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2016 Society for Pentecostal Studies: A Personal Reflection and General Report

Impressive International Presence

Regarding that diversity, Shane Clifton (Alphacrucis College/Australia) noted that the Aussies were out in force this year at SPS (almost 20 made the journey). All agreed that the fourteen-hour flight was worth it. They felt the conference was especially beneficial for emerging scholars, who made seminal friendships and were given the opportunity to reflect upon what it is to be a Pentecostal scholar. The conference theme made for especially worthy cross-disciplinary engagement, and the contribution of artists to the conference was a highlight. Clifton noted that there is, for obvious reasons, a very North American focus to the majority of papers presented. In this light, the Australians offer an open invitation to take the conference “down under” at some time in the future. Now doesn’t that sound like a good idea?

David Hilborn (St John’s/Nottingham) said, “My lengthy journey to California from the UK for this year’s SPS was well worth it. The focus on the arts and aesthetics was fresh and stimulating, and provided welcome new perspectives on Pentecostal worship, spirituality and theology.” A longtime ecumenist, David added, “As a member of the Ecumenical Studies Interest Group I was particularly encouraged by the vibrancy of Pentecostal ecumenical engagement around the world, and by the quality of current Pentecostal ecumenical scholarship.” I personally found that, whether enjoying a conversation over lunch or listening to his insightful presentation, David’s distinctive Anglican/Pentecostal identity contributed a great deal to the depth of the very scholarship he mentions.

Jean-Daniel Plüss, originally from Zurich, Switzerland but now based out of Vitznau (SW) said, “I very much enjoyed SPS.”  He felt like the program was not overloaded. The participants had time to network. There was a great choice of presentations to choose from. However, sometimes one had to compromise as one could not visit parallel sessions. Plüss also noted: “Personally, I noticed that (once more) many scholars are still focusing on their own territory (the Americas) neglecting the fact that Pentecostals in Europe, Africa, and Asia have also made important contributions.” He added that closing the conference with an Anglican Communion Service (led by Mark Cartledge, presently at Regent but originally from the UK) was very meaningful to him. Indeed, I must say that this Tennessean found it to be quite a sacred moment as well.

Cesia Keren Mortera, an alumnus of Lee University and Pentecostal Theological Seminary presently teaching at SEBIME (Seminario Biblico Mexicano), gives a stirring testimony about her experience at SPS: “There are no words to truly describe how awesome my first SPS Meeting was. Who knew that an academic biblical/theological setting would be a place where God would speak to me in ways that I couldn’t have expected. [It was such] a refreshing experience to be surrounded by people who do what you love to do; people who truly inspire and challenge you. I’m forever grateful for mentors who push me and encourage me to continue on this journey. I specially want to thank Dr. Cheryl Johns, Dr. Lee Roy Martin, and Dr. Jackie David Johns. [Y]our words were much needed. Just know that God used you to speak to my heart this weekend.” Now that is what this is all about!

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2016

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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