Evangelicalism and the Charismatic Movement Essay

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S. were not "hostile" to evangelicalism (Bebbington, p. 367). After WWII, the Church of Scotland and British Methodism launched "sustained evangelistic thrusts" and in Britain the "National Young Life Campaign" got involved in evangelical activities, Bebbington continued.

The American Presbyterian denominations announced in 1946 that they were to become "a crusading organ for evangelical religion" (Bebbington, p. 367). And when Billy Graham began preaching and healing in the post-WWII era he did "almost as much" to bring the evangelical movement strength in Britain as he did in the United States, Bebbington asserts. Even in the staid, conservative Church of England there was a "new evangelical revival" by 1959; further promoting the movement was the fact that the British and American evangelical movements linked their talents and strengths across the Atlantic Ocean.

Bebbington notes that the charismatic movement in Britain during the 1960s was in part inspired by the writings of David Wilkerson, who published Cross and the Switchblade, an account of his evangelical work with teenagers in New York City -- notably those involved with drugs.

Wilkerson, a Pentecostal missionary, wrote in his book about his education at the street level, meeting and working with gang members who were involved in drugs. The work was challenging to say the least, and there were times in his book that Wilkerson admitted he was putting his life in danger. He visited police stations, talked with social workers and parole officers and spent time in the library researching gangs and drugs. He also waded into gang territory many times and was laughed at and threatened because the gangster teenagers did not understand who he was or what he was up to.

"My total impression of the problems of New York teen-agers was so staggering that I almost quit. It was at this moment that the Holy Spirit stepped in to help"

(Wilkerson, 1986, p. 50). The Holy Spirit simply gave Wilkerson an idea, he writes. He coaxed a young boy into blowing on a trumpet to the tune of "Onward Christian Soldiers" as children began pouring out of tenement buildings and others, including gang members, arrived to see what was happening.

As Wilkerson watched in astonishment -- and his trumpet player played Onward Christian Soldiers "fifteen or twenty times" -- a hundred boys and girls had arrived at this street corner. And from a lamppost Wilderson began to preach, and he indeed got attention. Some gang members wore "a sharp-looking Alpine hat with a narrow brim" and just about everyone "wore sunglasses" (p. 56). But the problem was they couldn't hear him. He feared that he was not going to be able to make an impression if they couldn't hear him. But just then the street got very quiet; a police car pulled up and officers stepped out and the crowd got very quiet.

Eventually he was able to speak and he was heard. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit that brought the police at that pivotal moment, he believed. From that event he met a man who gave him the cash (he believes it was the work of the Lord) to rent an auditorium, and he held revival meetings in that auditorium. He used some of the money to hire busses to bring large groups of gang members to the auditorium.

The gangs included the Mau Maus (the most violent), the Chaplains, the Dragons and the GGI's (p. 75). He had some startling achievements in his ministry that one could only call success, and as mentioned, his writing inspired many youths and others in Britain in the 1960s just as the charismatic movement was taking hold.

The Charismatic Movement in Britain in the 1960s

In the book Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, Bebbington teams up with Davi Bebbington to further enlighten readers as to aspects of evangelical activities in Britain. Bebbington asserts that the first -- or one of the first -- cases of churchgoers speaking in tongues in the 1960s occurred at Beckenham, England in 1963. At that moment, a group of parishioners -- along with George Forester, Vicar of St. Paul's -- "started speaking in tongues"

(Bebbington, et al., 1989, p. 227).

This incident "hit the headlines, Bebbington writes; and this group of parishioners that had received "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit" began meeting regularly in fellowship sessions to cement their new-found faith. In the Church of England, too, similar experiences (speaking in tongues) were beginning to take place. In Scotland, too, the Glasgow Sunday Mail reported (headline) "Strange new sect in Scottish Kirk" -- and added that this new "sect" was observing a form of worship "bordering on the supernatural" (Bebbington, p. 227).

As Bebbington puts it, "An unfamiliar phenomenon was springing up" because speaking in tongues (glossolalia) had "hitherto been confined to the Pentecostal tradition, but now there were outbreaks within the mainstream churches." (p. 227). And moreover that outbreak did not consist of "inarticulate gibberish" said one Methodist recipient; rather, it was "a beautiful flow of words" that expressed a "sense of joyful praise" (p. 227). The author called the speaking of tongues the most "obvious feature of a movement that was not only being seen in Britain, but around the world in many places.

Where did the movement get its name, "charismatic" (which translated means "Of the Gifts of the Spirit")? Bebbington asserts that it got its name in the United States in 1962. The impact of the charismatic movement was felt initially in existing churches and Anglo-Catholics got involved as well. From 1967 on there was a charismatic movement afoot in the Roman Catholic Church with many people joining the Church after having been recruited from Evangelicalism (p. 227). Even the Church of England began holding charismatic prayer meetings and the very first parish to "enjoy corporate renewal was St. Mark's, Gillingham," a venue that was served by a vicar from the Evangelical citadel of All Souls', Langham Place.

Bebbington says the man who gets credit for propagating charismatic religious activities in England was Michael Harper; he became charismatic after receiving baptism in 1963, according to the author.

All the energy and publicity about the charismatic movement notwithstanding, it was not all smooth going for those who had come to accept a new way of worshipping. For example, on page 228, Bebbington writes that the "spread of renewal was…a painful business"; moreover, there were naturally tensions between those worshipping in traditional services and those congregations who were embracing the idea of speaking in tongues and being very animated in church (waving arms, shouting, moving about the sanctuary).

At a Methodist church in the North-West of Britain, charismatics began to raise their arms during a chorus "in a characteristic gesture of praise" but the minister asked the singing to stop and asked the charismatics "whether they wished to leave the room" (p. 228). There were discussions between the pastor and the charismatics and in the end, they left the congregation. Indeed this wasn't the only confrontation between charismatics and the traditional Protestant / Christian church and in time many of the new found "renewal" movement began going to private homes for worship. The movement within the charismatic movement -- people avoiding traditional churches and going into private homes -- was called "Restorationism." And when those groups grew too large to meet in private houses, "they rented or bought more substantial accommodation" (p. 228).

On page 229 Bebbington invokes the name of David du Plessis, a Pentecostal minister from South Africa who had been all over the world spreading the gospel of baptism in the "Spirit" came to Britain in 1959 and "made effective ecumenical contacts." Not only were there tensions between the charismatics and traditional Christian churches, there was indeed something of a schism between Pentecostalists and the new breed, charismatics. The suspicions that Pentecostal people felt toward the charismatics were based on several things. One, the Pentecostals did not approve of the charismatics' emphasis on testimonials rather than strict Bible teachings. As noted earlier in this paper, the Bible's passages were a big part of the Pentecostal faith. Also, the charismatics were "virtually unanimous" in their denial that "speaking in tongues is the indispensable first sign of baptism in the Spirit" (Bebbington, p. 229). This of course rubbed the Pentecostals the wrong way.

The Sixties of course was the decade of the counterculture in Britain and in the United States, as young people became restless with old traditional ways, they found that rock music, drugs and "free love" were preferable to serving in the Vietnam war or joining up with a corporate Britain. "The Vietnam war "increasingly symbolized for them the consequences of the capitalism against which they were rebelling, Bebbington write on page 232 of his book. Hence, the charismatic movement was the "Christian version of the counterculture," Bebbington explains.

Another dynamic that Bebbington believes contributed to the charismatic movement among young people in particular, was the…[continue]

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