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Touched by the Wind: The Charismatic Movement in the Episcopal Church

Second, the social location of both movements began in the upper and middle classes and quickly penetrated all denominations and theological traditions. In each case, the movement quickly became a worldwide phenomenon and spread to every economic and social location.

Third, both movements believed that their doctrine and experience would result in the renewal of the churches and ultimately in the unity of the Church.

Finally, both movements produced two competing visions of the Church. One vision called for the renewal of existing structures from which God’s people were to work toward unity. The second called for an abandonment of existing structures in favor of establishing a new “pure” church based on a restorationist understanding of the New Testament.

Understandably, in the Holiness movement, the two visions proved to be irreconcilable. The movement split and proceeded in quite different directions with unfortunate results. The renewalist vision ultimately succumbed to denominational self-interests. The restorationist vision lead to the establishment of a host of new denominations. Thus, despite its best intentions, the Holiness Movement became the agent of faction rather than fraternity.

Since the mid-seventies, tensions have existed between those holding these respective visions within the Charismatic Movement. Thus far the leadership of ERM has sought to walk a narrow line, seeking to work within the structures and theology of the Episcopal Church while at the same time staying in dialogue with those who call for the restoration of the Church.

To sustain this stance indefinitely will not be easy. A decade ago Walter Lewis, an Episcopal priest and the director of Restoration Ministries, warned:

Episcopalians can no longer assume that charismatics will stay to work for renewal in the denomination. Leaving the denominational structure wouldn’t have occurred to me or other Episcopalians ten or fifteen years ago. Today it is not so uncommon.25

Despite the strains, I believe it is in the tension which exists between the conflicting visions that the Episcopal Church will discover its best hope to experience sustained renewal and ultimate reconciliation with other communions. In dialogue, the twin visions hold forth the already/not yet of Christian reality. In this tension comes the realization that God alone can and will bring about the reconciliation. As the Holiness Movement’s experience reveals, when the tension is broken, both visions collapse and a host of splinter groups emerge to start the process all over again.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Summer 2000

About the Author: D. William Faupel, Ph.D., serves as Professor of the History of Christianity and Director of the Library at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, library science and the history of Christian thought from Asbury Theological Seminary, and the University of Kentucky in Kentucky and the University of Birmingham in England. Dr. Faupel, ordained in the Episcopal Church, has served as pastor, education and editor and writer. He is the author of The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought (Deo Press, 2008).

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