A Pentecostal/Charismatic contribution
to the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
This is a report of the National Theological Conference by the Pentecostal Leaders Forum of Churches Together in England, 24 March 2018 at Renewal Christian Centre, Lode lane, Solihull, West Midlands B91 2JR
The 24th March 2018, found a group people gathered from many parts of the UK to contemplate the connection between the Protestant Reformation and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement. The venue was Renewal Christian Centre, Solihull, West Midlands. It was to be a response to last year’s 500th Anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, which had been commemorated by many protestant churches throughout Europe. Pleasantly, though perhaps unusually, the conference started at 12 noon with registration and a fellowship meal. Apart from the sharing of bread it was an opportunity to meet and greet old friends and make new ones. As well as this social aspect to the conference we had the opportunity to peruse a bookstand ably staffed by a member of the CLC team.
After lunch we gathered to chew on meatier matters. The session was chaired in a timely manner by Dionne Gravesande. We began with prayer, requesting of the Lord that we may become ‘kingdom people in a kingdom world’. Dionne then introduced our first presenter, Roger Forster, founder and leader of Ichthus Christian Fellowship International. His paper was entitled ‘Anabaptism: the often overlooked fundamental contribution to the Reformation’. He provided us with many historical insights. He helped us to understand who the Anabaptists were, and more importantly how they were pivotal to the Reformation movement. Early in his presentation, Roger stated that, based on his understanding, we should not be working for unity, as we have it already, but that we need to embrace it. Yet, it was quite clear from this account of Anabaptist history that the Church did not exist in unity during a period when the Anabaptists endured intense persecutions, including at the hands of other Christians.
The Anabaptists were radical reformers, considering adult baptism key to spiritual growth. They believed in the priesthood of the saints. They would consider the scripture together, coming to a consensus on doctrine, with the understanding that they could only interpret scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit. Roger Forster equated this movement to ‘restoration churches’, i.e. those churches which were salt and light in the world, examples of which occurred in every century of Church history. He concluded his presentation by comparing the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement with that of the Anabaptists during the Reformation. There were clear links and in many ways the ‘mainstream’ church responded in a similar way to both movements. For a more in-depth and fuller explanation you are encouraged to download this paper.
The response to this paper was given by Reverend Bev Thomas. She felt the necessity to respond by bringing to the fore those women who were part of the Anabaptist movement. Pointing out that women had an equal standing with men, especially as they were forced to undergo the same persecution as their male peers. The Reverend Thomas did this as she felt that the previous presentation, through no fault of the presenter, had omitted this very important aspect of ‘Anabaptist radical reform’.
The next paper was given by Professor Allan H. Anderson. It was entitled ‘What does the European Protestant Reformation have to do with Global Pentecostalism?’ In this presentation the Professor gave a theological and historical outline of how as a by-product of the European Reformation the Gospel spread throughout the Americas, Africa and Asia. He spoke of how the ‘Great Awakening’ triggered a heart for mission and how Evangelicals (and Pentecostals) moved through these areas. He made a clear statement about the complex relationship between mission and colonialism, in which they often re-enforced each other. However, it is clearly understood that it was native workers who spread Pentecostalism globally.
The response to this paper was given by Professor Robert Beckford. Using the lens of Black Liberation Theology, the Professor’s response was controversial, insightful and extremely thought provoking. This is why this writer offers her apologies for not being able to expand more fully on this response. At the time of writing, I am still thinking over Professor Beckford’s words, which I believe was his aim. The Professor did focus in on the relationship between mission and colonialism referring to the ‘mysterium tremendum’ of colonial evangelism. He spoke of the struggle to overcome the colonial effects on European mission and theology, and the requirement of theology to set all free.
The papers submitted at this symposium are required reading, in particular for those in the teaching ministry of the Church. They will need further consideration from those who were in attendance. A special thanks to the organiser of this event Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, Richard Bradbury and Phyllis Thompson.
Minister Diane Thompson-Bowen, Church of God of Prophecy, Reading
Note: The papers from this meeting will be available from a link to the conference here soon.