Essay: Account for the Emergence of Charismatic Movement in 1960s Britain

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Evangelicalism and the Charismatic Movement in Great Britain

What is Pentecostalism? What is Evangelicalism? What was the Charismatic movement in England in the 1960s, how widespread was the movement and what faith-based dynamics were the forerunners to that charismatic movement? These questions and other issues will be reviewed and identified in this paper, in order to bring clarity and understanding to this aspect of religious history in England.

What is Evangelicalism and what is Pentecostalism?

These labels cry out for clear definitions and Wheaton College in Illinois is the source of solid information vis-a-vis Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Wheaton College has within its campus community the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE) and the definition of evangelical embraces three senses. The first sense is to explain that "all Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases" are evangelicals (ISAE).

The ISAE references British historian David Bebbington (to be referenced at much greater length later in this paper) and explains that -- still within the ISAE's first sense -- Bebbington has four "specific hallmarks of evangelical religion" (ISAE). Those four are: conversionism (believing lives need changing); activism (witnessing one's belief in the gospel); biblicism (very high regard for the Bible); and crucicentrism (a strong emphasis on how Christ sacrificed on the cross) (ISAE).

The second sense identified by Wheaton College is to view evangelicalism as an "organic group of movements and religion" -- and to understand that evangelicalism is as much a "style" of worshipping as it is a particular "set of beliefs." Keeping within the second sense, the ISAE points out that given the above-mentioned context (style vs. beliefs) religious organizations as diverse as the African-American Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, or Mennonites and Pentecostals, or Catholic charismatics and conservative Southern Baptists, all qualify as evangelicals. That is because they worship in evangelical style, with animated, enthusiastic, vocally powerful services.

Finally, the third sense that Wheaton College puts forward for evangelical is that it describes a "coalition" that emerged during WWII in response to the "perceived anti-intellectual, separatist, belligerent nature of the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s" (ISAE). On another page the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals describes Pentecostalism as having "an exuberant worship style" and the practice of "glossolalia" (speaking in tongues); the act of speaking in tongues is viewed as a return to the "apostolic experience of the Book of Acts" and the "biblical Baptism of the Holy Spirit" (ISAE).

The Early Pentecostal Movement in Britain -- the Power of Women

To fully understand and appreciate the Charismatic movement in England in the 1960s one must look into the recent past and identify the origins of the Pentecostal movement, also referred to as Evangelicalism. Looking back to the early twentieth century, author Diana Chapman writes in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology that women in fact were pioneering in ministry by taking leadership responsibilities in churches and were important public speakers in religious conventions. Her article sheds a great deal of light on pertinent details regarding the genesis of the charismatic movement in the United Kingdom.

Chapman describes early Pentecostalism as a revival movement -- indeed a "charismatic moment" within a movement -- that began in Britain between the years 1907 and 1914 (Chapman, 2004, p. 217). Specifically, the origins of Pentecostalism in Britain, Chapman asserts, can be traced back to Reverend a.A. Boddy's church, the All Saint's Church, in Sunderland. Boddy is an iconic figure in the Pentecostal movement according to Pentecostal Pioneers (http://www.pentocostalpioneers.org) (PP). Boddy found "true salvation in Christ and received justification through the Blood" in 1892 and became a "leading figure of the Pentecostal League in 1904.

In 1906 he visited Pentecostal leader T.B. Barratt's ministry in Norway and was so moved by Barratt that he invited Barratt to Sunderland to preach. Boddy launched his magazine Confidence in 1908 and, the Pentecostal Pioneer article states, it was the very first Pentecostal publication and ran through to 1926 (141 issues in all). The magazine featured "teaching, testimonies and announcements of events" and was delivered to the U.S., New Zealand, Liberia, India and South Africa -- in addition to being distributed throughout the UK (PP).

Between August 31 and October 18, 1907, T.B. Barratt visited Boddy's church often and helped launch the movement. According to Chapman's account, the female preachers in the Pentecostal movement "could easily be overlooked" except for the amount of coverage the women received in Boddy's Confidence magazine (Chapman, p. 218). The Pentecostal movement in Britain was fueled in large part by the "Sunderland Conventions," according to Chapman, and at that time females and males ministered with "complete equality" (p. 218). However, the beginning of the First World War (1914) -- also the end of the Sunderland Conventions -- marked the beginning of the end of women as ministers in the Pentecostal movement. The male ministers and others in the church began to question the value of having women preaching and leading, leading to a nearly all-male Pentecostal leadership period.

Chapman reviews "Holiness Movements" -- the spiritual movements that preceded the Pentecostal movement -- and offers six factors that accounted for the prominence of women in those movements. First, the Holiness teachings emphasized a model that focused on a "sanctification experiences" (p. 223) that required men and women to publicly testify as to how God had reached them and led them. This concept was later embraced in Pentecostal services. And by speaking in public about their beliefs, women began to think about becoming preachers themselves. Secondly, Scriptures became the central doctrine in the Holiness teachings; one expressed one's own person experience relative to Scriptures but did not have to be bound by "literalist interpretations" (p. 223). The third factor, as Chapman explains, led to a "charismatic concept of leadership and ministry"; in other words, women testified in public that they had received a "call" to the ministry, and the concepts of "gifting" and "anointing for service" figured prominently in those testimonies (p. 224) by women.

The fourth factor in the development of the Holiness movement was the innovation relating to Bible readings. American lay preacher Hannah Whitall Smith popularized the format in which the speaker recited the Scriptural passage, then extemporaneously made "appropriate comments" about that passage (p. 224). Women could not speak informally in spiritual contexts "without using the title of a sermon" (p. 224). The fifth factor, according to Chapman was that Evangelicalism put both women and men on "an equal footing before God" -- and Evangelicalism had always championed the notion of human rights, which was important to female ministers. The sixth of Chapman's factors that empowered the Holiness movement within the female gender was the fact that informal and small meetings emerged and women grew into leadership roles "on the basis of availability and charismatic gifting" (p. 224).

Noll, Bebbington, and Rawlyk on Evangelicalism and its History

In the book Evangelicalism the noted authors Mark a. Noll, David W. Bebbington, and George a. Rawlyk trace the evangelical experiences from the 1700s up to the 1990s. In the Introduction, the authors expresses that "From the start," among Protestant congregations in English-speaking countries, "news about evangelical experiences…was passed on with great excitement"

(Noll, et al., 1994, p. 3). An example of that excitement is offered on page 3; although Abigail Hutchinson of Massachusetts felt "despair" and "alienation" she nevertheless attended church services on a Monday morning in 1735. The pastor (Jonathan Edwards) explained in a published piece that when Hutchinson said the words, "The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin," she was filled with "a lively sense of the excellency of Christ" (Noll, et al., p. 3). Moreover, she was "filled…exceeding full of joy," Edwards remembered.

Protestants who had access to pamphlets and journals published in the 18th Century in were able to also read John Wesley's recounting of a meeting in London on Wednesday, May 24th, 1738. Wesley, a founder in the Methodist movement, was reading Martin Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans; in that passage Luther was describing "the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ" (Noll, p. 4) and Wesley wrote that his heart felt "strangely warmed." But placing his full trust in Christ at that moment, Wesley went on, "…an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death" (Noll, p. 4). Soon thereafter, word apparently spread about these dramatic kinds of events and an "evangelical pattern of intense religious experience was established very quickly," writes Noll (p. 4).

Meanwhile, moving ahead to the Chapter 18 of the book, in Bebbington's essay he writes that by the 1940s, "On both sides of the Atlantic the oneness pentecostalists and charismatics whose practice of baptizing in the name of 'Jesus only' predisposed them to a modalist theology…"

(Bebbington, 1994, p. 366). And even though by 1940 the word "evangelical" had gone "out of fashion" because fundamentalism and modernism pushed it from popularity,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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