Category Archives: Spirituality

The Pentecostal Faith of Abiy Ahmed

Today, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We’re very excited here at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice since this is the second time in a row that a Pentecostal is being awarded this prestigious prize.

Some have the impression that Ahmed is hiding his Pentecostal faith for diplomatic reasons: his nation is divided among both ethnic and religious lines. I recently spoke to Dr Jörg Haustein at Cambridge University who is an expert on Ethiopian Pentecostalism. He told me this wasn’t exactly the case.

Bildresultat för jörg haustein
Dr. Jörg Haustein

“I don’t think he de-emphasizes his Pentecostal faith, but he’s very aware of which audience he is speaking to”, Dr. Haustein says. “There are videos on YouTube, not put up by him but by others, where he’s very Pentecostal in his rhetoric. He knows how to employ his faith in a more plural religiously appealing manner, but it’s also empowering him in the bold things that he’s done. He actually feels that he’s doing God’s work, and that this is what he needs to be doing at this time.”

Ahmed is actually not the first Pentecostal Prime Minister of Ethiopia, his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn was a Oneness Pentecostal. Dr. Haustein has previously researched his faith and rise to power. I ask him how Pentecostals ended up as top politicians in the country. Continue reading The Pentecostal Faith of Abiy Ahmed

Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

Throughout Christian history there have been stories of great heroes of the faith.  These heroes ranged from those who conquered social and systemic injustice and oppression, those who preached the Gospel courageously, those who taught children, and those who wrote theological tomes.  But what truly made these individuals heroes?  Aside from the fact that God greatly blessed these women and men and allowed them the opportunity to shine, the main reason these people changed the world, is because they lived into the calling and giftings that God assigned for them.

There are two main lists in the Bible looking at Spiritual gifts.  These are Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  Although there may be many additional gifts that didn’t exist in Biblical times (such as an uncanny use of social media and promotions for church work), the basics have stayed the same millenia later.  To give an idea of the various gifts which one  can possess, there are gifts of EDIFICATION (including: prophesy, teaching, exhortation, and encouragement), COMPASSION AND SERVICE (practical service, generosity, hospitality, mercy), and LEADERSHIP (apostleship, teaching, preaching, and evangelism).

Now in the church, the majority of gifts are not debated.  For example, both men and women can be able administrators, both can be encourage, and both can be generous with time, talents and treasures.  Yet, the issue arises when it comes to matters of leadership.  In some churches both men and women are able to accept roles such as deacon, elder, pastor or bishop, but in many others these roles belong solely to men.  Does that mean then that women were somehow bypassed when it came to giving out the spiritual gifts or does it mean that women are somehow inferior and therefore not eligible for these roles? Continue reading Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

The Forgotten Origin of Pentecostalism Among Women in India

I used to think that Pentecostalism started with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles 1906, preceded by events at Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College in Kansas 1901. From the US, Pentecostalism then spread rapidly across the world, impacting Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America so that it became the global phenomenon we know of today.

I know realize that I was severely wrong.

To be fair, the Azusa revival had a tremendous impact and is surely among the roots of Pentecostalism. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it is not the earliest. Frank Bartleman, one of American Pentecostalism’s most important pioneers (and a pacifist), acknowledged that “The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was ‘brought up in India, following; becoming full-grown in Los Angeles later.” While the Welsh revival was quite different than what Pentecostalism became known for, the Indian revival wasn’t.

Contrary to Bartleman, I would describe what they experienced as just as full-grown as Azusa. It also managed to remain much more egalitarian and racially inclusive, something American Pentecostalism ultimately failed at as the revival grew older.

ramabai
Pandita Ramabai teaching girls about the Gospel and their rights.

A key leader in the Indian revival was Pandita Ramabai, a theologian and women’s rights activist who translated the Bible into Marathi and started a community center for women and girls, Mukti Mission in Pune, while campaigning politically for women’s education and an end to British colonial rule. She was baptized in the Spirit in 1894, and the women at Mukti started to speak in tongues, prophesy and heal the sick long before William Seymour and his fellow believers even had access to the chapel on Azusa Street.

Pentecostal scholar Allan Anderson points out in the first chapter of his book To the Ends of the Earth that the Mukti revival had a huge impact in the region. Minnie Abrams, an Episcopalian missionary who joined Mukti and worked with Ramabai for many years, wrote a booklet called The Baptism of the Holy Ghost & Fire in 1906 which is likely the first published Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism. 30,000 copies of it circulated during the early 1900s and influenced May Louise Hoover, who led the Pentecostal revival in Chile together with her husband Willis.

Another acquaintance of Ramabai, Shorat Chuckerbutty, was the one who prayed for Alice Luce when she received her Spirit baptism. Luce, who was a missionary in India at the time, went on to spread Pentecostalism in the southern US and in Mexico, pioneering the concept of indigenous churches that became very influential in Pentecostal missions.

Anderson also points out that the Christian Pettah revival led by John Christian Arulappan experienced “outpourings of the Spirit” with prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues as early as the 1860s in southern India. Ironically, the Brethren church which Arulappan belonged to later became hostile towards Pentecostalism, but phenomenologically they had experienced the same thing before Pentecostalism existed, according to Anderson.

Anderson goes on to point out that similar pentecostal-type movements sprung up in England, Estonia, Korea, China and Liberia with hardly any input from Azusa. Christians in Russia and Armenia experienced Spirit baptism and tongue-speaking as early as 1855, and were dubbed “Pentecostal Christians” by their countrymen fifty years before Azusa was a thing!

Long story short: Pentecostalism does not have one root, it has many. Just like the gift of tongues, the Pentecostal revival is truly an international miracle. And from the very beginning, God used women just as much – and sometimes even more – than men.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.

Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.

A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.

The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Narrative is the story through which we view reality.  We all have narratives that help us interpret our lives.  The Bible also is a narrative that helps us interpret reality.  There is a narrative that has floated around Charismatic and Pentecostal circles whenever anxiety surfaces around women co-leading with their husbands in marriage and having leadership roles in the Church and political world.  The Jezebel Spirit teaching comes from a false narrative drawn from 1Kings 16-21. 

Who was Jezebel in the Bible? 

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who descended from a number of wicked kings who had each become progressively more evil in their ways.  Ahab was the son of Omri who was the son of Zimri who was the son of Elan who was the son of Bassash.  Each of these kings were idolaters, men of violence who did not keep the Torah, in fact this was said of each king:

“Baasha had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:7

Of Zimri, “ for he, too, had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:19

 “Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” 1kings 16:25

“Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  1Kings 16:30

Ahab had come from a family of wicked kings who had long practiced idolatry with each subsequent generation becoming more and more evil in the site of the Lord.  The intent of the author was to show that Omri was more evil than the kings before him and Ahab even more evil that Omri and all the others before him. Continue reading Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

German reformer Martin Luther is often heralded as the founder of Protestantism and one of the most influential Christians ever. Historian Bernd Moeller has even described him as the most influential European who ever lived, with millions of followers and a massive readership, his reformation project has had an overwhelming success – even though it ultimately failed to reform the Roman-Catholic church.[1]

However, this notion has recently been challenged by other historians. Hartmut Lehmann writes in his contribution to Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform, an anthology on the so-called radical reformation:

True, Protestantism has become a major world religion, with congregations on all continents. In the course of the twentieth century, however, not all branches of the Protestant family grew at the same rate. In Europe and North America, Lutheran churches, that is the churches directly descending from the German reformer, stagnated. Some are in decline, like many other mainstream churches. In contrast, the various branches of Baptist churches blossomed and attracted many new members, and so did numerous Pentecostal churches.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, in particular, congregations that can best be described as charismatic, fundamentalist, or evangelical (I am aware that all of these terms are disputed), are strong and vibrant. While Europe’s traditional Protestant churches are afflicted by progressive secularization, the much younger Protestant churches in the southern hemisphere experience vitality, and their leaders speak of unheard blessings.

In looking at what the British-American historian Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, has called ‘The Coming of Global Christianity’, one may ask what has become of Luther’s heritage and what of his theological legacy. Luther never accepted the baptism of adults and was among the fiercest opponents of the early Baptist movement. Furthermore, Luther strongly rejected any kind of charismatic or emotional religious performance. For him, those who believed that they should follow sensational inspirations, were nothing but enthusiasts who could not be trusted.

However, not in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, but over the centuries, these unreliable enthusiasts have succeeded in unforeseen ways. By the twentieth century, ‘Martin Luther’s unruly offspring’ could proudly claim ‘mass’ success, or ‘Massenerfolg’, to use Bernd Möller’s phrase.[2]

Continue reading Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

1On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.  Luke 13:10-17 

Is the main point of this passage about healing?  Is the main point of this passage about our focus and mission as God’s people?  These are two of the many questions I puzzled about as I reflected.  And the answer is yes… This passage is about healing and yes this passage is about the focus and mission of God’s people.

Continue reading Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission