One Day Conference – Women in the Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions

Priscilla Pope-Levison

Since 2009, Tyndale Seminary has gathered scholars, students, and church leaders for an annual Wesley Studies Symposium.  The symposium exists to highlight and foster scholarly work on the Wesleyan tradition, as well as research on related topics undertaken by Wesleyans, with a particular focus on Canadian contributions. Our presenters have included senior scholars, emerging scholars, pastors, and students.  

This year, we are following up our joint Wesleyan-Pentecostal Symposium from 2016 and hosting another partner event with Master’s Pentecostal Seminary. Information is posted below – register by April 8 to receive the early-bird discount for in-person attendance.

Sisters of the Spirit
Women in the Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions

April 26, 2022, Tyndale University (in person and online)

Co-sponsored by Tyndale Seminary and Master’s Pentecostal Seminary

Keynote Speakers:
Priscilla Pope-Levison (Southern Methodist University)
Linda Ambrose (Laurentian University)

Linda Ambrose

The Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions have been on the forefront in empowering women to serve in church leadership. John Wesley’s tentative recognition of women preachers and the extraordinary example of early Methodist women such as Mary Bosanquet and Mary Barritt Taft laid the groundwork for the seminal ministries of women such as Phoebe Palmer, Amanda Berry Smith, Catherine Booth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, and Aimee Semple MacPherson. And yet, women have still struggled, in various ways, to overcome patriarchal structures and assumptions within the Holiness-Pentecostal family.

This conference will explore the contributions and experiences of women in the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. We invite submissions for 30-minute papers that will address the topic from a variety of academic disciplines, and we would particularly welcome any exploration of the connections between the two traditions.

Registration cost:
In-person Early Bird (by April 8): $50
In-person (after April 8): $65
Student in-person (with lunch): $15
Student in-person (no meal): $0
Online registration: $25
Online Student registration: $0

Pandemic Preaching

It’s been a while since I added sermon audio to this site. It’s not that I stopped preaching, but our congregation used prerecorded services for the first fifteen months of the pandemic, and I never got used to preaching to a camera. It was necessary for a season, and moving to prerecorded services was the least worst option we had…but preaching in an empty room at home on a Thursday morning just wasn’t the same.

I am sure there are lots of reasons why I struggled with video preaching, but the lack of connection to the congregation was a major inhibition. Preaching is a living proclamation of God’s Word to God’s people; it is compromised, to a certain extent, when the preacher and congregation are not together in the same place and time. Preaching to a camera in my basement never felt quite right, and I think that is a good thing.

Not that I am saying God can’t use prerecorded sermons; if God works through the foolishness of preaching to a live congregation, surely he can work through a video sermon. And I know that many people are better at connecting with a camera than I am. But I still think something important is lost when preacher and congregation are not together in the same room. I was trying to get at the same issue when I addressed the question of online communion in the early days of the pandemic. At that time I wrote that “the lack of embodied gathering is a fundamental impediment to the life of the church.” Not that I want to discount the opportunities the pandemic has presented for new and creative ministries, and not that I want to deny that God can work through online communion or online preaching, but I think that these means of grace are significantly inhibited by our inability to gather together, as is the life of the church as a whole. After fifteen months of fully-online worship and now about six months of hybrid of in-person / livestream, I haven’t changed my perspective on these questions.

The first two sermons below were based on challenging texts, but I am so thankful I was able to preach them from the pulpit, the midst of the physically-gathered community.

Sermon: Tragedy and Triumph

Preached at Wesley Chapel Free Methodist Church, July 11, 2021. Mark 6:14-29.

Sermon: The Stone That Will Not Be Moved

Preached at Wesley Chapel Free Methodist Church, November 14, 2021. Mark 13:1-8.

Sermon: The Weight of Words

Preached at Wesley Chapel Free Methodist Church, January 23, 2022. Luke 4:14-21.

Interview on the More to the Story podcast

It was a pleasure to be interviewed by Dr Andy Miller III for his podcast, More to the Story. Andy has recently taken up a position at Wesley Biblical Seminary as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Assistant Professor of Historical Theology. He’s also working on a PhD in historical theology at the University of Manchester through Nazarene Theological College, where I am his co-supervisor.

This interview gave me a chance to revisit my doctoral research on The Salvation Army, and through that discussion we also touched on some bigger issues of Christian unity, denominational distinctives, and church renewal.

If you appreciate the interview take a look at some of Andy’s other recent podcasts.

Call for Papers – Women in the Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions

Tyndale Seminary and Master’s Pentecostal Seminary are following up on our successful collaboration in 2016 with a second jointly-sponsored academic event next April at Tyndale. We are looking for high-quality paper proposals and plan to use the best of the presentations for a book project on this important topic. Further details are found below.

Sisters of the Spirit
Women in the Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions

April 26, 2022, Tyndale University

Keynote Speakers:

Priscilla Pope-Levison (Southern Methodist University)

Linda Ambrose (Laurentian University)

Call for Papers
The Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions have been on the forefront in empowering women to serve in church leadership. John Wesley’s tentative recognition of women preachers and the extraordinary example of early Methodist women such as Mary Bosanquet and Mary Barritt Taft laid the groundwork for the seminal ministries of women such as Phoebe Palmer, Amanda Berry Smith, Catherine Booth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, and Aimee Semple MacPherson. And yet, women have still struggled, in various ways, to overcome patriarchal structures and assumptions within the Holiness-Pentecostal family.


This conference will explore the contributions and experiences of women in the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. We invite submissions for 30-minute papers that will address the topic from a variety of academic disciplines, and we would particularly welcome any exploration of the connections between the two traditions.

Paper proposals (max 200 words) should be sent to James Pedlar (jpedlar@tyndale.ca) or Van Johnson (vjohnson@mpseminary.com) by November 1, 2021.

Video from Tyndale’s 2021 Wesley Studies Symposium

Although the pandemic prevented us from gathering in person for a second straight year, Tyndale’s annual Wesley Studies Symposium went ahead with an online event, and it was surprising to see that we had our highest registration to-date. We had an excellent group of presentations, all of which were recorded and are now posted on the Tyndale Seminary YouTube Channel. I’ve also linked them below.

We have also announced plans for next year’s symposium (April 26, 2022) on women in the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions, jointly hosted by Master’s Pentecostal Seminary. See the Symposium webpage for further information.

“A Division of Heart”: Wesley on Schism

I was thankful for the opportunity to share this paper with the Nazarene Theological College Research Seminar last week. It is now posted through the Manchester Wesley Research Centre’s YouTube page.

It is not the most polished presentation and very much a work in progress – a draft portion of one chapter from a larger book on revivalism and division in British Methodism – but that’s precisely why I am sharing it, as I’d value feedback and comments. Others in the seminar had access to the manuscript I was reading – so I’ll share it here as well, in case you want to follow along.

2021 Wesley Studies Symposium at Tyndale

Tyndale’s 2021 Wesley Symposium will be held online on Thursday April 29, 2021, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm EST.  There is no cost for this year’s event, but attendees are asked to register in order to receive the Zoom meeting information. 

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Joel Thiessen, a Nazarene sociologist who teaches at Ambrose University, where he also directs the Flourishing Congregations Institute.  Dr. Thiessen’s keynote address will be on “Signs of Life and Vitality in Canadian Churches: Drawing on Data to Inform Practice.”

The following papers will also be presented (see further details on the full schedule):

  • Christopher Payk, “Prevenient Grace and Chinese Theology.”
  • Matthew McEwen, “Ignatius of Loyola and John Wesley: A Conversation About Scripture.”
  • Barbara Robinson, “‘I earnestly desire him to be electrified’: John Wesley, the formative Salvation Army and ‘Irregular’ Medicine.”
  • Jason Mills, “Virtual Virtue: Exploring the Fruitfulness of Online Pastoral Education.”
  • Gerry Mielke, “Christian Perfection, from Wesley to Phoebe Palmer.”
  • Charles Meeks, “Recovering a Wesleyan Sense of Open Table Communion for Anglicans with the Help of a Lutheran.”

Teach Us to Number our Days

I gave this short sermon for the Ash Wednesday service at Wesley Chapel on March 6, 2019. While it was given two years ago, the theme of “numbering our days” has remained with me. And it seems all the more relevant now, as we near the one-year mark for this pandemic. What has it taught us about time? We have been shown that we shouldn’t take anything for granted, and that our lives can be turned upside down in an instant. COVID has been a visceral reminder of the fragility of human life, not just in terms of our personal health but in terms of our life together – our social and economic institutions. It is as if “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” is broadcast to us in each day’s headlines. For the Christian this is not cause for despair but a call to to faith and hope in the God who has defeated death and holds our times in his hands. And it reminds us that our time in this mortal life is limited, so we should receive everything that comes into our hands as a gift that needs to be stewarded with a heart of wisdom.

I had Sandra McCracken’s setting of Psalm 90 in mind as I was reflecting on these themes. It’s a song worth meditating upon today.

Further thoughts on online communion

I have appreciated the engaging conversations I have had with colleagues and friends about online communion since I published my last post. I have heard some strong arguments from those who want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper online. In light of those exchanges I thought I should clarify and expand a bit on what I wrote last week.

This is a complicated question without an easy answer, and I see it as a genuinely debatable topic. I have offered reasons as to why I would rather not administer communion online, but I am not saying online communion is “wrong.” That’s far too simplistic.

Much depends on one’s theology of communion. Those with a memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper have fewer hurdles to overcome than Catholics or Anglicans, for whom online communion is officially prohibited. If you are in a denomination that has prohibited online communion for theological reasons then it would be wrong to go against your doctrine and denominational authorities.  The Wesleyan-Holiness churches are in a bit of a mediating position, affirming the real presence of Christ at the table in a spiritual manner, so it is not surprising to see some diversity of opinion.  As I said in my last post, my own denomination’s doctrinal standards do not preclude the possibility of online communion, so I affirm that my fellow Free Methodist pastors have liberty to celebrate online communion.

I believe God is going to honour the sincere intentions of his servants as they navigate this strange time, so I do not doubt that God can work through online communion. I don’t see it primarily as a question of whether or not God can work through online means. Of course God can work through any means or no means at all. I would not hesitate to say that God is working through our innovative and creative uses of technology.  My question is more specific: are online means of communication are a fitting vehicle for celebrating the Lord’s Supper in particular?

A few people thought I was skeptical of the idea of online community, but I affirm that online community can be meaningful and transformative. In online teaching I have seen some people develop much stronger relationships than they might have done in a classroom. On the other hand, someone can be physically present in a community and not connect well with those around them. So online community can be genuine, though I would say in-person community remains the ideal because the body is an essential part of our humanity. The size of the community obviously makes a big difference; a house-church or small group can replicate more of their embodied community online than a large church can. I would also say that there are some aspects of the Lord’s Supper which could translate through an online medium better than others. But regardless of the size of the community, it’s not possible to have a physically gathered community, and I prefer to wait until that is possible, rather than share communion online.

I am confident that God is at work in spite of our physical distance from one another, and it may be that God is going to renew the church in the midst of this chaotic situation. My hesitation about the Lord’s Supper online does not stem from a lack of confidence in God’s ability to work in a strange time or under unusual circumstances. Church renewal has often taken place in strange and unexpected ways! God is working and will work in myriad ways, even now.

But that’s also a reason that I feel I can refrain from the Lord’s Supper for a time: we have many other spiritual practices and disciplines at our disposal. That is one of the notes struck by Brent Peterson in the video below.  Peterson is a liturgical theologian and dean of the school of theology at Northwest Nazarene University.  He adds some other aspects to the discussion that I haven’t addressed in my posts.  I appreciated his congenial and thoughtful reflections.

Again, this is a debatable question and we are trying to answer it in the midst of an extremely challenging and unique situation. I hope my comments can be received as a friendly contribution to an ongoing conversation, rather than an attempt to tell others what they should do. Pastors: you know your context and your congregation and you know your own motivations, so you should follow your convictions and do what you feel is required, knowing that God is going to work no matter how we approach this issue.