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Pentecostal Theology and the Theological Vision of N.T. Wright: A Conversation Paperback – September 20, 2015
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About the Author
Editors: Janet Meyer Everts and Jeffrey S. Lamp -- Janet Meyer Everts (PhD, Duke University) is Associate Professor of New Testament at Hope College (Reformed Church in America), Holland, Michigan. She comes from a long line of Episcopalians, was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was active in the Episcopal charismatic renewal. Jeffrey Lamp (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Professor of New Testament at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.
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Wright recalls that his wife’s late parents worshipped in an Elim Pentecostal Church, and he himself had once preached there. He mentions he too was influenced by the varied charismatic movements that came to Britain during his student days, how some of family members were caught up in the East African revivals, and as a teenager he like many of his peers, had read David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade.
As earlier mentioned, Wright especially notes how in his mid-30’s, “to my own surprise, I began to pray in tongues.” He then stress, “in my pastoral ministry and various other contexts over the last thirty years it has been invaluable as a way of holding before God people and situation whose needs I had not yet understood sufficiently to put into words.”
Wright concludes, “Does that make me a ‘Pentecostal’? . . . Part of the joy of being Anglican . . . is that there is room to move, to grow, to develop, to explore different traditions from a secure ‘home base’” (p. 143). He later reiterates his “own pilgrimage,” how it has involved ‘embracing charismatic elements within an Anglican framework,” adding, “It seems to me that from may points of view God has raised up the Pentecostal churches to remind the rest of us what we might be missing.” (p. 176)
Wright’s reflections re-confirm for me what I have already have known for a long time: Pentecostals and the global Pentecostal tradition should appreciate Anglicanism and I believe specifically the contemporary Church of England, as comprising many charitable “friends” towards us. Moreover, Anglicanism and again I think specifically with reference to its theological and liturgical expressions found within the Church of England, existing as an rich theological resource we can deeply draw much more from. I know we have a number of people in our forum who represent the Church of England, and my comments naturally affirm their valuable role towards shaping the Pentecostal theological tradition and spiritualty.
Let me say that I speak as one who cherishes deep affinities towards both of these traditions. While my spiritual roots lie foremost within Classical Pentecostalism (AG) I had for a short season journeyed into Anglicanism, becoming part of the pastoral staff within a cathedral setting, and was about to embark on that tradition’s ordination track. Yet alas, somehow I just reached this firm conviction (though what was to effect a turbulent pathway I think I am still vocationally reeling from within my own ministerial career) from the Holy Spirit that I was called to represent not the Anglican but rather the Pentecostal tradition— as something God had entrusted me with. Yet I remain highly drawn to Anglican spirituality, illustrative through its liturgical practices, its sacramentalism, its ecumenical ethos that straddles between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, its theological reading of Scripture, and its basic via media theological method that lends to its resolve towards holding diverse trajectories within its ecclesial tradition.
To conclude, let me therefore also add my appreciation towards Wright’s ecumenical spirit, which I believe ought to describe Pentecostals when they postured at their best towards other Christian traditions:
“In these days when many western Christians are not nearly so struck in one denomination as they used to be, perhaps we can simply celebrate the many gifts we have to share with one another.” (p. 176)
I should say that what I find woefully lacking in these otherwise fine essays, is adequate engagement with the "social" meaning of justification, which Wright represents. I find this very unfortunate because in my reading of Pentecostal tradition, it at it's best evokes a strong social outcome of life in the Spirit. By "social" meaning of justification, I mean that the giving of the Spirit brings people of diverse backgrounds into one table fellowship. Moreover, it is from reading Wright that I became aware of this understanding of justification. If we follow through with this notion, then such a doctrine of justification should enjoin us towards working towards social heterogeneity as ecclesial / congregational signs of new creation.
Pentecostal Theology and the Theological Vision of N.T. Wright: A Conversation