Without Regard to Gender?

God Forgive Us for Being Women: Rhetoric, Theology and the Pentecostal Tradition

Joy E. A. Qualls

Pickwick Publications, Wipf and Stock.

Pages: 240.

978-1532602047 • Hardback • May 2018

978-1532602023 • ebook • June 2018

Dr. Joy E. A. Qualls’ book, God Forgive Us For Being Women conveys a fresh perspective on the discourse of women’s roles within Pentecostal ranks of the Assemblies of God. Known for fundamentally believing in Acts 2 as the foundation for ministry, Pentecostals were long considered as forerunners for using women in all church leadership roles. Led by the scriptural fulfillment, “your sons and daughters will prophesy,”[1] traditional Pentecostals have long boasted of an egalitarian theology. The unique doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit stemming from the day of Pentecost signified Jesus’ empowerment for all to accomplish ministry – without regard to gender. Yet, for all their theology, there is dissonance within the practice. Women’s presence in key leadership roles within one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States remains disproportionate.[2] Qualls scrupulously retraces the cause of this incongruity by unearthing the rhetorical history and repeated discourses concerning women’s roles from the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement to more recent times.

Using the fiery example of Mae Eleanore Frey, who stood unwaveringly in the face of obstacles as a pastor and evangelist until her death at the age of 89, Qualls reveals, a contrasting side of Pentecostalism. Qualls uses Frey’s letters to Assemblies of God General Secretary, J. R. Evans to demonstrate the tensions existing within this movement. After one General Council in particular, Frey stated,

After one session, Frey states, “At this last Council I felt like a criminal as they brought up

this foolish woman question again . . . One felt like asking God to forgive us for being

women. There is nothing in the word of God that forbids a woman from preaching the

Gospel or conducting a full work. What Frey may or may not have known then is that her

struggle goes beyond her movement and speaks to a stained glass ceiling that confronted

her sisters before her and continues to confront her daughters after her.[3]

Qualls, a rhetorical scholar and fourth generation Pentecostal, seamlessly connects history, theology, and rhetoric together.[4] She accomplishes this using rhetorical history as the lens by which to re-evaluate the co-existing tensions between Pentecostal faith and praxis. Throughout her book, she focuses on the grit and stamina of women consistently rising above obstacles to “maintain a rhetorical space in spite of the dissonance.”[5]

Though written with the Pentecostal denomination of the Assemblies of God in mind, her work is a call to action for Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals alike. From an in-depth examination of “Pentecostal rhetorical invention and the female voice,” to “overcoming rhetorical circumstance” by reclaiming what it means to be Pentecostal, she addresses conflict with tenacity. Her scholarly work confronts obstacles all women called to leadership encounter: overcoming rhetorical walls limiting women to strict gender roles. She asserts it takes going beyond feminism to bring about change. Women taking up the charge of leadership in spite of barriers reframes religious identity and consummates any disconnect between belief and praxis. Instead seeing women lead in the church “reconceptualizes how we approach the work of the church in our culture and quietly subverts centuries of religious identity and ideology.”[6] Qualls’ book is a powerful work that is prophetic in its impact and wide ranging in its call to see more women leading churches.

Dr. Deborah Fulthorp, DMin

Adjunct Professor SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary

Adjunct Professor Northpoint Bible College

[1] The Apostle Peter quotes Acts 2:17-18 as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28ff. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

[2] Joy E. A. Qualls, God Forgive Us for Being Women: Rhetoric, Theology, and The Pentecostal Tradition, (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2018), 193, Kindle.

[3] Ibid., 191, Kindle.

[4] The Network of Women Ministers, “Resource Spotlight: God Forgive Us for Being Women,” Facebook, January 26, 2019, The Network of Women Ministers, https://www.facebook.com/agwomenministers/photos/a.551019151621883/2169367109787071/?type=3&theater.

[5] Qualls, 573, Kindle.

[6] Ibid., 213, Kindle.