Friday, November 23, 2007

My Latest Publication

Publisher's Blurb:

One hundred years after the Azusa Street Revival stunned Los Angeles and changed Western Christianity, Pentecostalism has become the fastest growing religious movement in the world. However, many Pentecostal denominations in the United States are in a slow decline. Will Pentecostalism survive in North American in the twenty-first century? If so, what forms will it take? The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States brings together leading scholars of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity to discuss and forecast these issues. The book looks at American Pentecostalism from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including sociology, theology, history, and the arts. The book also considers various traditions and sub-movements within U.S. Pentecostalism, such as African American Pentecostal and charismatic Latino churches, urban postmodern charismatic congregations, and the role of Pentecostal institutions of higher education.

I wrote my chapter about 3 years ago and had to update it before publication. I was asked to contribute something on the future of the COG in the U.S. The title, "The Almost Pentecostal", was given to me by Steve Land, based on Wesley's sermon "The Almost Christian". I raise the question are we "almost Pentecostal" and answer it by examining three areas: Doctrine (Holiness), Mission, and Polity (Internationalization, Women).

Other contributors include Frank Macchia, Margaret Poloma, David Daniels, and Arlene Sanchez Walsh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mel Robeck

This week, Cecil "Mel" Robeck, visited Cleveland, lecturing in the D.Min. course at the Seminary, delivering the second annual Azusa Lecture (sponsored by the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center) and preaching in chapel. The lecture focused on the "People of Azusa", hi-lighting the diversity found at the revival as well as the extraordinary depth of the testimonies and commitment of these saints. Mel preached on worship in chapel on Thursday, taking his text from the book of Revelation.

I was privileged to be able to talk with Mel at length about his work in ecumenics and on Wednesday at an informal lunch with faculty he shared the story of his work in this area.

For some, it may seem unlikely that one could specialize in two areas as seemingly different as the Azusa Street revival and ecumenics, but Mel shared that his journey began in a very pentecostal way...with a vision of Jesus giving him the commission to work in ecumenical dialogue. That visionary experience and call has sustained him through the misunderstanding and criticism of his colleagues as well as his denominational leaders (AG).

By the way...Mel's picture has been listed on a webpage of the "Antichrist Family Photo Album"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New Lenses

I'm having my annual eye exam in a few weeks. Blessedly, I had my eyes "fixed" a few years ago, with lasiks surgery, so I do not have to go through the agony of getting new lenses, as I have had to do since I was twelve or so. Contacts were great for most of the time, but my allergies created problems, making them foggy and unclear. Glasses, of course, can be cleaned more easily but fogged up every time I came in from the cold, or became spotted in the rain. The lesson for us is our environment can "fog our vision".

A group of Duke Divinity School students, having just returned from S. Africa for a two month immersion, discussed their experience recently. Hear Methodist minister and professor Ken Carder's reflection on what they learned:

Excellence in ministry requires new lens through which we can view ourselves, the world, the church, and God. Friendship and solidarity with those who see the world from its underside, its suffering and oppression, is one of the best ways to discover or develop a new and clearer lens into the gospel.

New lenses, however, can create tension and discomfort. They enable us to see what we couldn’t see before. They may expose realities that we would prefer remain hidden, such as our own complicity in the suffering and oppression of our sisters and brothers, or the inadequacies of our own presumed advantages and privileges, the finiteness of our own theological systems and perspectives, or the limitations of our comfortable assumptions about excellent ministry that exclude those whom Jesus called “the least of these.” (Ken Carder, "Sustaining Pastoral Excellence" newsletter)

Mybe it's time for a lot of us to get some new glasses.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spirit Movement vs "Churchly Christianity": The Montanist Controversy

"In testing such spirits and rejecting them, the spirits of the Fathers must themselves stand trial. The Montanists' renewal of prophecy suffered at the hands of a church preoccupied with closing the ranks, drawing clear lines of demarcation and safeguarding its heritage, an exercise in which apostolic was often synonymous with traditional. The condemnation of Montanism was a decisive point in the evolution of that kind of churchly Christianity which cherished office and order and had little room to 'welcome the charismata".
("Why Were the Montanists Contemned?" by David F. Wright)

Both Wright and Robert Bradshaw argue that Montanism, deemed a heresy by the Church and by most historians, was not tolerated because of its threat to the stability of the Church's growing hierarchy. Specifically, Bradshaw argues that it was Tertullian's view of a spiritual church within the visible church which posed the greatest threat.

This sad case study (from which the church has apparently not learned!) should be re-examined periodically, especially by movements as they "come of age". I invite you to be a part of this process and ask the tough questions!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ray H. Hughes

Ray H. Hughes is the quintessential Classical Pentecostal Preacher. Visit this website which is a vast resource for Pentecostal historians but also a source of inspiration. I will never forget the many times I have heard Dr. Hughes preach. Beyond his preaching ability, however, Dr. Hughes has been an outstanding leader in Pentecostalism, known around the world. The newly released DVD series in which he is interviewed by David Roebuck reveals both the depth and breadth of his ministry. In those interviews, Hughes reflects on preaching in various venues around the world including Royal Albert Hall in London, Moscow, the World Pentecostal Fellowship in Jerusalem and the packed beyond capacity Hollywood Bowl when he was in his early 20s. Hughes further reflects on his relationships with Pentecostal leaders Donald Gee, Thomas Trask, Dr. Cho and others. In addition, it is revealed that Hughes was a true statesman representing Pentecostalism to Presidents Reagan, Carter and George H. W. Bush, often in meetings in which Billy Graham represented Evangelicalism.

I am privileged to know and work with Dr. Hughes. His office is two doors down from mine. He has eaten lunch (nearly always Mexican) with several of us on numerous occasions, sharing stories and insights. We have prayed together on many occasions. I owe a debt to Dr. Hughes, as he was the person responsible for our initial move to Cleveland, a move which led me to theological study. Later, he was president of the Seminary while I was a student, and president of the SGA.

If you had told me when I was worshiping God as he preached at NC Camp Meetings, when I was 18 years old, that I would one day be a colleague of Ray H. Hughes, I would not have dreamed it possible. My life has been blessed greatly through his ministry. Listen to him preach and yours will be too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Reading and the Soul

Reading is the food, light, lamp, refuge, solace of the soul, the spice of all natural flavors. It feeds the hungry, gives light to the one sitting in darkness, offers bread to the one fleeing shipwreck or war, comforts the contrite heart.

- Peter of Celle
Quoted in Essential Monastic Wisdom, by Hugh Feiss

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hearing the Voice of God

In 1983, Corky, Hope and I moved to Cleveland, Tennessee. Specifically, we moved into Ellis Hall Men's Dormitory on the Lee College campus. Corky had accepted the position of dorm supervisor and was entering into his Bachelor of Arts program full-time. I had studied Fashion Merchandising and received a B.S. from Winthrop College in Rock Hill, SC in 1980 and we were married the next month. Hope was born in April 1982.

After moving to Cleveland in the Spring, we met a student from the Seminary with whom we became friends. Corky's sister, Judy, was visiting with us and this student invited Judy and I to attend class with him one day. That day would change my life. The teacher was Rickie D. Moore, first year professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. The class was "Jeremiah". As a lecturer, Rick is an artist. As a reader of the text, Rick is insightful and sees it in a prophetic way. All of his students can testify to this. That day, Rick lectured on Jeremiah 31, God as mother. In all of my years in the Pentecostal church I had never heard anything like that!

If he had lectured on any other texts, no doubt my intellectual curiosity would have been peaked. But that day, he lectured on what I now know to be a feminist reading of the text (probably influenced by Phyllis Trible's God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality). I could not, in my carefulness, doubt that God was speaking specifically to me.

That next Fall, I enrolled in Greek and Old Testament Intro. And in theological study, I found my calling and place.

Rick is following the leading of the Lord and moving into a new place of ministry in the Bible and Theology Department at Lee University.

I will be forever grateful to Rick for his prophetic voice in my life, and in the lives of hundreds of other women (and men). I will miss him as a colleague at the Seminary. But I will continue to listen when he speaks as it was his voice which helped me find my own.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Another View

Read this Washington Post Magazine article about Evangelist Mike Feree of Cleveland, Tennessee. Mike has been to speak in my Holiness-Pentecostal History classes a time or two. This article captures the other side of Pentecostal ministry, the one you don't see on TV.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Icons of Pluralism, Pt. 2 - Washington, DC

These icons can be found in the US Department of Justice, the US Supreme Court Building, the US Capitol Building and the National Cathedral. Depicted are Hammurabi, Mohammed, Moses, Menes, and Charlemagne. By far the most audacious and blatant of these icons is the Darth Vader sculpture in the National Cathedral.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Suddenly...the Kingdom of God

I've visited St. Paul's Chapel at Ground Zero in New York City on four occasions now, not because I'm that drawn to it necessarily, but because I've been with various friends and family members touring NYC. When I hear and read the story of how this church, not only physically survived the disaster but in the moment it was called upon became the epicenter of relief and care for rescue workers, I'm startled byt he realization that at any time, a church professing to be Christian, could be "on point" to be the signpost for the Kingdom of God to the watching world. I'm challenged by the thought "Are we really ready if called upon?"

Read this account from National Geographic
After the towers fell, a tiny 18th-century Episcopal church became a relief center. Clergy counseled, cooks dished out meals, and medical workers treated stiff muscles and burned feet.

An associate for ministry at Saint Paul’s shares his thoughts on 9/11.

On September 12, after having escaped the maelstrom of 9/11, I returned to Lower Manhattan to survey the damage to St. Paul’s Chapel—just yards away from where building 5 of the World Trade Center stood—and to find ways to be helpful in the rescue effort. At that point we assumed there would be many survivors. As I walked down Broadway from my apartment in Greenwich Village, my heart was pounding, not knowing what I might find. I assumed the chapel had been demolished. When I saw the spire still standing, I was overwhelmed. It took my breath away. Opening the door to enter St. Paul’s was an extraordinary experience; except for a layer of ash and soot, the building survived unscathed. Many proclaimed that “St. Paul’s had been spared.” It seemed clear to me that if this was true, it was not because we were holier than anyone who died across the street; it was because we now had a big job to do.

Taking this challenge to heart, we set up a cold drink concession and hot food service four days later for the rescue workers, and men from our shelter, and many others, proudly flipped burgers at what came to be called the “Barbecue on Broadway.” The relief ministry at St. Paul’s was supported by the labor of three local institutions—the Seamen’s Church Institute, the General Theological Seminary, and St. Paul’s, in the parish of Trinity Church—and volunteers from all over the country. More than 5,000 people used their special gifts to transform St. Paul’s into a place of rest and refuge. Musicians, clergy, podiatrists, lawyers, soccer moms, and folks of every imaginable type poured coffee, swept floors, took out the trash, and served more than half a million meals. Emerging at St. Paul’s was a dynamic I think of as a reciprocity of gratitude.a circle of thanksgiving—in which volunteers and rescue and recovery workers tried to outdo each other with acts of kindness and love, leaving both giver and receiver changed. This circle of gratitude was infectious, and I hope it continues to spread. In fact, I hope it turns into an epidemic.

There are so many stories that illustrate such selfless giving. One of the earliest, which continues to inspire me, is the story of the elderly African-American woman, probably in her 80s, who heard that a man working at ground zero had hurt his leg. So she got on the subway in the South Bronx and came all the way down to Lower Manhattan. She talked her way through the police lines, which at that time was no small feat, and came to St. Paul’s. Once inside she presented us with her own cane and then hobbled off. In that moment the universe became a little more generous.

A poet once said “midwinter spring is its own season.” The period from the terrorists attacks to the end of the recovery efforts at ground zero was its own season, lasting 260 days. Although the calendar tells us that it lasted for three seasons—fall, winter, and spring—many of us have little recollection of any climate changes. We just got up, day after day, dressed accordingly, and went about the monumental task of trying to make sense out of absurdity, bring order out of chaos, and reclaim humanity from the violence that sought to make human life less human. This was also a season of remembrance as we mourned the loss of loved ones. It was a season of improvisation as we tried, often at our wit’s end, to respond to the needs emerging from these never before experienced acts of terrorism. It was a season of renewal as we sought to look toward a day when our commonalities will overcome our divisions, when compassion will overcome violence, and kindness will swallow up hatred. Ultimately, what began in hatred evolved into, in the words from that great song from the musical Rent, a “season of love.” It was a season in which people of love and goodwill, compassion and generosity, sought to practice the art of radical hospitality.

The relief ministry at St. Paul’s has now come to an end. The chapel that once housed massage therapists, tired workers, and thousands of love notes colored carefully by schoolchildren and others has been closed for cleaning and restoration. I’m not quite certain what awaits this marvelous church when it reopens, but I do know that it was a rare privilge to take part in the work of these past months, and I have been forever changed by it.

Now when I make my morning commute on the N or R subway to my office on Rector Street, I pass through Cortland Street Station, the station underneath the WTC site. Traveling through it, I see American flags, red tape, and signs that read, “Do not stop here.” My mind floods with memories, and all I can do is fold my newspaper and say a silent prayer for those who died there and for those who still suffer from the devastation. It’s a moment that is rather surreal as the past intersects with the harsh realities of the present and the hopes for a brighter, more humane future.

— The Reverend Lyndon Harris

Friday, July 13, 2007

Icons of Pluralism

Glen O'Brien has begun publishing a series of Protestant icons on his blog. One of my former students, Mike McMullen, suggested a similar project (actually, COG icons!). These two creative suggestions caused me to think about iconography and worship while on my trip to NY. NY is a city of pluralism and the ideal of capitalism. It's interesting how the "Captains of Industry" are blended with religious ideals in NY. I'll continue to post photos (these are not mine) as I discover examples, but here are a few: Prometheus and Atlas at Rockefeller Center, Einstein at Riverside Church. By the way, Atlas, apparently resembled Mussolini, which caused controversy at the sculpture's unveiling.The most unusual to this point are the sculptures of a man and woman talking on the phone (is that Rock Hudson and Doris Day in "Pillow Talk"?) in Riverside Church, the bastion of Protestant Liberal Theology.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pastoral Excellence or Prophetic Ministry. A False Choice?

I know I'm meddling here. Area 3, or Practical Theology, is not my zone. But after being involved in pastoral ministry for about 26 years, sometimes it's hard for me to compartmentalize. I tend to think that's a good thing. I recently ran across the following article by Methodist Practical Theologian Kenneth Carder. He gets at something that I think is particularly needful, especially in the 21st century and especially for Pentecostal pastors. I'd like to hear your response.

A veteran pastor, whose ministry began in the turmoil of the 1960s, asked if I thought Amos, Micah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah would fit the definition of excellence in ministry.

“It seems as though ‘excellent ministry’ is being defined primarily in terms of growing and managing efficient and prosperous religious institutions,” he said. “I don’t hear much attention being paid to challenging the injustices and violence in the world. So, I doubt any of the prophets would make the list of excellent ministry.”

How would you respond? My immediate inclination was to remind him that the prophets he mentioned didn’t serve as pastors of congregations and that excellence in ministry includes a variety of contexts and expressions. But the questioner is a pastor, and he would argue that prophetic ministry is integral to the role of every pastor.

I admit my own resonance with the pastor’s question. I, too, began pastoral ministry in the 1960’s and am troubled by the pervasive silence of the contemporary church on such vexing topics as preemptive war, torture, racism, poverty, insidious consumerism, environmental destruction . . .

But the question itself may be too simplistic and even misleading. “Prophetic ministry” is as difficult to define as “excellent ministry.” Both concepts carry baggage in the contemporary context.

“Excellence” gets identified with the corporate business world, athletics, or marketing, and as a result, takes on images of self-generated achievement and elitism. “Prophetic” is typically associated with the political world and conjures up images of strident advocacy on behalf of legislation or denunciation of particular governmental policies.

While excellent ministry learns from the business world and requires personal gifts and effort, its foundation and fundamental character are derived from God’s presence, power, and purposes. While prophetic ministry includes engagement with politics and public advocacy, its foundation and fundamental character are grounded and formed in God’s vision for the whole of creation.

Prophetic ministry involves incorporating God’s reign of compassion, justice, generosity, and joy into personal values and actions, institutional structures, and governmental policies. It includes leading congregations to be alternative communities that look and act like God’s reconciled and redeemed community where “the orphans, widows, and strangers” are welcomed at God’s table of peace and abundance.

When excellence is used in relationship to Christian ministry it inevitably includes prophetic. Ministry without attentiveness to God’s vision for humanity (the prophetic) is not Christian ministry. And, prophetic ministry that fails to embody grace and competence falls short of Christian ministry.

Forming communities that embody God’s vision for the world is at the heart of all Christian ministry. In a politically and religiously polarized world, communities of civility and hospitality are prophetic communities. A world torn apart by violence and war pleads for an embodied message of peace and reconciliation.

When poverty and preventable diseases threaten the human family, policies and practices that care for “the least of these” are in the lineage of the prophets and Jesus. And when the eco-system is threatened with destruction, excellent ministry calls for stewardship of the creation God loves.

Would the Old Testament prophets make our list of excellent ministers? Perhaps a better question is, do our ministries and congregations include the vision, courage, and faithfulness embodied and proclaimed by the likes of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah…and Jesus?

[Kenneth L. Carder is professor of the practice of pastoral formation at Duke Divinity School and a senior fellow with Pulpit & Pew: The Duke Center for Excellence in Ministry. He was bishop of the Mississippi Area of the United Methodist Church from 2000 to 2004 and the Nashville Area of the UMC from 1992 to 2000.]

Monday, June 25, 2007


Leadership Journal, Spring 2007

U2 Rocks the House (of God)
Bono inspires worship with an edge.
by Elizabeth Diffin

Where the Streets Have No Name. Beautiful Day. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Yahweh. For fans of the Irish band U2, these are familiar rock songs. But to a growing number of Christians, they're becoming tunes for worship, and for the Eucharist.

Services using U2's music, commonly called U2charist, were begun by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. The services combine the music of the rock band with traditional communion. They focus on a message of global reconciliation, justice, and care for neighbors as advocated by Bono, the lead singer of U2. Bono, a dedicated Christian, is also a global ambassador for Millennium Development Goals, a movement by the United Nations to eradicate poverty and disease by the year 2015.

U2charist first took hold in the U.S. at St. George's Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, drawing 130 people. Many of those in attendance were in a younger demographic and did not usually attend the church. Since then, dozens of the services have been held worldwide in churches of many denominations.

In a U2charist service, the liturgy remains the same, although the music is markedly different. U2 songs are repurposed as the opening hymn, song of praise, sermon response, and offertory. Most of the songs are seen as metaphors, with lyrics that are layered with meaning.

"In church, you hear [the music] in a different way. It's like new," said Natalie Williams, a 17-year-old who attended a U2charist at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

Eric Johnson, who attended the service at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Lakeland, Florida, had no doubt about the effectiveness of the music.

"The crowd, the enthusiasm, the energy—I felt like the Holy Spirit was in the room. The message was getting through, and we were worshiping together," he said.

The offerings that are collected at U2charists go to charities fighting extreme poverty and AIDS, as worked out in an agreement with the band's publishing company. Paige Blair, rector of St. George's, estimates that more than $36,000 has been raised from the U2charist services for the cause.

"People are learning there is something they can do to change the world," she said. "And they leave feeling that they really can."

At St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Encinitas, California, the U2charist service was well-received by young and old alike. Teens connected to the "hip factor," while adults found deeper meaning in the music.

At St. Andrew's, the service drew a crowd that compares to normal Christmas or Easter attendance. St. George's is beginning a U2charist team to help others implement the service. And this year, a U2charist service will be broadcast in Great Britain on Easter Sunday.

"It spread like wildfire," Blair said. "We're giving people a way to engage their faith in a meaningful way."

And letting them rock out at the same time.

—with information from the San Diego Union-Tribune, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, The Ledger, and USA Today
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Spring 2007, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, Page 12

Monday, June 18, 2007

An Oldie But a Goodie

How Many Christians Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Charismatic: Only 1 - Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: 10 - One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None - Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic
: None - Candles only.

Southern Baptists
: At least 15 - One to change the lightbulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.

Disciples of Christ: As many as you want, any bulb you want, and even if you are an organized denomination of lightbulbs you are still loved.

Episcopalians: 4 - One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, one to set the menu, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

: 5 - One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a lightbulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your lightbulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of lightbulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

: Undetermined - Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a lightbulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to pass.

Nazarene: 6 - One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Church of Christ
: Any number, but you must be a member to change the lightbulb. No music during the changing.

Lutherans: None - Lutherans don't believe in change.

: What's a light bulb?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Jakes on Faith and Politics

As a follow-up of the last post, I note that what began as an urban revival, led by an African-American preacher, over 100 years ago has become so influential that the man most-often cited as the most influential minister in the US, another African-American preacher.

I heard this interview with T. D. Jakes on my way home from the Seminary today (link in post title). As usual, I liked what Jakes had to say. In this interview, Jakes, in my opinion, carefully expressed the uneasiness and outright anxiety which some of us have about a coalition of the Evangelical Church and a political party, any political party.

That is not to say that I endorse Jakes, everything he says, and especially not his Oneness doctrinal commitments. That's the amazing thing about him. He is at least hetero-orthodox in his doctrine, if not unorthodox and/or heretical, but most of what he says cannot be labeled. In this way, he is a departure from most Oneness preachers. For most of their writers and leaders, the Oneness issue (baptism, Jesus' Name, view of the godhead) is paramount and at the forefront of their preaching and teaching.

One of my colleagues from "down under" recently published a blogpost (see 'The Batcave') on Jakes and Oneness doctrine.

Jakes' influence is indicative of several intriguing new directions: 1) a de-valuing of orthodox doctrine (as my friend Glen O'Brien pointed out); 2) the influence of Pentecostalism; 3) a shift in the position and status of African-Americans in the US.

Jakes' genius, if not his anointing, is that he has focused his "positive gospel" not on the accumulation of personal wealth, (though that is clearly a "fringe benefit") but on emotional well-being of the African-American audience: women who are in spiritual, emotional and economic bondage and men who have had no real role models of positive manhood. He preaches to the African-American context as it now is, as a result of history.

As is the rule, theological shifts do not occur in a vacuum.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pope to Visit "Pentecostalized" Brazil

"The impact of the pentecostal movement in Brazil extends beyond its burgeoning demographic numbers. In fact, it's not far-fetched to say that Christianity in Brazil and other Latin American countries is well on its way to becoming "pentecostalized." Pentecostal beliefs and practices also are changing the way many of Brazil's remaining Catholics practice their faith. The Forum survey found, for example, that more than half of Brazilian Catholics have embraced important elements of spirit-filled or renewalist Christianity, including a highly animated worship style and such practices as speaking in tongues and divine healing. In short, pentecostalism no longer is something confined outside the Roman Catholic Church; it is now firmly within it in the form of various charismatic tendencies and movements."

Read the complete article on the Pew Charitable Trust site.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Dream Deferred

I've been pondering over it all week. What is it that was so diabolical about Jim Jones and Jonestown? Sometime this week I realized that what struck me as I watched on Monday night was the way Jones (and I think a demonically driven Jones) manipulated hope. His followers hoped for community, for peace, for equality, for freedom. And they were used. There is nothing much more evil than to manipulate and destroy another's hope and dreams for your own end. Scott Peck has identified evil as a psychological category which is essentially narcissistic. I can't help but think of Langston Hughes' poem, "A Dream Deferred" when I think of those victims in the hot Guyana sun.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I Don't Know What To Say...Re: Jonestown

I watched the "American Experience" episode about Jonestown last night. Very troubling. This one told the story through the words of former members, those who had family members who died, those who escaped. Even Jones' adopted African-American son was interviewed.

It is troubling to see how people who believe in the right ideals (multi-racial community, egalitarianism) can follow and believe in the wrong man. It is also frightening to see how easily hundreds of intelligent, thoughtful, passionate people could be led astray and for so long.

I was amazed at how early his heretical preaching began...yet, these "church-going folk" simply ignored the "red flags".

I'm afraid he was right about at least one thing; the sign over the dead bodies spoke the truty and continues to cry out: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Repeat it they did and repeat it they shall.

God, awake us from our apathy and slumber, while the masses are led into destruction.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Resurrection to Pentecost

In modernity, Christians felt compelled to "prove the Resurrection". These noble and valiant efforts have resulted in apologetics which build a "case" based on statistics, "reasonable conclusions", and evidences, but, ironically, neglecting (or refusing) the evidence which is undeniable "proof": Pentecost. This was Peter's message: it was the Resurrected Jesus who poured out the Holy Spirit that the observers saw and heard. And now, the gospel of the Resurrected Lord has gone around the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (The picture is by Malaysian artist Hanna Cheriyan Varghese)

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Monday, April 2, 2007

American Experience: Sister Aimee

Pentecostals on prime time!

I first studied Aimee when I was a junior in high school. I did a research paper on her, primarily focusing on the "scandal". I guess that was my first historical theological research!

I have been anxious to see the PBS production of "American Experience" on Aimee Semple McPherson. Though I sometimes think Aimeee has been "done to death", and prefer to look at lesser known figures in early Pentecostalism, Aimee certainly deserves the attention of a program where the focus is on a person or event's intersection with America and Americans.

This episode is worth viewing because of the visuals alone: wonderful pictures, film and re-enactments, though they look a little bit staged. The panel of experts includes SPS past-presidents Edith Blumhoffer, Anthea Butler and immediate past-president David Daniels.

The main focus is on her use of media and her fight to outlaw Evolution in schools and place Bibles in the California schools. In many ways, Aimee, foreshadowed the future of Pentecostalism in the US rather than being "typical" of the Pentecostalism of her day.

There are some obvious omissions: her interaction with the KKK, her license with the AG, her discipleship under William Durham in Chicago and little attention is given to her healing ministry. Positively, the program does move beyond the kidnapping scandal and shows her benevolence work during the Great Depression, her recovered Pentecostalism, her "integrated" worship (before and after Hollwood).

The PBS site has some great pictures and information.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Honoring Hollis Gause

My introduction to the bibliographic essay I've written on Gause's writing:

For years students have been challenged by the rapid-fire delivery of Dr. Hollis Gause’s logically ordered but tightly packed lectures in theology and biblical studies. The challenge to ‘keep up’ and ‘get it all down’ is complicated by the awe and wonder we experience as we hear what we’ve never heard before though it resonates within us. What amazes those of us who’ve studied under him and now have had the privilege of teaching with him is that though he is obviously drawing on an accumulation of scholarly work spanning five decades, he continues to write new lectures, to think in new ways and to re-vision Pentecostal theology. As one student who ‘sat at his feet’ at both the undergraduate and graduate level put it, ‘I was always thrilled to see those fresh legal sheets.’
The yellow legal pad, for the most part has been replaced by the word processor (sans the grammar check, which he has disabled, for obvious reasons!) and he continues to articulate Pentecostal theology, re-thinking categories, looking anew at familiar texts not just through the lens of his keen intellect but also through the companion lens of years of experience in the classroom, the study and the church.
Dr. Gause, as your student, first and foremost, and now as your colleague, I want to thank you for what you have imparted to me and to generations of Pentecostal scholars and ministers. And I want to thank you for the model you have provided of what it means to worship in our discipline. I am forever grateful.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Passing of Bishop G. E. Patterson

Presiding Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson of the COGIC went to be with the Lord on March 20, 2007 after a bout with prostate cancer. He was one of the greatest Pentecostal preachers of this generation (for an example, go to In My Life).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Currently Writing...

I'm engrossed in writing two articles for the Gause fetschrift at present. One, which was assigned by the editors, is a bibliographic essay on his works. The second one is an article on the experience of Spirit Baptism as testified to in early Pentecostalism. Students from the one hour research seminary on Spirit Baptism last Spring may read in it some of the discoveries made in that really wonderful class. Writing the bibliographic essay is a real honor for me. However, it is one of the most difficult pieces I've ever done. How do you analyze and discuss the diverse writing of your geru
who has been writing for sixty years? I covet your prayers!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Sounds of History

SPS held their annual meeting this past week-end at Lee University in Cleveland. The theme was the Role of Experience, so most plenary sessions focused on that in some way.

David Daniels presidential address was the most provocative, I think. The address focused on the sounds of Pentecostalism as a way of "hearing history". It was illustrated with sound clips of Pentecostal music/preaching/praying. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference!

I just read a recent NY Times article on a Latino Pentecostal storefront in New York City. It reminded me of David's address. The author referred frequently to sounds: shrieks, tambourine jingles, Latin music, cries, tongues. One line particularly captured Pentecostalism I thought. The writer noted, "Children preach like adults and adults wail like children."

I was intrigued by David's historical methodology. I think this approach gives us an even more appropriate vehicle by which to study movements. Obviously this approach cannot be utilized with every movement as we have no recordings or even descriptions of the sounds one would have heard (one can imagine the moans of some of the Desert Fathers....and for those who took "vows of silence" the lack of sound is telling!; we might also imagine sounds of those being persecuted in the Early Church; now, since seeing "Amazing Grace" I will always think of Wilberforce's fight as sounding like the rowdy "discussions" in Parliament). While imagination is a valuable tool for historians, it can't be documented! Fortunately, for those of us who are studying the 20th c. movements, there are plenty of documented sounds.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Athanasius contra mundum

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you us to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a "law" in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?

That he who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,
John Wesley

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Living in the Spirit

Dr. R. Hollis Gause's monumental work Living in the Spirit has been revised and reprinted by Cafepress.

This is the only Wesleyan-Pentecostal soteriology ever to have been attempted as far as I know. This book is an absolute necessity for your library! At $16.95 it is a theological bargain!!

The uniqueness of this work is that it places Spirit Baptism as a step along the via saludis. The importance of this placement is immediately obvious: Spirit Baptism is salvific, not simply "equipment for service". For those questioning the meaning and placement of this experience, this book is required reading!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Black History Month 3--Charles Harrison Mason

C. H. Mason is arguably the most influential African-American leader of the 20th century. By virtue of the fact that he was Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ from its beginnings in the late 19th century, guiding the church into the Pentecostal movement and leading it through six decades of last century, Mason is largely responsible for the shape of the African-American church. One of his largest contributions is that he encouraged the use of popular music and instruments in worship services. What we know of Black Gospel, we probably know because of Mason's foresight. In this, Mason was being true to his Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Black History Month 3

Mahalia Jackson, singing "Didn't It Rain?" at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1958. Without a doubt, she was the Queen of Gospel Music. Born in New Orleans, Mahalia was disciplined in school for humming; when she moved to Chicago, she was "corrected" in the Baptist church for moving while she sang. No matter, she sang out of her heart and out of her soul.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Coming To A Theater Near You

It is estimated that there are 27 million people enslaved around the world. Please join the fight to stop slavery. Go to
to see what you can do.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Making History

What we do today as Christians and ministers will become tomorrow's church history and historical theology. There is no area where the actions of the present have a more direct impact than the Environment. Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns recently became a part of history once again by being involved in a collaborative effort between scientists and Evangelical Christians. The resulting statement was sent to President George W. Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Black History Month 2

"Ain't I A Woman?"
Sojourner Truth (see Amy Oden, In Her Words) was a powerful witness of holiness as a transforming force in an individual and in society. When the voices from the margins are finally heard it is earth-shattering. No wonder the powers that be try to keep them quiet.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Black History Month 1

On February 23, 1807 slavery was abolished in England. Without the work of one man, William Wilberforce, and the encouragement of another, John Wesley, the practice which de-humanized and exploited one race for economic gain, might have continued for decades, as it did in the United States. Read Wesley's letter, written shortly before his death, to Wilberforce.

Friday, January 26, 2007

HT2 Google Group

Spring semester HT2 students have been invited to join our class Google Group. The group will serve as a vehicle for class discussion beyond the classroom setting. From time to time, you will be required to participate. The board will be open at all times for class members only. You may use this forum to continue class discussions, for study inquiries, etc.

One of the important practices of Wesleyans is "Christian conference." Theological students and scholars have traditionally hammered out the sticking points of theology over tea, coffee and "spirited dialogue" (pun intended). So, we will simulate the experience of the Inklings or other such conclaves in cyberspace! Grab your coffee or tea and join the conversation.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It seems timely to consider the contributions, and martyrdom, of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at this juncture in history and at this point in the school term.

HT2 begins with a look at the Reformation. Luther's contributions to both theology and western civilization are without question. But it is Luther's Germany which gives rise to the Third Reich and Hitler's violent anti-semitism. Though not a person given much consideration, due to time factors, in HT2, perhaps an on-going examination of Bonhoeffer's reflection on the dilemma in which he found himself would be fruitful for us.

I will post from time to time on Bonhoeffer and will set up a list of links. Today, I've begun a devotional journey through his thought with the aid of A Year With Bonhoeffer published by Harper San Francisco.

It is my hope that you will comment on how this brief look impacts you and your thought.

"An ethic of disposition or intention is just as superficial as an ethic of consequences. For what right do we have to stay with inner motivation as the ultimate phenomenon of ethics, ignoring that 'good' intentions can grow out of very dark backgrounds in human consciousness and subconsciousness, and that often the worst things happen as a result of 'good intentions'" (January 23, p. 25)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

MLK, Jr. at Riverside Church

This year on MLK Day, I'll be in New York City. My class, which is jointly offered by New York Theological Seminary and the Church of God Theological Seminary meets nightly at Riverside Church. This link is to a speech King made at Riverside on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis. When King broke the silence, and spoke out against Vietnam, even his own followers severed their ties with him. But for King, it was an ethical, civil rights issue: too many 19 year old black men were being killed.

It seems we don't learn from history. So, we are doomed to repeat it.

I say it's time again to break the silence.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Holiness Manifesto

I've recently come across this document, drawn up and signed by representatives of historic Holiness churches.

The document views the present state of the church in North America as one in decline while captive to a "success" message. The remedy for this sick and dying condition is the Holiness message. I think the document is true to its school in its tying Holiness to proclaimation/preaching. Preaching, for Holiness folk, is delivering a message.

What I do see as missing in this document is the first responsibility of the Holiness Church, of Holiness people: to Worship the Lord in the beauty of His Holiness. Worship shapes the community as a Holy God is formed in us. Worship in Spirit and Truth keeps the church from harshness and legalism. As we love God with our whole heart, we will love His Creation, and call the world and the church back to Holy Covenant.