April / May 2017 - Vol. 91

living steams of water and the Holy Spirit

Jesus Is Lord!

Impact of the Kansas City Ecumenical Charismatic Renewal Conference 1977
by Kevin Ranaghan

The historic Kansas City Ecumenical Charismatic Renewal Conference in July of 1977 was hot! In the 90’s in the daytime, we trudged the streets between hotels, the Convention Center, and other venues, and to the stadium in the evening. Fifty thousand Christians gathered together around one theme: “Jesus is Lord.” This conference, sponsored in remarkable unity by Catholic, Protestant, classical and nondenominational Pentecostal renewal groups was a significant response to Jesus’ prayer that we might all be one.

It came about this way. From the beginning, many leaders of the various renewals understood that baptism in the Holy Spirit was an ecumenical grace for the whole church. Many prayer groups and communities were, in fact, ecumenical. Denominational conferences invited speakers and shared books and tapes from other streams. By 1974 there was a growing sense that we should manifest the new unity we were experiencing. Key leaders of the Catholic and Lutheran renewals along with leaders of the large non-denominational Gulf Coast Fellowship agreed to work together to plan a large ecumenical gathering.

Kansas City
                          Conference 1977
Kansas City Ecumenical Charismatic Conference 1977

With the strong support of the ecumenical Charismatic Concerns Committee, we formed a representative planning committee. Every sponsoring group was taking a big financial risk, trusting the Lord in contracting for hotels, venues and… gasp… the stadium! The conference office of Charismatic Renewal Services in South Bend agreed to oversee the administration.

Most importantly, the Lord led us to forge a Unity Statement articulating our purpose, promising mutual cooperation and respect, and pledging commitment to one another and to the Lord for this event. Every group, speaker, performer, vendor and worker had to agree to this statement. With many different proposed agendas, the principles of this statement provided a path to resolution and unity in making decisions. We developed a pattern of distinct denominational tracks in the mornings, scores of open workshops in the afternoons, and the large unified evenings in the stadium. Both the unity statement and the three tiered pattern of events were key to the success of Kansas City and have been adopted by many other charismatic events in the decades since.

The two years of planning leading up to one week of celebration in Kansas City was the work of the Lord, and also the Spirit-led hard work of many who ministered both in public and behind the scenes. From beginning to end, it was a foretaste of the unity of the Body of Christ.

There are thousands of testimonies about what God did there: conversions, Spirit baptisms, healings, ecumenical friendships, ministries begun, growth of communities, vocations to priesthood and religious life. Here is just one story which is public.

Present at Kansas City, as an interested participant, not yet baptized in the Spirit, was an Italian Capuchin friar and theologian. Deeply moved by his experience there, he went directly afterward to a Catholic charismatic retreat in New Jersey. There, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit, recommissioned in the Lord’s service. In the decades since, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa has served the Lord as an outstanding theologian of the Renewal, a champion of ecumenism, and preacher to the papal household in the Vatican.

Praise God for the Kansas City conference.

This article was first published in PENTECOST Today Magazine, Special Golden Jubilee Issue, Winter 2017, Volume 42 Number 1. Used with permission.

Kevin Ranaghan (born 1940) is an American religious scholar, Catholic deacon, and a founder of the People of Praise.a charismatic, ecumenical and covenant community with 22 locations in the US, Canada and the Carribean. He is married to Dorothy Ranaghan, and has six children and twelve grandchildren.

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