The New Thing God is Doing: The Charismatic Renewal and Classical Pentecostalism

Mark Hutchinson

Southern Cross College

In 1962 the Australian Evangel carried a blast by Pentecostal elder -statesman, Philip Duncan, against the 'waxing cold' of Pentecostals, and a call for a return to such things as 'singing in the Spirit, expectation of divine visitation in our gatherings, Holy Ghost confirmation of the ministry [through operation of the gifts] and loss of unction'.1 In later years, Duncan also attacked the claims of particularly American Pentecostals as mere showmanship and entertainment, and again called for the tradition to return to the operation of the gifts as a confirmation of the word and saving power of Christ.2 His comments were seen by some as an indicator of Australian Pentecostalism in crisis. How could the energy of early days of Pentecost be captured, and the now generation old churches be renewed into the new world which was emerging in the 1960s? How do you renew renewal? It was a question that was not only relevant to Duncan's day. Here we are another generation later, many within the Assemblies of God (AOG) asking the same questions. This paper will look at the ways in which this was attempted in the last major outbreak of renewal in the Western world, the charismatic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The organising question is, What was the impact of the charismatic renewal on classical Pentecostalism?

In particular, I would like to look at the movement in Australia which, given the readership and title of the journal, sounds like an overly obvious statement. A review of the literature points out, however, that this is an area that is little reflected on either within the movement or from outside. The standard history of Australian Pentecostalism, Barry Chant's Heart of Fire,3 was in fact written before the outcome of the charismatic movement could be known, and the author's work since that date has largely been on the early years of Australian Pentecost rather than the more recent decades. The article length material is also virtually non-existent, or hagiographical in nature. The other book-length material-such as Adrian Commadeur's The Spirit in the Church: Exploring Catholic Charismatic Renewal 4-is heavily oriented towards providing theological and apologetic frameworks for the movement, or-such as the booklet produced by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in 1973, Both Sides of the Question-is oriented towards 'exploring' the issue rather than analysing it. As I have noted in other places, such explorations are usually thinly disguised theological and biblical attempts by established authorities to dismiss the movement-one side of the question rather than both.5 There are two now long-running attempts to write something substantial about the movement-by doctoral students, Geoff Waugh and Ralph Legge. Both men are working full time as well as attempting to study, so any public document on the movement will be some time yet. So, the literature of the charismatic movement is wide open if there are any students out there. This should be no surprise-the heat of a renewal does not give time for a reflective literature to arise, for all that people such as Jonathan Edwards seem to have been capable of detachment in the revivals of other times. On the one hand, those most likely to be looking at the renewal are either involved in it or fighting for the status quo against it. There are far too few good minds and historians (two categories which should not be confused with one another) on the edges of a hot renewal to enable ongoing reflection to take place. It is the contention of this paper that the result has been quite radical changes in church practice, theology and historicity which have not been subjected to the same sort of purposive analysis that pastors would put into, say, a church plant. People are quite happy to continue being 'Pentecostal' long after what was meant by that term underwent quite radical change. What challenges did the charismatic movement face Pentecostals with? What have been the results for Pentecostalism?

1. Cultural Markers

In 1974, the first issue of a small periodical emerged-it was Vision Magazine (hereinafter VM) the journal of the Temple Trust. The Trust was begun in 1973 by Alan Langstaff and a number of others in imitation of Michael Harper's pathbreaking Fountain Trust, and like that organisation aimed to provide a coordination point, a clearing house, and a catalyst for spreading the ongoing charismatic renewal in the mainline churches. In his first editorial interestingly enough, Alan Langstaff, Methodist minister at Waverley, NSW, Director of the Trust, and editor of the newsletter, wrote: '1971 saw the beginning of the charismatic renewal movement in Australia. But 1974 could be the year when a giant step forward is taken.' Of course, this is a reinvention of history. 1971 was not the year when the charismatic movement began at all, only the year in which a particular branch of the movement began. What had happened was that this branch had become sufficiently formalised to claim the right to interpret the history of the movement. In fact, low level charismatic renewal had been happening in Australia at least since 1959, and in more isolated cases had been happening among fringe clergy and former missionaries for much longer than that.6 VM is a sociologists' delight in the sense that it demonstrates the problems of organising the charismatic moment, of structuring renewal. The magazine was a deliberate attempt to copy, and to act as a funnel for other events-and so unconsciously it reinforced the tendency to think of renewal as something which began elsewhere. In this case, it was with the Episcopalian renewal led by Dennis Bennett from 1960. The Editor, Temple Trust head Alan Langstaff, noted about the magazine that:
Through its pages we hope to present:

- Stimulating, thought provoking articles both from Australia and overseas to show what God is doing in the Church today.
- Reports and news worldwide.
- Book Reviews. - News and reports of Temple Trust's activities.7

The Temple Trust was very effective in this-particularly acting as a vector for the ideas of such people as Derek Prince, Ralph Wilkerson, Graham Pulkingham, and Terry Fulham from the United States, and Michael Harper and those attached to the Fountain Trust in the United Kingdom.

Two things need to be noted about Langstaff's programmatic statement for VM. First, the emphasis was on medium rather than message- the transfer of ideas rather than on the ideas themselves. This is typical of the early period of the renewal, when ecumenicity and what united was emphasised far more than what divided. It was also typical of the McCluhanesque culture of the 1960s in which much of the charismatic movement was born. Inevitably, it also meant abandoning any attempt at rigorous theology-that was not to happen for over a decade. This latter had too often been the mark of the oppressive other, the traditionalists. In its place, charismatic spokesmen such as Langstaff (a Methodist minister) and Tony Smits (a CRC pastor then working in Canberra) spoke of 'the "new thing" God is doing'.8 The emphasis was on 'now', or 'present truth', as Smits notes in the first article in VM. The theology is interesting, as tied to a fundamentalist approach to the words of scripture is an almost classically liberal approach to revelation:

Truth related to an individual or to the church is progressive. We read in Isaiah 28.13 that the Lord dealt with the nation 'line upon line, precept upon precept.' In the New Testament the apostle Peter speaks of 'present truth'. 2 Peter 1.10-12.9

While Martin Luther, and John Wesley each carried the 'message for his day', 'today there is a gathering together of all Truth as we gather together in the unity of the Spirit'.10 Human togetherness, mixed with an end-times eschatology, is equated with the pinnacle of divine truth. And this truth is to be found in the medium of worship rather than the content of the message-'We find in the church today, a restoration of true worship and praise. There has been praise and worship in the past but never on the scale we are seeing today.'11 What was tossed out with the bathwater was the need to be reflective in the face of this great sea of human/divine experience.

The second thing to be noted is the easy slide from trans-nationalism to internationalism. As I have pointed out elsewhere, and David Lyon and Paul Freston have both noted, the myth of Dennis Bennett beginning the charismatic movement in 1960 was as manufactured as the myth that modern Pentecostalism uniformly and globally traces its origins to Azusa Street. Neither is true of Australia, Freston notes it is not true of the charismatic movement with regard to Brazil, and Lyon notes that more recently it was not true of the simultaneous flows which merged under the name of the 'Toronto Blessing'.12 The genius of Pentecostalism was that it was counter-establishment, it was able to capitalise on the break-up of traditional ecclesiastical and political establishments in order to project a new vision of the Kingdom of God. These were also the markers of Protestant evangelicalism at the end of the eighteenth century-as Van Rooden notes, 'A high proportion of nineteenth century Anglican missionaries would not have met the requirements for ordination in England', and likewise, traditional methods of clergy preordination training have not been the strong point of Pentecostalism.13 The formal charismatic movement, while breaking out transnationally, becomes hybridised and dealt with internationally. Instead of demonstrating the power of renewal to adopt a myriad of indigenised local forms, the concerns of the formalised charismatic movement are to import ideas and be at the leading edge of what is happening elsewhere. To some extent this is the classic form of the dilemma of mixed motivation-what was a movement of God in many different social structures quickly became a movement of men in increasingly standardised social structures. The tendency of overseas visiting and multimedia ministries to colonise Australia was obviously a concern with the early movement, and Langstaff sought to encourage a local ministry. The economics of the 'big name' and the charismatic convention, however, undermined this resolution in the longer term-Langstaff himself went to work in the USA, and Vision Ministries, as the Temple Trust was renamed, eventually fell victim to an imported prosperity doctrine.

2. Terminology

Matching the shifting of mental goalposts which charismatic renewal brought to both Pentecostalism and evangelicalism, were the changes caused by bringing traditional Pentecostal terminology into the market place.'14 Michael Harper, in the Fountain Trust's Renewal Magazine, noted the conflict arising over the usage of terms, among which 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit' was particularly hotly disputed.15 The most interesting thing about the debate is that so little of it was about theology or biblical exegesis, and most of it about the internal politics of churches:

There are some who would prefer to call it something else to avoid offence. Of course, as Christians we should avoid as much as possible causing offence to our fellow believers. My own experience, however, has been that ceasing to use the term 'baptism in the spirit' usually adds confusion. 'Fullness'... is to be seen as a continuing experience, as Paul suggests in Eph. 5.18, whereas Baptism in the Spirit suggests an experience or event which is not to be repeated...

He concludes: 'One hope is that this will help in the growing debate on this important issue. Let us freely share whether we agree or disagree. And if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable about it."16 The politics of this are clear. Arising out of the ultimate crisis experience of revivals like Azusa Street and Sunshine, and having drawn on the second blessing theology of Wesleyanism,17 Pentecostal groups such as the AOG were small and coherent enough not to have problems with the terminology- it was baptism in the Spirit, plain and simple. In terms of the sociology of knowledge, their formal ideology and their theology were consonant with one another because of the essential homogeneity of their origins and experiences. It was something of a conversion experience, in Berger's terms, for denominational people to be forced out of their denominational plausibility structures and into the new networks of the AOG. It bred a particular kind of character-often personable, but essentially tough-nosed about issues of belief.18 An early generation Pentecostal would never, in Harper's place, have entered into a conversation on the terms of 'Let us freely share whether we agree or disagree'. The generalisation of this experience through the charismatic movement, however, was marked by heterogeneity of origins and experiences- most ministers (and proportionately more ministers qua ministers were involved in the early days of charismatic renewal than lay people)19 sought to stay in their livings and denominations, though many in the long term were forced, through internal conviction or external pressure, to move out. This meant that inevitably there was a period in which charismatics attempted to synthesise their experience with the theology of their ecclesiastical settings. The intersection between this internal project by charismatic mainline ministers with that primary external form of charismatic expression, the interdenominational praise/teaching convention, meant that disagreement had to arise, and the rules of engagement for theological debate had to shift and to narrow. The power of this may be seen in the standing joke which arose at early charismatic conferences for 'one minister to say of a previous speaker, "He has preached my message".20 No doubt there was the action of the Holy Spirit in this-but it is interesting to speculate on the way that God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-giver, uses social structures to narrow intention and discourse towards a particular result. Faced with incommensurate diversity, the preaching of unity was as inevitable as it is for an Anglo minister to stand before an ethnic congregation and say 'Isn't it wonderful how we are all one family in God?!' All very true-but is it the free action of the Holy Spirit?

3. Ecclesiology

One of the speakers at the first major charismatic conference in Australia, held in January 1974 by the Temple Trust at the Australian National University, was Ralph Wilkerson, pastor of Melodyland Christian Centre. Located in a former theatre in Anaheim, California, opposite Disneyland, the Church became something of the charismatic analogue of that great icon of American consumerist culture, in the sense that it became a must see stop-off point on the charismatic international pilgrimage.21 And just as Mainstreet in Disneyland refracts the American dream for visitors, so Melodyland, with its 8000 members, its TV station, School of Theology and social outreach program incarnated the charismatic dream for Australian visitors. There were quite a number of these as people travelled to the United States to see what was happening. After his trip there in 1972, Alan Alcock ran regular tours to American charismatic centres, taking people who would be key to the spreading of charismatic renewal in various sections of the community (including Ken Chant, Gordon Gibbs, and Noel Bell). Melodyland was usually on the schedule, and some, such as my esteemed friend and colleague, Ian Jagelman, returned there for an education in a school of theology which could boast J. Rodman Williams in its teaching program.22 It was the place to go, just as in later years many people were to fill out their ministerial education at Fuller or Regent. But I do not want to remark upon the work of Melodyland so much as to consider the power of the model. Is it coincidental that this format for 'church'-combining theatre, media, music and the energy of large groups-has become the defacto template for Assemblies of God churches in Australia? After all, there were other models-the communitarian model of the huge Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas, for instance, under Graham Pulkingham, or David Watson's thriving St. Michael le Belfry's in York, England.23 These had their impact,24 but in the end were isolated by their settings-the Church of the Redeemer in terms of its radical discipleship and communitarian ethic was more in tune with the Jesus People and the counter-cultures of the 1960s than with the mobile phones of the 1980s, while St Mike's remained denominational, and so more effective within Anglicanism than outside. Just as Disneyland was a more iconic presence so Melodyland was more easily 'globalised' and adapted into other settings. In terms of its work with addictions and social 'drop-outs' (to use the terminology of the time), one wishes that perhaps the model had been more faithfully followed than it has been. The important thing to notice, however, is that the adoption of such a model implied a significant shift in classical Pentecostal ideas of the nature of the church.

Pentecostal churches prior to 1960 were, as a matter of course, fairly small. One could not compare the largest of them, Richmond Temple, for instance, or Petersham Assemblies of God, with the Anglican St. Barnabas Broadway, for instance, which in the 1930s had a men's group which alone was several times the size of most Pentecostal churches. An average size of 50, with a large church running to several hundred, was the yardstick then widely used. Through the early 1960s, Pentecostalism began to experience both diversification and growth. Many more groups, often American in origin, began to found offshoots in Australia, and there was something of a divine competition among Pentecostals for members and for new ways of doing evangelism. Though unusual for their time, the growth of South Australian Pentecostalism by some 70% from 1963-1965 was a pointer for the future. As Freston has noted, Pentecostalism has usually done best in conditions where the status quo is under pressure, and this was certainly the case in post-war, high immigration Australia. As I have noted elsewhere, the same pressures were beginning, from about 1958 in many denominations, to lead mainline ministers to search for solutions to growing feelings of powerlessness in ministry.25 While Pentecostalism was not yet to be the direct beneficiary of charismatic defections from the mainstream, it was benefiting from the cultural shakeup that had in part also made the charismatic renewal possible. Some outflow of mainstream members seems to begin between the census of 1971 and that of 1976, with all three major Protestant groups-Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist losing significant numbers. How many of these the Pentecostals picked up is impossible to know, given the bluntness of the census instrument. The personal stories of many suggest that it there was some transfer. The really significant transfer seems to take place between 1976 and 1981, however, as almost all mainline denominations hardened in their attitudes towards charismatics. As Alan Alcock, formerly an Anglican minister, has noted, people would get baptised in the Holy Spirit, return to their local ministers, and full of excitement about new spiritual life, be told that what they had was of the devil. Thousands abandoned ship, and formed the basis for the spectacular growth of churches such as Christian City Church, Dee Why.

Now, it is, as Kaldor has shown, an exaggeration to suggest that all Pentecostal growth came from charismatic transfer growth. This growth did provide an important base of experienced and enthusiastic church goers on which the new congregations could be built. Significantly, the big bump in AOG numbers comes in the period 1979 to 1981, during the decay of charismatic forms and membership-between 1973 and 1979 (i.e. 6 years), the fellowship grew by 3,552 members. Between 1979 and 1981 (i.e. in two years) it grew by over 13,000 members, a growth rate it has sustained in absolute numbers through to the present. In 1970, there were 110 AOG congregations in Australia-by 1986 there were nearly five times that many.26 The church Frank Houston began in Darlinghurst in 1977 with 8 people, by 1982 had over 1,300 members. By 1 January 1993, the largest of the Pentecostal denominations in Australia had 97,654 members, 717 assemblies, and 1,404 ministers. As the absolute numbers increase, of course, we continue to see a drop in the spectacular percentage increases of the early years, simply because the additions are to ever larger numbers in the main body of the church. Absolute growth in AOG members in the two year period was a decline relative to earlier years, total membership and adherence having increased from 88,000 to 97,000. On previous figures, the national fellowship set goals for an increase of total membership and adherence to 'at least' 110,000, which by 1995 were achieved. Having gone beyond that, the challenge for the movement is clearly going to lie with the second-generation of churched Pentecostal members. The fact that Kaldor et al.'s studies in the National Church Life Survey indicate an increase in Pentecostal nominalism suggests that the forces of institutionalisation and theological superficiality will have to be overcome if this is to happen. In 1993, I wrote a paper which predicted that, both because the AOG was growing larger, and because it was finding more of its members from internal transfer from second generation affiliates rather than from new unchurched conversions, that it would find it harder to fulfill its internal mandate of linear growth. The 1996 Census figures support this proposal, and if Ian Jagelman is right, if we take the top 50 churches out of the picture, then growth is in fact negative in the movement as a whole. This is not a problem if we have an ecclesiology which would prefer to see our 150,000 members gathered into say 15 large churches. It is a considerable problem if we continue to hold to the traditional Pentecostal ecclesiology of small to medium-sized churches. Yet it is precisely this sort of ecclesiology which was undermined by the influence of charismatic models on Pentecostal churches through the 1970s and 1980s.

4. Historicity

Related to this shift in ecclesiology has been a development in the implied theory of history underpinning the movement. Despite emphasising the fact that God was doing 'something new' in the charismatic movement, it is interesting to see, in reviewing such productions as Vision Magazine, the number of times that speakers refer to dates, and to the history of classical Pentecostalism. In the first instance, there is the clear attempt to answer the obvious question raised by the something new-that is, 'why? 'Why should God do something new? Newness is a standing challenge to oldness, the traditions out of which charismatics came. They sought to justify this newness by creating an alternative history. So Alan Langstaff notes that the charismatic movement in Australia began in 1971, when in fact it began earlier. Likewise, Catholic charismatic leader Ralph Martin, in a 1974 address at Notre Dame marks the beginning of the charismatic movement in two phases-the baptism in mainstream churches from around 1957 of people who stayed in their traditions, and then a more general release in what 'we now call the neo-Pentecostal movement'.27 Such a construction does two things-it gives a place for newness within the traditions, and it re-integrates Pentecostal history into the life of the church-in short, it captures Pentecostal history. In a strange inversion of the way that Azusa street Pentecostals had seen mainstream Christians, Pentecostals are now rather quaint figures, figures of yesterday-like Mozart, they are 'classical'. Martin then tied the events within Catholicism to events within the Pentecostal stream:

On the very day at the turn of the century that we now recognize as the beginnings of the classical Pentecostal movement, Pope Leo the 13th [sic] issued a letter to all the bishops of the world begging them to encourage their people to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit... What is happening among the classical Pentecostals today is some thing we can call an ecumenical shockwave. It is a shock to the Pentecostal churches to see what God is doing in the Catholic Church. When all your life you have been trained to look at the Catholic Church as the whore of Babylon, and when the whore of Babylon preaches Jesus, what are you going to do? It shakes up your whole world view.

And then Martin put his finger right on the button:

Among the leaders in the classical Pentecostal churches now, there is a tremendous reassessment taking place. They want to see how to flow into the new thing that God is doing.

The link is between a view of history and and a way of action. In commandeering and reinventing the classical Pentecostal experience, terminology, ecclesiology and historicity, the charismatic movement changed the way Pentecostals acted. From being end-times remnants, evening light saints, Pentecostals absorbed the amillennialism required by ecumenical charismatic discourse, and sought to 'flow into the new thing that God is doing'. And when that new thing faltered in the early 1980s, there was the new thing after that, and the new thing after that. This was a new way of acting and thinking for classical Pentecostals, but it became the paradigm from the mid-1970s onwards. Let us remember that this emphasis on the new is happening in the context of the more general debates in the Western world about the 'end of history', about the decline of history as a discipline in schools and universities, and the collapse in status regard for older people in Western societies. Old was bad-new is good.

Nowhere is the wave theorem of God's action in the world put better than by Derek Prince, himself a Pentecostal minister who was to develop an international presence in the charismatic movement. In October 1964, he writes, he was standing on a cliff near his home in Denmark, when he received a vision of 'what was going on in all the earth.'28 That was a pretty big claim, even in the context of some of the fairly hairy things that were happening in the renewal at the time. He gives the content as follows:

God showed me there that the history of the Church was like the behaviour of the sea. The early Church was high tide, but then the tide went out. The waves still came in, but they never came as high as the early waves of the Church; there was still a movement of God, but it never reached the height of the early Church, and gradually the waves lost more and more of that which they had covered and controlled until the 'Dark Ages', which was low tide.

Then the tide turned and started to come in and the waves began coming higher than before, with each wave recovering a little more of the territory that had been lost to the Church. God showed me there are some great waves and there are some great ones, and he gave me a brief outline of the Church History, Luther, Wesley, Finney, the Welsh revival, and so on. Then he brought me up to the present time and spoke to me about the Pentecostal movement. He showed me that when each wave has reached its climax, it checks and then recedes; the same wave never comes back again. God never revives a revival, he never gives us anything warmed over

The Pentecostal movement had been one of the great waves. It had recovered truth not recovered by previous waves, and had made an impact all around the earth. But it had reached it climax and was receding. That was almost like a physical blow. I thought, 'God, am I giving my life to something that's on the way out? What am I going to do'; [sic] Like most of us, my first reaction was one of self-concern: how it was going to affect me in my ministry. My wife and I had given up everything-country, profession, finance-to serve God in the Pentecostal movement, we had made a total commitment. Was it all to end? This is the answer the Lord gave me: 'The same wave never comes back again, but some of the water that was in the previous wave comes back in the next one'. There's a new wave coming; it will not be the Pentecostal movement, it will be different. It will come higher even than the Pentecostal movement; it will recover truth which Pentecostals as a whole did not recover. It will be the greatest wave, and it will be the last wave.29

Such a vision, for a church historian, raises lots of questions-not the least being the fact that Jonathan Edwards and K.S. Latourette had written of the history of revival in very similar terms long before Prince had his vision, though they rather boringly came to their conclusions through the rather prosaic means of study rather than vision.30 Other questions are raised by what one considers to be success in church history, and whether the repeated waves which rock Wales through the nineteenth century do not question the statement 'God never revives a revival'. It is, in this regard, interesting that Prince proceeds from the prophecy to the issue of authority and submission. Prince's own shepherding movement was to prove a problem for the charismatic movement, introducing leadership principles that ended, in some cases, in schism and dysfunctional relationships. Only six months after this article appeared in Vision Magazine (January 1975), its editor was pointing out the dangers of 'charismatic legalism' with the words, 'the idea of a person finding a shepherd and submitting themselves personally to that particular person for life has no basis in scripture'.31 This got a rousing cheer from the AOG at the time, with General Superintendent Ralph Read writing in to say that he felt Langstaff had 'stated some essential principles and drawn attention to some dangerous trends. I would like our people to read your editorial either at a ministerial or congregational level.'32 VM returned the favour by suggesting that people read Leo Harris' material in the CRC's magazine, The Revivalist. Prince's approach is a useful statement of the insecurities of the times, however-Phillip Duncan had asked similar questions about the relationship between the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism. Were Pentecostals to fade away and let charismatics take over the torch they had borne for so long under so many difficult circumstances?33

Well, the historian rather than visionary can now say with the hindsight of twenty years, no-in large part, the sons and daughters of the charismatic movement either carved themselves out a quiet and fairly unthreatening niche in their denominations, or they left to become de facto Pentecostals. That process continues today, with the secession of Belconnen Uniting Church and Churchlands in Western Australia, the formation of the Middle Ground group of churches, and the imminent departure of yet other churches in the face of mainline denominational debates over women's ordination and human sexuality. Was it the last wave? Well, its a bit like the swimming pool my kids go to for swimming lessons-there's the big pool, where the local high school has barged in to hold competition water polo, and then there is the intermediate pool for learners, and over in the corner is the baby pool. We may not be in the baby pool any more, but while Pentecostalism has outgrown what was in the eyes of its critics its cultist status, it is not yet in the Olympic Pool.34 It is in the intermediate pool, which is considerably smaller, and it is getting crowded in there. John Wimber of recent memory would not have agreed with Prince that the charismatic wave was the greatest and last-the 'third wave' took yet another tack in accommodating the message of Azusa Street to broader evangelicalism, ironically even further undermining denominational-ism, and broadening the pool of us purveyors of 'alternative Christian medicine' out here on the wings of Australian society. Where the pool once held only the Apostolics, Elim, CRC and the AOG (added to, rather nastily by the Commonwealth Department of Statistics, by the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints and sometimes the SDAs), it is now home for CLCs, COCs, CCCs, CFCs, and increasing numbers of independent churches with names so similar that the Department of Acronyms in Canberra must nearly be at a standstill. From the standpoint of a social theorist, what has this done to Pentecostalism?

Let me first say that I am not trying to provide an opinion here. Historical beauty, as in much else, is often in the eye of the beholder. Bewailing the loss of a particular theology, ecclesiology and view of history in a movement is like bewailing the loss of the Dodo-its gone, and a chicken on the plate is worth more than two Dodos in the museum. It is important, however, to record the fact that, for those people who think they are still working in the tradition of Smith Wigglesworth, P.B. Duncan and C.L. Greenwood, things have changed. The expansion of Pentecostal options has meant that the base-lines for self-assessment have changed. Bill Hybels is as important a person to us as Wigglesworth, and Hillsong is considerably more important than the Holiness tradition. The response by Read about the tendencies towards absolutist theories of spiritual leadership was also not limited to charismatic circles-two decades later, such theories are common enough fodder in many Pentecostal churches, indeed in some of the largest in the land. Theologically, the Church traditions which the charismatic refugees of the late 1970s brought into Pentecostal churches also relativised the two great cornerstones of the Azusa Street tradition-tongues, which became not 'the' but 'a' marker of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; and restorationism, or the return to the New Testament church.35 With regard to the former, they may or may not in fact be theologically correct-but as Ian Jagelman points, such diversity eats at a movement's identity.36 The theological bases for early Pentecostalism were comparatively uniform-temperance, holiness, biblical fundamentalism, experience, power. In the welter of modern choices, as the biggest bus in the Pentecostal garage, the AOG is inevitably subject to increasing internal fragmentation marked by spending ever larger amounts of time resolving internal disagreements over the contents of the drivers' manual and the bus's direction. With regard to the latter, historical restorationism and its theological companion, premillennialism-well, as Derek Prince informed us, and as was widely held in the charismatic movement, the revival brought not only wider experience and greater numbers, but higher truth. Bigger congregations meant bigger churches meant, quite often, that we stopped looking for the millennium and started building for it. And let us not forget that those bigger congregations relied heavily on the after-effects of the charismatic movement. The impact on missions, which was fuelled in the nineteenth century by fervent premillennialism, has been observed in many areas. As one scholar recently noted, the ratio of missionaries to church members is higher in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and amongst the Brethren, which rejected Pentecostalism, than among some of the churches which now profess it.37

In the providence of God, who is to say that such things are not really the building blocks of a yet greater future-yet another wave, final or not. But let it not be said, as Paul noted among some of the Greeks, that all things continue as they are from the days of the fathers. The impact of the charismatic movement on Pentecostalism was rapid and substantial. It made Pentecostalism into something which its founders struggled with. In an article entitled in typically old-fashioned alliterative preacher's style, 'God or Gimmicks', for instance, P.B. Duncan, the elder statesman of the Assemblies of God in NSW, challenged the strange new ministries swaying people from the beaten path to the excitement and novelty of something new. He highlighted the Latter Rain movement, marathon fasting, child prodigy preachers, commercialising spiritual gifts, prayer cloths, oil on the hands, filling teeth and tightening dentures and casting demons out of Christians which he stated 'was the latest action that is besetting Pentecostal gatherings, and being heralded as a great demonstration of power'.38
More than any theology, the holiness tradition and marginalising experiences which gave birth to such men bred in them a warm common sense that, despite being able to tell some humdinger stories about the supernatural works of God, left them unimpressed with ungrounded personal experience. It was a level headedness that a number of charismatics who went into the mainstream from Pentecostalism only to find the charismatic movement waiting for them, were to look back upon with some envy. As Andrew Walker, an Englishman born in Elim who ended up in Greek Orthodoxy, was to say, there was about the classical Pentecostal traditions:

a rude good health which, notwithstanding a certain crankiness, never entirely gave way to the mountebanks and mavericks of the charismatic fringes. There is a lesson here for the Renewal. Elim and the Assemblies of God have a long tradition of making mistakes: they have been going about their business for eighty years and have learned from their errors and misdemeanours.39
Have we indeed? I wonder.


1.  P.B. Duncan, in Australian Evangel (May 1962), quoted in D. and G. Smith, A River is Flowing: A History of the Assemblies of God in Australia (Adelaide: Assemblies of God in Australia Commonwealth Conference, 1987), p. 49. Significantly, leaders like C.L. Greenwood and P.B. Duncan were also very open and supportive of ministry among migrants.
2.  See Smith, A River is Flowing, p. 55.
3.  B. Chant, Heart of Fire: A History of Australian Pentecostalism (Unley, SA: House of Tabor,1984).
4.  A. Commadeur, The Spirit in the Church: Exploring Catholic Charismatic Renewal (East Keilor, Vic.: Comsoda Productions,1992).
5.  See M. Hutchinson, 'Anglican Charismatic Renewal: Aspects of its Rise and Fall' (CSAC Working Papers; Sydney: CSAC, 1994).
6.  Peter Hocken's book, Streams of Renewal: The Origins and Development of Charismatic Movement in Great Britain (London: Paternoster Press, 1986), demonstrates that the same is true for Britain. In Australia, a celebrated case was the baptism in the Spirit of John Ridley, the nationally prominent Baptist evangelist, in the company of P.B. Duncan. There were many other such cases, though the first organised cases seem to have arisen through such events as those led by Camps Farthest Out.
7.  VM 1 Jan/Feb 1974), p. 2.
8.  VM 1 (Jan/Feb 1974), pp. 2-3.
9.  T. Smits, 'Restoration in the Church: What is God doing today...?', VM, 1 (Jan/Feb1974), p 4
10.  Smits, 'Restoration', p. 5.
11.  Smits, 'Restoration', p. 5.
12.  P. Freston, 'Evangelicalism and Globalization: Some General Observations and Latin American Dimensions' (pp. 69-88), and D. Lyon, 'Wheels Within Wheels: Glocalization and Contemporary Religion' (pp. 47-68), in M. Hutchinson and O. Kalu (eds.), A Global Faith: Essays on Evangelicalism and Globalization (Studies in Australian Christianity; Sydney: CSAC, 1998).
13.  Quoted in Freston, 'Evangelicalism and Globalisation', p. 73.
14.  Of course, Pentecostals were not the only community so confronted with a relativised theology-the third edition of VM in 1974 carried a talk by Kevin Ranaghan, the Catholic charismatic leader from South Bend, Indiana, which saw him using typically evangelical language about a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and saviour. In more recent times, a values survey by the Angus Reid Group in Canada turned up an identifiably 'evangelical wing' to the Catholic Church, which stirred not a few feathers in the evangelical camp (M. Nemeth et al., 'God is Alive: Despite Common Assumptions about the Decline of Religion, Most Canadians are Committed Christians', Maclean's Special Report: The Religion Report, 12 April, 1993).
15.  Renewal Magazine 48, reprinted in VM 2 (Mar/April, 1974). See B. Chant, L. Harris and P. Vacca, 'New Testament Prophecy', VM 6 (Nov/Dec 1974), pp. 10ff, where Barry Chant ruminates on the supportive function of KJV English in providing plausibility in the practice of prophecy, and the difficulty of ridding prophecy of it.
16.  M. Harper, 'The Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Experience and Terminology', VM 2 (Mar/ April, 1974), p. 7.
17.  See D.W. Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Studies in Evangelicalism, 5; Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1987).
18.  See the uniformity and simplicity of belief implicit in Barry Chant's account of his early understanding of 'Baptism of the Spirit', in B. Chant, Spiritual Gifts: A Reappraisal (Sydney: House of Tabor, 1993).
19.  A 1973 questionnaire by the NSW Methodist conference found that over 600 Methodists in the State were in some way involved in charismatic renewal, and about 10% of the clergy. What reasons can be given for this? The most common preconditions mentioned by early charismatics is a sensation of powerlessness in ministry, of personal crisis, and of dry church life. As John Wyndham has said, 'There's usually a fairly dry period, and they're...fairly close to desperate before they come into a real renewal experience'. See my overview of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal Movements in Australia (APS Working Papers, forthcoming).
20.  A. Langstaff,'Canberra'74-Power, Unity, Love', VM 2 (Mar/April, 1974), p. 8.
21.  Which, in the case of the Temple Trust, was called the Temple Trust World Charismatic Tour, see VM 4 (July/Aug 1974), p. 12. For a description of a Charismatic Clinic at Melodyland see VM 5 (Sept/Oct 1974), pp.11ff. Langstaff was invited onto the Board of Regents of the Melodyland School of Theology (VM 5 [Sept/Oct 1974], p.14).
22.  I. Jagelman, interview with M. Hutchinson, CSAC Archives.
23.  For Pulkingham and the Church of the Redeemer, see S. Burgess, G.B. McGee, P.H. Alexander (eds.), Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991). For Watson and St Michael le Belfrey, see D. Watson, You are My God: An Autobiography (London: Belfrey Trust/Hodder & Stoughton, 1983). A film about the Church of the Redeemer, Following the Spirit, was made and shown at the 1974 Canberra conference.
24.  The Church of the Redeemer had particular impact on ministers who chose to stay with their denominations, such as Anglican ministers Keith Nancarrow of St. Aidan's, Launceston, and David Crawford at Malabar, Sydney. See VM 4 July/Aug 1974), p. 11; interviews with Keith Nancarrow and David Crawford, held in CSAC Archives.
25.  See Hutchinson, Anglican Charismatic Renewal, pp. 7-9.
26.  Figures from Smith, A River is Flowing, p. 83.
27.  R. Martin, 'God is Restoring His People', VM 6 (Nov/Dec 1974), p. 4.
28.  D. Prince, 'The Church of the 70s', VM 7 (Jan/Feb 1975), p. 3.
29.  Prince, 'The Church of the '70s', pp. 3-4.
30.  See J. Stacey, 'Revival in the Old Testament? The Theology of Jonathan Edwards', in M. Hutchinson, E. Campion and S. Piggin (eds), Reviving Australia: Essays on the History and Experience of Revival and Revivalism in Australian Christianity (Studies in Australian Christianity; Sydney: CSAC, 1994), pp. 34-57; and K.S. Latourette, History of The Christian Church (2 vols; New York: Harper & Row, 1953, 1975).
31.  VM 9 (May/June 1975), p. 3.
32.  VM 10 (July/August), 1975, p. 4.
33.  Australian Evangel (January 1970), see in Smith, A River is Flowing, p. 55.
34.  See Jan Jagelman's article, 'Church Growth: Its Promise and Problems for Australian Pentecostalism', pp. 31-32 in this issue of Australasian Pentecostal Studies.
35.  See Archer Torrey's dismissal of restorationism in 'The Case for the Institutional Church', VM 9 (May/June 1975), pp. 23-24.
36.  Jagelman, 'Church Growth', pp. 33-34.
37.  R. Warnken, 'Missionary is Our Middle Name: The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Australia', in M. Hutchinson and G.R. Treloar (eds.), This Gospel Shall be Preached: Essays on the Australian Contribution to World Mission (Studies in Australian Christianity; Sydney: CSAC, 1997), pp. 263-74. As Charles Nienkirchen, A.B. Simpson and the Pentecostal Movement: A Study in Continuity, Crisis and Change (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson, 1992), notes, the founder of the former, A.B. Simpson, did not reject Pentecostalism, and was closely tied to many of the early leaders of the Pentecostal movement.
38.  Smith, River, p. 55.
39.  A. Walker, 'Notes from a Wayward Son', in T. Smail et al., The Charismatic Renewal: The Search for a Theology (London: SPCK/C.S. Lewis Centre, 1993), p. 44.