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

Missing from our Midst

Of course, there are those who, though usually present year after year, were unable to attend this year’s meeting due to work and travel schedules or, in a few cases, health issues. Friends like Allan Anderson, Robert Graves, Harold Hunter, William Kay, David Roebuck, and other dear friends like SPS co-founder Vinson Synan were sorely missed. My wife, Sue, who almost always attends SPS with me, although she is not an educator, was unable to do so this year as well. For me, and apparently for several others who mentioned it to me, her absence was keenly felt. We hope these and others who were absent in 2016 will be present in 2017.

SPS 2016 was the first after the 2015 passing into the Lord’s presence of R. Hollis Gause (President, 1972). Tributes at the Saturday evening banquet by Jackie David Johns, his student, colleague, and pastor, and Kimberly Ervin Alexander, another student and colleague, were exceptionally moving. At the close, when along with other students and/or colleagues of Gause I was asked to stand, to look around the banquet hall at how many of us have been impacted by this great man, was an amazing experience. He taught us much. Perhaps one lesson that has impacted me most is that theologians should do theology doxologically. Theologians are worshipers! This luminary will be sorely missed. Yet he “being dead, yet speaketh” into all our lives.

A Few Highlights from a Personal Perspective

Any one person’s experiences at SPS will be incomplete but to an extent representative. For the sake of space and time, I’ll simply select a few sessions out of many possibilities. In the last few years Thursday discussions have become less of what was previously called “pre-conference” but more of an integrated part of the full Thursday-Saturday conference. I enjoyed chairing the Roundtable Discussion of Alan Kreider’s (Professor Emeritus of Church History and Mission at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. It was great to hear Kenneth J. Archer discuss it from a systematic theologian’s point of view vis-à-vis Dale Coulter as a historical theologian. Of course, it was great to have the author himself respond and interact with the entire group.

The Ecumenical Studies Panel Discussion, “Divine Affections and Aesthetics: Edwards, Pentecostals, and the Spirit of Worship,” certainly demonstrated why the theology of Jonathan Edwards continues to hold an attraction nearly 300 years after his lifetime. Chaired by Steve Studebaker (McMaster Divinity College) with panelists Bill Olivero (SUM/Marquette University) and Christopher “Crip” Stephenson (Lee University), this was an in depth conversation. After hearing Oliver Crisp’s (Fuller Theological Seminary) response, I went to the exhibit table and purchased his book, Jonathan Edwards among the Theologians!

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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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