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More than 30,000 Assemblies of God pastors and ministry leaders from around the world are gathering this week in Orlando, Fla., for their biennial General Council meeting. Although there's reason to celebrate the fellowship's status as one of the only segments within the American church to experience numeric growth, that may get overshadowed this week by a historical shift in the denomination's stance on women in leadership.

In an unprecedented move, delegates are expected to approve a policy change that would allow a woman to be elected to the Assemblies' second-highest policy-making body, the General Presbytery. Although Pentecostals have often been at the forefront of promoting females to pastoral roles, women have not been part of the denomination's highest leadership ranks. A vote on Wednesday could change this by opening the leadership door not only for women, but also for pastors younger than 40 years old. The policy change would ensure younger generations are represented on the General Council. According to Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood, a whopping 40 percent of the denomination's adherents are 25 or younger.

"As the denomination has aged, our leadership has progressively moved up in age," Wood said. "It freezes out the rising generation. Without some action, it will probably get worse. The message the resolution sends to younger ministers is you don't have to sit still, keep your mouth shut and wait."

To underscore this shift, the Assemblies kicked off the week with premier Influence Leadership Seminar, which brought in pastors such as Mark Batterson (National Community Church in Washington, D.C.) and Ed Young Jr. (Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas) to address the new paradigms of ministry today.

“Our leadership has been really praying that there would be a spiritual chemistry about Council that takes place in the hearts of our credentialed ministers,” said Doug Clay, general treasurer of the Assemblies of God. "We really pray that people will leave Council motivated and inspired in terms of their calling, renewed to go back to the place where they’re expressing their calling—whether it’s in a local church or a para-church ministry or overseas.” [, 8/3/09;, 8/2/09]

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