George Wood Plans to Be Civil, but Only to Evangelicals

George O. Wood

Readers of my blog will remember that George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God pressured the Society for Pentecostal Studies to disinvite me from their March, 2010 meeting in Minneapolis.  They didn’t cow.

Well, it seems that Wood recently signed the Covenant for Civility: Come Let Us Reason Together, a statement initiated by Sojourners in the wake of Glen Beck’s ranting about “hammering” Jim Wallis.  But now Wood has recanted, and is asking that his name be removed from the statement.

It seems, according to a statement of an Assemblies of God spokesperson, that when Wood signed the statement at a recent meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals, he thought that the phrase, “the unity we have in the body of Christ” referred exclusively to evangelicals.  When he found out that “the body of Christ” also includes “people who are supportive of gay marriage and abortion rights,” well, that was just too large of a tent for him.

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The Pentecostal Controversy

Over the past month, I’ve both requested help from the Pentecostal readers of this blog for assistance with my paper for the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and then posted that paper in several parts.  All the while, I kept under wraps the controversy that surrounded my invitation to that group.  I did so out of respect for my hosts.

However, Arlene Sánchez-Walsh has gone public with her feelings on the matter at Religion Dispatches.  So now I’ll weigh in on the matter publicly.

But first, some background.

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Society for Pentecostal Studies Paper: What Pentecostals Have to Learn from Emergents

I don’t know that we’re far enough into this thing called emergence Christianity to proffer any definitive statements in the other direction, so I tender these suggestions humbly and tentatively.

First, while Pentecostals have, as I said, excelled at listening to the voice of God open the scriptures, particularly to individuals, the emergent church has worked at listening to God’s voice in corporate environments.  As my own community of faith, Solomon’s Porch in South Minneapolis, the weekly sermon is both prepared and presented communally, with contributions from those of us with PhDs to those us with GEDs.  Every member of the community is considered an “expert,” albeit one is an expert in Greek or Hebrew and the other in lawn mower repair.

Yet there is a presupposition that all voices are valid and important.  To put it another way, each individual believer is equally capable of being used by God’s Spirit and a vehicle of God’s truth.  God’s ability to use an individual to speak truth the community is neither enhanced nor hindered by number of letters after one’s name, how much is in one’s bank account, or which set of genitalia one has.

It seems to me that this egalitarian sense of God’s activity among humans, this “communal hermeneutic” would resonate among Pentecostals and would even hearken back to the early days of your movement.

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Society for Pentecostal Studies Paper: What Emergents Have to Learn from Pentecostals

It’s on this very point that I’d like to suggest that emergents can learn from Pentecostals how to talk about the Spirit of God.  In yesterday’s theology session on the emergent church, there was much talk about the need for emergents to develop a “robust pneumatology.”  I agree, in part.  For I think that emergents have a robust pneumatology, but I don’t think that we’re very good at talking about it.

As I argue in The New Christians, I think that most American Christians are “binitarians.”  That is, while they profess a belief in all three persons of the Trinity, their practice of the faith betrays that the Father matters to them, and so does the Son, but the Spirit is an afterthought.  As reflected in hymnody and praise songs, sermon titles and prayers, the Spirit gets far less than one-third of the time in the spotlight in most churches.

I think that emergents know, in our guts, that the Holy Spirit needs to make a comeback in our churches.  But we’ll need some brothers and sisters in Christ to show us the way.  I ask you who are Pentecostal and Charismatic to help us in that way.  Give us guidance in putting words on and legs to that pneumatology that lies latent within our movement.  I do believe that you will find willing dialogue partners in this endeavor.

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