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Charismatic Renewal Movement in Christianity : Second Wave Pentecostalism Womack, Nathan


For the first six decades of the 20th Century, Pentecostalism was viewed with skepticism and often outright dismissed by other denominations of Christianity. Many Christians believed Pentecostals to chaotic and disorderly. Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues, their beliefs in divine healing and prophecy, and their unorganized and noisy prayer gatherings ostracized them from other established Protestant traditions believed to be more orderly and respectable. They were seen as a fringe group that stood outside of the traditions of mainline and evangelical branches of the larger Protestant community. However, Pentecostalism and a majority of the Christian communities in the United States would undergo a massive shift as Pentecostal theology and practices burst into the “orderly” worlds of mainline denominations and swept across denominational boundaries beginning in 1960. In a small Episcopalian perish in Van Nuys, CA in April 1960, the charismatic renewal found its genesis when Reverend Dennis Bennett shared his experience of being baptized in the Spirit and speaking in tongues. His announcement angered his congregation and he was asked to resign shortly after sharing his experiences. Despite the parishioners of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church being told to not speak about what Reverend Bennett shared about, one parishioner was not going to be quiet. Jean Stone was a parishioner who began a media campaign to chronicle and share about Reverend Bennett’s experience. Stone got Time Magazine and Newsweek to write articles about the renewal movement and Bennett became the defacto face of the Charismatic Renewal movement in the United States. As Bennett’s story spread throughout the country, other clergy from mainline Protestant denominations began to share about their experiences of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Mennonites, Roman Catholics, and others began to open up about their Pentecostal experience and many began to practice speaking in tongues, prophesying, healing, and deliverance. Although there is an overlap between some of the beliefs between Pentecostals and Charismatics, there are some key differences. Both groups believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is an experience that often takes place after conversion (although some adherents experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at their conversion). A key difference is the evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals believe that a person must speak in tongues in order to demonstrate that they have been baptized in the Spirit. Charismatics claim that although many people do speak in tongues as their first sign, it is not the only sign that accompanies being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Any manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined in the New Testament are recognized by Charismatics as being baptized in the Spirit. The Charismatic Renewal Movement validated Historical Pentecostal churches and movements as part of the American Christian landscape. Prior to the movement, Mainline and Protestant denominations viewed Pentecostalism with disdain and were weary of their theology and practices. However, the media coverage of Reverend Dennis Bennett’s experiences in California in 1960, as well as the rise in denominational clergy sharing about their own experiences of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, led mainline denominational leaders were to address the Charismatic renewal movements taking place in their churches. Most of these denominations ultimately accepted Charismatic adherents as part of their tradition. Other denominations left their position on the charismatic renewal movement open without rejecting the movement outright.

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