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Pilgrimage Into Pentecost: The Pneumatological Legacy of Howard M. Ervin

Ervin’s Ecumenical Impact

Howard Ervin’s primary impact on the Pentecostal world was outside of the formal Pentecostal denominations. Even with his strong defense of the Pentecostal faith, Ervin had only limited interaction with the formal Pentecostal denominations. Ervin’s biggest impact was on the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s and 70’s. Through the FGBMFI and Oral Roberts Ministries Partner Seminars, Ervin led thousands of believers from all denominations into the Spirit-filled life. At the ORM partners seminars Oral always insisted that Ervin lead the Holy Spirit room. Ervin learned a great lesson during those days of ministering to believers from many of the formal traditions. Through these services, Ervin became convinced that “the number one priority of the Holy Spirit is the healing of the Church.”20

Ervin was filled with the Spirit during the Charismatic renewal of the 1960’s through 1980’s. He has been labeled by his contemporaries as a Charismatic and a Neo-Pentecostal. However, Ervin has never been comfortable with this title. The gospel that he preached to believers of all traditions was a clear message of subsequence, evidential tongues, and empowerment. Ervin has many questions about the direction of the today’s charismatic movement. Ervin saw very early that the Charismatic renewal was becoming a movement and consequently distanced himself from that label. Ervin prayed that the Charismatics would stay in their own traditions. Though Ervin never joined a Pentecostal denomination, his theology always remained classical Pentecostal. He is unashamedly Pentecostal, but believes that the Holy Spirit was the one who united the church, not divided it.


Dialogue with Rome

Through his friendship with David du Plessis, Ervin was invited to participate in the Pentecostal-Roman Catholic Dialogues. Du Plessis ask Ervin to participate because he knew that Ervin could articulate the Pentecostal position theologically.21 During the years of 1979 to 1987, Ervin participated in the dialogues as a representative of the Pentecostal point of view. Ervin was not only a participant but he also was a presenter for the Pentecostal position in the dialogue in 1979 and 1987 on the subjects of hermeneutics and koinonia. This was historic considering that the steering committee voted in 1976 to only have Pentecostals serve as in the Pentecostal participants.22 Ervin’s Pentecostal theology, his scholarly and formal communication style, and ecumenical beliefs made him the exception to the rule. His participation in this dialogue helped “open ecumenical channels between these two groups.”23

Though involved in the Charismatic renewal, Ervin was never caught up into the emotionalism that is typical in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement. Charles Farrah says, “Catholics particularly responded to his quiet and effective ministry.”24 Ervin always maintained a high church demeanor. Ervin was considered a friend of Sacramentalists and his formal style was appreciated by the Catholic Charismatics. Ervin became convinced that Pentecostal pneumatology had more in common with the Catholic theology than Evangelical theology. This was evidenced in his response to James Dunn.25 Given his great reverence for God and increasing ecumenical attitude he was an ambassador for the Spirit filled life to sheep in a different theological pasture. Ervin has been a speaker at many events for the Catholic Charismatic movement. It is truly remarkable that this Spirit filled Baptist would minister in more catholic settings than Pentecostal ones. Ervin was even present St. Nicholas Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston, Texas in 1978 following the passing of the Pope. Ervin was able to offer condolences and comfort to a grieving body.

In Tulsa, Ervin filled the role of shepherd to many of these Charismatic Catholics. When the Catholic Charismatic movement began in Tulsa, Fr. Francis McNutt was invited to Oral Roberts University. Fr. McNutt was asked by the Catholics who had received the Pentecostal experience to help them form a fellowship in Tulsa. Fr. McNutt insisted that Ervin be the advisor and group leader for the first Catholic Charismatic group in Tulsa.26 Many of these Catholic Pentecostals in Tulsa considered him their “father.” For many years, Professor Ervin would host a weekly Bible study in his home for those who were experiencing the Charismatic renewal in traditionally mainline churches. Whether in his healing services at Emmanuel or ministering to Catholic Charismatics, Ervin emphatically insisted that these believers stay in their own denominations. He would even discourage those Catholics who wished to be baptized and insisted that they remain faithful to their own communions.27 As Jesus prayed in John 17 for the unity of the body, Ervin believed that this prayer for healing if the Church would be realized through Spirit filled believers in every tradition.

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Category: Fall 2009, Spirit

About the Author: Daniel Isgrigg, B.A. and M.A. (Oral Roberts University), is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Bangor University in Wales working on the origins of Assemblies of God eschatology. He is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and is the Director of the Holy Spirit Research Center at Oral Roberts University. Daniel is also the author of Pilgrimage Into Pentecost: The Pneumatological Legacy of Howard M. Ervin (Word & Spirit Press, 2008) and Why I Want To Be Left Behind (Word & Spirit Press, 2008). Facebook

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