Ida B. Robinson (1891-1946)
There are still some who don’t believe in women preachers, but it was even more true for a black Pentecostal woman in the early 1900s. Ida B. Robinson was that woman. She not only paved the way for Pentecostal woman to preach, she was the first African American woman to start a denomination to ordain women.
Ida was born in Hazelhurst, Georgia on August 3, 1891 as the seventh child of 12 children. Her parents moved to Pensacola, Florida soon after that, and Ida grew up there. When Ida was 17 years old, a Pentecostal holiness preacher came to her town, and Ida heard the Gospel for the first time. She gave her life to Christ. Ida began having prayer meetings in her home and preaching on street corners where she would warn, “Prepare to meet thy God.”
In 1910, Ida married Oliver Robinson. They never had children, but they adopted Ida’s niece, Ida Bell, when her parents died. In 1917, the couple moved to Philadelphia where they joined a small Pentecostal holiness congregation at Seventeenth and South Streets pastored by Elder Benjamin Smith. Ida often would preach for Elder Smith, and the congregation grew because of her preaching style. This caused conflict and she ended up leaving the church. She joined the United Holy Church of America where she was consecrated to the ministry through ordination.
In 1919, she became the pastor of a small church where she preached holiness as a divine requirement, holiness as a work of the Holy Ghost, and holiness as a condition to seeing God. The church grew, but Ida felt she was held back because she was a woman.
In 1924, after hearing that God often talks to His people through visions and dreams, Ida fasted and prayed for 10 days. She received a revelation from God that she relayed to the members of her church saying, “The Holy Ghost spoke and said, ‘Come out on Mount Sinai’, and ‘I will use you to loose women.'”
On May 20, 1924, she received a charter for a new denominational organization called Mount Sinai Holy Church. The church started with nine officers, six of whom were women. The denomination grew, and Elder Robinson was consecrated as bishop at the organization’s first Holy Convocation in 1925 with the blessing of her former denomination, the United Holy Church of America, which she considered a parent organization. Many from the former denomination attended her convocation.
Through the years, the Mount Sinai Holy Church was dedicated to ordaining women and had women and leadership positions in the denomination. Four bishops, all women have proceeded Ida in leadership. The denomination now has 117 churches, mostly pastored by women.
Amy Stevens, the current presiding bishop remembers a time in 1946 that Ida had a flat tire in a deserted area. Ida got out her tambourine and started singing. When a crowd gathered, she began to preach. Ida was convinced the flat tire was allowed by God to give her an opportunity to share the Gospel.
On April 6, 1946, Ida Robinson left Philadelphia to visit some of the organization’s churches in Florida. When she arrived in Winter Haven, she becamed very sick and died. Bishop Robinson is not one of the names we thing of when we remember, but she left a legacy of more than 160 ordained ministers, 125 of which were women and a denomination that is continuing to grow.