Pentecostalism and Emergence: Origins

Pentecostalism and Emergence: Origins February 19, 2010

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I have been charged by the Society for Pentecostal Studies to present a paper at their annual conference that addresses what emergence and Pentecostalism have to learn from one another.  The first thing to consider, I think, are the origins of the two movements.*

Azusa Street Mission, 1907

The Wittenburg Door moment of Pentecostalism, of course, is the revival that took place at the Azusa Street Mission in Southern California in 1906.  What I did not know was that there had been other manifestations of glossolalia for about a century prior to that, including little bursts of tongues among some Prussian soldiers, a Presbyterian church in Scotland, and a Bible college in Kansas.

The origin of emergence has no parallel date-certain.  Neither does it flow from one confessional stream, as Pentecostalism did from Wesleyan Holiness.  And, of course, movements spread a lot differently, and more quickly, in our era of new media (on this, see Dwight Friesen).

In the end, I don’t see many similarities in the origins of the movements, unless some of you can enlighten me.

And I’ll admit here and now that I am relatively skeptical revival in general and tongues and healing in specific.  This is an intellectual hurdle for me as I prepare this paper.  I’m not proud of that fact, and I don’t admit it to demean my Pentecostal friends, and the scholars whom I will be addressing in a couple weeks.  I just admit it in order to get it out there on the table.

*I do consider emergence a “movement,” at least as understood in the classification of New Social Movements.  I go to some length in my dissertation to argue that.

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