Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Women and the Church

By on September 3, 2013

“Your Daughters Shall Prophesy (As Long as They Submit): Pentecostalism and Gender in Global Perspective.” With Andrea Hollingsworth. In The Liberating Spirit: Pentecostals and Social Action in North America, ed. Michael Wilkinson and Steven M. Studebaker. McMaster Divinity College Press; Pickwick, 2011.


Pentecostalism has the paradoxical quality of being at once limiting and liberating for women in their ongoing struggle for equality and empowerment. In this essay we suggest that where Pentecostalism is limiting, the influences of European cultural, theological, and ecclesiastical traditions are largely at work, but where it is liberating the ingenuity and courage of Spirit-filled women and men is present, creating a Spirit-space where all are included. In this Spirit-space, noncritical, noncontextual biblical readings are replaced with a hermeneutic of liberation that prioritizes the “Spirit poured out on all flesh” and new voices emerge to read and interpret the text. We suggest that attention to text and voice (interpretation and proclamation) are two ways in which Pentecostal women have mined resources within the tradition and therefore provide an apt starting point for a retrieval of neglected themes in Pentecostalism that can empower women and strengthen the church. Working toward increased equality and agency in the lives of Pentecostal women in all parts of the world will involve challenging dualistic ontologies and literalistic Bible readings and championing creative uses of resources within the Pentecostal tradition.