The Charismatic Movement

General Introduction

Dennis Bennett

Dennis Bennett

The term ‘Charismatic Movement’ was originally applied to the work of the Holy Spirit within mainline denominational churches. It is commonly dated from the day Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian pastor at St. Marks, Van Nuys, California, announced to his congregation that he had been filled with the Holy Spirit and had spoken in other tongues. This was on Passion Sunday, Apr. 3, 1960.

Initial resistance led to Bennett’s resignation but he received a welcome from the bishop of Olympia (western Washington State) and installed as vicar of St. Lukes in Seattle, WA, a mission the bishop had thought of closing. Within a year, church attendance had quadrupled from 75 to 300 and became a centre advocating renewal by the Spirit.

Secular and Christian media spread the news far and wide and denominational believers across the world began sharing their Pentecostal experiences.

By the early 1960s people in virtually every major Protestant tradition were receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spreading the message. By 1963 news of these experiences, especially speaking in tongues, had come to the attention of most Protestant leaders and editors, and a large number of church journals published items on glossolalia that year.

Over the next few years almost every Christian denomination was impacted, until charismatics could be found in Presbyterian, Baptist, Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonites Methodist, Episcopalian, , Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christian churches across the globe. The main leaders became household names; Lutherans, Larry Christenson and Harold Bredesden; Anglican’s Michael Harper and David Watson in UK; Catholics Kilian McDonnell, Francis McNutt, Edward O’Connor and, later, Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens; and many others, began teaching about the spiritual gifts occurring in their churches and denominations.

The cumulative effect of Bennett’s paperback, ‘Nine O’clock in the Morning,’ John Sherril’s ‘They Speak with Other Tongues,’ and David Wilkerson’s ‘The Cross and the Switchblade,’ together with innumerable magazines and pamphlets, gave the movement credibility and uniformity. By the end of the 60’s the Holy Spirit was on the denominational agenda, though not without considerable resistance.

Nevertheless, this section of the charismatic movement was merely the visible tip of an enormous iceberg!
< h5>The much larger Charismatic Movement</ h5>
Quite separate from this surprising and welcome work of God, a much larger Charismatic Movement had been birthed by the Spirit. It pre-dated the denominational charismatic movement by at least 10 years and its effect on the wider body of Christ was far greater. It resulted in much more than renewed denominational churches and individual believers being baptised in the Holy Spirit. Rather, it catapulted the worldwide church into a new era of exponential growth through to the 21st century – and it shows no signs of abatement!

This wider movement acknowledged the ‘renewalist’ experience and had the same passion for the presence of the Holy Spirit in its ministry, but it embraced a very different understanding of the church. Theologically, it was fuelled by both a biblical pneumatology and a biblical ecclesiology. The new wine needed a new skin to host its life-giving power. Church structures were transformed and modelled on New Testament principles. Thousands of biblically-aligned churches were planted, new ministries emerged and apostolic movements or ‘streams’ were born. Evangelism was put at the top of their agendas and aggressively pursued. Multitudes were converted, filled with the Holy Spirit and became active in Christ’s mission.

Predominantly, these churches were not aligned to denominational churches nor the Pentecostal movement. Instead, they resembled a colourful kaleidoscope of church government and expression, all different but founded on what the participants saw as the Biblical norm.

They can be broadly categorised as ‘Restorationists’ and ‘Revisionists.’
< h5>Restorationists</ h5>
Restorationism propagates the idea that the church should be restored to the primitive pattern of the early apostolic church. It seeks to correct faults or deficiencies in the church by appealing to the primitive church as a Biblical, therefore normative model.

Although there were efforts to restore the straying church before and during the Reformation, a more serious attempt began at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, during the Second Great Awakening. Barton Stone with Thomas and Alexander Campbell were part of this American Restoration Movement which aimed to restore the church and sought “the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.”

There were elements of restorationism in Edward Irving’s Catholic Apostolic Church (1830’s), Alexander Dowie (1847-1907, who was influenced by the fellow Scot, Irving), in Brethren circles (through J.N. Darby (1800-82) and the Schofield Bible.

However, the roots of Charismatic Restorationism were in the Healing and Latter Rain Revivals of the late 1940’s and 50’s.

Restorationists adopted particular view of church history, believing that the Church progressively declined after the death of the apostles until it reached its lowest point in the medieval period. This affected church polity and practice but, beginning with the Reformation, they believed God began a programme of Restoration to return the Church to its New Testament model.

Notable exponents of Restoration include Dick Iverson, pastor of Bible Temple, in Portland, Oregon and Graham Truscott, from New Zealand, the CGM including Derek Prince, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford and later, Ern Baxter.

In Britain church restoration was championed by Arthur Wallis, David Lillie, Bryn Jones, Terry Virgo and others. More advocates of Restorationism gradually emerged throughout the world.

The Restorationist ideal is the basis of many charismatic leaders’ theology and practice.
< h5>Revisionists</ h5>
This writer describes another distinct group under the charismatic banner as ‘Revisionists.’ Many of these embrace Restorationist views but are more known by other distinguishing characteristics.

This group largely consists of churches nominally or formerly associated with Pentecostal denominations and Charismatic movements, but they have developed their own unique flavour of Christ-centred, Spirit-filled Christianity, making them quite distinct from Renewalist or Restorationist charismatics.

They include the Cell Church Movement, countless numbers of independent charismatic churches and networks and many Apostolic and new church movements. Although they are clearly Evangelical and share the same convictions about the Holy Spirit’s essential role in the church as Pentecostals and charismatics, they have divergent distinctives and emphases. These include views on leadership, discipleship, piety, faith, vision, finances, prayer, revival, authority and a host of other less important doctrines or practices.

To add to the confusion, there are many Pentecostal and Denominational Charismatic churches whose ethos and doctrine are indistinguishable from other Charismatics. They have chosen to adapt by adopting many of the principles of the new charismatic churches, but elected to stay within the bounds of their particular church affiliation.
< h5>The Growth of the Charismatic Churches</ h5>
Undoubtedly, the Charismatic Movement as a whole, has transformed the spiritual geography of the English-speaking world and introduced a dynamic, effective and multiplying church in most non-western nations.

The growth of the Charismatic Movement in non-western nations should be noted. The Pew Research Centre reports, ‘A century ago, the Global North (commonly defined as North America, Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand) contained more than four times as many Christians as the Global South (the rest of the world). Today, the Pew Forum study finds, more than 1.3 billion Christians live in the Global South (61%), compared with about 860 million in the Global North (39%).’

‘And five of the top 10 countries with the largest Christian populations are either in Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia) or Asia (Philippines and China). Moreover, the fastest growth in the number of Christians over the past century has been in sub-Saharan Africa (a roughly 60-fold increase, from fewer than 9 million in 1910 to more than 516 million in 2010) and in the Asia-Pacific region (a roughly 10-fold increase, from about 28 million in 1910 to more than 285 million in 2010).’

The Holy Spirit’s work through the new Charismatic Movement is a major source of this unprecedented growth.
< strong>Bibliography:
P. D. Hocken, Art: Charismatic Movement, New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.