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--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The United States has spawned many Christian denominations, some of which have gone on to thrive internationally. This year marks the centennial of one of the great success stories, the Assemblies of God. Not only have the Assemblies become a truly global church, but they have won far more followers outside their original homeland than within it.
The AG grew out of the famous Pentecostal revival that began on Los Angeles’s Azusa Street in 1906. In 1914, local congregations met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to form the denomination. Membership reached only 50,000 by the 1920s, but then it proceeded to grow rapidly. The Assemblies of God in the United States reached 1 million members by 1971, rising to 3 million today. By comparison, the Episcopal Church since the 1960s has contracted from 3 million members to 2 million.
The church’s expansion in recent years is greater than we would think if we just counted signs explicitly using the Assemblies of God label. Many of the country’s thriving megachurches are affiliated with the AG, but use a more generic label. That practice is not intended to deceive but rather recognizes a popular sense that traditional denominational labels are divisive and sectarian. My own working rule is that megachurch signs should usually read “Community Church (really Assemblies of God).”
Read it all.
Having grown up in and pastored in the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition, people often ask if I am still a charismatic, now that I’m an Anglican. Fortunately, to be Anglican does not require one to cease being charismatic, and I feel I’ve continued in that.
But being Anglican has changed my understanding of what it means to be charismatic. I tend to tell folks that I believe that most of the charismatic experience and renewal over the past century has been a move of the Holy Spirit, and has had a miraculously good effect. And yet at the same time, I tend to not agree with much of the theology and practice of the charismatic movement. When I share that, though, the reaction is often “Wait a minute. Can you do that? Can you be a charismatic who doesn’t wholly subscribe to charismatic practice or theology?”
I think so. Let me explain.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
An historic consultation took place between Anglicans and Pentecostals earlier this week at High Leigh in Hertfordshire.
Initiated by the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, it took forward resolutions passed at successive Lambeth Conferences, and bore out Archbishop Justin Welby’s recent call for greater interaction between the two traditions.
Nine Anglicans and eight Pentecostals gathered for two days of dialogue, prayer and worship to explore their similarities and differences, and to chart a way forward for enhanced partnership in mission.
Read it all.
The most remarkable thing about the Pope’s message to American Pentecostal leaders was not the cordial, open-armed welcome from the Holy Father to a group of separated brethren–in their own way all the popes in the last fifty years have done the same. Okay–the informal use of a cell phone video was pretty amazing, but the real news story in all of this is not so much the moving welcome from the Holy Father, but the appearance of Bishop Tony Palmer on the world stage as an “Anglican bishop”.
This has been missed by every other commentator because I think they are unaware of the huge shifts within the world of Anglicanism. To understand this one has to first understand historic Anglicanism. We all know it was started by King Henry VIII because he wanted a divorce and Pope Clement wouldn’t give him one. Well, it was more complicated than that, but the fact is, this crisis precipitated the foundation of the Anglican Church. In the centuries to follow wherever the English went they took their church with them. Thus we find the Anglican Communion all over the world in what were English colonies.
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Pastor Jamie Coots, a 42-year-old Pentecostal preacher and third-generation snake handler from Middlesboro, Ky., spoke to NPR in October about his unusual way of leading church services.
"We sing, we preach, we testify, take up offerings, pray for the sick, you know, everything like everybody else does," he said. "Just, every once in a while, snakes are handled."
On Saturday night, Coots was handling three rattlesnakes at his small church, the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, when one of them bit him on his right hand....
Read it all and there more comment at Christianity Today
One of Africa's biggest Christian movements, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, is spreading across the US.
The Pentecostal movement started in Nigeria and opened its first American parish in Detroit in 1992.
Read it all and watch the whole thing.
The charismatic movement within the Church of England is a firmly established fixture. Several of the largest CoE churches are charismatic. The most well-known is Holy Trinity Brompton out of which the Alpha Course came and currently under the leadership of Nicky Gumbel. One of the newest theological colleges in London is St. Mellitus, which was formed by the bishop of London Richard Chartes, but also houses St. Paul’s Theological Centre from Holy Trinity Brompton. What is exciting about St. Mellitus is its combination of charismatic and Anglo-Catholic worship in a non-residential theological college. At St. Mellitus one will find highly liturgical services with incense and evangelical-charismatic services in which students raise hands and sing worship choruses. St. Mellitus tries to combine all the various emphases within Anglicanism rather than emphasizing one tradition over another. In a recent article for the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore suggested that St. Mellitus may be the way forward for the Church of England, no small praise.
In light of this recent history, Archbishop Justin Welby’s invitation to Chemin Neuf to be part of Lambeth Palace feels like a natural development, not an eruption. This move brings together Welby’s charismatic background, his interest in monastic spirituality and prayer, and his desire to foster ecumenical relations. Chemin Neuf is not only a Catholic Charismatic community, it has an ecumenical vocation and thus has many Protestant members, some of whom are part of the team at Lambeth. Thus it is a natural bridge between the charismatic, the Anglo-Catholic, and the ecumenical impulses within the CoE. In fact, as Graham Tomlin, the dean of St. Mellitus recently told me, one of the members of Chemin Neuf living at Lambeth is also a student at St. Mellitus.
If Pentecostalism is a form of Christian mysticism, then there is a natural affinity between it and Anglo-Catholicism, which has been the bearer of mysticism within the CoE. It also suggests that the Anglican charismatic movement could become a bridge between the Anglo-Catholic and evangelical sides of Anglicanism.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
It's nice to be home in Australia for January, after completing two and a half years of a PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles. One perk of being in Sydney, aside from reconnecting with family and friends, is attending my home church - Hillsong. I grew up in the congregation, and returned in 2010 before relocating to the United States. It's the thing I missed most while away. (Of course, an announcement was just made about a new Hillsong plant in Los Angeles in 2014 - so if I do end up in Pasadena for dissertation writing, I can worship there.)
Because the new-ish Manhattan Hillsong plant is going so well, there's growing interest in the United States in the church. Mainstream specialists in religion and religious movements are increasingly turning their attention to global Pentecostalism (or in this specific case, Oceanian charismatic evangelicals who really don't like "tags" being applied to them). This fuels more interest in Australia. Reactions to a plea from an Australian theologian, some remarks during a sermon by Hillsong leaders Joel and Julia A'Bell after a particularly libellous "expose" on Today Tonight, along with a few other coincidences, raised recurring themes for me, so I thought it might be appropriate to reflect a little on what it meant for me to grow up a "Hillsonger."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Pentecost Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal
his past month, clergy and laity from the Anglican Church in North America and Jubilee, a network of 12 African American Pentecostal churches centered in South Los Angeles, California, gathered to worship together at Penuel Missionary Baptist Church in LA. The Venerable Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog, Canon to the Archbishop, was the Keynote Speaker for these gatherings which were marked by exuberant praise and worship and the sharing of Holy Communion.
“It is a remarkable thing to see these dear brothers and sisters in Jubilee drawn to the Anglican Church in North America,” said Canon Lumanog. “Our life together as Anglican Christians must be dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. What a joy it was to share in the joyful celebration with Jubilee! God is certainly on the move in our Province.”
Describing the time together, one attendee stated, “We were nourished by Word and sacrament and overwhelmed by God’s presence in our worship together,” while another said, “[M]y hope is renewed. I can begin to see the manifestation of a prayer being answered.”
Read it all.
The Assemblies of God, a denomination rooted in rural and small town America, appears to have leaped into the 21st century with dramatic results.
At its General Council meeting this week (Aug. 5-9), the denomination touted its formula for defying the seemingly irreversible decline of other religious groups: contemporary music, arts and high-tech quality communication, outreach to young people, immigrants and ethnic minorities.
The denomination reported a 1.8 percent increase in U.S. membership to 3 million adherents. Globally, the gain was 1.5 percent, to 66 million, making it the largest Pentecostal group in the world.
Read it all.
“Denominationalism is not dead but, increasingly, it’s only one of several options for organizing the church in America,” explained Baptist historian Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and professor of church history at Wake Forest School of Divinity.
Increasing pluralism in the United States and the decreasing influence of Protestantism are forcing denominational leaders to ask hard questions about identity, viability and relevance.
Pluralism, “which Baptists helped put into place,” is becoming more normative, Leonard said. The rise of the “nones”—people with no connection to organized religion— also plays into the challenges denominations face.
Gone are the days when communities formulated policy and activities around the church. “We are living through the death rattle of the Protestant privilege,” Leonard said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
The strong support President Barack Obama received from Hispanic voters contributed mightily to his reelection. Samuel Rodriguez, 43, is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and, according to The Wall Street Journal, one of America’s seven most influential Hispanic leaders. He is also an ordained Assemblies of God pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento.
When you were growing up, how did your parents—both immigrants from Puerto Rico—teach you about U.S. history and values? My dad, a hard-working Mack truck worker, instilled in me a Calvinistic work ethic. He looked at me and said, “Any dream that you can have in this nation can come to pass if you have faith in Christ and if you have the spirit of entrepreneurship.” We as Americans are Plymouth Rock and Jamestown. That’s our DNA.
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Recently, I began communicating with a student at Fuller Seminary on the track for ordination. He has a new kind of church plant stirring in his heart. The Rev. Jamal Scarlett along with The Rev. Cameron Lemons are working together to plant The Grove Church of Lake Elsinore (CA). “Cameron and I started meeting together two years ago as we believed God was stirring our hearts toward multicultural ministry. I am Afro/Latino-American (Black Hispanic) and he is an Irish-American,” shared Rev. Scarlett.
When they met, they were both Southern Baptists. Cameron was a Youth Pastor at a local church and Jamal was a Worship Leader and Youth Pastor at another church. Over many coffee hours, they began a conversation about what it might look like to be a church that is multicultural. That is, a church that is not just multicolored, but sees diversity of culture as a ministry asset versus a liability. The desire was to be a church that reflected Revelation 7:9 where people of every nation, tongue and tribe worshiped and glorified the Lord together. Ultimately, this led to the call of planting The Grove Church with a missional imperative set on acts of kindness (feeding the hungry, caring for the lonely and the outcast) as well as seeking the restoration of all things, including reconciliation.
As these two pastors were praying for a vision for their church plant, they were led on a journey to Anglicanism.
Read it all.
Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.
He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not. He was the kind of man reporters love: articulate, friendly and appreciative of media attention....
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This year's Easter service at the Tabernacle Church of God in La Follette, Tenn., will include many of the holiday's traditional rituals, like Holy Communion and footwashing. There will also be some startling novelties.
"It will be filled with shouting, dancing, speaking in tongues, serpent handling and fire handling," said its 21-year-old pastor, Andrew Hamblin. "We'll celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a good old time."
Since he opened its doors last fall, Mr. Hamblin's small Pentecostal church, 39 miles north of Knoxville, has grown to almost 50 members, most of them in their 20s. Part of his strategy for expansion has been to use Facebook to publicize the daredevil spiritual exploits of his congregation.
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Seven influential megachurch pastors took part in live unscripted discussions on different approaches to ministry in the second round of The Elephant Room – an event billed as "conversations you never thought you'd hear" from pastors.
Held in Aurora, Ill., and broadcast to over 70 locations around the U.S., the discussions were mediated by James MacDonald of Chicago's Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church.
With nondenominational churches growing across the county, the role of denominations and church networks was the first topic discussed.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Reformed * Theology Ecclesiology
As their numbers grow, Latinos are not only changing where and how they worship; they're also beginning to affect the larger Christian faith.
You can see evidence of that in the Assemblies of God, once a historically white, suburban Pentecostal denomination. When you walk into the denomination's largest church, it's sensory overload: The auditorium is jam-packed with hundreds of Latino worshipers singing in Spanish, swaying and dancing.
In little more than a decade, New Life Covenant Church in Chicago has grown from 68 people to more than 4,000 members; it had to abandon its old building and meet in Clemente High School. When you include the other churches New Life has started, its membership comes to some 12,000 people.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal Roman Catholic
I share these two experiences alongside a comment I came across years ago: every church and every member of the clergy, over a span of time, needs to belong to a denomination. I serve as a district superintendent, and I am aware of the church's imperfections, and my own. I watch over 69 local churches and a few assorted institutions within our geographical boundaries, and we are at work on the development of a new church plant and the development of a missional church network. At any given time about 3-5 of these churches are in real crisis: they are in need of outside intervention, mediation, conflict resolution and spiritual guidance. A denomination, at its best, provides a framework for the protection of the clergy in a workplace and supervision of even the most powerful clergy leaders. In addition, a denomination works out the implications of a missional strategy in an area that is more nuanced than simply whatever the market can bear.
I share these experiences at a time when there is much rhetoric around moving energy, resources and attention to the local church. I love the local church. It is the basic context for the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, the local church will, on occasion, be stronger as it accomplishes mission that is beyond its own capacity, and as it is accountable to a wisdom that is outside its own day to day movements.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Reformed Roman Catholic United Church of Christ * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology
For those Kirk members who feel compelled to leave the Church following today's vote, the question of where they go is littered with potential problems, both theological and practical. If, as it would seem, it is more likely those in the traditionalist wing of the Church walk, then there are two options.
The first is to splinter entirely and form themselves into an entirely new presbyterian church. Such an outcome would be similar to that of the Disruption in 1843, when the Kirk split over the Church's relationship with the state, resulting in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland....
The second path would see members of the Kirk moving to the Free Church of Scotland, which holds a staunchly conservative view on homosexuality....
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
At the same time mainstream denominations lose thousands of members per year, churches such as Crosspoint are growing rapidly — 15 percent of all U.S. churches identified themselves as nondenominational this year, up from 5 percent a decade ago. A third dropped out of major denominations at some point.
Their members are attracted by worship style, particular church missions or friends in the congregation.
"They no longer see the denomination as anything that has relevance to them," said Scott Thumma, a religion sociology professor at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He's compiling a list of nondenominational churches for the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study. "The whole complexion of organized religion is in flux."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Orthodox Church Pentecostal Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
...there are two distinct views on how Pentecostals relate to society. David Martin, the British sociologist who has pioneered in this area since the mid-1980s (Tongues of Fire, 1990), has been proposing that Pentecostals are a new embodiment of what Max Weber called the “Protestant ethic”—a morality of self-discipline, hard work and saving—which, he argued, was an important factor in the birth of modern capitalism. The research center which I founded in 1985 at Boston University supported Martin’s early work, which focused on Latin America. I liked to give nicknames to our projects. This one I called “Max Weber is alive and well and living in Guatemala” (that country, for reasons I don’t quite understand, has the highest proportion of Pentecostals in Latin America, somewhere between one third and one half of the population). If Martin is right, Pentecostalism is a modernizing force, certainly in terms of economic behavior, possibly also as a “school for democracy”. Not least of its revolutionary qualities is the transformation it seeks in family life and the role of women—broadly speaking, toward gender equality. Bernice Martin, David’s wife and collaborator, has paid special attention to this aspect.
The other interpretation sees Pentecostalism very differently—as a kind of “cargo cult”. This was a curious movement in Melanesia in the first half of the twentieth century. Its core belief was that ships (and, later, airplanes) would come and shower the inhabitants of those Pacific islands with all the material goods of modernity—and that magic and ritual practices could make this happen. No special effort was required by the recipients of the “cargo”, other than the faith that the magic would work—certainly not sweaty Protestant entrepreneurship. Two scholars who, cautiously, tend toward such a non-Weberian approach are Birgit Meyer in the Netherlands (Translating the Devil, 1999) and Paul Freston, who has been teaching in Brazil and North America (Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Latin America, 2008). If that interpretation is correct, Pentecostalism is not modernizing at all—in fact, is a carry-over from a pre-modern worldview that actually inhibits modernization.
Both interpretations have data for backup. My view of the matter is quite simple: Given the enormous number of people involved in the Pentecostal phenomenon worldwide, it is very plausible that both types can be found—the busy Protestants working to produce the “cargo”, and those who sit back and wait for the magic to bring the goodies to them.
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Duvall pioneered this more understated approach to faith in his 1983 film Tender Mercies. His performance earned him an Oscar and the enthusiasm of Christian moviegoers. His character, Mac Sledge, is a once-famous country music star who is broken by drink. He does not find redemption in a fiery born-again experience; indeed, after his baptism he confesses he doesn't feel very different — "not yet" at any rate. His redemption comes gradually, through his love for the Christian woman who befriends him.
Jesus doesn't fix his problems or make for smooth sailing, either, and he has a crisis of faith when his daughter is killed in a car accident.
"I don't trust happiness," the character says. "I never did and I never will."
His faith survives, but the movie never tells us why.
Read or listen to it all.
Thirty members of the United Pentecostal Church of Gretna, La., made the two-hour drive to Grand Isle to baptize new parishioners on the beach where they usually conduct the ceremony. But sheriff's officers riding four-wheel-drive dune buggies blocked the entrance.
Pastor Vidal Galvez, 40, and the caravan of the faithful drove a few hundred yards away to the bay-side waters and got on with the service. They strung a tarp between two vans, put a few beach chairs in a circle and set up a card table for the altar. Two Guatemalan guitarists started off the service with baptismal hymns.
After the 30-minute service, Galvez led congregants into the calm backwaters, where Diana Perdomo and Danilo Garcia were baptized with song and prayer.“This contamination is bad for the fishermen, and the animals," Galvez said in Spanish. “It ruins the environment.”
Go here to read it all and see the wonderful picture.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism
The charismatic movement in the U.S. marks its golden anniversary this year, having begun with Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett in 1960. For more than a hundred years, its parent movement, Pentecostalism, has popularized practices such as speaking in tongues and prophesying. The younger charismatic movement surfaced when many North American Christians in mainline denominations began adopting similar practices.
Vinson Synan, a professor of church history at Regent University in Virginia Beach, documents the movement's development in An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit (Chosen/Baker). CT online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Synan about Pentecostalism's past and future.
What to you has been one of the most unexpected changes of the past century?
The biggest surprise was the Catholic-charismatic renewal that started in 1967. That came as an utter shock to me, to most of my friends, and probably to the Catholic Church. It gave legitimacy to the movement, that the largest and one of the oldest churches in the world was seeing a Pentecostal movement.
What has been the high point of the movement?
The movement reached a climax in America around 1977 during the Kansas City Conference, because all the different streams came together.
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Some 21 percent of all adults—and a quarter of all Christians—consider themselves Pentecostal or charismatic, according to a new Barna Group poll.
The study found that the demographic crosses denominational, geographic and political lines, with 20 percent of Catholics and 26 percent of Protestants stating that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit and operate in at least one charismatic gift, such as tongues, prophecy or healing. Nearly a quarter of Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independent voters identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.
But the national telephone survey of 1,005 adults found striking generational differences among the group. Baby busters, or those ages 26 to 44, were the most likely to describe themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic, with 29 percent embracing that label. Some 26 percent of Mosaics, or 18- to 25-year-olds, and 25 percent of Christians aged 64 and older described themselves as Pentecostal-charismatic. Only 20 percent of baby boomers, or those between the ages of 45 and 63, described themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.
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As the economy continues to grind away at jobs, homes and lifetimes' of savings, Bishop Thomas D. Jakes looks back from his position as one of America's most successful preachers and remembers his own hard times.
T.D. Jakes— known internationally by those first two initials, or simply as "bishop" to the people at his 30,000-member Dallas megachurch The Potter's House— began his life and ministry in West Virginia's Kanawha Valley. As a young husband and father, he lost his job when the local Union Carbide plant closed, and found himself slipping out of the middle class, working for years at hard jobs for low pay.
Eventually, though, he turned a seven-member church in the tiny town of Montgomery into the vast territories known today as T.D. Jakes Ministries and TDJ Enterprises — discrete kingdoms that nonetheless complement each other, with the Pentecostal-honed Christianity of the former blending with the empower-and-entertain entrepreneurship of the latter.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal
For two decades beginning in the early 1950s, John McCandlish Phillips composed elegant newspaper stories under grueling deadline pressure for the New York Times, earning a reputation as one of his generation's great reporters. In his 2003 memoirs, Arthur Gelb, a longtime editor at the paper, described him as "the most original stylist I'd ever edited...."
Mr. Phillips stunned the staff when he decided to leave full-time employment in 1973 at the age of 46. The New Yorker magazine much later called him "The Man Who Disappeared" and wondered why a figure with so much talent would "walk away from it."
But Mr. Phillips did not disappear. He channeled his imagination into the church he had co-founded with Hannah Lowe a decade or so earlier, the Manhattan-based New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a small Pentecostal congregation. His dream was to spur a massive evangelizing campaign in New York City that would result in waves of born-again Christians.
"What everyone in this city needs, with scarcely anyone knowing of it, is the one salvation that God has provided in His son, Jesus Christ," he told me in a recent interview. "My life was changed in a moment of time, permanently, by an act of evangelism [in 1950]. I know its power. And I have no chiefer desire than to see as many individuals as possible come to that same threshold and cross it."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal
You may never have heard of E. A. Adeboye, but the pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God is one of the most successful preachers in the world. He boasts that his church has outposts in 110 countries. He has 14,000 branches—claiming 5 million members—in his home country of Nigeria alone. There are 360 RCCG churches in Britain, and about the same number in U.S. cities like Chicago, Dallas, and Tallahassee, Fla. Adeboye says he has sent missionaries to China and such Islamic countries as Pakistan and Malaysia. His aspirations are outsize. He wants to save souls, and he wants to do so by planting churches the way Starbucks used to build coffee shops: everywhere.
"In the developing world we say we want churches to be within five minutes' walk of every person," he tells NEWSWEEK. "In the developed world, we say five minutes of driving." Such a goal may seem outlandish, but Adeboye is a Pentecostal preacher: he believes in miracles. And Pentecostalism is the biggest, fastest-growing Christian movement since the Reformation.
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Has the so-called Prosperity gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That's what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity's central promise — that God will "make a way" for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe "God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house." The results, he says, "were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers."
Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in Pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York: "The pastor's not gonna say, 'Go down to Wachovia and get a loan,' but I have heard, 'Even if you have a poor credit rating, God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you'll get that house or that car or that apartment.' " Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma: "It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, 'If you give this offering, God will give you a house.' And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy." If so, the situation offers a look at how a native-born faith built partially on American economic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.
Can we please not blame God but instead this awful theology? Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Pastoral Theology
All these people claim a special happening - contact with the Holy Spirit. For many of them, "getting the spirit" or feeling God's presence is a real, tangible and bodily experience. Shouting, seeing visions, speaking in tongues, jumping, dancing or falling limp to the floor ("falling out") are just a few ways people say the Holy Spirit's manifests its presence in their bodies.
But not every church group or individual Christian experiences the Holy Spirit. Some churches don't welcome the bodily expression of spiritual experience. But even for those who do, the manifestations of the Spirit often vary from person to person, said William Turner Jr., a professor of ministerial studies at Duke Divinity School.
People seek the Holy Spirit because "consistently, the New Testament teaches that the basic components of the Christian life are: believing on the Lord Jesus; being baptized; and receiving the Spirit," Turner said.
Sometimes fear of the unknown can keep worshippers from fully sensing God's presence, he added.
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George O. Wood, who leads the Assemblies of God from its headquarters in Springfield, Mo., said Palin should not be expected to be responsible for, or supportive of, words of Pentecostal pastors any more than Obama should be held responsible for his spiritual leader.
"I don't think that's fair," he said.
A.G. Miller, associate professor of religion at Oberlin College and an Ohio pastor of a small Pentecostal church, said: "Obviously, politics is not always fair. ... It makes you even think twice about whether you want to put your sermons online."
Several churches cited for ties to Palin have posted statements online extolling her leadership but saying they cannot speak for her or endorse her.
Palin, at the appearance last June at Wasilla Assembly of God, jokingly referred to her travels around the state as governor, when pastors might warn her that she might be surprised by the raising of hands or clapping in a congregation she visits.
"I say, I grew up at Wasilla Assembly of God," she said. "Nothing freaks me out about the worship service."
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Apparently, her denominational affiliation is Assemblies of God, which is Pentecostal (as was John Ashcroft). This is from an recent Alaska Assemblies of God newsletter:
Superintendent Ted Boatsman, who was Palin's junior high pastor at Wasilla Assembly of God, along with Pastor Mike Rose of Juneau Christian Center, where Palin presently attends church when in Juneau, laid hands on the Governor and led the Council in prayer.
Would that make her the first Pentecostal to be on any major party ticket?....
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Leah Daughtry is preparing to pray.
Hands clasped, elbows on the table, the Pentecostal minister leans toward the conference phone and speaks. "We've confirmed all the readings except the Buddhist person," she says.
Daughtry is planning the interfaith celebration of song and prayer that will kick off the Democratic National Convention. Still needed are a Muslim, a Jew, a Catholic and a white evangelical to close. Then another wrinkle: Staffers say the Buddhist may have to yield to a congresswoman angling for a spot onstage. "More women is never a bad thing," Daughtry allows, quickly moving on.
As a fifth-generation minister and veteran political planner, Daughtry seems perfectly suited for the administrative and ecumenical task posed by the gathering and its Noah's Ark of speakers. But her work goes far beyond that one event and even her duties as chief executive of the Denver convention, which opens Sunday.
Daughtry, who keeps an altar at home and devotes a predawn hour a day to prayer and Bible study, is on a mission to narrow the "God gap" between Democrats and Republicans by winning over religious voters who have flocked to the GOP over the last 20 years.
"There are millions of Americans across this country for whom faith is important," says Daughtry, who leads an unprecedented party effort targeting the devout. "And whether they vote on the basis of their faith, or whether they vote about issues that are somehow connected to their faith, we should be reaching out to them."
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Where did this 19th-century movement lead? Although the Pentecostal embrace of divine healing in the 20th century is outside of the scope of Curtis' study, she suggests some of the ways that Pentecostalism both borrowed from and reshaped the 19th-century tradition of faith healing. And Curtis also pokes, gently, at some of the subtle, and subtly pernicious, effects the faith healing movement might have had on the larger American cultural imagination. She suggests, intriguingly, that perhaps one of the more worrying fruits of the movement was the stigmatizing of invalids: in the context of a God who promised health, "chronic illness or infirmity became increasingly problematic." Thus, likely unintentionally, the faith cure movement may have "helped foster disparaging attitudes toward the body in pain that have persisted" to the present. The faith healing movement, in other words, contributed to our culture's assumption that God prefers the able-bodied to the infirm, the vigorous to the halt and the lame.
Heather Curtis has done both the historical guild and the church a great favor in so elegantly narrating the history of a movement that challenged long-standing assumptions about the spiritual utility of corporal pain—and, in so doing, remapped our imaginations and transformed our understanding of suffering.
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To say she was a practicing Catholic would be an understatement. For years, Maria Aparecida Calazans was a mainstay at her Long Island church, joining dozens of fellow Brazilian immigrants for the Portuguese language Mass on Sunday mornings. She and her husband, Ramon, were married at the church. Their two daughters were baptized there, and every Friday she attended a prayer meeting that she had helped organize.
But six years ago, her husband went to a relative’s baptism at a Pentecostal church in a warehouse in Astoria, Queens, and came home smitten.
The couple made a deal. “We would go to the Pentecostal service on Thursdays and to Mass on Sundays, and then we would decide which one we felt most comfortable with,” Mrs. Calazans said.
Within 40 days, they had given up Roman Catholicism and embraced Pentecostalism, following the path of the estimated 1.3 million Latino Catholics who have joined Pentecostal congregations since immigrating to the United States, according to a survey released in February by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
“I feel whole here,” Mrs. Calazans, 42, said one recent Sunday in the Astoria sanctuary, the Portuguese Language Pentecostal Missionary Church, as she swayed to the pop-rock beat of a live gospel band. “This church is not a place we visit once a week. This church is where we hang around and we share our problems and we celebrate our successes, like we were family.”
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The only Episcopal congregation in Lake County to leave the national denomination over the issue of homosexuality and other doctrines has found a new home and ally in its quest to begin worshipping anew -- a tiny Pentecostal congregation.
The Rev. Woodleigh Volland and an overwhelming majority of his congregation at St. Edward's Episcopal Church departed the national Episcopal Church in late October but remained with the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican community.
The dissidents regrouped and formed a new church, Epiphany Celebration Anglican Church, but quickly found themselves with nowhere to worship or hold services.
"We had to move nearly the entire congregation and didn't have anywhere to go," said Volland, an ordained minister since 1990 and pastor at St. Edward's for six years.
Four of the five staff members and 10 of 12 vestry members opted to leave along with 130 of the roughly 170 regular church worshippers, Volland said.
"We stepped out in faith and started completely over," he said. "It was an extraordinarily difficult decision."
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(His picture is here).
I received the following via email this week:
Dear Pastors & Ministry Leaders,
Our dear elder brother, Pastor Robert Birch, went to be with the Lord on December 4th just three weeks short of his 100th birthday. This coming Saturday afternoon, January 5th, will be the occasion for the city church to come together for a Service of Thanksgiving to the Lord and a celebration of his life. Pastor Bob lived through every decade of last century and there is much to tell.
The service is at 2:00 pm at Harvest City Church. Please come early to park at HCC or else be prepared to park within a couple of blocks. Instead of sympathy cards we are invited to sign special greeting sheets for a remembrance for Margaret Birch and the family. Instead of flowers it is suggested to make a donation to the Bible Society for Bibles for orphans in India, envelopes will be available. After the service refreshments will be served in the church hall, where the biography of Pastor Bob in book and DVD will be on sale. The service will also be recorded for future availability.
Please forward this e-mail to your list to make sure no one misses out on this historic event. As Pastor Bob would have said: 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches'.
Yours in Christ for the City,
Pastor David Carson
On behalf of the Vancouver City of Destiny Exec.
He was one of the remarkable Christian leaders of the 20th centruy, and he will be sorely missed--KSH.
Even in an era of mass immigration that has produced suburban tamale shops alongside halal meat markets and created a market for television programming in Hindi and Arabic, places of worship remain bastions of racial and ethnic uniformity. And that makes the case of one brick church in Springfield particularly remarkable.
On a recent Sunday morning at the Word of Life Assembly of God Church, pink-cheeked Virginia native David Gorman skipped in a conga line in Swahili Sunday school while a Kenyan preacher played an accordion and a Singaporean woman led jubilant hymns. Filipinos analyzed Bible passages in a classroom.
Later, as the Sierra Leonean choir prepared to perform in the sanctuary, D. Wendel Cover, the folksy white pastor, listed the nations of the world and asked worshipers to stand when they heard their homelands.
He seemed a bit dismayed to find just 80 represented.
"Our country's becoming more international," Cover, 73, said in an interview. He has led the formerly majority-white Pentecostal church for three decades. "The next generation is going to be American. If the church doesn't realize that, they're going to lose a whole generation."
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Watch it all and note carefully the man who says Christianity is not a religion but is instead something else.
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Nearly every week, new visitors arrive. They want to see the megachurch that was built in the unlikeliest of places by the unlikeliest of men.
The Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations was founded 13 years ago by a Nigerian immigrant, Sunday Adelaja, in Kyiv, Ukraine. In a predominantly Orthodox Christian country where racism is pervasive, Adelaja created a Pentecostal church with 30,000 members.
The next stop in his bid for global reach is the United States.
"America is fast becoming a mission ground again," Adelaja said in a phone interview from Sacramento, Calif., during his latest trip through the country. "We are surprised that the Americans who preached to us, the passion they had is almost already gone."
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For five days and nights last summer, the Rev. Edwin Mieses saw the kingdom of God on the playgrounds of this hilltop mining town. The occasion was the array of basketball games, clown shows and worship services that go by the title “Rock the Block.”
Mr. Mieses concocted the event with another local pastor as a way for that minister’s mostly white congregation and Mr. Mieses’s largely Hispanic flock to carry the Gospel together as Pentecostal Christians. And as Mr. Mieses heard the childish glee in response to his puppetry, as he watched a local drug dealer lurch tearfully toward the altar to accept Jesus, he believed he was doing what the Almighty had asked of him.
“To see the body of Christ working as one gives you a glimpse of what will be when the Lord returns,” Mr. Mieses recalled in an interview. “It’s what we’re called to do. It’s why we do this work. To bring forth a positive message with no racial lines, no color lines.”
By the time “Rock the Block” returned this summer, however, Mr. Mieses’s priorities had changed and his spiritual mandate had expanded in an unexpectedly political direction.
As Hazleton has become a national center for opposition to illegal immigrants, as members of Mr. Mieses’s congregation have experienced suspicion merely for being Hispanic, he has begun attending rancorous public meetings and sharing bulletins from his pulpit. In addition to staples like youth ministry and Bible study, his church has begun holding citizenship and English classes for adults.
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A rock 'n' roll bar with a neon "Pabst Blue Ribbon" sign in its window and truck-driver kitsch seems an unlikely setting for a room full of devout Christians gathered for prayer.
But on a recent Sunday evening, a small crowd gathered in the back room of Trash Bar in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood as a band warmed up onstage. Friends greeted each other with handshakes and hugs by the bar; some sat in the ripped-out car seats that line the bordello-red walls to chat.
By the time the band began to play "Glory to God," about 40 people had assembled. Some were clean-cut, casually dressed young professionals; others sported tattoos, T-shirts, and sneakers. Many closed their eyes and lifted their hands while they sang along with the band. Some knelt to the floor or sat with their heads in their hands as they prayed.
A small crop of evangelical groups like the Church at Trash Bar have begun gathering in informal locations throughout Williamsburg over the past year, holding services in bars and cafes and promising an open environment for those who have given up on traditional churches but remain interested in worshipping in casual settings.
The Church at Trash Bar is one of a handful of New York congregations affiliated with the Vineyard Church, a looseknit Pentecostal denomination of about 1,500 churches worldwide.
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Read the whole thing.
From yesterday's New York Times, page B5:
On a Saturday morning in September 1987, Eric Stern stood before the congregation of a Queens synagogue, chanting the Torah part for his bar mitzvah. His passage spanned several chapters of Deuteronomy and was notable for containing 74 of the 613 commandments that govern observant Jewish life.
One verse stipulated that a woman should never wear male clothing, or vice versa, or else be “abhorrent” in the eyes of God. The rule forms one strand in the fabric of biblical statements and Talmudic commentaries that espouse and indeed hallow a concept of modesty, known by the Hebrew word “tznius.”
About the same time that Mr. Stern was intoning the religious dress code, a teenage girl, Tahita Jenkins, was learning the same concept from the same passage a few neighborhoods away in Far Rockaway. Ms. Jenkins, though, happened to be an African-American Christian, and her Pentecostal church imbued her with the belief that, among other things, a woman should never wear pants.
While Ms. Jenkins gave over to that particular temptation a few times in high school, she stuck with long skirts all through her studies in technical college and jobs with a bank, hospital, grocery store and three bus companies. Only when she was hired as a New York City bus driver two months ago did her attire become an object of controversy, leading to her dismissal.
The dismissal, in turn, brought her to Mr. Stern, who is now her lawyer, and to a seemingly unlikely partnership that is, on closer inspection, altogether logical. The common bond of Orthodox Jew and Pentecostal Christian is a belief in the right of a devout person to dress according to religious belief, without the risk of being fired.
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