Charismatic Innovators

The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements constitute the fastest growing group of churches within Christianity today. One reads of adherents numbering an estimated five hundred million worldwide found in almost every country of the world. In just one hundred years the Pentecostal, Charismatic and associated  movements have become the largest numerical force in Christendom after the Roman Catholic Church and represent a quarter of all Christians. Pentecostals and Charismatics are characterized by their doctrine and practice of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues and operating the gifts of the Spirit which are found in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

‘Pentecostal Movement’ has become an umbrella term for both Pentecostals and Charismatics, although it is most often used to describe ‘classical Pentecostals,’ those members of Protestant church denominations that were a direct result of the initial outpouring of the Spirit during the early years of the 20th century.

‘Charismatic’ also has different meanings. When used in its broadest sense it describes those who believe and experience the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the Biblical and early church.

The ‘Charismatic Movement’ usually refers to those who have no connection with the established Pentecostal Churches but who share a similar experience and theology of the Holy Spirit, though there are many variations of the latter.

The Charismatic Movement can be divided into at least two sub-sections.

Firstly, there are the Charismatics that entered into the Pentecostal experience as denominational Christians. In the 1950’s people it was associated with Dennis Bennett, Harald Bredesden, Tommy Tyson, and Agnes Sanford in USA. In the 1960’s it spread to the Catholic Church through pioneers like Barbara Schlemon, Fr. Edward O’Connor, Stephen Clark, Ralph Martin and Jim Cavnar. By the 1970’s the Episcopal W. Graham Pulkingham and the Lutheran, Larry Christenson were instrumental in furthering the work in their respective denominations.

In Britain the main denominational players included Michael Harper, David Watson, Trevor Dearing and Colin Urquhart. They became Charismatics during the 1960’s.

These Protestant and Catholic Charismatics are often termed ‘neo-Pentecostals.

Secondly there are the neo-charismatics who went on to form new churches not connected to the older denominations, but rather grouped together by values, vision and purpose. In America Christian Growth Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, under the leadership of Derek Prince, Don Basham, Charles Simpson and Bob Mumford propagated their charismatic church message through conferences and their ‘New Wine’ magazine. The Canadian Ern Baxter joined them in 1974. They were a teaching organisation, mainly concerned with pursuing the establishment of Biblical churches with recognised pastoral authority, congregational submission to leaders, discipleship modelled on Jesus’ methods and trans-local oversight of pastors and churches based on relationship rather than official ecclesiastical authorities. This became known as the ‘Shepherding Movement’ as its leaders sought to counteract the developing individualism and lone-ranger leadership that had been the downfall of many before them.

In England this genre of Charismatics were called ‘restorationists.’ Arthur Wallis and Bryn Jones championed their cause through their ‘Restoration Magazine’ and national Bible weeks. Others like Tony Morton, Terry Virgo, Dave Tomlinson and Barney Coombes developed their own ‘streams,’ making up a powerful river on the British landscape.

The initial impetus came from a leaders conference held at Exmouth, Devon in May 1958. The 25 delegates met to ‘wait on God and exchange ideas’ on the subject, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ: It’s Purity, Pattern and Programme in the Context of Today’. Arthur Wallis and David Lillie, both from Brethren backgrounds, were seeking to renew the church in the power of the Spirit. Wallis had been stirred by historic revivals and particularly the Hebrides Revival which was comparatively recent . Their views and expectations were enlarged by Cecil Cousen, an Apostolic Church pastor who had recently been greatly influenced by the Latter Rain movement in Canada. His presence brought a prophetic and charismatic element which had a marked influence on all who attended.  A second and similar conference was held in Belstone, near Okehampton in 1961 where 40 delegates considered ‘The Divine Purpose in the Institution of the Church.’

A third conference was held the following year in Mamhead Park which attracted 70 people and the subject was, ‘The Present Ministry of the Holy Spirit.’ Many experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit at this conference. The next year the Charismatic Movement in Britain.

Since those early days new churches have emerged across the British nation until there is hardly a city or town that does not host a non-denominational New Testament-based church.

Similar records can complied from other nations, but they are beyond the scope of this brief Anglo-American introduction to the Charismatics.

A third-wave of Holy Spirit activity broke out in the later decades of the twentieth century expressing itself through John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement, Rodney Howard Brown in USA, UK and other nations, Randy Clarke, John Arnott and the 'Toronto Blessing,' John Kilpatrick and Steve Hill at Brownsville(These latter two were Pentecostals but had widespread influence on charismatic churches and ministries). In this century Todd Bentley and Freshfire Ministries at Lakeland, Florida experienced a notable healing revival which gained international acclaim as it was broadcast across the world on God T.V.

Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit, Preface, p.ix; Peter Hocken, ‘Charismatic Movement,’ Art. in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Ed Stanley Burgess and Gary McGee, 1988; Peter Hocken, Streams of Renewal, 1986, p30-37; Arthur Wallis, Art. ‘Springs of Restoration,’  Restoration Magazine, July/August 1980.

Tony Cauchi
March 2009

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