June / July 2015 - Vol. 80
Holy Spirit poured out at
The Century of the Holy Spirit
Origins of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal

by Dr. Vinson Synan

Introduction: "The touch felt round the world"
[Note: Dr. Vinson Synan, in the first chapter of his book, Century Of The Holy Spirit: 100 Years Of Pentecostal And Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001, describes the beginning of the early Pentecostal movement at the turn of the twentieth century.]

On January 1, 1901, a young woman named Agnes Ozman was baptized in the Holy Spirit at a small Bible school in Topeka, Kansas. A student of former Methodist pastor and holiness teacher Charles Fox Parham, Ozman received a startling manifestation of the gift of tongues and became, in effect, the first Pentecostal of the 20th century.

“I laid my hands upon her and prayed,” Parham later recalled of the event. “I had scarcely completed three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking the Chinese language and was unable to speak English for three days.”

According to J. Roswell Flower, the founding secretary of the Assemblies of God, Ozman’s experience was the “touch felt ’round the world.” As Topeka and the rest of the nation celebrated the new century, few people could have imagined that this humble event would trigger the worldwide Pentecostal charismatic movement, one of the mightiest revivals and missionary movements in the history of the church.

Beginning with only a handful of people in 1901, the number of Pentecostals increased steadily to become the largest family of Protestants in the world by the beginning of the 21st century. With more than two hundred million members designated as “denominational Pentecostals,” this group had surpassed the Orthodox churches to become the second largest denominational family of Christians, exceeded in number by only the Roman Catholics.

Origins of the early Pentecostal movement
Perhaps the most important immediate precursor to Pentecostalism was the Holiness movement which issued from the heart of Methodism at the end of the Nineteenth Century. From John Wesley, the Pentecostals inherited the idea of a subsequent crisis experience variously called “entire sanctification,”” perfect love,” “Christian perfection,” or “heart purity.” It was John Wesley who posited such a possibility in his influential tract, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766). It was from Wesley that the Holiness Movement developed the theology of a “second blessing.” It was Wesley’s colleague, John Fletcher, however, who first called this second blessing a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” an experience which brought spiritual power to the recipient as well as inner cleansing. This was explained in his major work, Checks to Antinominianism (1771). During the Nineteenth Century, thousands of Methodists claimed to receive this experience, although no one at the time saw any connection with this spirituality and speaking in tongues or any of the other charisms.

In the following century, Edward Irving and his friends in London suggested the possibility of a restoration of the charisms in the modern church. A popular Presbyterian pastor in London, Irving led the first attempt at “charismatic renewal” in his Regents Square Presbyterian Church in 1831. Although tongues and prophecies were experienced in his church, Irving was not successful in his quest for a restoration of New Testament Christianity. In the end, the “Catholic Apostolic Church ” which was founded by his followers, attempted to restore the “five-fold ministries” (of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) in addition to the charisms. While his movement failed in England, Irving did succeed in pointing to glossolalia as the “standing sign” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, a major facet in the future theology of the Pentecostals.

Another predecessor to Pentecostalism was the Keswick “Higher Life” movement which flourished in England after 1875. Led at first by American holiness teachers such as Hannah Whitall Smith and William E. Boardman, the Keswick teachers soon changed the goal and content of the “second blessing” from the Wesleyan emphasis on “heart purity” to that of an “enduement of spiritual power for service.” Thus, by the time of the Pentecostal outbreak in America in 1901, there had been at least a century of movements emphasizing a second blessing called the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” with various interpretations concerning the content and results of the experience. In America, such Keswick teachers as A.B. Simpson and A.J. Gordon also added to the movement at large an emphasis on divine healing “as in the atonement” and the premillenial rapture of the church.

Neo-Pentecostals and Charismatics

This first wave of Pentecostal pioneer missionaries produced what has become known as the “Classical Pentecostal Movement” with over 11,000 Pentecostal denominations throughout the world. These continued to proliferate at an amazing rate as the century came to an end. In retrospect, the pattern established in South Africa was repeated in many other nations as the movement spread around the world. That is, an enterprising Pentecostal pioneer such as Lake broke the ground for a new movement which was initially despised and rejected by the existing churches. This phase was followed by organized Pentecostal denominational missions efforts which produced fast-growing missions and indigenous churches. The final phase was the penetration of Pentecostalism into the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as “charismatic renewal” movements with the aim of renewing and reviving the historic churches.

Strangely enough, these newer “waves” also originated largely in the United States. These included the Protestant “Neo-pentecostal” movement which began in 1960 in Van Nuys, California, under the ministry of Dennis Bennett, Rector of St. Marks Episcopal (Anglican) Church. Within a decade, this movement had spread to all the 150 major Protestant families of the world reaching a total of 55,000,000 people by 1990. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement had its beginnings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1967 among students and faculty of DuQuesne University. In the more than thirty years since its inception, the Catholic movement has touched the lives of over 70,000,000 Catholics in over 120 nations of the world. Added to these is the newest category, the “Third Wave” of the Spirit, which originated at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1981 under the classroom ministry of John Wimber. These consisted of mainline Evangelicals who moved in signs and wonders, but who disdained labels such as “pentecostal” or “charismatic.” By 1990 this group numbered some 33,000,000 members in the world.

In summary, all these movements, both Pentecostal and Charismatic, now number over 640,000,000 and have come to constitute a major force in Christendom throughout the world with explosive growth rates not seen before in modern times. In 2010, these groups united together to form Empowered21 which will continue to focus on the growth of the movement in the 21st Century.

[Excerpt from The Origins of the Pentecostal Movement, by Vinson Synan, Ph.D., source: http://empowered21.com/about/history/]

Century of Holy
                        Spirit book
Dr. Vinson Synan is one of the leading authorities on the history of Pentecostalism. Writing and editing more than 18 books in his lifetime, he has contributed works such as The Holiness Pentecostal Movement in the United States, The Old-Time Power, and his most recent major work, The Century of the Holy Spirit. In addition to these publications Dr. Synan released his memoirs titled An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit in 2010. His work and writings are authoritative resources on the history of Pentecostalism and various other topics in the church. In addition, he was one of the founders of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) in 1970.

A definitive history of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement and an intriguing reference for persons outside the movement, The Century of the Holy Spirit details the miraculous story of Pentecostal / Charismatic growth around the world. This book features five chapters by the premier Pentecostal historian, Vinson Synan, with additional contributions by  Pentecostal/Charismatic authorities--David Barrett, David Daniels, David Edwin Harrell Jr., Peter Hocken, Sue Hyatt, Gary McGee, and Ted Olsen.
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