Toward A Dialogue Of Conversion The Pentecostal, Evangelical And Conciliar Movements

Toward A Dialogue Of Conversion  The Pentecostal, Evangelical And Conciliar Movements

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189

Toward a

Dialogue The

Pentecostal,

Conciliar

of Conversion:

Evangelical Movements

and

Jeffrey

Gros

The Pentecostal churches

bring unique gifts

to the Christian

family

of churches,

and

reap major

benefits from their collaboration with fellow Christians in witness to the

Gospel

in our world. The

power

of the Holy Spirit,

witnessed to in

deepening

bonds of communion

among Christians of diverse

traditions,

moves all who confess Jesus Christ and respond

to his

saving power

to

pray

and work for that

unity

for which he

prayed.

Christians

may

differ as to what

they

see the

Scripture calling

them to in the

Church,

and what are the essential marks of fellowship

in the

Holy Spirit. However, anyone reading

the

Epistles

of Paul or the Acts of the

Apostles

realizes

that, among the

diversity

of the

gifts

of the

Holy Spirit,

there is to be

peace, harmony

and

unity among

all who confess Christ’s name. Conversion to Jesus Christ means a conversion to the

community

of

faith,

and conversion to the communion Christ wills

implies

a zeal for

unity among

all who confess his name.

The Pentecostal churches in the United States have a rich

history

of ecumenical collaboration with other Christians in the National Association of

Evangelicals,

the Pentecostal

Fellowship

of North America and the

Society

for Pentecostal Studies. More

recently

an openness

has

developed

towards conversations in the Faith and Order movement of the World and National Councils of

Churches,

with the Roman Catholic Church in

dialogues

discussed elsewhere in this issue of PNEQ4A, and with the wider World Council of Churches concerns in the 1991 Canberra

Assembly.

All of these

relationships, beyond

the Pentecostal

family,

or within the Pentecostal

family,

as

exemplified by the new Pentecostal and Charismatic

Fellowship

of North

America,

are signs

of the

Holy Spirit’s

action in intensifying the bonds of communion already present among

all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In this

article,

the

present challenge

before

Evangelical

and Pentecostal churches will be

noted,

the contribution of Pentecostals to recent discussions in the Faith and Order movement and the World Council will be

reviewed,

and some

proposals

will be suggested.

Challenges in

the

Evangelical

World

The

Evangelical movement, broadly considered,

and the classical Pentecostal movement in

particular

have been

gifted

with

unique successes from God. The

growth

of the Pentecostal churches around the

world,

from the humble

beginnings

at Azusa

Street,

Los

Angeles

1

190

and

before,

has astounded the Christian

world,

and even Pentecostals themselves. The

emergence

of

major

international denominations from voluntary

mission

collaboration,

the

indigenization

of Pentecostalism in

a

variety

of

cultures,

and a Charismatic movement within most

major Christian

traditions,

will have to be recorded as one of the

unique contributions of the twentieth

century

to Christian

history.

This

rapid growth,

and the

ability

to build on the intense

experience

of the

Holy Spirit

in the

community,

has

brought

with it

challenges

and disappointments.

The movement has become too domesticated for some. For

others, entrepreneurial leadership

has been able to attract attention to

itself,

sometimes

eclipsing

the

objective

content of the Gospel message.

These

challenges,

seen as both

gift

and

burden,

have caused some in the

Evangelical

movement to direct

strong

criticism at the

leadership from within the movement. Such criticism

questions

whether the Evangelical

world has taken

adequate

account of the intellectual imperative

of the

Gospel.’

Further concerns have been raised as to whether the successes of

Evangelicalism

and Pentecostalism have not produced

a lack of attention to

history, accountability

and the discernment that is

imperative

if a

spirituality

is to

develop

to sustain and

challenge

the movement as it becomes more established.2 It has been noted that some of these

challenges

are

particularly applicable

to Pentecostalism at this moment in

history.’

What

might

be some of the elements that can contribute to this

growth

in

maturity

and

learning

in the Pentecostal churches and the Charismatic communities within the classical churches?

Certainly

the

Society

for Pentecostal

Studies,

the

seminary arrangements

within the

variety

of classical Pentecostal churches and the number of Pentecostal scholars who have served their churches

by bringing

their intellectual

gifts

to bear in witness within and

beyond their

churches,

are

primary

contributions to this

process

of maturation. Likewise,

the

willingness

of the

leadership

of the classical Pentecostal churches to

support

their

scholars,

to

encourage

their leaders in their intellectual

pursuits

and their own

engagement

with other

Evangelical Christians in exploration of the best

ways

for their churches

together

to serve their

people

and the

world,

are all testimonies to the seriousness of the Pentecostal movement in

stewarding

the

gifts

that have been

‘ Mark Noll and David Wells, eds., Christian Faith and Practice in the Alodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988); Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Afind (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994); David Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Rapids,

Publishing Company, 1994).

2 Alister McGrath,

Evangelicalism

and the Future

of Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1995)..

‘ Walter J. Hollenweger, “The Critical Tradition of Pentecostalism,” Journal Pentecostal

of

Theology 1 (October 1992): 7-17.

2

191

showered on it

by

the

Holy Spirit.

It is

always

a

challenge

for a Christian

community

to maintain its initial zeal for

evangelism,

its enthusiasm for

preaching,

its direct contact with the

Spirit’s gifts

and to develop

an

understanding

and seriousness about the Church and its history,

a critical intellectual sense of the Christian

faith,

and an openness

to others

persons

and cultures.

It is the thesis of this

paper

that the

participation

of the Pentecostal scholars

and,

in the

future,

the

participation

of the church leaders in the wider ecumenical

dialogue

will be a rich source of renewal for the Pentecostal churches as well as the renewal of their

partners

in this pilgrimage.

God is always calling the Christian

community

into a deeper spiritual relationship

with him and to

deeper understandings

of what the Gospel

demands. To be able to

pray,

witness and serve with other Christians in a dialogue of conversion, will

bring

Christians to a deeper love of Christ, and

by

that

deeper

love of Christ an

openness

to a richer understanding

of one another and a more serious

appreciation

of what the

Gospel

commands. One must

say

that individual Pentecostal Christians and Pentecostal scholars have been

pioneers

in these approaches

to common

prayer,

common

explorations

of the Christian faith and common service in the world. Has not the time arrived when the

leadership

can

carry

a greater

role,

with these

pioneers,

in

leading the Pentecostal churches into their

proper place among

the Christian churches of the world?

Such a shift in the

priorities

and

policies

of churches does not come easily.

But it is the thesis of this

essay

that

strong

and sensitive leadership

has

already

made such

openness

and

public

seriousness about Pentecostal witness and

dialogue

easier. The

way

has been cleared for the churches to

go

where individual Christians have laid the groundwork,

in obedience to the

Gospel imperative

to

prayer

and sharing

with others who confess the same Lord. The Pentecostal churches have not suffered as a result of their collaboration in the Pentecostal

Fellowship

of North

America,

or with other Christians in the National Association of

Evangelicals.

Are not these churches now in a position to own the contributions made

by Pentecostals

in the Faith and Order

movement,

in the World Council of Churches and with the Roman Catholic Church?

Pentecostal

Witness in the Conciliar Movement

The World Council of Churches “is a

fellowship

of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior

according

to the scriptures

and therefore seek to fulfill

together

their common

calling

to the

glory

of the one

God, Father,

Son and

Holy Spirit.”4

The

4 Michael Kinnamon, ed., Signs of the Spirit:

Official Report, Seventh Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 358.

3

192

membership, carrying

Protestantism

National Association of

Evangelicals

Ockenga

and his Pentecostal contemplated

how

important

would become in this

Pentecostal movement has been

engaged

in the World Council since 1961 when the first

churches,

from Latin

America,

became members.

The National Council of Churches in the

USA,

founded from the old Federal Council of Churches in

1950,

has a

quite

different

history

and

the

history

of the

early twentieth-century Fundamentalist-Modernist tensions. These differences within

in the United States necessitated the

emergence

of the

in the 1940s.5 While the inclusion of the Pentecostal churches

among

other

Evangelicals

at that moment in

history

was a

significant

ecumenical initiative on the

part

of Harold

colleagues,

it could not have been

these churches

organization.

In this

section,

we will recall

briefly

the role of the Pentecostal witness at the Canberra

Assembly

of the World

Council,

and the recent

in the Faith and Order movement of the World and National Councils. The role of Pentecostal leaders and scholars in the Theological

Commissions of the World

Evangelical Fellowship

and the National Association of Evangelicals is a contribution that also needs to be recorded as a

major

ecumenical

contribution,

role of Pentecostals

of this

essay.

While Pentecostals

statements within

Holy Spirit-Renew

special group

on “Pentecostal

but is not the

subject

important Pentecostal

Assembly.

There was considerable

have been involved in World Council Assemblies since New Delhi in

1961,

and have contributed to

Evangelical

and about such

Assemblies,

their

presence

at Canberra in 1991 took on a

particular importance.

The theme “Come

the Whole of Creation,” and the establishment of a

and Charismatic

Section III of the

Assembly, “Spirit

of

Unity-Reconcile

made this a

particularly

the witness of the

churches. There was an

Evangelical

gathering,

as to whether a

specifically

for,

since there was a difference participants

section

report

Movements,”

in the

Your

People,”

moment for

response

to the

debate,

around the

edges

of the

Pentecostal

response

was called in tone to most of the Pentecostal

as

compared

with other

Evangelicals.

It was decided that Pentecostal voices had been

adequately

addressed

through

either the

or the

“Evangelical Perspectives.”6

The Pentecostal influence in the Canberra

Assembly

can be seen in a variety

of

areas, touching spirituality, unity, evangelism

and creation.

Evangelical Perspectives,” Rapids.

Bong

1993).

‘ Arthur

Matthews, Standing Up Standing Together:

The

Emergence of

the National Association of Evangelicals (Carol Stream, IL: The National Association of Evangelicals, 1992).

6″A Letter to Churches and Christians Worldwide from Participants Who Share

in Signs of the Spirit, ed. Michael Kinnamon (Grand

MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1991), 282-286. See also

Rin Ro and Bruce J. Nicholls, eds., Bevond Canberra (Oxford: Regnum/LyrLx.

4

193

However,

there was

specific

attention

given

to the

relationship

of the Pentecostal churches and Charismatic Christians within other

churches, and the World Council of Churches

(WCC)

and its non-Pentecostal member churches. The text of this section

report,

in the first

instance, appears

to

speak

of the Pentecostals as an “other” outside of the circle of

dialogue,

even

though

the subsection was chaired

by

a Pentecostal, Tee

Garlington,

and included as members and consultants several members of Pentecostal churches.

However,

the text

goes

on to balance the

description

of the

relationship

of Pentecostals to the modem ecumenical movement

very judiciously:

Some Pentecostals have

rejected

the traditional churches. Some have

rejected

the ecumenical movement as a human

attempt

to

produce

Christian unity, or because of genuine theological differences on the part of

its members the nature of the Christian faith and how to

express

it in concerning the modern world. But others have sought fellowship with

Christians outside their boundaries, particularly with evangelicals. They

have begun to take interest in questions of visible church unity: traditional

churches have in turn become more open to the spiritual and

insights

that Pentecostals

theological

bring.’

While this observation

accurately

assesses the differences

among Pentecostals,

as an earlier

paragraph

had

assessed,

the

variety

of other Christian’s attitudes toward Pentecostals, the

Assembly

did not leave relationships

there. It went on to note ten recommendations:

1) recovery

of the New Testament sense of the

Holy Spirit’s gifts by

all Christians; 2)

churches

deepen

their

teaching

on the

Trinity

and the Holy Spirit; 3)

WCC

recognizes

Pentecostal churches and congregations

within the rich

diversity

of the

development

of Christian history; 4)

WCC churches

challenged

to

recognize

the

appropriateness, if not the universal

prerequisite,

of the Pentecostal

experience

in the lives of those touched

by it; 5)

WCC foster relations between the Pentecostal movement and other

Christians; 6) study

the

diversity within the Pentecostal

movement, 7)

foster

dialogue

between Third World and North Atlantic

Pentecostals,

with their different ecumenical experiences; 8)

WCC invite Pentecostals into all of its

programs; 9) Pentecostal

theologians

be invited more

deeply

into the Faith and Order movement; and, 10)

WCC

worship

seek to

incorporate

Pentecostal styles

and

leadership.

Since the

Assembly,

the World Council has helped

to

generate

some of these

meetings,

noted in numbers five and six,

and has

attempted

to

incorporate participation

in its

worship

and programs.

Pentecostals themselves will have to

judge

whether the affirmation of the

Assembly,

its recommendations and the follow

up

on recommendations made to the WCC and its member

churches, signify that the witness of Pentecostals at Canberra was effective in

bringing

‘ “Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements,” in Signs of the Spirit, ed. Michael Kinnamon (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans

108.

Publishing Company., 1991),

5

194

the

Gospel

values to which

they testify

into this discussion. The texts seem clear that there has been substantive

change

in the WCC and its program

as a result of this witness.

There are

those, however,

in the Pentecostal

community,

as noted in the

Assembly

section

report,

who feel that these

relationships

are not helpful.

There are those who would

prefer

an isolationist stance. Whether this attitude can be substantiated from a clear

reading

of the Gospel

is a matter of debate. There are

others, however,

who resist collaboration with World Council member churches and the Roman Catholic Church on other

grounds.

Their basis of collaboration with other Christians is not the

Gospel

mandate-as it would be with the WCC-but an “oppositionalism” over

against

what has in the

past

been an

oppressive, establishment,

“liberal” Protestant

Christianity

in the ecumenical

movement,

or a non-Christian Roman Catholicism on the other hand. These Pentecostals would collaborate with those who oppose

the same values

they oppose

in the dominant

culture,

without necessarily placing

common Christian confession at the center. This “co-beligerancy” style

of collaboration is characteristic of a generation of

Evangelical leadership

in the United States. Recent initiatives

by unofficial individuals from the

Evangelical

and Roman Catholic world have raised the debates on this

style

of collaboration to a wider

public audience.’

However,

there are those in the Pentecostal movement who sense a certain limitation in this

approach:

If that

[‘Evangelicals

and Catholics

Together’

as Oden, McGrath and

Packer define it over

against

the World Council of Churches, the

theological dialogues

and the modem ecumenical

movement]

is the

ecumenism which

currently characterizes the Evangelical stance,

recent

Pentecostal activities indicate that many Pentecostals would not choose to

define their attitudes toward ecumenicity in such a limiting way.9

One must be realistic

enough

to

say that,

within the contentious culture of the United

States,

at

least,

Pentecostal voices

may

continue to be divided on this

question

for some time to come. It is important for those outside of the

movement,

as well as its

leadership within,

not to caricature or

attempt

to

co-opt

the movement into one or another position

as

though

it were the

only option open

for the future. However,

the Pentecostal

leadership

would be well

advised, given

the global

character of the Pentecostal and Charismatic

culture,

to find ways

of keeping open discussions with the World Council

churches,

the official Roman Catholic

Church,

as well as its

long

term

Evangelical

8 A Consultation of

Evangelical

Protestant and Roman Catholic

Christians, “Evangelicals

and Catholics,” First Things 43 (May 1994): 15-22.

“Catholic and

1″imothy George,

Evangelicals in the Trenches,” Christianity Today,

16 May

1994, 16-17.

9 David Cole, “Current Pentecostal/Ecumenical Tensions,” lvlidstream 3.1 (April 1995): 138.

6

195

colleagues.’°

The

relationship

with the Roman Catholic

Church, especially

in the Western

Hemisphere,

is also

important

for Pentecostal leadership.

The international

dialogue,

and

relationships

with this Church

through

the

Society

for Pentecostal

Studies,

local Charismatic prayer groups,

and national events are well

developed,

but the leadership

of these churches need to find

ways

of

giving

form to their relationship

as the Pentecostal movement matures. This

bridge

is particularly important

to

build, given

the

Gospel responsibilities

of both Roman Catholics and Pentecostals in Latin America.”

I

In the Faith and Order

movement,

both within the World Council and the National Council of Churches in the United

States,

there has been considerable effective Pentecostal witness. At the recent Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order in Santiago de

Compestela, 1993,

there was

significant

Pentecostal

leadership,

both in the

presentations

and in the discussions. Dr. Simon Chan of

Singapore

made a

major presentation

on the

Trinity.”

Sections on

mission, proselytism

and communion

particularly

benefited

by

Pentecostal

theological

voices. Indeed,

after the

Santiago meeting,

it will be difficult for Pentecostals in the future to disown the World Council and the Faith and Order movement and their

theology,

without

disowning

the contributions of their own churches and movement.

The contribution of the Pentecostal

churches, through representatives of the

Society

for Pentecostal

Studies,

to the Faith and Order movement of the National Council of Churches is even more remarkable. It is in the United States that tensions with the Conciliar movement and

emergent Evangelical

ecumenism have been most evident. Third World

Evangelicals

and Pentecostals are often burdened by

these US

tensions,

when the

polarizations they represent

are not their own.

However,

since the

early

1980s when the

Society

for Pentecostal Studies authorized

representation,

and a

major

consultation at Fuller Theological Seminary published

its

report,

Pentecostal concerns have been

fully integrated along

with other churches in the work of Faith and Order.’3

Special

attention was

given

to the

relationship

of the

‘° Karla Poewe, ed.. Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture (Columbia. SC: University

of Carolina Press, 1994).

Cj. David Stoll, Is Latin America Turning Protestant (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990). David Martin,

Tongues of

Fire: The

Protestantism in Latin America

Explosion of

(O?cford: Basil Blackwell, 1990).

U.S./Latin American

Bishops, “Fostering

Ecumenism in the U.S.

Hispanic Community,” Origins

24 (March 1995): 658-660.

12Thomas Best and Gunther Gassmann, eds.. On the

Way to Fuller Koinonia World Council of

(Geneva: Churches, 1993). 85-90.

“Kenneth

Houghland.

“Pentecostals and NCC

104 87-89.

Begin Dialogue,” The Christian Century (January 1987): Jeffrey Gros, “Confessing the Apostolic Faith from the

Perspective of the Pentecostal Churches,” PNEUA!A: The Journal

Studies 9 (Spring

of the Pentecostal

Societv for 1987): 5-16: cf

also Jeffrey Gros and

7

196

Pentecostal

churches,

their

unique

ecumenical concerns and the

larger Faith and Order movement. This commitment led to a set of specifically designed

consultations which have

produced

a

volume,

edited

by Melanie

May

and Cecil

Robeck,

which is still

forthcoming.

A second round of

special

consultations is

beginning,

with its first

meeting

in Hartford,

October 1995.

Within the

regular

work of Faith and

Order, especially as it has attempted

to

stage

the voices from the United States churches and their theologians,

Pentecostal

participants

have

played

a

particularly important part.

The

processes

have been

designed

so that the witness of the

Gospel,

as Pentecostals have

experienced

it and their

theologians have been able to formulate and record

it,

has been an essential element in all of the studies undertaken

during

the late 1980s and

early

1990s. This witness has been

particularly

formative in the

study

“Toward the Common

Expression

of the

Apostolic

Faith

Today.”

A study Apostolic Faith in America and a study Black Witness to the Apostolic

Faith

provided

an opportunity for the faith of the Pentecostal denominations and the African American Pentecostal churches to have a

specific

voice.14

Theologically,

these studies allowed for the witness of

churches,

like the Pentecostals who base their claim to biblical authority

and

apostolic continuity

on an

understanding

of the restoration of the

primitive

church,

rather than the

continuity

of formulations of

faith, apostolic ministry

and

episcopal authority.

This ecclesiological self-understanding, though

common to the

Campbellite movement,

the

Anabaptists,

and other American bom

churches,

is quite unknown

among many

of the

ecclesiological

scholars of

Europe

and even in North America.

Giving

witness to this

development

in ecclesiological thinking

about

apostolicity

has been an

important contribution of the Pentecostal churches and their fellow restorationists.

African American Pentecostalism

provides

a

particularly important ecumenical witness because of the

unique

multi-racial

origins

of the American Pentecostal movement and the

developments

that are occurring

within Pentecostal ecumenism since the

founding

of the interracial Pentecostal and Charismatic

Fellowship

of North America. This

history,

and its roots in a non-racial

understanding

of the

Gospel, where differences are washed

away

in the blood of the

Lamb,

is an important

contribution to the ecumenical

understanding

of the faith once delivered to the

apostles.

Joseph Burgess, eds., Building Unity (New York,

NY: Paulist Press,

1989), 484-490.

“Thaddeus

Horgan, ed., Apostolic Faith in America (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1988). David T. Shannon and Gayraud Wilmore, eds., Black Witness to the Apostolic Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988).

8

While

issues

of

pneumatology

197

are

central in

Pentecostal

the

Pentecostal Pentecostals fourth-century apostolic orthodoxy,

understanding

and

theological developments,

the more classical debates around the

procession

of the

Spirit

from the Father and the

history

of the formulations of the

early

creeds have not been

traditionally Pentecostal concerns.

However,

in the discussions of the differences between East and West over the Trinitarian faith and

processions,

voice

played

a

unique

and

important

role.15 Likewise, the

allege,

like

many

other restorationist

creedal formulations

churches,

that the represent

a decline from initial church life to an arid creedal

and the

complexity

of

many

of the

critiques accommodations

this evaluation.’6

The Pentecostal

position evaluation of the Church’s

fervor and

Spirit-driven

dominated

by

a state-controlled Constantinianism. With careful

study

of the fourth

century developments,

the church life of that

period, noting

that monasticism institutionalized

Pentecostals have raised about the

of that

era,

a new

perspective

was able to be

given

to

have been

key

Foundations,””

Peacemaking.”

Church and

Peacemaking: not

only

a witness to Pentecostal

ecclesiology,

the with culture and the ethical

movement

ecclesiology

on restorationist

compromise

positions

that were

part

of the

origins

of the Pentecostal

in the

dialogues

of Faith and Order USA with the apostolic

claims of the Peace Churches. Two consultations have been held: “The

Apostolic

Character of the Church’s Peace Witness: Biblical

and “The

Fragmentation

of the Church and its

Unity

in

The latter consultation included a

paper

on “The

A Pentecostal

Perspective,”

which

provided

and

history,

but also explicated

the

changes

of some of the Pentecostal churches from their

ethical vision as a result of their ecumenical associations in the Evangelical

world.”

A consultation on the

understanding

bom churches has enabled those

churches,

like the

Pentecostals,

original

are

working

out of a restorationist

of

apostolicity

in the American

who ecclesiology

to

clarify together

with

in

dialogue

with

other

indigenous churches,

their self

understanding

churches whose claim to

apostolic continuity

is grounded in a different

theology

of

history

and

development

Publishing Company,

of doctrine. The differences and

18 Murray Perspective.” forthcoming

“Gerald T. Sheppard, “The Nicene Creed, Filioque, and Pentecostal Movements in the United States,” in Spirit of Truth: Ecumenical Perspectives on the Holy eds. Theodore

Spirit,

Stylianopoulos and Mark Heim 171-186.

also

(Brookline: and Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986), Cf Joseph Burgess Jeffrey Gros, eds., Consensus Growing

(New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1995), 659-668.

‘6 S. Mark

Heim, ed.,

Faith to Creed

(Grand Rapids,

MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans

1991). Cf also Gros and Burgess, Building Unity, 669-673. “Marlin Miller and Barbara Nelson Gingrich, eds., The Church’s Peace Witness (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans 1994).

W. “The Church Publishing Company, Dempster, and

Peacemaking:

A Pentecostal

To be

published

with the other

papers

of the consultation in a

volume from William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

9

198

similarities of the African American and

Anglo

American Pentecostal churches,

and the

relationship

of the Pentecostal churches to the

Holiness churches enriched the discussion on this

important

issue. Dr. Fred Norris of the

independent

Christian Churches is

editing

a

book, bringing

this conversation

together.

A related set of ecumenical

conversations,

not

sponsored by

the National Council of Churches’ Faith and

Order,

but

dealing

with some similar issues have been

developed by

the Believers’ Church Conference. Of

particular

interest in these discussions have been the conversations about

baptism

and

ministry.’9

These

important specific

studies are all

part

of a confluence of significant reflection, among Christians,

as to what is a necessary basis for

confessing

the common biblical faith

together. Indeed,

it is this study

that has enabled the

Evangelical community

to realize that the Orthodox, Protestant,

Roman Catholic and

Anglican churches,

in the Faith and Order

movement, may very

well be more serious in their confession of the Christian faith than the

partial

visions of

Christianity devised in the

variety

of

Evangelical

movements. While some Pentecostals will resist

using

the Nicene Creed as a

summary

of the biblical

faith, many

will

recognize

in the World Council

study, Confessing

the One

Faith,

the core of the doctrine

they

share in their response

to the

experience

of the

Holy Spirit.”

And Whence the Future?

This

article,

and the others in this

issue,

demonstrate the

major

and pioneering

contributions of Pentecostal thinkers to the Christian

project in our time.

Certainly,

the

maturing

of the Pentecostal churches

through their

relationship

with other

Christians,

in’ the

Evangelical movement, with Charismatic Catholics and

Protestants, among

other

theological scholars and in the Conciliar

movement,

is

only

a

beginning. Pentecostalism will be

enriched,

as will other

Christians, only

if the Pentecostal churches are faithful to their

Spirit-filled fervor,

the spirituality

of their

unique traditions,

the

theological

truth of the

Gospel as

they

see

it,

the zeal for

evangelism

that characterizes their movement,

and the

intensity

of love for other Christians that Christ presses

on us.

However,

the

question

arises now what are the next steps?

As Walter

Hollenweger

has noted the Pentecostal churches and the Charismatic movement are “not

just

a subdivision of Evangelicalism `on fire.’

[They are] inherently

an ecumenical movement.” One of the

19Merle D. Strege, ed., Baptism and Church: A Believers’ Church Vision (Grand Rapids,

MI: Sagamore Books, 1986); and, David B. Eller, Servants of the Word: i.’v/inistry

in the Believers’ Church (Elgin, IL: Brethren Press,

One

1990).

20 Faith and Order Commission, Confessing Faith

(Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1991). Cf

World Evangelical Fellowship, “An Evangelical Response to Confessing

the One Faith,” Theological News 23 (July-September 1990): 8.

10

199

reasons that he adduces for this constriction of vision is that “Pentecostalism has not

yet

found a mode of

cooperation

and communication that

effectively expresses

its

global

coherence and pluralism.” Therefore,

he recommends

global

communication “as one of the main tasks

facing

researchers of Pentecostal

phenomena.

The problem

is how to articulate a theology that

expresses

at once

unity

and diversity

in a

way

which

goes beyond

Western bureaucratic organizational

models and

conceptual patterns

of thought. ,,21

He

goes

on to

suggest, quite concretely,

an

agenda

for intra-Pentecostal and Charismatic

exploration:

From a Pentecostal perspective, it is surely time to organize a transnational

inter-Pentecostal ecumenical debate to discuss, for example, the

issues:

following

the status of ancestors, the of visions and dreams

in

theological place

cognitive theological processes, theory and praxis of oral theology on a

level, and exorcism in the West and in the Third World. Also

discussed should be the

sophisticated

relationship

between alternative medical and .

spiritual healing,

the church as a therapeutic and

and the

liberating community,

consequences of the latter for evangelism.’2

Needless to

say,

this internal

dialogue among

Pentecostal and Charismatic

Christians, by

the

very

nature of the

movement,

will be enriched

by

its wider

engagement

with Christians

facing

the same issues within their own

processes

of inculturation.

I would

like,

as an outsider to the

movement,

to make some bold suggestions

for us

together

as Christians to

.consider, open

to the discernment of the

Holy Spirit leading

us forward in the

Gospel way. Relations

among

Pentecostals and

Evangelicals

have

developed fruitfully

because of

strong leadership.

Could Harold

Ockenga, founding

President of the National Association of

Evangelicals (NAE) in

1942,

have

realized,

when he reached out to the Assemblies of God and other

Pentecostals,

that

someday

this

group

would be the

largest member church of his

fledgling

association? Would the

early

founders of the NAE have as

easily

and

enthusiastically

called a Pentecostal educator,

as Don

Argue

has been

called,

into the

presidency

of that Association? Are not the Pentecostals

ripe

for

taking

risks with others with whom

they

share the name of

Christian,

as

they

have with Evangelicals

in the 1940s?

While it is clear that the Pentecostal witness in the World and National Councils has been

respected

and has transformed the programs

of these

communities,

it is

hardly likely, given

the

history, that

many

Pentecostals in the United States will find a

place

in these councils.

However,

is it not time for some official observer status to be

21 Walter J.

Hollenweger, “The

Pentecostal Elites and the Pentecostal Poor: A Missed Dialogue?,” in Charismatic

Christianity as a

Global Culture, ed. Karla Poewe (Columbia, SC: University of Carolina Press, 1994), 205.

22 Hollenweger, 206-207.

“The Pentecostal Elites and the Pentecostal Poor: A Missed Dialogue?,”

11

200

authorized-not

only permitted-by

Pentecostal church

leadership?

Is it not time for the

leadership

of the various Pentecostal denominations to

give

the

backing

to those successful witnesses to Pentecostal convictions,

who have

brought

their

testimony

to the Faith and Order movement? Cannot more Pentecostal

churches, now, publicly authorize their

representatives

to the international Roman Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue?

These are not decisions to be taken

lightly.

In some Pentecostal churches

they

would

require

a constitutional

change.

On the other

hand,

is the

maturity

and effectiveness of the

theological leadership

both within and in witness

beyond

the Pentecostal churches to be considered more mature and more authentic than the

leadership

of the church itself?

In the United

States,

in particular, where the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostals have

deep spiritual

roots

together

in many areas of church life and witness, is it not time that there be a more formal conversation? Will the new Pentecostal and Charismatic

Fellowship

of North America be a vehicle

through

which the

leadership

of its member churches could authorize such a conversation without themselves necessarily having

to take

up

the

responsibility?

Father Peter Hocken of the

Society

for Pentecostal Studies

suggests

that

personal relationships among Evangelicals

and Roman Catholics take

priority

over institutional and

theological

ones.23 However, it seems

important,

for all of our

people,

to show some

leadership

from the side of both of these traditions in

witnessing

to the reconciliation that

is

so central to the message

of Paul and the

prayer

of Christ? Do not Roman Catholic and Pentecostal leaders do well to see that their

people

are

given positive instruction about one

another,

and the formation

necessary

for Christian love and collaboration to enrich our lives

together?

If the Pentecostal

churches,

and even the new

Fellowship among them are so vulnerable that such a direct

dialogue

is impossible, would there not be some other vehicle for such an encounter? Would the theological

commission of the National Association of

Evangelicals

be a

place

where the Pentecostals and other churches could be in formal dialogue

with the US Catholic Church? Has not the time come for Evangelicals

to be

proactive

and see

themselves, through

the

NAE,

as a voice for Christian reconciliation in this land?

There are

certainly

other vehicles for

Evangelical

and Pentecostal collaboration and

dialogue

with Roman

Catholics,

like the Institute for the

Study

of American

Evangelicalism

at

Wheaton,

the

Society

for Pentecostal

Studies,

or the Faith and Order work of National and World Councils.

However,

is it not time to seek the investment of the leadership

of both traditions in enhancing the

quality

of this

relationship in Christ?

Certainly

there is enough history and common Christian faith

‘ Peter

Hocken,

“Ecumenical

Dialogue:

The

Importance

of

Dialogue

with Evangelicals

and Pentecostals,” One in Christ 30 ( 1994): 10?4.

12

201

to build on. We can

only pray

that the Lord of the Church will teach us a

way

to discern what it is that he demands of us in service to his ministry

of reconciliation.

We are at a moment in

history

when Christians are

impelled by

the Holy Spirit

to find their common

ground

in Christ for the

sake of the Gospel

and its service to the salvation of the human

community.

This rapprochement

will entail a

dialogue

of

conversion,

an

opening

of minds and hearts to what the

Holy Spirit

is

doing

in our midst. It will also entail the

healing

of the alienation we have inherited from the

past. As

Pope

John Paul has

encouraged

us:

Christians cannot underestimate the burden of

inherited from the

long-standing misgivings

past and of mutual misunderstandings

and prejudices. Complacency,

indifference and insufficient knowledge of one another often make this situation worse. Consequently, the commitment to ecumenism must be based

upon

the conversion of hearts and upon

prayer,

which will also lead to the

necessary purification of past memories. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s disciples, inspired by love, by the

truth

power of the and

by a sincere desire for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, are called to re-examine

together their painful past and the hurt which that past regrettably

continues to provoke even today. All

invited by the ever fresh power of the Gospel to

together, they are

acknowledge with sincere and total objectivity the mistakes made and the contingent factors at work at the origins of their deplorable divisions. What is needed is a

a

calm, clear sighted

and truthful vision of things, vision enlivened by divine and

mercy

capable of freeing people’s

minds and of

inspiring

in

everyone a renewed willingness, precisely with a view to the

Gospel to the men and women of

every people and

nation. 24

proclaiming

24 John Paul, “Ut Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism” Origins 25 (8 June 1995): 49-72, #2.

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