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

Diverse Testimonies

Over the years (my first meeting was Guadalajara/1993) I’ve found that SPS has a way of developing deep and lasting bonds. D. William Faupel—former President (1992) and Executive Director (1997-2004)—is a case in point. Of SPS 2016 he observes, “This is the first time I remember a focus on the arts. It was great to experience Pentecostals and Charismatics worshiping God through mediums used by other Christian traditions, but not highly visible in Pentecostalism.” Faupel added, “I loved the pace of the conference, the setting—both the LIFE campus and the conference hotel. Our hosts at both places went far beyond the call of duty to make us feel welcome and accommodate our wants and needs.” Of course, Faupel adds, “Papers and speakers were as good as always.” Summing up, “As a longtime member of the Society, I take great pleasure as I see it develop and mature over the years. The Leadership offered a well-run, value-laden operation.” Faupel’s leadership, scholarship, and friendship means so much, to so many. Like many others, I’m glad he continues to be vital part of SPS. Such pioneers not only paved the way for present and future generations but set a high standard that we’re always challenged to follow.

Jonathan Alvarado is one SPS member whose calling and gifts appear boundless. As Senior Pastor/Founder at Grace Church International and CEO and Founder at Grace House Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia he is a pastor, administrator, and educator (and, yes, he can sing too!). Jonathan describes SPS 2016 as particularly meaningful for him in at least two ways: “First, the delegates to the conference are my friends, and I’m always grateful to be in their presence. These men and women of scholarship and good will are kind, intelligent, affirming of one another, and collegial in every sense of the word. Second, the environment stimulates and empowers one to produce better scholarship. The critical feedback, the encouragement, the resources, and the primary human sources always catalyze my work for the next year.” I think pastor/scholars such as Daniel Tomberlin and I (and others) can certainly identify with Jonathan’s description.

Gerald Shenk (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) has been to several SPS meetings and is a longtime participant in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN)-Mennonite Church USA dialogue. Shenk noted that “The strength and vigor of Pentecostal witness was evident at this annual gathering of the SPS. The warm California fellowship and the academic exchanges were delightful.” He particularly adds, “As Mennonite guests and friends, we affirm the ways this gathering can contribute to healthy cross-pollination among many branches of our shared Christian heritage. May Spirit fruit and Spirit guidance be abundant in the journey ahead.”

Miguel Alvarez, originally from La Joyada, Choluteca, Honduras but now based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, has a unique perspective. “As a Latino scholar, I go to the SPS symposium with the idea in mind of looking for other Latino colleagues, so we can meet up and have some time together. My desire is to have fellowship with them and to check on how they are doing at their places. This time, I saw some friends and also met new ones.” Alvarez felt that it was especially important for him personally to meet a couple of young Honduran scholars, in the Diaspora. After a time of fellowship some ideas came to mind about potential works that could be done with them, having Honduras and its current situation in the background. “This was a very motivating idea!” Alvarez exclaimed. Furthermore, he was glad to see some generational transition taking place in SPS leadership. “It gives me peace,” Alvarez said, “to see young scholars assuming their roles of leadership with dignity. I believe, if the Lord tarries, as we say, SPS will always be in good hands.” Shall we all say, Amen?

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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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