A "NEW REFORMATION" is how Philip Jenkins in his The New Christendom has referred to the amazing expansion of Pentecostal communities across the southern hemisphere. (1) Some speak of a third wave in the history of Christianity. (2) If the first wave is represented by the historic churches of the first millennium, the second wave is constituted by the confessional churches of the Reformation, while the third wave is represented by the evangelical, charismatic, and, above all, Pentecostal communities. In the process of this expansion of Pentecostalism, much of the dynamism of Christianity is moving to the Southern Hemisphere.
Pentecostal Christians grew from 74 million in 1970 to an estimated 497 million by 1997, an increase of 670 percent. (3) According to Pentecostal historian Cecil Robeck, the Pentecostal Movement today in its various expressions--Classical Pentecostal denominations, Second Wave Charismatics, and Neo-Pentecostals, among them the African Instituted Churches--represents roughly 25 percent of the world's Christians. (4) Estimates for all those associated with Pentecostalism range from 500 to 600 million. (5) Of the world's 2.1 billion Christians, Roman Catholics number over one billion. That means that Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Charismatics together amount to close to 75 percent of the total number of Christians in the world. And Pentecostals continue to grow.
What is this Pentecostal movement, flourishing from homes and storefronts to mega-churches across the globe? I will consider here the origins of Pentecostalism in the Azusa Street Mission in 1906, the often troubled relations between Pentecostals and Roman Catholics, especially in Latin America, and the question of Pentecostals and ecumenism, including some new Pentecostal initiatives.
THE AZUSA STREET MISSION
The modern Pentecostal movement traces its origins to a revival that grew out of a largely African-American prayer group in Los Angeles in early 1906, though there were earlier expressions of Pentecostal charisms in Topeka, Kansas, and Houston, Texas, where Charles Parham had been ministering. (6) On April 9 at the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry at 214 (now 216) North Bonnie Brae Street, members of this group led by William Seymour, a former student of Parham's, who had recently arrived in Los Angeles, suddenly began to speak and sing in tongues. Those present were convinced that they had been visited by the Holy Spirit. The group began attracting new members and within a few days moved to an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal Church at 312 Azusa Street. (7)
Thus was born the Azusa Street Mission. It was extraordinary in a number of ways. First, those coming to the Mission rejoiced in extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, including an ecstatic form of worship. Second, though it originated in an African-American prayer meeting in a still segregated Los Angeles, the congregation was soon interracial, with blacks and whites praying and singing together. Third, from its beginnings the movement spread like wildfire. Within six months, members and others interested in the Azusa Mission had founded several new congregations in Los Angeles and its environs. Its participants held meetings in neighboring communities, often in tents or rented storefronts. By September its evangelists had traveled from San Diego to Seattle, by December they were active across the country, and at least 13 missionaries had been sent to Africa. In the next two years the movement spread to Mexico, Canada, Europe, Africa, even to Northern Russia.
Naturally the movement was controversial, with its emphasis on miraculous healings, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Robeck cites a not very sympathetic article from the Los Angeles Herald at the time:
All classes of people gathered in the temple last night. There were big Negroes looking for a fight, there were little fairies dressed in dainty chiffon who stood on the benches and looked on with questioning wonder in their baby-blue eyes. There were cappers from North Alameda Street, and sedate dames from West Adams Street. There were all ages, sexes, colors, nationalities and previous conditions of servitude. The rambling old barn was filled and the rafters were so low that it was necessary to stick one's nose under the benches to get a breath of air.
It was evident that nine out of every ten persons present were there for the purpose of new thrills. This was a new kind of show in which the admission was free--they don't even pass the hat at the Holy Rollers' meeting--and they wanted to see every act to the drop of the curtain. They stood on benches to do it. When a bench wasn't handy they stood on each other's feet. (8)
Mainline Protestant pastors also denounced the movement, one of them publicly declaring that the mission's adherents were nothing more than "a disgusting amalgamation of African voodoo superstition and Caucasian insanity" that would soon pass away. (9)
The pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, William Joseph Seymour, was born in 1870 and baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Exposed to various traditions growing up, he was an African American, the son of former slaves. As a young man he traveled to Indianapolis where in 1905 he became involved in the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, studying briefly with Charles Parham, the founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement. Sitting in the hallway because the segregation laws of the time would not allow him inside, Parham taught Seymour about "baptism in the Holy Spirit" as a new empowerment and later coached him in his preaching. When Seymour was invited to Los Angeles to pastor a small storefront mission at 1604 East Ninth Street, Parham originally tried to dissuade him from going, but Seymour insisted and arrived in Los Angeles on February 22, 1906. When his initial sponsor, uncomfortable with his emphasis on baptism in the Spirit, rejected him, he was invited to stay with Edward and Mattie Lee in their tiny home, where he prayed with them and drew others to what became a prayer meeting. By the middle of March the rapidly growing meeting moved, first to the home on Bonnie Brae and then to the building on Azusa Street.
Though Pentecostals argue that ecstatic phenomena such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing were common in the early church, a more recent antecedent to Pentecostalism was the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, which had influenced Parham. He is credited with the doctrine of tongues as evidence of baptism in the Spirit, but he was later rejected by most North American Pentecostals because, among other reasons, he taught that tongues were really foreign languages (xenolalia), given for the sake of mission. There were other antecedents as well. Some point to Britain in the 1830s and Scottish Presbyterian pastor Edward Irving, who started the Catholic Apostolic Church, and to other eruptions of the charismatic gifts in Wales, India, Korea, the United States, and elsewhere in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. (10)
As the movement spread it gave birth to new denominations. In the Los Angeles area the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, the Cathedral of Faith, the City of Refuge, Faithful Central Bible Church, and the Church on the Way trace their origin to the Azusa Mission. Others include the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Pentecostal Holiness Church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, the Free-Will Baptist churches (which, by embracing tongues and miracles, became Pentecostal Free-Will Baptist churches), as well as later churches or denominations such as the Assemblies of God (now with more than 50 million members), the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the United Pentecostal Churches, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Victory Outreach, La Asamblea Apostolica de la Fe en Christo Jesus, and the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. (11)
The movement's influence has been felt around the world. It has exploded in Latin America, drawing hundreds of thousands of Catholics into its congregations. In South Africa during the apartheid era, blacks and "coloreds" looked to the racial equality of the Azusa Mission (though unfortunately its inclusivity did not last long). Today many African churches are Pentecostal or charismatic in practice. The African Instituted Churches are strongly Pentecostal, many of them with Pentecostal founders, or are offshoots of churches founded during the colonial period in the classical Pentecostal tradition. And in Asia, the fastest growing churches in South India, Indonesia, China, South Korea, and the Philippines are Pentecostal. (12)
As the movement grew it took on different expressions, though how they should be characterized is not always apparent. (13) D. B. Barrett and T. M. Johnson speak of three waves of the Pentecostal renewal: classical Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neocharismatics. (14) First wave Pentecostals, represented by the classical Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God, place a priority on conversion, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the charismatic gifts, especially tongues, traditionally seen as "initial evidence" of Spirit baptism. The second wave is represented by Christians from non-Pentecostal denominations involved in the Charismatic Movement, beginning with Pentecostal influences appearing in some mainline Protestant churches in the 1950s and in the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1967. (15) Without rejecting conversion and the charismatic gifts, second wave Charismatics place more emphasis on healing and-especially in Latin America--exorcisms. They are also more likely to participate in politics.
The third wave, referred to as Neo-Pentecostal or Neocharismatics, includes evangelicals and other Christians who no longer identify with the Pentecostal or charismatic renewals but stress Spirit empowerment and other Pentecostal phenomena; this wave also embraces independent and indigenous churches that do not identify themselves as either Pentecostal or charismatic. Concerned with a struggle against evil spirits and the devil, they stress miraculous cures, exorcisms, and many preach the "prosperity gospel." Some offer the faithful anointed objects said to have miraculous healing powers; others stress tithing, sacrifices, or making "pacts" with God in order to receive divine blessings. (16)
Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, after a four-year study of global Pentecostalism in which they visited 20 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, identify five types of Pentecostalism, though they acknowledge that the distinctions are not always clear-cut in practice. Classical Pentecostalism includes denominations such as the Assemblies of God, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Church of God in Christ, and many …