When many people hear of the Charismatic Renewal, they roll their eyes and pray that the conversation goes another way. It is amazing that a movement that had such a wide impact in its day is not only forgotten but gleefully so. There are a few holdouts out there–the Charismatic Episcopal Church is the main reminder, but there are pockets in the AMiA and even the TEC if one looks hard (and fast at the rate things are going) enough.
It is our opinion that the Charismatic Renewal was the great missed opportunity of North American Christianity in the twentieth century. Had it succeeded, it could have stopped liberalism dead in its tracks and brought the disparate Christian groups and "traditions" (we hate that word but don’t know a good alternative to it) together in a more positive way than the sappy "ecumenical movement" could or can do.
But it didn’t do these things. It did a lot to fuel an exodus out of the "Main Line" (the capitalisation is deliberate) and Roman Catholic churches into many places–in some cases classical Pentecostal churches, but more frequently conservative Evangelical churches and even more independent Charismatic churches. It left these churches in the control of others: the Main Line churches in the hands of the liberals, the Roman Catholic church in the hands of John Paul II.
How did this result take place? One problem was the lack of support from the hierarchy of their respective churches. Their idea of renewing the church from within was ground to powder from above. But another part of the problem was a lack of effective leadership, as we discuss elsewhere. Many of the leaders of the Renewal were inexperienced and basically not up to the job.
The one group of people with the experienced leadership that could have helped were the classical Pentecostals, but they (with a few exceptions) did not do so. Part of the problem was a turf battle; after years of carrying the standard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, they looked askance at those who not only had found it without them but weren’t planning to join their churches after receiving it.
But another, more serious problem, was doctrinal. Pentecostals had a very definite sequence of events in mind for the believer. You first got saved, then you were sanctified (whether this was an event or a process was a matter of dispute) and then baptised in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Charismatics were unwilling to accept the Pentecostals’ rigid idea of holiness, leading one very prominent Pentecostal preacher to tell his denomination that there could be only one standard of holiness, not one in the North, one in the South, etc. (We deal with what this could mean in At the Inlet.) Moreover many Charismatics, although speaking in tongues, could not bring themselves to rigidly link tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The Charismatics’ "open-ended" approach to tongues has led to much of the silliness that surrounds the subject today. Many consider the whole thing as a "tradition" or a "spirituality" on par with meditation or whatever happends to be trendy at the moment. They ignore the central role of Holy Spirit baptism had at the founding of the church or throughout the book of Acts.
Beyond that, however, the Charismatics’ greatest mistake surrounding the baptism in the Holy Spirit–the "missing link," if you please–is their overlooking of the importance of sanctification preceding the baptism. Coming out of the Holiness-Wesleyan stream, Pentecostal pioneers knew that personal holiness had to be in place before the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The alternative is chaos, which is pretty much what we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Pentecostals’ concept of holiness in rigidly legalistic terms has come in for justified criticism–to which many Pentecostals have responded by chucking the whole holiness business altogther–but the idea is correct.
And this leads us to the centre of our contention: as shocking as it will sound to some, the whole modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is the end game of the English Reformation from a purely doctrinal standpoint, if not an institutional or liturgical one. This deserves an explanation, and with God’s help we’ll give one.
Reformed theology made inheriting eternal life a simple matter: you had faith in God (an act which God caused,) your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that was it. There was no need for penance or the church, but there was no need for spiritual growth or having to do anything, good, bad or indifferent. The logical end to this is a butt-sitting religion where people can pompously proclaim they’re going to heaven without any further action on their part. Mercifully many members of Reformed churches have not "connected the dots" in this way, and they are a blessing to themselves, the people around them and to God himself.
But, when things get across the Channel, there’s Article XVI. The whole idea that people can fall way ("backslide," to use the traditional terminology) implies movement. If people can move back in their relationship with God, they can move forward. This turns the Christian life from a static to a dynamic business. It puts movement into one’s relationship with God. It also puts movement into one’s life to serve God and to do the work that he left us here to do. The "fuel" behind this, from Jewel to Wesley, is sanctification, personal holiness that enables the believer to “… lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b) Sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit means that God interacts in a positive with us after we are reborn in him.
And this leads us to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is more than a tradition; it is rooted in the early church from the day it started. But, as explained in LifeBuilders Essentials, it is not a principally emotional experience either. It is the "fuel" to empower the believer to share one’s faith with others in whatever way that God has directed an individual to do so. Once again the idea is the same: progress for the individual in one’s walk with God, and progress for the church as it seeks to fulfil it’s God-given mission. This is why, after barely a century on the earth, so many Christians consider themselves to be Pentecostal or Charismatic, and show the gifts and manifestations that go with that. But in the process many were saved through the exercise of the same power, so the movement that is seen to be demonstrative is also evangelistic.
So where does this leave Anglicans? Like the Charismatic Renewal, Anglicanism is one of those great missed opportunities in Christianity. As we explained in Taming the Rowdies, the Church of England started off with everything: state support, Protestant doctrine (with the seeds of fixing the Reformation) and a rich liturgical worship. Unfortunately the whole thing got caught up in both the doctrinal tug-of-war between Reformed and Catholic and in the socio-economic conflicts of seventeenth-century England. The result was that the truly comprehensive, scriptural Anglicanism of Elizabeth I died with Laud and Charles I. Ever since too much of Anglicanism has felt duty-bound to present a "nice" religion that didn’t offend people or create controversy, and in North America that meant one whose primary appeal was to the upper reaches of society.
But that wasn’t the original idea. And there’s no reason why Anglicans can’t be the leaders in the sweep towards the new Pentecost that they, in one way, initiated. There’s no reason why liturgical worship cannot be Spirit-led (it has been done.) And there’s no reason why the religion whose foundational doctrinal statement implies the important of forward movement cannot emphasise personal holiness instead of losing itself in aesthetics or social niceties.
But one major obstacle to the last point is the emergence of the business of "Affirming Catholicism," and it is to this we will turn next.