As a movement, Pentecostalism is a hard beast to explain and describe. Often its derided with sweeping general comments and observations about its failings, teachings and practices, and often those comments are justified. However, often those who comment about Pentecostalism, do so without understanding it in its fullness.
Dr Jacqui Grey, who is the academic dean at Alphacrucis Bible College, has written a great editorial piece for the Australian ABC Religion and Ethics Website. I like how Jacqui hasn’t ignored the failings of the movement and yet has also brought to light the good of the movement.
No doubt the most controversial application of the gifts of the Spirit (as described in Acts and Corinthians) has been the “restoration” of the gift of “tongues,” which has become a symbol of Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality. But it was not necessarily this symbol of tongues that has led to the alienation of Pentecostalism from the other more established denominations and caused Pentecostals to bear the stigma of disrespectability.
Contemporary global Pentecostal groups generally find their origin in the 1906 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. This revival was led by William Seymour, an African-American son of a former slave, who was blind in one eye, underprivileged and poor. Forty-nine years before Rosa Parks would spark the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr, Pentecostal spirituality broke out among black Christians who practiced radical racial integration, believing the Holy Spirit was being poured out on all people. As a journalist reported with contempt in the Los Angeles Herald:
“All classes of people gathered in the temple last night. There were all ages, sexes, colors, nationalities and previous conditions of servitude.”
It’s commendable that a Christian movement takes face value, that in Christ, there is no distinction between race, gender, social class and age.