Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism Review

Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism
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Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism ReviewThis book should be White Anglo-Saxon Pentecostals encounter White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Having said that, as an African-American Pentecostal who is interested in both theological and cultural studies, I do not think this is a racist book, but it has fallen well short of any attempt to forge new territory, or turn the talk white scholars have been having with themselves outward into a dialogue with the real America.
The fact is that depending on how you define the emergence socio-historically of Pentecostalism in the United States, you see it primarily as Whites encounter with a phenomenological experience that they defined as literally replicating the stories of baptism in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament's book of Acts of the Apostles. But there is a critical mass that sees this movement as the sum total of the diversity that was impressive, but short lived, at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. The Azusa revival, as a concept, is defined as interdenominational, interracial, interclass, in a word: egalitarian.
The essays in this work disregard that paradigm, in favor of the ID talking to the EGO. In this case, white Pentecostals dealing with white Southern Baptists, or white Pentecostals dealing with white Presbyterians, or white Pentecostals dealing with white Holiness Christians.
One reviewer of this book certainly applauded the "case study" approach of this collection of essays, so in method, it does break new ground. But unlike the "intercultural" approach of say, European theologian/Pentecostal Walter Hollenweger, these authors would continue, intentionally or not, the MYTH that Pentecostalism is primarily a function of white American culture and the Christian theological issues which emerge out of that context, as if whites, and white Pentecostals aren't tremendously influenced theologically, spiritually and culturally by what the "slave religion" of African Americans brought to Pentecostalism, and the challenge that it posed to American Protestantism, both black and white.
The editors missed the perfect opportunity to examine the Neo-Pentecostal movement in the African Episcopal Church, which combines charismatic spirituality with an Africentric socio-cultural outlook. And as for so-called renewal movements among Baptists, there has been none quite as complete as the advent of the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship among black Baptists, led by Paul Morton, a Baptist minister for over 20 years, and the son of a bishop in the Church of God in Christ. Or, there is the story of one black Pentecostal leader after another who became involved in the Civil Rights movement, and through a commitment to a social justice/human rights agenda, became involved in the ecumenical movement: Bishop Arthur Brazier in Chicago, the late Bishop Smallwood E. Williams in Washington, D.C., Bishop Charles Blake in Los Angeles, or Bishop Herbert Daughtry in New York.
And then there is the fascinating relationship that black Pentecostals have had with the bastion of liberal Protestantism, New York's Riverside Church, built by Rockefeller's fortune. Riverside, under the pastorate of Harry Emerson Fosdick engaged the thinking and ministries of the late Bishop Robert Lawson, founder of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, and the late Bishop Ithiel Clemmons -- a member of the general board of the Church of God in Christ -- who was one of the first Pentecostals, period, to attend a liberal divinity school, in Union Theological Seminary. Clemmons created critical theological space for a host of black Pentecostals who would follow him including his brother, who attended Yale Divinity School, and James Forbes, the son of the presiding bishop in the United Holy Church. Forbes, who interacted with both Clemmons brothers at various stages of theological education, became the first black and first Pentecostal senior minister of Riverside in 1989.
And these African-American examples are only the tip of the pluralist Pentecostal iceberg, there are many stories of Hispanic American and Asian American interactions -- for instance the relationship between the Presbyterian and Pentecostal identity for Korean American Christians.
So the confluence of forces -- Puritanism and Pluralism -- certainly marks American religious history and Pentecostal and Protestant interactions. But as the late scholar Robert Kleinhans (whose historiographic essay on Pentecostals is much better than the one the volume included by Augustus Cerillo) muses on what may cause the distorted picture. In writing about Oneness Pentecostals (or Apostolics) in particular, he says in a non-published paper in 1984:
To the Oneness Pentecostals revelation like tongues, prophecy, and healing, was a gift of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit's gift demanded an exegesis from Christian experience more than from the Fundamentalist juxtaposition of texts. ... This practical and pragmatic approach to exegesis was in the spirit of Pentecostalism (and one might add, that of Black American Christianity), but it would offend and alienate both Fundamentalists and those joining Pentecostalism from the segment of American Evangelicalism greatly influenced by traditional Calvinism.
Kleinhans concluded:
Once this research has been completed, we might well revise our interpretations of developments of American Christianity in the first decades of this century. Perhaps we shall have to focus on more than Fundamentalism as the response to Modernism as well as to describe more fully the influence of Afro-America[n] spirituality on other Christian traditions.
It appears these distinguished editors have another volume to do -- and that is the African-American currents in American encounters of Pentecostalism and Protestantism. I hope they are up to the task.Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism Overview""Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism" addresses the theme of encounter within the Protestant faith by exploring moments in which identities and boundaries have been established or challenged as the Pentecostal and charismatic movements have taken their place on the American religious scene. Examining topics as diverse as the animosity that marked Pentecostalism's encounter with the Holiness movement, the forms and results of engagement between Pentecostal missionaries and Protestant mission boards in China, and the response of Southern and American Baptists to the charismatic renewal, contributors show how the confluence of the mainstream with other streams brings about questioning, realignment, and change."

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