Saturday, March 9, 2013

Old Charismatics never die, they just write away...

Carolyn and I just came back from the CLF meeting at the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach. It was a blessed and joyful experience filled the Holy Ghost, Charismatic and Pentecostal friends, and great food.
The focus of the meeting was to discuss the new and revolutionary book by Jon Ruthven, What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology (soon available via from Word & Spirit Press). It is revolutionary.  Jon clearly documents from the scriptures that God intends His people to be a prophetic people. That is, as in all Christians having some degree of prophetic ministry, specifically, in constantly hearing from God directly and obeying and sharing the message.  This is SHOUTED in 1 Cor 14, but Rutven has shown it is a main theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.
The picture below shows yours truly with Jon. Jon is the fellow with hair. Next, the moderator of the meeting (blue shirt) was Scott Kelso, as he converses with Bob Garrett and other members of CLF.  He did a great job and was very kind with his remarks as to my forthcoming book which he read as an e-manuscript. He is a pastor and scholar.

Jon presented his revolutionary analysis in two sessions, and this was followed by three “responses.” Larry Christenson gave a response form the Lutheran perspective, Kevin Ranaghan from the Catholic, and I from the Anglican/Pentecostal. Both Rev Christenson’s and my response were totally positive. I observed that if the Rutven understanding is true, which I believe it is, then the training of pastors needs to refocus around the gifts of the Spirit, but especially discernment of Spirits. That is, if one has a congregation of prophets (wow!) preaching and liturgy are less important, but leadership in discerning true from false prophecy becomes critical.
Kevin Ranaghan agreed with the main thesis, but has some reservation about the anti-Catholic tenor found occasionally within the work. (My wife said the same thing to me privately). The issue is that most Pentecostals (as Ruthen is) just assume that much Catholic theology is wrong, and are often less than tactful in expressing their objections to specific Catholic doctrines. This is a vestigial attitude left over from the Reformation that has not been completely healed. Ruthven promised to revise and explain his disagreement with more tact in subsequent editions of What’s Wrong.
Speaking of early Pentecostal anti-Catholicism, Dr. Vinson Synan, the dean of Pentecostal historians, was at the meeting and I had the privilege of having dinner with him. He had begun his Christian ministry as the son of a fiery Pentecostal preacher who believed the Catholic Church was the “Hoar of Babylon,” etc.  Vinson recounts that in his early days he counted it a blessing for the Kingdom of God when he emptied all four tires of the local Catholic priest’s car. A few years later he went off to college and then graduate school in history. Along the way he did research on the Medieval Catholic mystics, and, lo and behold, discovered that they were not only good Christians, but often fully baptized in the Holy Ghost, and manifesting the gifts of the Spirit - just like good Pentecostals! 
From the 1960s Vinson had been part of several important inter-denominational fellowships, including helping organizing the great Charismatic mega-meetings such as the Kansas City 1977, etc. Vinson has written some of the best works on the Pentecostal/charismatic renewal, and has formed dear friendships with many Catholic scholars and leaders.
Less know is that Vinson played the classical guitar before entering the world of historical scholarship. Below is a shot of him as “Rock Star Vinson” singing a rousing version of “Heartbreak Hotel” - well, not really. On the last night of the CLF meeting he led us in a wonderful medley of “ol’timie” Pentecostal songs.

The CLF contains many of the “veterans” of the original charismatic renewal. It was a pleasure interacting and renewing friendship with these pioneers. Below is a picture of Carolyn and I with Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan plus Bishop Epusi from Kenyan (Anglican).

We should note that The Ranaghans were the among the very first founders of the Catholic Charismatic renewal back in 1967, and have been among its leadership ever since. The other picture is of Larry Christenson, playfully taking my picture as I take a picture of him. Larry led a Spirit-filled Lutheran Church even before the Chrismatic renewal got going officially in 1960. He has written several classic books on the charismatic renewal. He is still going strong!

The meeting was organized  and amazing music ministry provided provided by the Alleluia community our of Augusta Georgia. It is a “covenant community,” which is predominantly Roman Catholic but included members from many denominations. The idea of a “covenant community” has reoccurred throughout many ages of Church histrory, as the Moravian community led by Count Zinzendorf, back in the 18th Century, which impressed John Wesley and molded his idea of small group fellowship. Several covenant communities were planted in the early days of the charismatic renewal, and again these were predominantly Catholic. It is a model of Christian living which should get more attention from all Christians, as it seeks to follow the pattern of Christian community modeled in Acts  but rarely followed. It leads to a wonderfully ordered life of work, family, worship and discipleship.  Such communities include a mix of married, singles and extended families that stress “simplicity.” I believe it to be a much better model of community Christian living that monasticism.  Below are Bob and Sue Garrett, leaders of the alleluia community who were responsible for organizing the CLF meeting. She plays a mean accordion also!

All in all the CLF meeting was a great experience, the cooks at the Founders Inn, in Virginia Beach, where it was held are fabulous. Carolyn and I both put on about five lbs. In four days. We have repented - until next year.

Jon Ruthven, new book What’s Wrong With protestant Theology  should be available on Amazon within the next few days. But here is a link to his other excellent books:
Link to the Alleluia Covenant community in Augusta.

Link to Vinson Synan’s books: