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Experiencing Life in the Spirit: an interview with Frank Billman

So I, along with some others, formed the Eastern Pennsylvania Renewal Fellowship in our Eastern PA Conference of the UMC. We would hold an annual conference on the Holy Spirit and have monthly prayer and praise services in churches. Eventually the Renewal Fellowship affiliated with Aldersgate Renewal Ministries (ARM) nationally and I began to attend their annual national Aldersgate conferences on the Holy Spirit.

Although I have concentrated my time on charismatic renewal in Methodism, I have tried to involve myself over the years in the renewal as expressed in other “streams” as well. How open would you say the United Methodist Church in the United States is to the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Frank Billman: Most United Methodists are unaware that our denomination has an official statement regarding the charismatic movement that is quite positive. Guidelines: The Charismatic Movement and the United Methodist Church has appeared in our official United Methodist Book of Resolutions since 1976. When this document was to be revised and updated ahead of our 2008 General Conference I was the one who did most of the revision. This document basically says that speaking in tongues is to be recognized in UMCs as a valid gift for today, though it is not to be understood as the only initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. And UMs are encouraged to understand other gifts of the Spirit like word of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, and prophecy.

The London monument commemorating John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience when he felt his “heart strangely warmed.” He wrote in his journal, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Image: Wikimedia Commons

And in 1978 when Aldersgate Renewal Ministries was formed (whose purpose at its formation was to encourage UMs to be filled, gifted, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit in ministry to the world) it became an affiliate of the UM General Board of Discipleship.

When the official United Methodist Book of Worship came out it was published with two healing services in it that are there for all United Methodist Churches to use if they want. Not many of our churches use them but they are there in our official denominational material.

So, officially the UMC has written statements supporting tongue speaking, gifts of the Spirit and healing prayer, which is more than many other mainline denominations or conservative evangelical churches have. Having said all that, teaching about and practicing gifts of the Spirit is not generally done much at all in American UM churches. In United Methodist churches where the Apostles Creed is recited those present say “I believe in the Holy Spirit” but if you were to ask them WHAT they believed about the Holy Spirit they would be hard pressed to answer. Many are practically like the Ephesian believers in Acts 19:2-3 where Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed and the Ephesians responded “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

However, in UM churches I have served over 41 years I have seen people baptized in the Holy Spirit, gifted by the Spirit, speaking in tongues, healed and praying for the healing of others. And there are certainly other UM churches where this is happening on a regular basis.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2018

About the Author: Frank H. Billman, B.A. (Houghton College), M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Th.M. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), D.Min. (Eastern Baptist [now Palmer] Theological Seminary), is an educator, pastor, author, and international speaker. He is currently leading the doctor of ministry program in supernatural ministry at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. While on the staff of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries for 12 years, he led workshops, local and regional renewal events, was supervisor for International Ministries, Methodist School of Supernatural Ministries, and Supernatural Ministry Intensives, and was a general session speaker at the national conferences. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of Shepherding Renewal (Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, 2011), and The Supernatural Thread in Methodism: Signs and Wonders Among Methodists Then and Now (Creation House, 2013).

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