Stanley, Susie Cunningham 1948- (Susie C. Stanley)

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Stanley, Susie Cunningham 1948- (Susie C. Stanley)


Born May 3, 1948, in Ashland, KY; daughter of Clayton Allen and Jamie Sue Cunningham; married John Elias Stanley, November 28, 1970; children: Michael David, Mandy Lynn. Education: Towson State University, B.A., 1976; Iliff School of Theology, M.A.R., 1982; Iliff School of Theology/University of Denver, Ph.D., 1987. Politics: Democrat.


Home—Mechanicsburg, PA. Office—Messiah College, 1 College Ave., Grantham, PA 17027. E-mail—[email protected].


Religious educator and minister. Ordained ecumenical minister in the Church of God, Anderson, IN. Western Evangelical Seminary, Portland, OR, professor, 1983-1995; Messiah College, Grantham, PA, professor of historical theology, 1995—. Founder and executive director of Wesleyan/Holiness Women Clergy, International, 1991-2006; former president of Wesleyan Theological Society.


American Academy of Religion, Wesleyan Theological Society, American Society of Church History, Women's Studies Association.



Feminist Pillar of Fire: The Life of Alma White, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 1993.

Wesleyan/Holiness Women Clergy: A Preliminary Bibliography, Western Evangelical Seminary (Portland, OR), 1994.

(Compiler, under name Susie C. Stanley) Honoring God's Call: A Celebration of Holiness Women Preachers, Western Evangelical Seminary (Portland, OR), 1994, reprinted under name Susie Cunningham Stanley, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (Kansas City, MO), 1996.

Holy Boldness: Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 2002.

(Coeditor) Faith and Gender Equity (lesson plans), Wipf & Stock (Eugene, OR), 2007.

Also coauthor of Women, Authority and the Bible, 1986, and author of Called to Ministry, 1989. Theology editor, Christian Scholar's Review. Contributor to anthologies.


Susie Cunningham Stanley is a professor of historical theology. In her book Feminist Pillar of Fire: The Life of Alma White, Stanley illuminated a little-known Christian denomination, the Pillar of Fire. The Pillar of Fire was considered part of the Wesleyan/Holiness Movement. They were notable for their extreme views on various theological points. Alma White was raised as a Methodist; however, she became both a fundamentalist and a feminist, two positions that some would say are contradictory. Her terrific energy did not have a good outlet in the Methodist denomination, which did not allow women to be ministers. White eventually founded the Wesleyan/Holiness Movement (originally called the Pentecostal Union) in an attempt to reconcile her feminist viewpoint with her Methodist faith. After leaving the Methodist church, she was outspoken in her criticism of it. In 1908 she and her followers founded a commune in Zarephath, New Jersey, where they lived as vegetarians. Throughout her life, White achieved a great deal: she founded Women's Chains, an important feminist publication, as well as several other periodicals, and she also was among the first to use radio as a medium for her message. Stanley's biography details White's accomplishments and also her failings, such as her anti-Catholic prejudices and her support of the Ku Klux Klan. Stanley regards these attitudes as simply a product of the age in which White lived. Reviewing Feminist Pillar of Fire for the Bethel College Web site, Steven Wagner said: "The importance of Stanley's biography is to awaken in us an understanding of the trials and ministries of women in the late 1800s and early 1900s." As a member of the Pillar of Fire, Stanley has insight into the issues surrounding the sect at the time of its foundation.

In her book Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self, Stanley presented the autobiographies of thirty-four female ministers in the Wesleyan/Holiness faith tradition, including the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God, and the Salvation Army. Her objective is to illuminate their stories, but in addition, Stanley set out to show that the Wesleyan-Holiness way of life provided an alternative to the restricted role afforded to women by mainstream society in the Victorian era. She also explained the Wesleyan/Holiness belief in sanctification, an experience of God's grace that leads to the soul being cleansed of sin. The belief is that the soul is then "lost" in God, but Stanley takes pains to make it clear that the soul that is "perfected in Christ, was anything but subservient and powerless," as Elizabeth Elkin Grammer noted in her Journal of Southern History review. Grammer further noted: "Stanley calls attention to her own Wesleyan/Holiness background and feminist commitments, and this tribute to her spiritual ancestors reads like a labor of love." Still, Grammer felt that the author's personal involvement with her subject made it difficult for her to remain objective at all times.

Reviewing the book for Biography, Lynn Domina stated that it succeeded in bringing out the lives of these early women preachers. She stated: "Holy Boldness: Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self, has much to offer scholars interested in gender studies and American religious history, particularly as it presents much neglected information, [yet] it would have been a better book had it … focused entirely on that goal."

Reviewing Holy Boldness for Church History, Lydia Huffman Hoyle praised the author for challenging "those who have contended that few nineteenth-century women published spiritual autobiographies or that historically conservative congregations have consistently excluded women preachers. When one looks beyond the mainstream, it is clear that the reality is not nearly as clear cut as once thought. Writing with clarity and simplicity, Stanley allows previously unheard voices to join the chorus."

Stanley told CA: "All of my writing has an ethical thrust. I'm hoping to encourage my readers to take action on the issue I'm addressing. My books have focused on women in ministry. One of my goals is to encourage those who oppose women in ministry to reconsider their position."



Biography, fall, 2002, review of Holy Boldness: Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self, p. 603; fall, 2003, Lynn Domina, review of Holy Boldness, p. 755; summer, 2004, Susie C. Stanley, review of Holy Boldness, p. 676.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2003, B.M. Stephens, review of Holy Boldness, p. 1569.

Church History, June, 2005, Lydia Huffman Hoyle, review of Holy Boldness, p. 405.

History: Review of New Books, spring, 2003, Elizabeth E. Dunn, review of Holy Boldness, p. 130.

Journal of Southern History, May, 2006, Elizabeth Elkin Grammer, review of Holy Boldness, p. 466.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2003, review of Holy Boldness, p. 23.


Bethel College Web site, (January 27, 2008), Steven Wagner, review of Feminist Pillar of Fire: The Life of Alma White.

Messiah College Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, (January 27, 2008), biographical information on Susie C. Stanley.

University of Tennessee Press, (January 27, 2008), biographical information about Susie C. Stanley.

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Stanley, Susie Cunningham 1948- (Susie C. Stanley)

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