The Ambassador Airplanes: How the Assemblies of God Became Involved in Missionary Aviation — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — May 13, 1950 By Glenn W. Gohr Originally published on AG News, 14 May 2020 Did you know that the Assemblies of God owned two passenger planes just after World War II that carried Assemblies of God missionaries overseas? Following World War II, commercial flights were not readily available, […]

via The Ambassador Airplanes: How the Assemblies of God Became Involved in Missionary Aviation — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Yes, You Can Use That Music

That sentiment came to mind when I read this comment on my posting of the Word of God album All of Your People:

I was worship leader in an Antioch CA prayer group and an Assemblies of God mission for 5 years in the ’90’s where I used these songs.  I first heard them at Friday night Healing Masses at Holy Redeemer Center Oakland, CA.

There’s a lot of history packed into this little comment, and some lessons to be learned.

First: yes there were such things as “Healing Masses,” people like Francis McNutt were very much in the forefront of things like this.  Current interest by Pentcostals in liturgical worship and how to integrate the full Gospel into it would do well to take a look at what actually happened.  (This was also very evident at the Steubenville conferences of the early 1980’s as well.)

Second: in all of the discussion of the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there’s very little attention given to the obvious dumb question: “What were the classical Pentecostal churches doing in response?”  Since they had carried the standard of modern Pentecost since the turn of the last century, it’s reasonable to ask this question.  The answer is simple: it depends…the Assemblies of God churches tended to be more receptive to some kind of involvement in the Renewal.  That paid off when many Catholic Charismatics (and others) realised that the metastable nature of communities and prayer groups was unsustainable, and suddenly Pentecostal and independent Charismatic churches reaped the rewards of new members.  In some cases (like this one) they brought their music with them.

As for the Church of God…well, not so much, there was some hostility to the Renewal, probably because they didn’t go through the ordeal of legalism that was usual in those days.  There were exceptions, the largest of which was Paul Laverne Walker’s Mt. Paran church in Atlanta, but they were exceptional, at least for a long time.  (The Church of God eventually rewarded Paul Walker by making him General Overseer in 1996; his son Mark is the new President of Lee University.)

When I joined the North Cleveland Church of God, it was inconceivable that worship music such as the Word of God would be used.  It went against nearly a century of music tradition in a stylistic way; most in the Church of God preferred a more lively worship style.  That is going by the wayside; that’s one of the complaints I made in this post, what was considered heavenly in the past is no longer, now we are going for a worship style that is slower and more repetitive than was practiced in Ann Arbor!  But now we know it’s possible to use Ann Arbor’s music in a classical Pentecostal church.

I think the lesson from all of this is that church music and worship styles are products of many things, including doctrine and theology, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic and generational preferences.  To simply get up and proclaim that “this is from the throne room, that’s it” isn’t helpful and has led to a great deal of the conflict on this subject.  We need to worship in a way that really does draw us closer to God, and not just because someone says that it should.

Note: my YouTube channel, which is now mostly music from the “Jesus Music” era, has gotten a little boost during this COVID-19 isolation era.  Maybe people are taking my suggestion seriously about checking things out!

My Tribute to Dave Lorency

One of the hardest parts of getting older is seeing loved ones, friends and colleagues pass away.  It’s not often that I do a tribute to one of them, in part because a) my audience is very diverse, most people aren’t known to a wide range and b) if I did it I would pretty much dominate the blog.  But I’m making an exception in this case for my friend Dave Lorency, who passed away suddenly early this morning.  Dave is best known as the President of Operation Compassion, the relief organisation that has been to so many disasters, including the many tornadoes and hurricanes that have struck our country and world, and even the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

David Lorency
Dave Lorency. Photo courtesy of Church of God Chaplains Commission.

Most of all, though, Dave was my friend.  I’ve met many interesting people and great men and women of God in the Church of God during my two score in it, but Dave is, to use the Latin phrase, sui generis.  His ministerial career was unique, and the way he brought Operation Compassion to the forefront of Christian relief work illustrates both how he leveraged the strengths and transcended the weaknesses of the Pentecostal denomination which he served for so many years.

Dave started out in what used to be called the Tidewater area of Virginia.  His ministerial career–and don’t be silly, that’s the way many of our ministers look at it–was not out of the ordinary until he got involved in and was made Executive Director of Operation Compassion.  To make a relief organisation like OC successful requires a skill set that is different from many of our ministers, but Dave was God’s man for the hour, so to speak.

What a great loss. He was a powerful force in humanitarian work and a dear friend of mine. He will be missed more than we will ever know. He was one of Mercy Chefs earliest supporters and advocates. I will miss him terribly.  Gary LeBlanc, Mercy Chefs

oclogo-headerTo start with, he was committed to the ministry body, soul and spirit, which is important for the success of any ministry.  I have always been impressed with the energy and dedication of many of our ministers, and he was certainly exhibited both.  Beyond that, he had the organisational skills to put it together.  Operation Compassion’s mission is simple but vital: to gather food and other supplies and then to deliver them to places and organisations which in turn would distribute them to those in need.  That doesn’t sound like much of a mission, but a relief organisation that arrives empty handed won’t bring much relief.  OC helped to avoid that problem.

To do that requires not only organisational skills, it requires the supplies, either donated or bought.  For the former he had extensive relationships with corporations of all kinds who would donate their surplus to OC’s warehouses, from whence they went to the field.  Beyond that Dave was an effective fund raiser, not only in the Church of God but also outside of it.  OC started out as an integral part of the Church of God; it was “set loose” (made its own corporation and given autonomy) in 2006, when Dave was made President.  As he reminded us frequently, much of the cash income they had came from Roman Catholics, a crossover rare for an organisation with Pentecostal roots.  And he did all of this while keeping the overhead below that of many other relief agencies and ministries.

Operation Compassion’s warehouse, with supplies ready to go to the field, 2005. Photo courtesy of the Church of God Chaplains Commission.

As for me, I first got to know Dave when I was the webmaster for the Church of God Chaplains Commission, which I was from 1998 to 2010.  Both OC and the Commission are under the umbrella of the Care Division of the Church of God, even with OC’s status as a separate corporation.  After I left the formal employment of the denomination I was appointed to the Care Board, which oversees the ministries under its umbrella, including OC.  In both of these I got to know Dave as a friend.  Unpretentious and straightforward in his opinions of people, ministries and churches, he was in many ways an atypical minister.  In his passing I am shocked and grieved.  Our General Overseer Tim Hill said that he “…has left a legacy in the Church of God that will never be duplicated,” and that’s an understatement.

My heart and condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues, his passing leaves a hole in our lives which will not be filled until we see him again on the other side.

A Break from the Worship Wars

Last post I quoted a missionary to the Middle East who was having good ministry in spite of the social distancing restrictions.  In a place like that, not being able to gather en masse isn’t as big of a change as it is here.  But not having live services has spared me a conflict that I was stuck in going into this lockdown: the “worship wars” that have engulfed our churches for a long time.  It’s easier to handle from a distance, and easier since I don’t have to interact with my church people on the subject.

So, you ask, where do I stand in the worship wars?  I feel like I’m in “No Man’s Land” on the Western Front during World War I.  On either side are two implacable foes which shell and/or gas attack each other.  Occasionally one goes over the top, but no matter how many people do that or get themselves killed in the process, neither side makes a lot of progress.  All the while I’m hunkered down hoping that we can have a Christmas Truce or something like it, or that someday someone will actually have a victory before there’s no one left to fight.

So how did I get caught in the middle?  That is the result of the way I got to this place.

As many of you know, I was raised in the High Episcopal Church.  We used the 1940 Hymnal, the hymnal that didn’t have “Amazing Grace” in it.  (It’s a great hymn, but I find its endless repetition tiresome.)  Unless they brought a rock band in (which they did once) the pipe organ was the only instrument used in church.  I actually liked the hymnody I sang in the paid youth choir.  That would mark me as a traditionalist in most places but the Anglican tradition isn’t really the same as in other Protestant churches.  For example, we sang different hymns on Palm Sunday and Easter than, say, the Baptists did, and our hymns were far superior to theirs.

When I swam the Tiber and went to Texas A&M, I was introduced to Catholic folk music.  I didn’t like Catholic folk music to start with because a) it was American (and I preferred what came from the UK) and b) it was folk music, and I was a progressive rocker.  Eventually I came around, although I’ve discovered that the folk music we did wasn’t all there was or even the best.  From there I moved to Dallas and was introduced to the Ann Arbor/South Bend worship style, which is very worshipful but also has its own musical limitations.

After a few more peregrinations I ended up in the Church of God.  Worship in the Church of God in the early to mid-1980’s was the end result of many years of Southern Gospel built up by campmeeting songbooks and a lively musical tradition that is different from “nominal” Protestant churches, to say nothing of the Anglican/Episcopal world.  In the hands of the gifted, it is a great worship style.  I thought, “this is where I’m at, I’ve arrived, it’s not what I’m used to, but I expected that.”

Silly me: late in that decade the “praise and worship” music from Integrity came bubbling up and the split in what music to do at our church began in earnest.  Praise and worship music is a moving target, both with the sources and to a lesser extent the style.  The problem is that it is always at any given moment presented as what’s being done in the “throne room,” which means that those who don’t like it are not in the throne room and possibly never will be.  It also means that those who don’t like it (or at least the way it’s presented at any given moment) get “aged out,” and for someone who teaches college students for a living, that’s galling.

At this point we are split into two camps.  The traditionalists (and keep in mind it’s not my tradition, but theirs) have retreated into the “Red Back Hymnal” version of Verdun, that being the Church of God’s Church Hymnal, produced in the early 1950’s and the most successful gospel hymnal ever published.  (One retired Church of God State Overseer refers to it as the “Red Neck Hymnal.”)  On the other side are those who lead worship with basically what’s going on in the vast majority of megachurches in the Anglophone world.

I really don’t have a dog in this hunt.  One of my responses is to create the “Music Pages” on this site, so I can propagate (and enjoy) music from the “Jesus Music” era.  This music was a stylistic step forward from any Protestant or Catholic music of the era, and joining a Church of God was a step backward in many ways.  It was also produced before the excessive commercialisation that has plagued CCM and praise and worship music ever since.

But now, with the break we’re having in physical corporate worship, it’s worth nothing that there’s a lot out there in terms of worship and music style.  Don’t like what’s going on at your church?  Check it out.  Many of you already have been doing this.  It beats complaining, and it gets better results.  And it certainly makes life in “no man’s land” a lot easier.

For Some, COVID-19 is an Opportunity

I saw this in a recent newsletters from missionaries in the Middle East.  Although they’re not Americans, they were in the U.S. for medical treatment unrelated to COVID-19.  They dodged the chaos of cancelled flights and quarantines to get back to the field and report this:

We thank God that he protected us and gave us a fine return. Right now, it is a time to minister through the media. As everywhere else people are panicking here with the great difference that in [country they’re in] most people do not have the opportunity to ask for prayer from any church or person. In the midst of this crisis there are several people who have made a decision for Jesus Christ over the phone, something that we had not previously seen.

We are praying for a great harvest and asking God to use us with healing miracles to help this people in need. At the moment within our community and co-workers there is no one affected by the plague. We pray for you and declare in your lives Psalm 91 believing that no plague will touch your homes and families.

Wednesday Night Church Online, and One of My Favorite People

My church has decided to go completely online to avoid the crowd issues of COVID-19.  This is our first crack at Wednesday night service online, called “Word at Home.”  It features our Pastor, Mark Williams, and a gathering of men to do music, led by Jeremy Richardson, formerly of the Christian group Avalon.  After that Mark interviews his dad, Bill Williams (that starts at around 26:45,) who like most in his generation has been through some tough times.

Bill Williams is one of my favourite people, for reasons I hope become evident.  He grew up in West Virginia, but spent many years as a pastor in Texas, where Mark was raised.  While there he became a University of Texas fan, but after he retired and moved to Cleveland I leaned very heavily on him to switch to the Aggie faith.  (Texas A&M’s entry into the SEC in 2012 helped.)   I told him one time that if he had been an Aggie fan from the start, his grandson Austin Williams would have been named College Station.

His response: “It’s not too late.”

Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden in 1921 by Converting to Pentecostalism — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — March 12, 1927 By Darrin J. Rodgers Originally published on AG News, 12 March 2020 When Sven Lidman (1882-1960), one of Sweden’s most prominent authors, accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized at the leading Pentecostal church in Stockholm in 1921, it seemed as though the entire nation took […]

via Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden in 1921 by Converting to Pentecostalism — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Stephen and Joy Strang Deposit Charisma Media Archives at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

By Darrin J. Rodgers Stephen and Joy Strang have deposited the archives of Charisma Media at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The Strangs founded Charisma in 1975, which has become the magazine of record of the charismatic movement in the United States. In 1981, they formed Strang Communications (now Charisma Media), which has published over […]

via Stephen and Joy Strang Deposit Charisma Media Archives at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Is the “Classic” Concept of Original Sin Based on a Mistranslation?

An intriguing suggestion from J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines.  First, concerning Ambrosiaster’s influential Commentary on Romans:

Ambrosiaster’s teaching is particularly note­worthy because it relies on an exegesis of Rom. 5, 12 which, though mistaken and based on a false reading, was to become the pivot of the doctrine of original sin. In the Greek St. Paul’s text runs, ‘…so death passed to all men inasmuch as (εφ ω) all sinned’; but the Old Latin version which Ambrosiaster used had the faulty translation ‘…in whom (in quo) all sinned’. Hence we find him  commenting, ‘”In whom”, that is, in Adam, “all sinned.” He said, “In whom”, in the masculine, although speaking about the woman, because his reference was to the race, not the sex. It is therefore plain that all men sinned in Adam as in a lump (quasi in massa). For Adam himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begat were born under sin. Thus we are all sinners from him, since we all derive from him.’ (p. 354, quote from Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on Romans, 5,12)

And Augustine:

So Augustine has no doubt of the reality of original sin. Genesis apart, he finds Scriptural proof of it in Ps. 51, Job and Eph. 2, 3, but above all in Rom. 5, 12 (where, like Ambrosi­aster, he reads ‘in whom’) and John 3, 3-5. The Church’s tradition, too, he is satisfied, is unanimously in favour of it, and he marshals an array of patristic evidence to convince Julian of Eclanum of this. The practice of baptizing infants with exorcisms and a solemn renunciation of the Devil was in his eyes proof positive that even they were infected with sin. Finally, the general wretchedness of man’s lot and his enslavement to his desires seemed to clinch the matter. Like others before him, he believed that the taint was propagated from parent to child by the physical act of generation, or rather as the result of the carnal excitement which accompanied it and was present, he noticed, in the sexual intercourse even of baptized persons. As we have seen, Augustine was divided in mind between the traducianist and various forms of the creationist theory of the soul’s origin. If the former is right, original sin passes to us directly from our parents; if the latter, the freshly created soul becomes soiled as it enters the body. (p. 363)

There are a couple of things that need to be noted about this.

First, although Kelly places the mistranslation with the Old Latin version, the Vulgate is no different.  That in part is because the Vulgate translation of the New Testament isn’t really a fresh translation (unlike the Old Testament, where Jerome did so from the original Hebrew) but a revision of the Old Latin.

Second, there’s no doubt that the Church Fathers all taught that the Fall was a disaster and left us in a sinfully impaired state.  The issue here is how that disaster has been propagated.  Ambrosiaster and Augustine were of the idea that Adam’s sin was directly passed from parent to child, based on the reading from the Old Latin.  (Ambrosiaster’s expansion into “gender-neutral” territory is an interesting aspect of his teaching.)  That has influenced many things in Christianity, from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Limbo to the insistence that infants be baptised.

As always, Bossuet has a full exposition of this idea, which you can find here.