological discourse on Spirit.

Again generalizing, we notice another trend in feminist pneumatology — namely, a hesitancy or nervousness about incorporating contemporary Pentecostal

3

Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist T eological Discourse , 10th anniversary ed. (New York: Crossroad, 2005); Elizabeth A. Johnson, Women, Earth and Creator Spirit (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993).

4

Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (New York: Harper- Collins, 1992).

5

Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological T eology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994).

6

Sallie McFague, Life Abundant: Rethinking T eology and Economy for a Planet in Peril (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001).

7

Ivone Gebara, “Option for the Poor as an Option for Poor Women,” in The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation T eology , ed. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (New York: Orbis, 1996), 143-47.

8

Nancy M. Victorin-Vangerud, The Raging Hearth: Spirit in the Household of God (St. Louis, MO: Chalice, 2000).

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women’s ecstatic or Charismatic experiences of the Holy Spirit into pneuma- tological constructions. In most feminist pneumatologies, Pentecostalism is simply not discussed at all, but sometimes the nervousness is brought out into the open. Rebecca Button Prichard, who has written one of the only book- length studies on the Spirit from a feminist perspective, frankly acknowledges her own tentativeness toward Pentecostalism: “As a mainline Protestant, one whose ministry is among a people sometimes referred to as God’s ‘frozen cho- sen,’ I admit that Pentecostal fire makes me a bit uncomfortable at times.”9 Certainly spirituality is not absent from feminist Spirit doctrine, but certain forms of spirituality are privileged above others. For instance, in her Women, Earth and Creator Spirit, Elizabeth A. Johnson speaks to the importance of contemplation and prophecy for an ecofeminist spirituality. She does not, however, connect these practices to Charismatic forms of spirituality.

What are the main features of Pentecostal spirituality? First, Pentecostals share an emphasis on the value and importance of Spirit baptism (or “being filled with the Holy Spirit”) for Christian life. This experience usually occurs after “conversion” and often through prayer and the “laying on of hands.” For many Pentecostals, it is evidenced by speaking in tongues (glossolalia), often in an ecstatic or trance-like state.10 In addition, Spirit baptism and the use of the charismata (gifts of the Spirit) are closely linked with the life of the worship- ping Christian community. Pentecostals believe that being filled with the Spirit empowers them to live holy lives, become effective witnesses, and use the gifts for the edification of the body of Christ.11 Furthermore, the manifes- tations of Spirit-filled life are often ecstatic, vocal, and communal. In her Saints in Exile, womanist theologian and ethicist Cheryl J. Sanders notes that in the “Sanctified church” (or the black Holiness-Pentecostal tradition), spon- taneous shouts of praise such as “Hallelujah,” “Amen,” “Yes,” “Praise the Lord,” and “T ank you, Jesus” are characteristic elements of the shared experience of

9

Rebecca Button Prichard, Sensing the Spirit: The Holy Spirit in Feminist Perspective (St. Louis, MO: Chalice, 1999), 94. Despite her uncomfortableness, Prichard affirms that the Spirit expresses herself in a “wild diversity of charismata,” and includes a brief discussion of glossolalia (95).

10

Allan Anderson describes Spirit baptism among Azusa Street worshippers as first involving a “longing for the experience, followed by extreme physical sensations and feelings of elation . . . culminating in a release usually involving speaking in tongues, either at the same time as the ‘baptism’ or soon afterwards.” An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 188. Many contemporary Pentecostals experience Spirit baptism in much the same way.

11

Ibid., 231.

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the Spirit.12 In corporate Pentecostal worship services of all kinds, participants often experience a sense of rapture that spills over in a variety of physical expressions, including speaking in tongues, prophesying, healing, testifying, weeping, laughing, waving flags, clapping, raising hands, falling, and danc- ing.13 Finally, due to the centrality of the charisms of the Spirit in Pentecostal- ism and the widespread belief that they are given to men and women alike, ecstasy in the Spirit and expressiveness in worship are generally encouraged among Pentecostal women. In addition, women frequently act as ministers, healers, teachers, prophets, and preachers in their congregations.

In light of the recent explosion of Pentecostal spirituality among women and men in the Two-T irds World and the centrality of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostal faith, feminist theology’s overall hesitancy to integrate ecstatic experiences of the Spirit with Spirit doctrine is definitely worth noting. Pente- costalism has spread to every continent on the globe and currently claims over 500 million believers — the majority of them poor, and in the southern and eastern hemispheres.14 But with few exceptions,

15

feminist theologians other- wise interested in the link between Spirit and women’s empowerment have been reluctant to constructively engage Pentecostalism. Why?

The disconnect may have to do with the overall separation between the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the experiences of spirituality in much of Christian theology. This is a gulf that several theologians in recent years have

12

Cheryl J. Sanders, Saints in Exile: The Holiness-Pentecostal Experience in African American

Religion and Culture. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 61. Sanders also argues that

the ecstatic experiences of the Spirit in Pentecostalism are connected to the movement’s roots in

the religion of the African diaspora, which integrated aspects of African religion and Western

Christianity in the experience of slavery. On this topic, see also Iain MacRobert, “The Black

Roots of Pentecostalism,” in African American Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture,

ed. Timothy E. Fulop and Albert J. Raboteau (New York: Routledge, 1997), 296-309.

13

In his book Rites in the Spirit: A Ritual Approach to Pentecostal/Charismatic Spirituality,

Daniel Albrecht describes the holistic nature of the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit: “Pente-

costals seek to worship their God with their whole being. T ey have intuitively presented their

bodies, their physicality, as instruments of worship. T ey seek to move with the Spirit, but not

as incorporeal selves. Pentecostals experience God as embodied people, propelled by the Spirit

and by their songs.” (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999, 247).

14

The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements , ed. Stanley

M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas, rev. and exp. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 287.

15

Molly T. Marshall includes a significant (cautionary) discussion of contemporary Charismatic/

Pentecostal spirituality in her Joining the Dance: A T eology of the Spirit (Valley Forge, PA: Jud-

son, 2003).

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addressed and are working to bridge.16 But perhaps more importantly, many feminist theologians may fear that a Pentecostal emphasis could promote an oppressive “pie in the sky” form of spirituality and Spirit doctrine in which women are encouraged to passively endure their daily suffering and subordina- tion, but cope by escaping regularly to Charismatic prayer. Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara laments the growth throughout Latin America of “fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and charismatic religious movements” in which “women retain their subordinate social roles [and] are not even allowed the opportunity to raise critical questions.”17

It is also worrisome that large-scale Pentecostal movements throughout the Two-T irds World regularly advance (via mass media) a glitzy form of glo- balized and westernized religion — a religion led by enthusiastic, enigmatic leaders who too frequently tell the poor that what the Holy Spirit wants most is their money. Recently Steve Musney, a spokesperson for the Benny Hinn Show, told his viewers on air: “The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said these words, He said, ‘Tell the people to give a $1,000 offering.’ And I said, ‘Now, Lord, there’s going to be many people that, that, when I say that they’re going to say, ‘Aww, I can’t do that.’ No, He said, ‘You tell them to give five $200 offerings.’ ”18

Without denying the potential for oppression in these sorts of large-scale, marketized spiritualities (especially for women in impoverished communities in the majority world), might we ask if this is yet the whole story? Might feminist theology — feminist treatments of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in particular — gain something by taking a closer look at Pentecostal experi- ences of the Spirit? More specifically, could it be possible that greater atten- tion to ecstatic experiences of the Holy Spirit might actually open up new space in which to link women’s empowerment with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?

16

Cf. Simon Chan, Spiritual T eology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998); Edith M. Humphrey, Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006); Mark A. McIntosh, Mystical T eology: The Integrity of Spirituality and T eology , Challenges in Contemporary T eol- ogy Series (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998); F. LeRon Shults and Steven J. Sandage, Transforming Spirituality: Integrating T eology and Psychology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006); F. LeRon Shults and Andrea Hollingsworth, The Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerd- mans, 2008).

17

Ivone Gebara, Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 202-3.

18

Steve Munsey, “This Is Your Day,” Benny Hinn Show, January 20, 2005.

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“ The Courage to Give Prophetic Voice:” Sarah Coakley’s Prayerful Pneumatology

In the writings of Anglican feminist theologian Sarah Coakley, who herself has spent a good amount of time ministering among Charismatic Christians, we find an emphasis that is unique in feminist pneumatology — namely, prayer. She believes that ecstatic experiences of the Holy Spirit in prayer are valid (even essential) starting points for trinitarian theology, and that these experiences hold potential for personal and, so she hints, political transformation. In this section, I will examine three key facets of Coakley’s theology. In so doing, I hope to reveal some ways in which her emphasis on prayer succeeds in linking the Holy Spirit, Charismatic spirituality (especially vocal gifts of the Spirit), and women’s empowerment, and may thus indirectly invite feminist theology to take a different, more constructive view of Pentecostal spirituality in pneumatological constructions.

First, like other feminist theologians, Coakley stresses that the ways we think and talk about God theologically have everything to do with women’s struggles for equality and empowerment in everyday life. She was one of the first among feminist theologians to point out that a feminine portrayal of the “person” of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity (that is, Father — male; Son — male; Holy Spirit — female) only solidifies male hierarchy and gender stereotypes by implying that God is two-thirds male. In a 1988 essay, Coakley critiques Yves Congar’s description of the Spirit as feminine. She asserts that Congar’s ascrip- tion of “femininity” and “motherhood” to the Spirit poses the very real danger that “at worst, a ‘feminine’ Spirit may become nothing much more than the soothing but undervalued adjunct to the drama of an all-male household.”19 For Coakley, introducing essentialized gender stereotypes into the Trinity is not only bad theology, it is dangerous insofar as it reinforces limiting, hierar- chical gender roles in real life.

Secondly, Coakley asserts that prayer in the Spirit is an essential place to begin when thinking about the Trinity. In a 1993 essay, she argues that trinitar- ian formulations ought not to begin with linear, rationalistic explanations of the nature of the divine “Persons,” but rather with experiences of the Holy Spirit in contemplative or Charismatic prayer. She argues that an emphasis on charismata (gifts of the Spirit) is not a new theological approach, but it may

19

Sarah Coakley, “‘Femininity and the Holy Spirit?’” in Mirror to the Church: Reflections on Sexism, ed. Monica Furlong (London: SPCK, 1988) 132.

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well be a repressed one. She shows that many early church Fathers demon- strated notable ambivalence in paying serious theological attention to the experience of the Holy Spirit in ecstatic prayer; when push came to shove, they tended to prefer descriptions of God that were based on reason. Why? Here is where Coakley’s argument becomes especially interesting.

She speculates that it had to do with the church’s anxious response to Mon- tanism, a Charismatic movement beginning in the mid second century whose leaders — several of them powerful women — claimed to be direct mouth- pieces of the Holy Spirit. Coakley sums up her hypothesis thus: “Granting experiential priority to the Spirit in this abandoned way is now seen to have both political and sexual implications: political, because it could lead to chal- lenging ecclesiastical authority with a higher revelation . . . and sexual, because (scandalously) this ecstasy released ‘wretched women’ into positions of power and authority.”20 In Coakley’s view, Montanist women, emboldened by God and speaking on behalf of Christ through the Spirit in an abandoned yet authoritative manner, were looked on as highly subversive by the early church. The movement was crushed, control was restored, and rational trinitarianism seemed to have won the day.

But did it? Coakley suggests that despite its post-Montanist associations with the voices of powerful women and disorder in the church, ecstasy has remained an under-the-surface theme in much of Christian doctrine. In her 1996 essay, “Batter my heart . . .”? On Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity,” she explores the “messy entanglement of sexual desire and desire for God.” She looks at two patristic writers, Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine, and seeks to show ways in which they both reveal a repressed erot- icism in their trinitarian doctrines. According to Coakley, the patristic fear of sexuality is connected with a fear of Spirit, emotion, and vulnerability; there is a “close contiguity of abandonment to the Spirit in incorporative prayer . . . loss of control to the leading Spirit, and abandonment to the ‘other’ in sexual desire.”21 Coakley is asserting that though associated with femininity and repressed, ecstasy (sexual and spiritual) has in fact remained a key element of trinitarian, and thus pneumatological, doctrine.

20

Sarah Coakley, “Why T ree? Some Further Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity,” in The Making and Remaking of Christian Doctrine , ed. Sarah Coakley and David Pailin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 43.

21

Sarah Coakley, “Batter my heart . . .’? On Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity,” in The Papers of the Henry Luce III Fellows in T eology , ed. Gary Gilbert (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996), 53.

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Why is Coakley busily unearthing the repressed erotic undertones in Chris- tian theology, and why is it relevant for us as we seek to explore new feminist approaches to the Spirit that may be more open to Pentecostal experiences? The answer to this question is also our third, and most important, point. T at is, Coakley sees a direct relationship between Charismatic or contemplative prayer and empowerment. For her, spiritual ecstasy is related to a certain “power-in-vulnerability” that Christians receive in prayer in the Spirit. Fur- thermore, this is a power that gives believers vocal prophetic boldness. In her essay “Kenosis and Subversion,” she highlights the emboldening effects of con- templative prayer (which, as is evident in her other writings, she readily links with Charismatic spiritual experiences): “But whilst risky, this practice is pro- foundly transformative, ‘empowering’ in a mysterious ‘Christic’ sense. . . . If, then, these traditions of Christian ‘contemplation’ are to be trusted, this rather special form of ‘vulnerability’ is not an invitation to be battered . . . (If any- thing, it builds one in the courage to give prophetic voice).”22

So for Coakley, ecstatic prayer is marked by a certain handing over of one’s entire self to the divine, which paradoxically results in vocal prophetic empow- erment. Mark Oppenheimer, in an article on Coakley in Christian Century, notes: “Coakley is deeply interested in how prayer can transform not just the self, but society.” Further, he quotes her as quipping, “The idea that St. Teresa was just having a private orgasm is a [William] Jamesian idea.”23 Although at this point it seems to be a rather undeveloped kernel in Coakley’s thought, this political implication leads us to wonder whether it is possible that a recovery of a direct theological emphasis on the Spirit’s role in prayer — which builds up the “courage to give prophetic voice” — might bid feminist theologians to construct pneumatologies that more directly link vocal ecstasies (such as prophecy or glossolalia) with women’s empowerment, and thus to engage Pen- tecostalism more constructively. In other words, Coakley’s insights lead us to ask about the ways in which Charismatic piety and the “gifts of the Spirit” (especially the vocal gifts) might perhaps contribute to the liberation and empowerment of Pentecostal women in the majority world today, who, as we will see, often experience themselves as mouthpieces of the divine and power- ful leaders in their homes, churches, and communities.

22

Sarah Coakley, “Kenosis and Subversion: On the Repression of ‘Vulnerability’ in Christian Feminist Writing,” in Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (Oxford: Black- well, 2002), 35. Emphasis mine.

23

Mark Oppenheimer, “Prayerful Vulnerability: Sarah Coakley Reconstructs Feminism,” Christian Century (June 28, 2003), 30.

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But abstract, inquisitive musings about the potential implications of Coak- ley’s pneumatology will not do; we must ground our exploration in actual women’s experiences. Do majority world Pentecostal women experience them- selves as freed and empowered by ecstatic experiences of the Holy Spirit? If so, how does this take shape concretely in their lives? In the remainder of this article I will explore some spiritual and social aspects of the experiences of contemporary Pentecostal Latinas, and will seek to show that there are promis- ing resources here for new, creative, empowering forms of Spirit doctrine that speak to both feminist and Pentecostal concerns.

The Voices of Women in Latin American Pentecostalism

There are definite reasons to be suspicious of the claim that Latin American Pentecostalism could be a resource for feminist pneumatology. First, patriar- chal ideology is deeply woven into Pentecostal belief systems. According to Lesley Gill, who has researched Pentecostals in Peru, “belief in the innate inferiority of women is so firmly entrenched in Pentecostal ideology that many believers view the subordination of women as part of the natural order.”24 Similarly, in his book entitled Religion in the Megacity, Philip Berryman notes that in Brazil, “The position of women in evangelical churches is not unlike what it is in the Catholic church: they are a majority of active members, do most of the everyday work, are excluded from major leader- ship positions, and are defined by their maternal and housekeeping role, seemingly with biblical sanction.”25 But perhaps even more problematic than patriarchy is the globalized, escapist, “opiate-of-the-masses” type of experience that some see as common in Latin American Pentecostalism. In the words of Ivone Gebara:

Religions of instant salvation are growing; they offer miraculous cures, promise jobs, do exorcisms, appear to give people an identity, and generate moments of shared euphoria. But even as these religions play into the hands of the established system, they seem not to see the logic of destruction that is growing visibly in our economi- cally globalized society.26

24

Lesley Gill, “ ‘Like a Veil to Cover T em’: Women and the Pentecostal Movement in La Pas,’ ” American Ethnologist 17, no. 4 (1990): 716.

25

Phillip Berryman, Religion in the Megacity: Catholic and Protestant Portraits from Latin America (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 89.

26

Gebara, Longing for Running Water, 198.

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In Gebara’s view, Pentecostalism is alienating and disempowering insofar as it offers marginalized people a so-called spiritual power that compensates for their lack of political and material power, and only reinforces the low social positions of those groups.

Yet a substantial and growing body of sociological literature points to the positive effects of Pentecostalism on the lives of Latin American women. A number of recent studies in this area are interpreting Pentecostalism as an asylum from suffering and a place in which poor women are able to recover some personal control over their lives. T ey emphasize the benefits that poor Latin American women receive, and underscore Pentecostalism’s ability to reduce oppression. In short, many contemporary studies are suggesting that Pentecostal spirituality helps Latin American women deal eff ectively with their experiential difficulties by giving them a voice in both private and public spheres. In what ways does Pentecostalism give women a voice in their domestic lives? Elizabeth Brusco, who conducted fieldwork in Columbia from 1982 to 1983, found that Pentecostal conversion transformed traditional gender rela- tions by giving women a moral authority in the home to challenge their hus- bands’ drinking, gambling, and/or adultery. When husbands were converted (often as a result of their wives’ prior conversion), they were more likely to give up their machismo (an exaggerated sense of masculinity in Latin American culture that emphasizes attributes such as physical bravery, virility, supremacy over women, and aggressiveness). In Brusco’s view, Pentecostal conversion often resulted in a domestication of husbands and an increased sense of auton- omy in wives. Women were given a powerful voice in certain domestic situa- tions in which they might otherwise be voiceless (such as infidelity or alcoholism). She concludes:

Columbian evangelicalism reforms gender roles in a way that enhances female status. It promotes female interest not only in simple, practical ways but also through its potential as an antidote to machismo, the emphatic masculinity so widespread in Latin America.27

Similarly, Brazilian researchers Cecília Loreto Mariz and María das Dores Campos Machado argue that because Pentecostal conversion emphasizes per- sonal choice, it leads to “a revaluing of the self in relation to God and others

27

Elizabeth Brusco, “The Reformation of Machismo: Asceticism and Masculinity among Colombian Evangelicals,” in Rethinking Protestantism in Latin America, ed. Virginia Garrard- Burnett and David Stoll (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 144.

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that increases women’s autonomy and undermines traditional machismo.”28 In addition to Brusco, Mariz, and Machado, several other scholars have emphasized the important role Pentecostalism plays in supporting Latin American women’s moral autonomy and increasing independence in the home. Examples include: Carol Ann Drogues, Cornilia Butler Flora, Lesley Gill, Linda Green, David Smilde, and Timothy J. Steigenga.29

In what ways does Pentecostalism give women a voice in public spheres? Many of the scholars listed above have pointed out that Pentecostal churches help bolster women’s autonomy outside the home. Pentecostal women in Latin America often take on active roles within the church — teaching, visit- ing and assisting the sick, and running social service programs. John Burdick, author of Looking for God in Brazil,30 and Harvey Cox, author of Fire From Heaven,31 both argue that these religious activities help justify women’s par- ticipation in non-domestic spheres, thus expanding their realm of activity and further encouraging them to develop their public talents.

Furthermore, recent research reveals ways in which Pentecostal Latinas liv- ing in the United States often exercise public, vocal, officially sanctioned lead- ership in their churches. Gastón Espinosa has recently conducted a detailed

28

Cecília Loreto Mariz and María das Dores Campos Machado, “Pentecostalism and Women in Brazil,” in Power, Politics, and Pentecostals in Latin America , ed. Edward L. Cleary and Hannah W. Stewart-Gambino (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997), 41-42.

29

Carol Ann Drogus, “Private Power or Public Power: Pentecostalism, Base Communities, and Gender,” in Power, Politics, and Pentecostals in Latin America , ed. Edward L. Cleary and Han- nah W. Stewart-Gambino (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997), 55-75; Cornilia Butler Flora, Pente- costalism in Colombia: Baptism by Fire and Spirit (London: Associated University Press, 1976); Gill, “‘Like a Veil,” 1990; Linda Green, “Shifting Affiliations: Mayan Widows and Evangelicos in Guatemala,” in Rethinking Protestantism in Latin America , ed. Virginia Garrard-Burnett and David Stoll (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 159-79; Cecilia Loreto Mariz, “Reli- gion and Poverty in Brazil: A Comparison of Catholic and Pentecostal Communities,” Sociologi- cal Analysis 53 (1992): 563-70; David A. Smilde, “Gender Relations and Social Change in Latin American Evangelicalism,” in Coming of Age: Pentecostalism in Contemporary Latin America , ed. Daniel Miller (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994); Timothy J. Steigenga and David A. Smilde, “Wrapped in the Holy Shawl: The Strange Case of Conservative Christians and Gender Equality in Latin America,” in Latin American Religion in Motion , ed. Christian Smith and Joshua Prokopy (New York/London: Routledge, 1999), 173-86.

30

John Burdick, Looking for God in Brazil: The Progressive Catholic Church in Urban Brazil’s Religious Arena (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). Burdick’s basic argument is that in Brazil, Pentecostal religious groups have been more successful than Catholic Base Communi- ties in “helping the less stable segments of the working class, married women facing domestic conflict, unmarried youths, and negros . . . cope with their experiential predicaments” (223).

31

Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Reli- gion in the Twenty-first Century (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995).

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study of women in the Latino Pentecostal Movement, which makes up approx- imately 80 to 90 percent of all Latino Pentecostals in the United States and Puerto Rico.32 His findings highlight the fact that since the movement’s begin- nings in the nineteen-teens, women have been encouraged to exercise official spiritual leadership and to give prophetic voice through formal ministerial and theological training and ordination. In fact, in the 1990s there was an upsurge in the number of Latino Pentecostal clergywomen in this movement (this while the percentage of Anglo-American clergywomen in the Assemblies of God declined). Based on his research, which included many interviews with Latino Pentecostal women leaders, he concludes that these women

believe they have real power to transform lives and communities. For them, the mes- sage of repentance, forgiveness, and a born-again, Spirit-filled relationship with Jesus constitute true liberation. Far from being “doormats” suffering from a false conscious- ness, Pentecostal women believe they have found real freedom despite the problems they face.33

In Latin America, too, there are notable instances of women making their voices heard by exercising official leadership in Pentecostal churches. In Colombia, María Luisa Piraquive de Moreno founded the Iglesia de Dios Ministerial de Jesuchristo Internacional, which has now spread to more than forty countries around the world. Social ministry and political outreach are central to Piraquive’s church, which has exploded into an international move- ment. Many of these initiatives address issues that are particularly important to women, such as support for contraception and opposition to domestic violence. We may also point to one of the best-known Pentecostal churches in Brazil, Renascer em Cristo, which has a female bishop and female pastors.

It appears that within Latin American Pentecostalism, women have in many cases been given a stronger sense of their own agency (or voice), and have in some cases been exhorted to exercise spiritual leadership in their communities. Tese observations are remarkable in light of the strong, patriarchal machismo generally present in Latin American culture. It is also remarkable that women in the Hispanic Districts of the (American) Assemblies of God denomination have been eligible for ordination since 1916 — this is some forty, fifty or sixty

32

Gastón Espinosa, “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy”: A History of Women in Ministry in the Latino Pentecostal Movement in the United States,” in Women and Twentieth-Century Prot- estantism, ed. Margaret Lamberts Bendroth and Virginia Lieson Brereton (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 33.

33

Ibid., 42.

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years before women’s ordination in other Protestant denominations.34 Women in this tradition have been encouraged by the community to become edu- cated, articulate, powerful religious leaders in public life.

But how are the various forms of Pentecostal spirituality and ritual related to Latin American women’s empowerment? Otherwise put, how do ecstatic experiences of the Holy Spirit in prayer, prophecy, or worship contribute to Pentecostal women’s ability to make their voices heard? Several scholars have argued that Spirit ecstasy and social/political empowerment are directly related in Latin American Pentecostal women’s experiences. For example, from 1991 to 1995, Lene Sjorup conducted intensive interviews with Pentecostal Chilean women living in poverty. In her 2002 article “Pentecostals: The Power of the Powerless,” she details the ways in which Pentecostalism has contributed to poor Chilean women’s social ascent and has effected social changes in Chile under dictatorship. According to Sjorup, Spirit ecstasy was the primary means by which the Chilean women felt empowered to effect positive change in their selves and their communities. “Pentecostalism led to a new theology where the believer became the subject of her own life. Social ascent was made through ecstatic experiences of the Spirit in a caring community which directed the individual towards a ‘female ethos.’”35

Furthermore, it seems especially significant that ecstatic Pentecostal experi- ences of the Holy Spirit are often vocal and public. R. Andrew Chestnut has researched the significance of Spirit ecstasy in Brazilian Pentecostalism, and his findings point to the primacy of vocality in Pentecostal spirituality. His overall thesis is that ecstasy is one of the main ways in which Brazilian Pente- costal Christians “are able to access sacred power through both the Holy Spirit and the community of believers and exert it to repair the damage inflicted by the violence of material deprivation.”36 For our purposes, a notable subpoint is Chestnut’s observation that women are more often endowed with vocal spiri- tual gifts than men. Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is “speech for those whose tongue is tied by official society, particularly for poor women of color. When an entire congregation bursts into charismatic utterances, it is the amplified

34

Methodists began ordaining women in the 1950s, Presbyterians in the 1960s, and ELCA Lutherans in the 1970s. At this time, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches do not ordain women.

35

Lene Sjorup, “Pentecostals: The Power of the Powerless,” Dialog: A Journal of T eology 41, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 16-25.

36

R. Andrew Chestnut, “Born Again in Brazil: Spiritual Ecstasy and Mutual Aid,” in On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Religion in Modern Latin America, ed. Virginia Garrard-Burnett (Wilm- ington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2000), 219-23.

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female voices that send the researcher scrambling for his earplugs.”37 In addi- tion, he names prophecy “an essentially female phenomenon” that “transforms believers who are deprived of official means of communication, such as regular postal and telephone service, into divine messengers, God’s spokeswomen.”38 Chestnut also points out that Pentecostal hymns are potent sources of ecstatic release for women. One woman he interviewed reported that she had been healed through hymn singing: “Now, my voice isn’t one of those finely tuned voices, but it’s the voice that God gave me to sing . . . the Lord cured me through hymns.”39

Public testimony is also a powerful way in which Pentecostal Latinas find and express their voices. Christine E. Gudorf, who has compared women’s agency in Islam and Pentecostalism, notes:

The quality of expressivity in Pentecostal ritual is also an aid in developing subjectivity, in that it is not merely a vent for pain and suffering, but is more often, in the form of personal public testimonies, a celebration of the power of transformation in one’s life, including the ability to publicly give voice to that transformation. The development of these testimonies calls for self-reflection, and evokes responses from the congregation that affirm one’s subjectivity.40

In a similar fashion, John Burdick argues that Brazilian Pentecostal women’s ritual of testifying before the congregation empowers them to cope with domestic conflict:

Every day, women testify eloquently, revealing in detail stories of domestic suffering. Possessing great emotional power, the testimonies follow the rules of their genre, dem- onstrating the crente [believer’s] church as a place where women publicly articulate their suffering, and teach each other the crente way of interpreting it. In these testimonies are voiced most of the themes that draw and keep women in the Assembly of God.41

These studies suggest that Latin American Pentecostal women are finding their voices through ecstatic experiences of the Holy Spirit. Whether through

37

Ibid., 228.

38

Ibid.

39

Ibid., 230.

40

Christine E. Gudorf, “Desire in Feminism and the Construction of Agency: Mahmoud’s Politics of Piety and Female Pentecostals in Latin America” (paper presented at the annual meet- ing of the American Academy of Religion, Feminist T eory and Religious Reflection Group, Washington, DC, November 20, 2006).

41

Burdick, Looking for God in Brazil, 108.

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glossolalia, preaching, prophesying, singing, or testifying, they are using their voices to articulate themselves powerfully and publicly, lead other congre- gants, develop an increased sense of agency/subjectivity, and find ways to cope with suffering in their lives. The Pentecostal experience of the Spirit has clearly been a positive and transformative force in the lives of many Latin American women.

While it is essential for feminist theologians to maintain a critical awareness of the realities of gender subordination and globalization that are linked with Pentecostalism, I suggest that greater attention to ecstatic experiences of the Spirit — specifically, vocal ecstasies — could be a promising new direction for feminist treatments of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This emphasis could create new spaces in which to articulate the Spirit as the empowerer and lib- erator of the voiceless and the oppressed. Also, it could open up new avenues for speaking of Spirit and spirituality in ways that encourage women to embrace their physicality as a vital medium of divine power and presence. In other words, the embodiedness of Pentecostal Spirit ecstasy (not only in vocal- ization, but in other rituals such as dance and hand-clapping) holds potential to challenge entrenched mind/body, spirit/matter dualisms that plague much of Christian pneumatology.

In any case, ignoring Pentecostalism certainly is no longer an option. If growth trends continue, experts predict that by 2025 there will be close to 800 million Pentecostals worldwide — the majority of them in the southern and eastern hemispheres of the globe.42 T eologians (feminist and otherwise) who are writing on the Holy Spirit cannot afford to disregard this movement. If it is engaged critically, creatively, and constructively, the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit can provide rich resources for innovative and liberating pneuma- tological proposals.

Spirit and Voice

Thus far I have tried to make the case for a more explicit connection between ecstatic experiences of the Spirit and women’s empowerment, but have not yet put forth a constructive feminist Pentecostal pneumatological proposal to do so. Since I believe that such a proposal is not only possible but also holds potential for future development, however, I wish to conclude by briefly outlining one possible way forward.43

42

Burgess and van der Maas, The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 287.

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Greater attention to Pentecostal spirituality in feminist pneumatology may provide a way to speak of the Holy Spirit as the divine voice through which persons are empowered to find their own voices. T is voice is not just one voice among many, nor even the greatest of all voices. The voice of Spirit is the origin, condition, and goal of all creaturely vocative efforts what- soever44 — the eternal source of empowering prophecy and prayer, as well as the absolute ground of the human desire to speak and be spoken to; hear and be heard.

How might this idea of the Spirit as the divine voice begin to take shape?

45 First, if we look at Scripture, we notice that the Spirit is often associated with voice. In the Hebrew Bible, ruach is a feminine noun that speaks of both divine and human breath. It is this Spirit of God that hovers over the waters of creation as they are spoken into existence (Gen. 1:1-2), and that breathes/ speaks powerfully through the voices of the prophets of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord rests on Isaiah and fills his mouth with everlasting words (Isa. 59:21). The prophet Ezekiel is commanded by the Spirit to speak to the valley of dry bones; as he does so, the divine Spirit goes forth through his breath, voice, and lips, and the dry bones are brought to life (Ezek. 37:1-10).

In the New Testament, John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit from before the time of his birth (Luke 1:15), and gives voice to the cry of the prophet Isaiah: “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Luke 3:4). The Spirit of the Lord anoints Jesus to preach and proclaim freedom and release from oppression (Luke 4:18-19), and the liberating words that flow from his lips are “Spirit and life” (John 6:63). After the resurrection, God’s Spirit falls in the form of tongues of fire in the upper room at Pentecost, filling the men and women present with power to voice loudly and clearly the good news of the risen Christ to all people (Acts 2:1-13). Paul proclaims the message of Christ to the Corinthians through the Spirit’s power (1 Cor. 2:4). He also warns the Christians in T essalonica not to quench the Spirit by silencing the

43

Certainly, a full constructive pneumatology that builds on the Spirit and voice connection would include careful consideration of themes that are only briefly touched on in this article. Tese include (but are not limited to) trinitarian, christological, ecclesiological, and eschatologi- cal issues.

44

This phrase emerged out of a blog conversation with LeRon Shults. Cf. http://leronshults. typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/11/andrea_on_faces.html.

45

For another discussion on biblical and historical links between the doctrine of the Spirit and human communicative processes, see Prichard, Sensing the Spirit, 9-30. T is chapter, entitled “Spirit, Speech, Silence,” is part and parcel of Prichard’s overall goal to use the fi ve embodied senses (sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell) as a hermeneutical scheme for organizing diverse pneumatological images found in the Bible and the Christian tradition.

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prophets (1 T ess. 5:19), and admonishes the Ephesians not to grieve the Spirit by using their voices in ways that tear each other down (Eph. 4: 29-32). T us it is clear that in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, God’s Spirit is often conceived as the divine voice that breathes through particular and diverse human voices, and makes God heard and known in the believing community.

In the Christian tradition, too, there are examples of the Spirit manifesting as the voice of divine justice and freedom through the mouths of women mystics and prophets. For example, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179 CE), one of the most prominent figures of twelfth-century Western Europe (male or female), felt called by God and empowered by the Spirit to speak boldly against the corruptions she saw in the political and religious spheres of her day. Hildegard drew attention to the ways in which the Spirit emboldens Chris- tians to carry out the call to speak courageously of God’s justice. In her Scivias (May you Know, or Know the Ways),46 she argues that the primary purpose of the fiery tongues of Pentecost was to enkindle passionate bravery within the dis- ciples so that they would be made “stronger in the name of the Holy and True Trinity” and not shrink back from proclaiming God’s truth.47 Hildegard writes that after the Holy Spirit had “bathed [the disciples] in Its power,” they were able to cry out God’s justice in such a way that “the whole world was shaken by their voices.”48

The Spirit’s strengthening power was especially important for Hildegard as a woman. Her context was a crushing, patriarchal society that often suppressed female voices from any kind of public arena. But for Hildegard, the intense experience of the Holy Spirit in mystical and ecstatic prayer was the source of the courage that enabled her to find and fulfill her prophetic call, even in a context that had conditioned her to view herself with some disdain simply because she was female:

And I heard a voice saying to me . . . ‘O you who are wretched earth and, as a woman, untaught in all learning of earthly teachers and unable to read literature with philo- sophical understanding, you are nonetheless touched by My light, which kindles in you an inner fire like a burning sun; cry out and relate and write these My mysteries that you see and hear in mystical visions. So do not be timid, but say those things you

46

Hildegard of Bingen, Scivas, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Mahwah/New York: Paulist Press, 1990).

47

Ibid., 190.

48

Ibid., 415.

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understand in the Spirit as I speak them through you . . . you who are trodden on by the masculine sex, speak of that fiery work this sure vision has shown you.49

In addition to its biblical and historical appeal, the Spirit/voice link also touches on important themes in contemporary theology and philosophy. One of these themes is relationality. First, as Stephen H. Webb points out in his book The Divine Voice,50 there are advantages to emphasizing the notion of voice over the more traditional theological concept, word. Voice is personal, concrete, and relational, whereas words — specifically, written words — can become disassociated from their author, and may thus become static and inaccessible.

Furthermore, speaking asks for a listening response; vocal communication cannot be conceived of apart from attentive silence. T erefore, giving voice and giving ear are dialectical, interpersonal, relational realities. Whom does the Spirit silence, and whom does the Spirit bring to speech? If the divine voice is heard through the amplified voices of the oppressed, then it is also sensed in the silences of oppressors. This is evident in Latin American Pente- costalism where, as we have seen, dominating machismo voices are often weak- ened while female vocality is frequently strengthened.

But the rich, relational, pneumatological reality of speaking and silencing should not be confined to oppressed/oppressor categories. All those who atten- tively hear others into speech, and all those who prophetically speak others into understanding, are participating in ongoing creation, which is another important work of the Holy Spirit. In dialectical vocal exchanges between lis- tener and listened-to, the Spirit manifests as the creator voice that brings forth a new and shared understanding through human language. The divine voice is not simply “heard” in the voices of those who are being brought-to- speech, but also in the hospitable, evocative, listening presences of the ones who are challenging themselves to truly listen.51 The creator voice is not “located” in one or the other interlocutor, but, rather, is mediated in and through the interlocutory process itself — the dynamic, relational, ongoing transforma- tions of understanding that take place between those who are seeking to listen and those who are seeking to speak. Furthermore, giving voice and giving ear

49

Ibid., 150.

50

Stephen H. Webb, The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the T eology of Sound (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2004), 61.

51

For a theological reflection on the roles of silence and listening in Christian thought and human communication, see Rachel Muers, Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a T eological Ethics of Communication, Challenges in Contemporary T eology Series (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).

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may be thought of as trinitarian practices; the creator voice graciously opens us up to participating in the relationality of the eternally welcoming, evocative conversation of the triune persons. This takes place precisely in and through concrete human communities in which we hear as we are heard.

In addition to relationality, speaking of the Spirit as voice affirms the theme of diversity, which is so prominent in late modern thought and so important in feminist theologies. Since it is mediated through a vast variety of human voices, the Spirit’s voice is astonishingly polyvocal. Pentecostal and Charismatic spirituality, having exploded onto every continent and having influenced every major Christian denomination, is bringing forth a stunningly diverse orchestra of human language. Not only is the voice of the Spirit heard in the varieties of “earthly” tongues (for instance, Spanish, English, Chinese, Swahili), but also in the countless varieties of “spiritual” tongues (or, the mul- titudinous forms of glossolalia). Moreover, the polyvocality of Spirit has impli- cations for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. It is no wonder that Pentecostal theologians such as Amos Yong have advanced new approaches to interreligious encounters by way of an explicitly Pentecostal and pneumato- logical method that humbly affirms the vast diversity of the Spirit’s locutions:

Recognizing the possibility that the Spirit can speak through even religious others demands a listening ear, a willingness to be self-critical, and an openness to learning from, and even being corrected by, them. . . . The Spirit poured out on all flesh enables the miracle of human communication — hearing and speaking, tongues and their interpretations — so that what was once far off is brought near (cf. Eph. 2:13) and what was strange is now intelligible.52

Embodiment is a third important philosophical and theological theme that the Spirit/voice connection highlights and upholds. A voice flows through lungs, vocal chords, and lips; it has resonance, pitch, and life. Webb states, “Voices can be thought to touch us, indeed to enter into us, in ways that a word does not.”53 Feminist theologians often emphasize the importance of embodiedness in pneumatology, spirituality, and other realms of thought; moving beyond unhelpful philosophical categories that bifurcate reality into material and immaterial spheres is an ongoing feminist aim.

Many other contemporary theologians share this same goal. In his recent plenary address for the Nordic Systematic T eology Conference, F. LeRon

52

Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global T eology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 247.

53

Webb, The Divine Voice , 62.

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Shults remarked that “Many of the constructive proposals in late modern Pneumatology are motivated by the pernicious effects of [spirit/matter] dual- ism, and aim to conceptualize the Spirit in a way that better accounts for the experience that this divine presence embraces, pervades, and transforms what we call ‘matter.’”54 Shults is highlighting important contemporary pneumato- logical trends that seek to overcome spirit/matter dualism and (re)integrate Spirit and spirituality, and these trends have direct (and promising) implica- tions for a feminist Pentecostal pneumatology. In the inherently physical nature of vocal Pentecostal ecstasies in the Spirit (such as prophecy or glossola- lia), the Spirit’s voice is often experienced as “an all-embracing and all-pervading dynamic presence in which all creaturely spatio-temporal forms of energized material live and move and have their being.”55

A pneumatology that afirms the Holy Spirit as the relationally mediated, diversely manifested, somatically experienced divine voice is a pneumatology that is empowering. It succeeds in upholding feminist ideals of mutuality, plurality, and embodiment as well as Pentecostal values of transformation, community, and ecstasy. The pneumatological metaphor of voice therefore emerges as one promising way to help make sense of the biblical witness and the Christian tradition in light of the broad concerns of feminist theology and the experiences of many Pentecostal women today.

Summary and Conclusion

We began by noting that feminist treatments of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have almost always been shaped in large part by concerns for women’s empowerment. But at the same time, feminist theologians writing on the Spirit have often been unwilling to constructively engage Pentecostal spiri- tuality, which places a priority on experiences of the Holy Spirit and is currently the dominant form of spirituality for Christian women and men in the Two-Thirds World. Next, we observed ways in which Anglican feminist theologian Sarah Coakley has opened up new directions for us to begin to link the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit with women’s empowerment by asserting (first) that ecstatic/charismatic experiences of the Holy Spirit in

54

F. LeRon Shults, “Current Trends in Pneumatology” (Plenary address given at the Nordic Systematic T eology Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, January 4-7, 2007).

55

Ibid.

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prayer are crucial starting points for trinitarian theology, and (second) that these experiences hold potential for personal and political transformation by building “the courage to give prophetic voice.”

We then looked at several recent sociological analyses of women in Latin American Pentecostalism. Tese studies suggest that Pentecostal spirituality contributes to women finding their voices in private and public spheres. Latina Pentecostals often gain a greater sense of autonomy and independence in the home because conversion to Pentecostal faith gives them a certain moral and spiritual authority that allows them to vocally challenge their male partners regarding harmful behaviors such as alcoholism and adultery. Further, Latin American Pentecostal women commonly function as strong public leaders in their churches and communities. For many Latinas, an increased sense of sub- jectivity and agency is directly connected to experiences of vocal, public spiri- tual ecstasies in prophecy, prayer, testimony, or song.

Having established some grounds for linking Spirit ecstasy with women’s empowerment, we proceeded to bring feminist theology and Pentecostal spir- ituality into dialogue by considering a constructive proposal for a feminist Pentecostal pneumatology that conceives of the Holy Spirit as the divine voice. Linking Spirit with the concept of voice builds on Coakley’s prayerful, prophetic pneumatology. It also appears to be especially fitting today when we consider the growing numbers of Pentecostal women in Latin America who appear to be finding their own strong, embodied, prophetic voices in private and public realms through the empowering presence of the divine voice. We have also seen that voice is a compelling pneumatological metaphor when we consider Christian scriptures and traditions and prominent themes in contem- porary philosophy and theology; therefore, its theological usefulness may extend well beyond feminist and Pentecostal spheres.

It is vital to underscore the essential need to maintain a critical awareness of the ways in which Pentecostalism is too often complicit with the dynamics of patriarchy and globalization. Yet, I hope that I have demonstrated that theolo- gians interested in speaking of the ways in which the Holy Spirit liberates persons from oppression would do well not to shy away from explicitly attend- ing to Pentecostal forms of religious expression in their pneumatological for- mulations. According to Ivone Gebara, the Spirit is the “breath of life, energy refusing to be locked in a box.”56 Bringing feminist theology and Pentecostal

56

Gebara, “Option for the Poor,” 147.

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spirituality into constructive dialogue will mean joining in the work of the infinite, evocative, energizing voice of the Spirit who summons us out of our ideological boxes, calls us to reconsider our omissions, and invites us to attend to divine utterances in places we had previously not thought to listen.

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