Jessie Penn-Lewis’s Cross Theology: Gender Relations in the New Covenant -- By: Mimi Haddad

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 22:2 (Spring 2008)
Article: Jessie Penn-Lewis’s Cross Theology: Gender Relations in the New Covenant
Author: Mimi Haddad

Jessie Penn-Lewis’s Cross Theology:
Gender Relations in the New Covenant

Mimi Haddad

MIMI HADDAD (Ph.D., University of Durham) is President of Christians for Biblical Equality. She is a founding member of the Evangelicals and Gender Study Group at the Evangelical Theological Society and is an Adjunct Professor at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill.

“We must turn to the finished work of our Redeemer . . .”1


Considered the most influential woman affiliated with the Welsh Revivals (1904-05) and earlier the Keswick Conventions (1875-1910),2 Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861-1927) distinguished herself as a writer, speaker, and advocate of women’s public ministry. A crucicentrist3 of the highest order, Penn-Lewis’s egalitarian theology grew out of her understanding of Christ’s completed work on Calvary. For Penn-Lewis, the cross provides not only forgiveness for sin (redemption), but also victory over sin and prejudice (sanctification). Crucicentrists like Penn-Lewis celebrated the social consequences of Calvary that included unity and reconciliation, not only between men and women, but also among individuals once hostile to one another. Thus, Penn-Lewis’s soteriology (what she understood about the work of Christ) shaped her egalitarian ecclesiology (what she understood about the work of the church). She promoted this view through her writings and leadership initially within the early Keswick Conventions and ultimately within evangelical circles around the world.

Penn-Lewis’s cross theology4

David Bebbington, a noted historian, identified four theological priorities that characterized early evangelicals. These include (1) conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed, (2) activism, the expression of the gospel through effort, (3) biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, that all spiritual truth is found on its pages, and (4) crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.5 A commitment to conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism was integral to the life and service of Penn-Lewis. Yet, among the early evangelicals, few were more passionate about the cross than she. Towering was her ability to articulate the benefits of Calvary as it builds not only an egalitarian ecclesiology but also unity among Christians.

Unity among Christians

Calvary, for Penn-Lewis, is a place of blessing and reconciliation. Those who have died with Christ on Calvary ...

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