The Attenuation Of Female Empowerment Among Three Pentecostal Charismatic Chinese Churches In Malaysia And Singapore

The Attenuation Of Female Empowerment Among Three Pentecostal Charismatic Chinese Churches In Malaysia And Singapore

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Pneuma 41 (2019) 477–499

The Attenuation of Female Empowerment among Three Pentecostal-Charismatic Chinese Churches in Malaysia and Singapore

Weng Kit Cheong

Sabah Theological Seminary, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia


Among all branches of Christianity, female empowerment has been valorized in Pen- tecostalism. However, questions remain regarding the extent of empowerment in its egalitarian ethos. This article examines some historical and sociological aspects of pentecostal-charismatic female power and leadership among three Chinese majority churches in Malaysia and Singapore. It does so by a participant-observation methodol- ogy of these churches and in-depth interviews of church and lay leaders to enquire into the degree in which women are (dis)empowered for ministry. It concludes that specific practices and traits of Pentecostalism such as the charismata, prayer and worship, and church female leadership are configured in response to contextual sociocultural influ- ences to produce a Christian/pentecostal woman that is both modern yet distinctly Chinese but attenuated within a Confucian family logic.


Chinese female Pentecostalism – leadership – Malaysia-Singapore – empowerment – Confucian – family – cell group

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/15700747-04103001




I think they are even more drawn to the charismatic church because … we allow women to do everything. They can preach, they can become a prophet …1

1 Introduction

Studies of Pentecostalism worldwide consistently reveal that more women than men are active church members and leaders.2 Unsurprisingly, among all branches of Christianity, Pentecostalism3 is generally recognized as the most empowering of women.

Historically, Pentecostalism was influenced by the American Holiness move- ment and Methodism’s “positive attitude toward female ministry.”4 Theolog- ically, the Spirit’s outpouring on Pentecost meant that as “women and men began to speak in other tongues and prophecy it was a sign and confirmation of a new era in which all the human beings had the same freedom to serve God on the same basis and with the same gifts [and] women and men finally stood at the same level both ontologically … and functionally.”5

Ecclesiologically, Pentecostalism has produced many women leaders. The Foursquare Church was founded by a woman. After the Assemblies of God (AG)

1 Interview with Ng Wah Lok, associate pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle, Malaysia, May 3,


2 Julie Ma, “Asian Women in Pentecostal Ministry,” In Asian and Pentecostal: The Charismatic

Face of Christianity in Asia, ed. Allan Anderson and Edmond Tang (Oxford: Regnum, 2005)


3 For this article, Pentecostalism is the form of Christianity that emphasizes that the gifts of

the Spirit (such as glossolalia, healing, prophesying) are operative for all believers today.

Officially, its first modern emergence was in 1906 at Azusa Street, though recent studies

now indicate prior, multiple, independent origins in Pyongyang and India (Allan H. Ander-

son, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity

[New York: Oxford University Press, 2013], 18–36). Henceforth, I shall refer to charismatics

under the broader descriptor of Pentecostalism, although where necessary, I distinguish the


4 Nils-Olov Nilsson, “The Debate on Women’s Ministry in the Swedish Pentecostal Movement:

Summary and Analysis,”Pneuma22, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 65.

5 Nilsson, “The Debate on Women’s Ministry,” 80.

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formed in 1914, one-third of its ministers and two-thirds of its missionaries were women. TheAGlater granted women full ordination rights in 1935, producing a higher proportion of women than other branches of Christianity, a trend that continues today.6

As early as the 1950s, in Malaysia and Singapore, female Pentecostals were actively establishing churches and evangelistic centers and healing people.7In some Asian AG bodies, women became the first pentecostal missionaries or played vital roles in forming their national assemblies.8Cho Yonggi’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, one of the largest megachurches in the world, is “remarkable in a male-dominated society like Korea in the number of women who have become pastors of the church … and most of the house group leaders … are women.”9Julie Ma writes: “This egalitarianism has freed the typically marginal- ized in the church; women were as active as men in early Pentecostal ministry and mission settings.”10

Less discussed is the attenuation of female empowerment in Pentecostal- ism; recent studies indicated limits in women’s ability to minister and lead.11 With rare exceptions, women in most pentecostal denominations (except the Foursquare Church) are excluded from top executive positions in North Amer- ica and also in Asia, where “it remains rare among Chinese churches.”12 South Korea’s AG constitution provided for women ordinations but “placed an un- usual number of restrictions on women, including requirements to be single or be a widow. It was not until recently that many of these restrictions were

6 7

8 9

10 11


Ma, “Asian Women,” 496–497.

Daryl R. Ireland, “Becoming Modern Women: Creating a New Female Identity through John Sung’s Evangelistic Teams,”Studies in World Christianity18, no. 3 (2012): 237–253. Ma, “Asian Women,” 12.

Allan H. Anderson, “Pentecostalism in East Asia: Indigenous Oriental Christianity?” Pneuma22, no. 1 (Spring, 2000): 127.

Ma, “Asian Women,” 10.

See Estrelda Alexander and Amos Yong, eds. Philip’s Daughters: Women in Pentecostal- Charismatic Leadership (Eugene: Pickwick, 2009); Elizabeth E. Brusco, “Gender and power,” in Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods, ed. Allan Anderson et al. (Berkeley,CA: University of California Press, 2010), 74–92; Cheryl Catford. “The Twenty- firstCenturyPentecostalWomanMinister:Change,ComplexityandChallenge,”PCBCJour- nal (2003), archived copy; Margaret English de Alminana and Lois E. Olena, eds.,Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry: Informing a Dialogue on Gender, Church and Min- istry(Boston: E.J. Brill, 2016). Except for Ma’s essay in Alexander and Yong’s volume, none discusses Asian women.

Joy K.C. Tong and Fenggang Yang, “The Femininity of Chinese Christianity: A Study of a Chinese Charismatic Church and Its Female Leadership,”Review of Religion and Chinese Society1, no. 2 (2014): 198.

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removed.”13Anthropologist RobertHefner thus concludes: “high ratesof female participation were no guarantee of congregational equality.”14

While Pentecostals have theologically debated whether women could be- comeleadersinthechurch,thisarticledoesnotaddressthatdiscussion.Rather, it examines insider pentecostal discourses and practices to see whether it truly empowers women to become leaders, especially in Southeast Asia. In this study, I examine how pentecostal empowerment among Malaysian-Singa- porean Chinese women is discussed and practiced. I also hope to fill a lacuna and complement other studies on pentecostal women in Africa, Bolivia, China, India and theUSA.

2 Researching Pentecostal Female (Dis)empowerment in


In his study of Brazilian Pentecostalism, Paul Freston observes that

Pentecostals rarely use the language of “empowerment,” but with great frequency use the terminology of “power.” Empowerment is from without, whereas power is from within[;] empowerment is through other human beings whereas power comes unmediated from “on high.” The latter is very effective for personal transformation but runs into evident limits for social transformation; with the former, the opposite is the case.15

In Asia, female Pentecostals are triply marginalized. As women, they must engage with hierarchical, male-oriented, Confucian culture. Second, they live as Christian minorities among a vast population of non-Christians. Third, Pen- tecostal groups were often considered heretical16 or encountered opprobrium from Christianity’s older branches.

13 14



Ma, “Asian Women,” 11.

Robert W. Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern: Gender, Piety, and Politics in the Global Pen- tecostal Surge,” in Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloom- ington,IN: Indiana University Press, 2013), 11.

Paul Freston, “The Future of Pentecostalism in Brazil:The Limits to Growth,” inGlobalPen- tecostalism in the 21st century, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013), 84–85.

Wonsuk Ma and Julie C. Ma, “Jesus Christ in Asia: Our Journey with Him as Pentecostal Believers,”International Review of Mission94, no. 375 (October 2005): 495, 504.

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Pentecostal-charismatics comprise about 206,000 in Malaysia and 150,000 in Singapore.17 This article examines some historical and sociological aspects of pentecostal-charismatic female power and leadership in Malaysia and Sin- gapore to examine the degree in which they are (dis)empowered for min- istry using a participant-observation methodology of three ethnically Chinese- majority churches in Malaysia-Singapore and in-depth interviewing of church and lay leaders. Twenty-six pentecostal-charismatic pastors and seasoned lay leaders (twenty-one men and five women) were interviewed in semi-structured fashion to elicit their views on Pentecostalism, the church, exercise of the charismata, and women in ministry. Additionally, participant-observation in the worship services of three churches (Full Gospel Tabernacle in Petaling Jaya, West Malaysia, Glory Christian Centre in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia, and Trinity Christian Church in Singapore) supplement the interviews to examine their actual practices.18 Additional information for each church was gleaned from their website, anniversary booklets, and pamphlets.

In this study, I examine two settings in which women exercise power and assume leadership: in the cell group and in the church.19 I also discuss spe- cific limitations that impinge upon them and then conclude with some final thoughts on the ecclesial status and study of women in Malaysia-Singaporean pentecostal-charismatic Christianity.




Terence Chong, “The State of Pentecostalism in Southeast Asia: Ethnicity, Class and Lead- ership,”ISEASPerspective53 (2015): 3.

Both FGT and GCC are independent charismatic megachurches. The former emerged in the 1970s charismatic movement, with leaders who split from the Brethren church (Weng Kit Cheong and Joy K.C. Tong, “The Localization of Charismatic Christianity among the Chinese in Malaysia: A Study of Full Gospel Tabernacle,” inGlobal Chinese Pentecostal and CharismaticChristianity, ed. FenggangYang, Joy K.C.Tong, and Allan H. Anderson (Boston: E.J. Brill, 2017), 314). However,GCCarose from the Anglican Church in 1994 (see “A Humble Beginning,”, on the other hand, is Pentecostal and affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Singapore. In spite of their different geographical locations, all three are predominately Chinese, middle to upper middle-class whose worship and preaching are in English (except for GCC, which runs a dual-language Chinese-English worship service). Among the twenty-six interviewed, twelve were from FGT, three from TCC, and one from GCC, while ten others hailed from other churches with close-hand knowledge or relationships with the previous three.The semi-structured interviews lasted between thirty to sixty minutes and centered around aspects of their church history, wor- ship practice, and member-leadership interactions. I visited both FGT and GCC on two separate occasions to observe their worship service but only once forTCC.

Due to space limitations, I shall not treat charismatic parachurch ministries such as Women’s Aglow. On this, see Georgie Lee and Galven Lee,Unfolding His Story: The Story of the Charismatic Movement in Singapore(Singapore: Genesis/FGBGatekeepers, 2015), 121– 122, 269–274.

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3 Cell Group Ministry and Women’s Leadership

The beginnings of the cell group (henceforthCG) in Malaysia-Singapore can be traced to 1982 when South Korean pastor Paul Cho Yonggi conducted a church growth seminar in Singapore.20 Particularly important was Cho’s guidance to Asian leaders on developinglayleadership, including women,andCGs tomain- tain and extend evangelism.21

CG development among pentecostal-charismatic churches was ground- breaking as it occurred amid a rapidly urbanizing society. People were dis- placed from older housing projects to the new in Singapore,22while mass rural- to-urban migrations in Kuala Lumpur created longings for home and stability.23 Pentecostal leaders who attended these CG seminars began initiating urban outreach24 using CGs as a key. CGs created a new in-between place where home was the church. Here, a new space for Christian spirituality took root amidst the urbanizing dislocations.25The theme of church as “home” resonated among people where the “weakening of these [kinship] obligations constitutes an instalment of individuation associated with mobility and the move to the city; and it is promoted by pastors who represent the church as the ‘spiritual family.’”26 Full Gospel Tabernacle (FGT), for example, describes itself as “the church you can call home.”

20 21

22 23 24



Lee and Lee,Unfolding His Story, 94, 170.

Barbara Watson Andaya, “Contexualizing the Global: Exploring the Roots of Pentecostal- ism in Malaysia and Indonesia” (paper presented at the symposium of Management and Marketing of Globalizing Asian Religions, August 11–14, 2009).

Lee and Lee,Unfolding His Story, 38–41.

Cheong and Tong, “The Localization of Charismatic Christianity,” 314–315.

TimothyT.N. Lim, “Pentecostalism in Singapore and Malaysia: Past, Present and Future,” in Global Renewal Christianity: Asia and Oceania Spirit-empowered movements: Past, Present, and Future, ed. Amos Yong and Vinson Synan (Lake Mary,FL: Charisma, 2016), 215. In the USA, pentecostal-charismatic female empowerment may be linked to the emer- gence of women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century when great social upheavals arising from industrialization, urbanization, andWorldWarIresulted in mass movements of people from previous localities into new workplaces, cities, and economies. This is also seen recently in Wenzhou, China, where “women search for charismatic power by embracing asceticism, supernaturalism, and emotional revivalism, which underlay the development of early Chinese Pentecostalism in the midst of social and political chaos” (Nanlai Cao, “Gender, Modernity, and Pentecostal Christianity in China,” in Global Pente- costalism in the 21st Century, ed. Robert W. Hefner [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013], 165).

Bernice Martin, “Tensions and Trends in Pentecostal Gender and Family Relations,” in Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013), 139.

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In Asia, the home is relevant for women because she “is boss in the domestic sphere while the man is boss in the business sphere. Home groups are therefore the natural province of women.”27 Female leadership in home CGs becomes possible because male pastors “need to recruit subjects who will be faithful to them [and] only those who faithfully heed the call of an event in this way are … subjects who work for change.”28

In Malaysia, churches such as FGT, Calvary Church (CC), and Full Gospel Assembly (FGA) trained many lay women to lead these groups, fostering a sense of egalitarian leadership and learning. Such training “provide[s] women invalu- able and otherwise unavailable social capital such as mentoring, skills develop- ment, and positive affirmation [enabling] women better to navigate life.”29

It was not uncommon during many mixed-gender home CG meetings to observe women praying, teaching, and leading. In many pentecostal congre- gations in thriving Asian cities “it is also common to find a husband-and-wife team in charge of a home group with a husband as the musician and the wife as the teacher.”30In such settings, many men have encountered female leader- ship for the first time. In FGT, roughly 30 percent of its CG leaders are women; a number of groups have mixed genders. Sometimes, conflicts with men hav- ing traditionalist notions of leadership arose. A female home cell leader com- mented that some

older males cannot accept it [because] in Chinese culture it’s the man who should … be the leader … of course we try to tell them that when we are Christians, we are equal [as] brothers or sisters … so normally how we resolve it is we change the cell leader or we transfer the person to a male cell leader[.] But I would say it’s a … very small percentage.31



29 30 31

William K. Kay, “Gifts of the Spirit: Reflections on Pentecostalism and Its Growth in Asia,” in Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism, ed. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 270. In Colombia, the “preeminence of the home as meeting places [constitutes] primary evidence that the movement has a feminine ethos” (Katherine Attanasi, “Constructing Gender within Global Pentecostalism: Contrasting Case Studies in Colombia and South Africa,” in Spirit and Power, ed. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory [New York: Oxford University Press, 2013], 244).

Joel Robbins, “Anthropology, Pentecostalism and the New Paul: Conversion, Event and Social Transformation,”South Atlantic Quarterly109, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 639.

Attanasi, “Constructing,” 246.

Kay, “Gifts,” 270.

Interview with Chan Sai Chok and Cheong Wai Ling, May 8, 2013.

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In most cases, once FGT’s leadership decided to appoint women as leaders, “it’s not a problem with the leadership … but more of the sheep. Sometimes the sheep being men are not able to accept [it].”32

Thus, even when male senior pastors affirm female leadership, it is not with- out controversy in Chinese churches that are generally theologically conserva- tive. Most, in fact, refused to accept women as pastors and leaders. According to a male leader, some have to counter the “upbringing from that [dissenter], work much harder … to gain respect among the males.”33 But when women leaders manifest the charismata, another level of power is introduced as its exercise signals divine authority and indicates that a leader now stands present among them.

4 The Spirit’s Gifting and Female Power

Pentecostal charismata that are often associated with Asian women are glos- solalia, healing, and prophecy.34Mrs. Ang Chui Lai,FGA’s senior female leader who converted to Christianity in the 1960s recalled her glossolalia experience:

[A]fter I asked the Lord to forgive me and cleanse me and fill me with the Holy Spirit … I said, “Lord, if this is not of you I don’t want it. But if this is of you, you have to show me with your Word.” So I was reading my bible and God spoke to me in Romans, “Serve the Lord in newness of spirit.” … After that, one day as I was praying the Lord just gave me the tongues, so I just prayed in tongues … after that there was no turning back.35

After this experience, she continues:

[The] Chinese people are reserved, like myself I was very reserved … But after being baptized in the Spirit, there was a release … I was so excited to tell others that I forgot all about my shyness … I started opening up [because] the Holy Spirit does something to you, that sets you free.36

32 33 34

35 36

Interview with Chan Sai Chok and Cheong Wai Ling, May 8, 2013.

Interview with Chan Sai Chok and Cheong Wai Ling, May 8, 2013.

Cao, “Gender, Modernity”; Rebecca Samuel Shah and Timothy Samuel Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas: Charismatic Christianity and Dalit Women in Twenty-first Century India,” in Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013), 194–222.

Interview on August 1, 2013.

Interview on August 1, 2013.

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Sonny Khoo, a Malaysian charismatic pastor for over forty years, remarked:

Chinese culture tends to be that the ladies are not so outspoken, tradition- ally in the background. When it comes to the church [it is] somewhat like a liberation for them. They have something to offer, they have something to say and feel that the church is a good place for them to exercise that.37

Glossolalia, prophecy, and healing also resonate with aspects of Asian female mediums and healers in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China. In some instances, pentecostal women act like female spirit mediums in traditional folk religions, practicing “divination practices for clients seeking guidance and immediate miraculous responses.”38 In Southeast Asia, “although men were usually favored as leaders, in many areas of the Malay-Indonesian archipelago women could also serve as intermediaries with the spirits.”39 In Korean Pente- costalism, it is consonant with shamanistic practices such as prophesying and mountain meditation. For women transitioning from their traditional Chinese religions into the new, they could find the following assonance in Pentecostal- ism:

Chinese traditional/folk religious practices

Pentecostal/charismatic church practices

Prepare food for the idols Prepare food for the communion Prepare flowers for ancestral altar Prepare flowers for communion table/stage Heal the sick (with mantras or potions) Heal the sick (with prayers or glossolalia) Act as a medium Act as a prophetess/interpret tongues

In Southeast Asia, women’s role in traditional religion was to prepare food offer- ings for the idols, buy flowers, clean the ancestral altar, and, if they were attuned to the mystical or spirit world, act as shamans, healers or mediums. Female identity is especially “conveyed in the place accorded to food”40when they pre- sideovereatingandsharingtogetherinahomeCGthatrecreatesthetraditional Chinese setting.

37 38 39 40

Interview on August 4, 2013.

Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 159.

Andaya, “Contextualizing the Global,” 10.

David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World, Their Parish(Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 102.

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In a home CG also, prayers are uttered for the sick and personal prophecies are conveyed to fellow members. Such “charismatic virtuosity … is the primary source of women’s spiritual power and a means through which they nudge toward the ‘modernization’ of de facto gender roles.”41 The pentecostal asso- nance with “primitive religions” or “indigenous spiritualities” is present but is contextualized for its own end, as pentecostal spirituality takes on the former religious practices and transforms them into a different set of logical and moral values.42Thus, what seem to be surface similarities are given new meanings in Pentecostalism.

Pentecostalism’s modernization of women’s traditional roles and responsi- bilities in this new Christian garb was facilitated by the large-scale urbanization of Malaysian-SingaporeanChinesesociety;manyof theirtiestotraditionalChi- nese rituals and responsibilities loosened as they migrated to the city or lived in places where traditional social pressures or local dialects linked to tradi- tional religions become decoupled in the urbanizing process.43 For example, as women became inconveniently distanced from their ancestors’ graves and thus from obligations to pray and to offer food to them, this decreased their socio-religious obligations to perpetuate it. In this way, urbanization created “the loosening of social bonds [that] may lead to the shapeless anomie [and] the collapse of old ways prompts a hopeful search for new religious fellowship and inspirited techniques for subjective reformation.”44It is “under these … cir- cumstances of heightened insecurity, growing detraditionalization, forced or self-initiated migration, and an explosion of new aspirational imaginaries that the peculiar organizational characteristic of popular Pentecostalism achieve additional resonance.”45 In this way, women also “recognised that, for them- selves at least, conversion to Christianity was a transfer of allegiance, not the abandonment of popular feminine spirituality.”46

4.1 Prophecy

Pentecostalism has seen powerful female prophets visiting Asia, such as Duan Yee (in the 1950s), Kathryn Kuhlman (1970s), and Cindy Jacobs (2000–present).

41 42


44 45 46

Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 131.

Joel Robbins, “The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,” Annual Review of Anthropology33 (2004): 128.

Cheong and Tong, “The Localization of Charismatic Christianity,” 318–319; Lee and Lee, Unfolding His Story, 40.

Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern,” 6–7.

Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern,” 7.

Ireland, “Becoming Modern Women,” 243.

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Impetus toward the acceptance of women leading ministries of prayer, wor- ship, healing, or speaking could draw from their examples. Duan Yee’s pow- erful revival ministries, for example, converted many men and women—one convert later established the charismatic Church of Singapore.47 Kuhlman’s ministries of prayer and healing in Malaysia-Singapore were so powerful that they opened up non-Pentecostals (including men) toward the charismata and demonstrated that God could use women to minister to everyone.

Indeed, the charismata’s reception “not only symbolizes union with divine forces, but also represents attainment of supernatural power to solve pressing problems such as sorcery, illness, unemployment, etc. This sense of personal power is expressed in Pentecostals’ claims of having better control over every aspect of their lives since experiencing spirit baptism.”48

Take prophecy for example, where pentecostal women have influenced men into major life-changing decisions.49Prophecy was significant for women dur- ing Malaysia-Singapore’s drive toward a new urbanized, modern workforce; prophecy (that is, the type that foretold events through a direct “personal word” to hearers) captured many listeners wanting assurance and divine guid- ance for their future. Martin concludes, “women are major carriers of the charismaticelements of the movement,”particularlythroughthecharismata.50 These charismata create “the aesthetic of the movement as well as the ritual healing of individuals and families.”51 Even though none of the five women I interviewed prophesied, Ng Soo Lan,FGT’s first female lead pastor, spoke about a dream she received. Upon consulting with “one lady [possessing] the gift of prophecy,”52 this confirmed God’s calling to the FGT leadership for her to become a pastor.

Although prophecy is “undisputedly a factor in the revitalization of the pentecostal movement, it has also undeniably proved to be one of the more problematic charisms.”53 What then, is “to be done about the person who

47 48


50 51 52 53

Lee and Lee,Unfolding His Story, 28–30.

Susan Ackerman, “The Language of Religious Innovation: Spirit Possession and Exorcism in a Malaysian Catholic Pentecostal Movement,” Journal of Anthropological Research 37, no. 1 (Spring 1981): 83.

Margaret Poloma, “Mysticism and Identity Formation in Social Context: The Case of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement” (paper presented at the Seventh International Congress of Professors World Peace Academy, Washington,DC, November 24–29, 1997). Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 131.

Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 131.

Interview on October 1, 2013.

Margaret Poloma, “The Millenarianism of the Pentecostal Movement,” in Christian Mil-

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disrupts religious drama and institutions in the name of being a spokesperson for the divine?”54In reality,

the difficulty of resolving [genuine oracles from false ones] has led to silencing many would-be-prophets and to creating a wariness about prophetic manifestations. Many Pentecostal groups have taken ade facto cessationist position that relegates prophecy to a pastor’s Sunday ser- mon.55

In some churches, “to surmount formal prohibitions against women proph- esying, their activities are labeled ‘gifts’ rather than ‘ministries.’”56 During my research visits of three pentecostal-charismatic churches, I did not observe these charismata during the service. A senior FGT lay female member later informed me that they still occurred, but “typically [in] some kind of a cor- porate gathering [when] it’s somebody that is a foreign speaker or a foreign team that comes.”57 However, the practice of prophecy is significant enough that female pentecostal leaders today still exercise it in their weekly church prayer meetings.

4.2 Worship and Prayer

Pentecostalism has stressed worship and prayer as salient aspects of ecclesial life to the extent of innovating such terms asprayer warriorandworship leader. Because less theological and historical controversy surrounds women in these positions, “democratization comes in the area of many aspects of church min- istry where Spirit-bestowed gifts can be exercised without the official sanction of having an office.”58Indeed, the prominence that charismatic churches place on prayer and worship is such that (female) worship leaders sometimes over- shadowed pastors.59

Worship songs, especially a “song from the Lord,” denoting a spiritually spon- taneous expression of a new melody from a person’s Spirit-filled heart, con- centrate on “the divine revelation and graceful life, function to express both

54 55 56 57 58 59

lenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco, ed. Stephen Hunt (Bloomsbury, UK: C. Hurst and Co., 2001), 176.

Poloma, “The Millenarianism of the Pentecostal Movement,” 177.

Poloma, “The Millenarianism of the Pentecostal Movement,” 178.

Martin, Pentecostalism, 104.

Name withheld. Interview on May 6, 2013.

Ma, “Asian Women,” 10.

For example, Darlene Zschech of Hillsongs Church.

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personalfeelingsandcollectiveemotion.”60Sometimes,thispracticehasa“pat- tern of enthusiastic worship, relatively unscripted and egalitarian in offering the floor to all those whom the Spirit calls.”61Here, “charismatic faith challenges maledominanceandtheauthoritativeandsuppressiveaspectof Confucianism and Christian fundamentalism” by endorsing “feminine characteristics such as being passionate, emotional expressiveness, and authenticity.”62In India, “a woman’s receptivity to the gifts of the Spirit is regarded as impressive because she is able to worship in a unique way.”63However, overemphasizing this aspect of women’s prowess constructs “local gender ideologies which emphasize the ‘emotionality’ of women and the ‘rationality’ of men [which] greatly compro- mise the egalitarian impact” of Pentecostalism.64Conversely, when pentecostal churches become institutionalized with more structured orders of worship, it lessens opportunities for women to lead and use these gifts.

Another acceptable ministry for women to lead is prayer. When they pray and speak in tongues, “this form of ecstatic prayer embodies female believer’s affectionate piety and constitutes a Pentecostal habit that is common in other parts of the world.”65 A senior lay FGT leader believed that women are sensi- tized toward prayer because “when praying for people to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, women [are] more intuitive in this area … I mean it’s harder to pray for men, and I’ve prayed for both.”66

In reality, women may express pride or frustration in being called a “prayer warrior.” Even though some women agree that “prayer is the most powerful


61 62 63 64

65 66

Yi Liu, “Pentecostal-style Christians in the ‘Galilee of China,’”Review of Religion and Chi- nese Society1 (2014): 169.

Robbins, “The Globalization of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity,” 120. Tong and Yang, “The Femininity of Chinese Christianity,” 210.

Shah and Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas,” 207.

Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern,” 12. See also Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 153 and Freston, “The Future of Pentecostalism in Brazil,” 66. In China, this “feminization of spiritual prac- tices” allows male, Confucian-style, pentecostal pastors to “focus on the role of religious literati and teach canonical texts to congregants [but] assign the ‘undesirable’ task of con- ducting spiritual practices to female partners” (Ke-hsien Huang, “Taming the Spirit by Appropriating Indigenous Culture: An Ethnographic Study of the True Jesus Church as Confucian-style Pentecostalism,” inGlobal Chinese Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian- ity, ed. Fenggang Yang et al. [Boston: E.J. Brill, 2017], 133). Thus, as their leaders do this, it helps them “tame the activity of the Spirit among the laity [and] construct a more sta- ble, unchallenged order within their communities” in the sense of power, legitimacy, and hierarchy (134). However, see Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 156–158, on the “affectionate piety” that infuses pentecostal women’s spiritual practices in the church.

Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 156.

Interview with Timothy Wong, May 5, 2013.

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tool[,] telling women to pray is like relegating them to the backseat” while men take the front.67

Overall, when the emphasis is on gifts, not the office, pentecostal women often flourish well. Long before evangelical churches adopted such labels, “prayer leader,” “prayer warrior,” and “worship leader” were modern role de- scriptions used by charismatics. In comparison, “bishop,” “pastor,” “elder,” and “deacon” were all biblical terms and titles with long historical, theological, and institutional meanings that reinforced male leadership. When women with gifts for preaching (such as testifying or speaking), evangelizing, healing, or praying resulted in changed lives, their power to lead, speak, and act authorita- tivelyovermen could not be denied.We now examine two other ministries that evidence another aspect of female presence and power: sharing testimonies and witnessing.

4.3 Testimonies, Witnessing and Preaching

When Pentecostals practice “testimony,” it encourages people to freely “for- mulate their personal theological interpretation of daily experiences, but also to take an active part in constructing a wider Pentecostal theology” to the church.68 In pentecostal-charismatic churches, it is common to hear many females, young and old, share their testimonies on stage. By doing so, females thus “articulate their faith and demonstrate the authenticity of their … experi- ence through oral testimonies.”69

While testimony is commonly used toencourage members, witnessing is for unbelievers. In the 1980s, it was not uncommon for the church to train women to memorize Scripture for evangelism. As “women memorized … and explained the Bible to their non-Christian neighbors [the] confidence borne of literacy, leadership and participation” grew.70 Scripture memory, along with the prac- tice of praying, bible-reading, and teaching in Sunday schools all “encourage verbal competence, an ability to argue, and the development of fundamen- tal skills necessary for full-fledged involvement in the participatory politics of modern societies.”71 This provides “access to ‘knowledge’ and the authority to participate in leadership and worship.”72 Also, by “organising evangelistic


68 69 70 71 72

Susan D. Rose, “Women Warriors: The Negotiation of Gender in a Charismatic Commu- nity,”Sociological Analysis48, no. 3 (1987): 250.

Ma, “Asian Women,” 10–11.

Shah and Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas,” 210.

Shah and Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas,” 209.

Shah and Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas,” 210.

Shah and Shah, “Pentecost amid Pujas,” 210.

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teams, women, who had for centuries been identified almost exclusively as daughter, wife or mother, were now also recognised for their modern role func- tions to which they were elected: team leader, secretary and treasurer.”73

This tangible link between leadership, confidence, competence and witness- ing is echoed by FGT’s senior pastor, Eu Hong Seng: “because of our beliefs in the things of the Spirit … our passion about soul-winning … I think it has made a difference [and] we’re just liberating the women to serve.”

However, when it came to preaching, it is mainly “carried out … by males, and the activity of the Spirit (prophecy, healing) mainly by women[.] Women preach but do not call it preaching.”74As Pentecostalism also increasingly pro- fessionalizes the training of its members in Bible schools, text-based learning (such as Bible exegesis, learning Hebrew and Greek) that require prolonged periods of focused study tends to exclude women from its ranks. Conversely, healing, prophesying, singing, or praying do not require intense and long-term commitments in a seminary but can be expressed in a “divine moment” or “leading of the Spirit.” If Malaysian-Singaporean Pentecostals are not mindful of this, they risk gendering the charismata where men “tend to engage in ratio- nal, textual, and mental forms of religiosity, while women are believed to be emotional, ritualistic, and bodily in religious practice.”75

5 Female Ministries and Leadership in the Church

At the risk of oversimplification, there appear to be five paths as to how women may be recognized and elevated to become leaders in Southeast Asian Pente- costalism. The first two are the Spirit-gifted path and the prophecy or dream (seen in the earlier sections). The third is the apostolic/inheritance process, via women who are apostolic founding figures or rise through an inherited leadership mantle. The fourth is the hybrid male-female leadership model and the fifth is the cultural/talent affirmation avenue. I shall discuss the last three here.

73 74


Ireland, “Becoming Modern Women,” 244.

Martin, Pentecostalism, 104. During John Sung’s ministry in Malaysia-Singapore in the 1950s, when women proclaimed the gospel, they “frequently reported it as ‘lecturing,’ though sometimes the word ‘preaching’ slipped into their vocabulary” (Ireland, “Becom- ing Modern Women,” 246). However, “the act of a woman preaching any sermon under- mined all domestic values” (247).

Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 155.

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5.1 The Apostolic/Inheritance Process

FGT, Trinity Christian Church (TCC), and FGA all have females who became leaders or pastors. TCC’s longest-serving pastor was Naomi Dowdy, who is described as an apostle—a rare pentecostal title of high status. Originally a missionary, Dowdy “yielded to [God’s] will” to pastor in 1976, succeeding a prior Western missionary couple that ledTCC.76It was under her leadership that “the congregation, then over 250 in number [by] 2005 … had grown to … about 4,000 in attendance.”77Under her helm,TCCbirthedTCACollege, which currently has four pentecostal-charismatic female faculty.78Her long tenure as senior pastor has also influenced many under her leadership so that a current male pastor stated: “I’ve grown up with women leadership most of my life … so I’ve never been resistant … towards women leadership.”79Another maleTCCpastor com- mented: “I come from a church where our senior pastor … was a woman so … the doors are open [for women].”80 However, “there aren’t that many women senior pastors [as] some of the reasons may not be a lack of opportunity [but] because women are mothers and a lot of them feel that they are not able to give that much time outside of the family.”81 In this manner, the influence of Dowdy’s presence and capable leadership opened up the cultural/talent affir- mation avenue (which I shall later discuss). At present, Dominic Yeo has now assumed Dowdy’s perch as senior pastor.

5.2 The Hybrid Male-Female Leadership Model

This may take two forms. The first is where the husband and wife are both pas- tors serving together in ministry. Such examples include Paul and Christina Ang of Malaysia and Kong Hee and Sun Ho from City Harvest Church, Sin- gapore. In FGT, Yapp Gaik Sim pastors with respect to her spouse, Eu Hong Seng, who is a senior pastor, while Cheng Yoke Poh (whose spouse recently retired as pastor) leadsFGTKuala Lumpur. InFGA, Mrs. Ang formerly occupied a pastoral leadership role with her husband, Ang Chui Lai, until she stepped down in the previous decade. In such cases, “women are head pastors in only a minority of Pentecostal churches, and female status usually derives from pres- tigious male partners.”82 Another form is when the senior pastor/leadership

76 77 78 79 80 81 82

“Our Story: Our Heritage,”‑Story/our‑heritage/. “Our Story: Our Heritage.”

One of the pentecostal faculty is the academic dean of the Chinese department. Interview with Joseph Tan, April 29, 2013.

Interview with Dennis Lum, April 29, 2013.

Interview with Dennis Lum, April 29, 2013.

Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 57. See also Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth, 129. Inter-

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authorizes females to be church-planting pastors (or as sub-pastors within a megachurch), such as Ng Soo Lan inFGTSubang Jaya, Devlin Yong inFGTKota Kinabalu, or Chin Fui Yun in Glory Christian Centre Kota Kinabalu. In these cases, women can lead without spousal sanction. However, when men fail to lead, aFGTfemale lay leader observed that thirty years ago,

the leadership positions [and] how the church is being run … was a little bit patriarchal but over time … less men … were willing to serve, women had no choice but to actually step up into positions where men were not willing [and] the women didn’t seem to see this as a problem. So as a result … the bulk of the work [is] actually done by the women.83

AnAGmale pastor similarly comments: “A woman in leadership [occurs] often when there are no male ministers who want to take the leadership … But if there is a male who is willing to take the leadership, I think many a times the female counterpart will tend to be willing to step backward, although we do ordain woman in ministry.”84An ex-FGTmale pastor observes:

[It] does not mean that there is no room for [female] leadership[.] It’s just that, at the end of the day, the buck must stop with the male, because that’s the biblical pattern as far as I can see … that’s why you will find charismatic churchesallowingwomen pastors[and] teachers[.]Thereare some who appoint female elders. I think for me personally I would have a bit of trouble with that, unless it is … over the women’s ministry … then that’s fine.85

At present, Malaysia’s AG has at least two female pastors—one in Penang and another in Petaling Jaya.86 Commenting on the scarcity of women pastors, a leader remarked that if the church has two equally capable leaders, “one male and female, they will rather choose the male to be the senior pastor.”87A senior AGleader mused,

83 84 85 86


estingly, “in West Africa, there are many examples of the ‘Big Woman’ in the pastorate complementing the ‘Big Man’” (Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 57).

Interview with Lim Fang Say, May 6, 2013.

Interview with Dennis Lum, April 29, 2013.

Interview with Clarence Chan, August 2, 2013.

Another female head is Lim Siew Pik, who serves as president of Alpha and Omega Inter- national College in Petaling Jaya and also pastors anAGchurch.

Interview with Andrew Lim, June 22, 2013.

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Would I ever see … in my time, a lady general-superintendent? I think, honestly, I would say ‘no’ [as] we are pushing the boundaries to a certain extent. So there is still that basic conservatism.88

In Singapore, Lily Lim was more optimistic, stating that “perhaps the next gen- eration we will see more Chinese women in leadership[.] They could be … pastoring a Chinese ministry, but not necessarily [as] the main pastor of the church.”89

According to Steven Kum, associate pastor in Calvary Church, Malaysia’s largest AG congregation, the male headship/leadership principle may be ex- plained through the metaphor of an Asian family:

[B]ecause [the church] was a patriarchal leadership, it was very easy for us to understand the kind of respect that is called for, and the structure of interaction. So … the church [is] like an extended family. I suppose it was because we had an Asian pastor … with traditional Asian family type values, and … the understanding [that] family relationships and interper- sonal relationships espoused in the bible were practically the same kind of relationships … we ought to have in a Chinese family.

Even in America, Chinese Pentecostals embrace a “view of gender that expects women to subordinate themselves to men, and wives to submit totally to their husbands.”90 Thus, the women themselves “vigorously [stress] the leadership role of men in the church, maintaining that men should serve and women sub- mit. Although [she] accepts women into ministry, she does not purposely ele- vate women to top leadership positions.”91 In Asia, these women’s “deep sense of personal achievement and a more empowered, reconstituted self-identity”92 results from an “impulse toward emancipation from the family as a vision for a better domestic and marital life”93 (italics mine). Catford concludes that many “women primarily view their activities as exceptional and in response to a call from God rather than in feminist terms of gender equality. Thus these women are able to accept submission to male authority in the home and restriction

88 89 90 91 92


Interview with Ng Kok Kee, May 2, 2013.

Interview on April 29, 2013.

Tong and Yang,The Femininity of Chinese Christianity, 207.

Tong and Yang,The Femininity of Chinese Christianity, 207.

Kelly H. Chong, Deliverance and Submission: Evangelical Women and the Negotiation of Patriarchy in South Korea(Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008), 134. Chong, Deliverance and Submission, 75, 129.

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from church governance.”94This “gender paradox is most evident in the devel- oping world where traditional male dominance and patriarchy are found.”95

These situations uphold the ecclesiological (and familial) ideal of male headship but sociologically, it is “practical egalitarianism.”96This is quite simi- lar to Jamaican Pentecostalism: “though a man is formally ‘the head’ the woman is defined as the neck, and she may preach, pray, and testify as well as exer- cising leadership on informal occasions.”97 Through the head-neck metaphor, men “see the religious community as the place where they receive traditional respect and, moreover, can absorb without discomfort the feminized subtex- tual images of Pentecostal discourse.”98 When women are called to lead, the main criterion is “F-A-S-T: faithful, available, submissive and teachable.”99 We should note that the criterion of submission here is an add-on variation to the more common F.A.T (faithful, available, teachable) acronym that is used when training male leaders.

In this way, Malaysian-Singaporean Pentecostalism attenuates female power within a family logic situated vis-à-vis the hierarchy of Confucianism. It extends the Asian family metaphor by elevating female headship in the church leader- ship and in the family resulting from a de facto absentee male. However, Sonny Khoo paradoxically remarks: “Have you seen Chinese women [who don’t] dare do things? … I don’t think Chinese women are going to sit down and be so sub- servient … That’s the Western stereotype as far as I’m concerned … But there is also a misconception that Pentecostalism means free for all. It doesn’t. It means you’re freed to worship, you’re not free from social norms.”100

5.3 The Cultural/Talent Affirmation Avenue

A male faculty member who teaches at the AG’s flagship Bible College of Malaysia (BCM) shared that in their early days “it took about twenty-five years before we first ordained a woman … in the 70s … because of the social pressure … where is a shift in emphasis on equal sexuality … with the West ordaining woman.”101This shift occurred when Malaysia and Singapore rapidly urbanized

94 95 96

97 98 99 100 101

Catford, “The Twenty-first Century Pentecostal Woman Minister,” 5.

Martin, cited by Catford, “The Twenty-first Century Pentecostal Woman Minister,” 5. Sally K. Gallagher and Christian Smith, “Symbolic Traditionalism and Pragmatic Egalitar- ianism: Contemporary Evangelicals, Families and Gender,” Gender and Society 13, no. 2 (April 1999), 231.

Martin, Pentecostalism, 102.

Martin, Pentecostalism, 105.

Interview with anAGpastor. Name withheld.

Interview on August 4, 2013.

Interview with Lim Yue Chuen, June 22, 2013.

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in the 1970s–1980s and opened new employment spaces to women in the city. Consequently, more men began interacting with women and saw their talents first-hand outside the home. Simultaneously, the globalization of TVprogram- ming streamed to Asians images of strong and independent Western women such as the Bionic Woman, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Charlie’s Angels, and Cheers.

However, up to the early 1980s, most Asian middle-class women were still not expected to work outside the family sphere. Eventually, broader sociocul- tural changes influenced many traditionalists to accept females in leadership positions.

I think, globalization, modernization [introduced] women coming out to work … and because of education … women [are] capable [and] would naturally be promoted for the sake of the company’s progress[.] So, some of these factors socially would also contribute to the church … allowing women to rise up to leadership position.102

One of them, Lily Lim, remarked, “[P]erhaps I’m also longer inTCA, so I don’t … feel any lack [like] someone who’s just new and com[ing] in … I’m comfortable because … I grew up in [TCC] so this is like a second home … for me and the male colleagues here … we get along.”103AnotherAGleader commented:

[T]hose from Gen X onwards … do not hold that strongly to a patriarchal worldview … I mean … my mum worked … so there are many women … already in the workplace … holding positions of leadership, I think it is not frowned upon within this particular group.104

At Glory Christian Centre (the largest English/Chinese-speaking charismatic church in East Malaysia), senior pastor William Vun shared:

Generally, it’s true [that] Chinese culture is patriarchal, very Confucius- based, but … now not that much … [T]he younger generation now, those thirty and under … are not that patriarchal nowadays, even among the Chinese-educated. In the church … the same culture has come [in]. It’s good to have a man to take the lead, on the other hand, today it’s accept- able to have a female take the lead. Maybe if you’re talking about thirty,

102 103 104

Interview with Joseph Tan, April 29, 2013. Interview on April 29, 2013.

Interview with Dennis Lum, April 29, 2013.

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forty years ago, it’s more difficult, but partly because the change of the society, that also helps [it] to be a better platform for the charismatic to take off.105

This affirmation of GCC is evident in Vun’s staff: five out of seven pastors are women. Notable exceptions are the Church of Singapore and Church of Penang. Though the Church of Singapore and Penang are charismatic and were originally birthed from Duan Yee’s revivals in the 1950s, female leadership is absent there. One explanation may be that their male leadership presence reflected an institutional correction to Duan Yee’s ministry excesses, when she “alienated [many] by her insistence that [her church] presented the only truth, and by her extreme practices.”106 Ng Kok Kee, a former president of BCM, con- cludes:

[O]ccasionally we will still hear rumblings within the local church, “Can our senior pastor be a woman?” There [is] still some resistance. But again, people look at success. [So] … it opens the space for women’s involvement in ministry and in leadership.107

Even so, Sonny Khoo observed that in many pentecostal-charismatic churches, women “don’t sit in the leadership committee, they don’t hold titles as elders [but] at the highest maybe deaconess [as] certain ceilings are still set.”108

6 Conclusion

According to Robert Hefner, Pentecostalism is an ideal religion that grows dur- ing “urbanization and cultural dislocation [that] weakened the hold of once- secure elites on political, economic, and religious affairs.”109 In Malaysia and Singapore’s 1970–1980s context, Pentecostalism prospered on such soil.

This article has examined how Pentecostalism empowers women with many charismata via key transition rituals from the traditional rural-based Chinese religions into a modern, urban spiritual identity by motivating female partici- pation and by creating new categories of social acceptance within Christianity.

105 106 107 108 109

Interview on August 15, 2013. Andaya, “Contextualizing the Global.” Interview on May 2, 2013.

Interview on August 4, 2013. Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern,” 6–7.

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However, these experiences do not necessarily equate to greater leadership power or ecclesial authority. Rather, the attenuation of Asian female leader- ship occurs within the framework of a traditional Confucian male leadership culture. In this context, the emphasis on

the openness of the Spirit to all believers carries an egalitarian logic that is partly contradicted by the claim of pastors to special authority. One con- sequence is the Pentecostal … ease with which the principle of hierarchy, including gendered differences of authority, reasserts itself when the sur- rounding culture is authoritarian and hierarchical.110

Consequently, the so-called freedom of the Spirit and the empowerment of Chinese pentecostal women are circumscribed. On the surface they seem pow- erful but underneath, Asian norms of patriarchalism and assonance to tra- dition religious leadership roles “[tend] to support men’s monopoly on for- mal institutional positions and women’s autonomy and equality in ritualistic and mythical contexts.”111 Ironically, while Pentecostalism has challenged reli- gious monopolies around the world, gender monopolies have mostly resisted change.112David Martin concludes:

Pentecostalism is and must be ambiguous, as are all concrete social move- ments with a real potential for change. They must straddle to move, and they are, therefore, misunderstood and misestimated by those who tick off movements according to a check-list of progressive traits.113

A major implication here is that future assessments of Pentecostalism’s trans- formations on women (or any group) must account for their actual discursive andlivedrealities,ratherthanforegroundingapoint basedon auniversal/theo- logical ideal or a surface treatment of their prominence in Christian leadership structures. In addition, it is “unwise to use early North American Pentecostal- ism, or indeed any era of the movement, as a prototype for ‘true Pentecostal- ism.’”114Notwithstanding this, we should not allow an overoccupation with the

110 111 112

113 114

Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 118.

Cao, “Gender, Modernity,” 155.

John C. Green, “Pentecostal Growth and Impact in Latin America, Africa and Asia: Find- ings from a Ten-country Survey,” in Spirit and Power, ed. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sar- geant, and Richard Flory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 354.

Martin, Pentecostalism, 103.

Catford, “The Twenty-first Century Pentecostal Woman Minister,” 3.

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“scarcity of women in official leadership” to underemphasize the “self-created roles [or] ‘domestic’ work of women in the church.”115

Finally, lest we forget, Pentecostalism has possessed greater theological openness and ecclesial flexibility that allowed female empowerment to be sus- tained longer and deeper than other branches of Christianity. It also has “a more diverse array of ritual roles than Catholic or mainline Protestant services, and women are especially active in prophecy, healing, and Bible study, even if the roles of pastoring and preaching remain disproportionately male.”116 If female gains in already existing ministries can be built upon, the freedom of the Spirit to move in ever greater ways still remains.


I wish to acknowledge and thank Fenggang Yang and the Purdue Center for Study on Chinese Societies for a grant that made this research possible, Joy Tong for her insightful review and comments on the draft of this article, and Janice Chin for her assistance in transcribing the many interviews.

115 116

Martin, “Tensions and Trends,” 130. Hefner, “The Unexpected Modern,” 11.

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1 Comment

  • Reply May 11, 2023


    I hope that the services rendered by the brotherhood are at decreasing level. As such, God has raised the empowerment of sisterhood.

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