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The Charismatic Renewal


From Closet Pentecostalism to the Mainline

The years of “closet Pentecostalism” came to an end when the Episcopal rector of a church in California decided to inform his congregation that he had received the gift of tongues. The subsequent chaos and publicity was providentially molded into what became identified as the start of the “Charismatic Renewal.”

Fr. Dennis and Rita Bennett

The rector, Fr. Dennis Bennett, had begun his church ministry as a Congregational minister before becoming an Episcopal priest in 1950. He was well versed in theology and solidly orthodox in belief.[5] He was called to St. Mark’s in Van Nuys, California, where he presided over a growing and affluent congregation.

In 1959 several members of nearby Episcopal parish received the baptism of Holy Spirit from Pentecostal friends and were holding “tongues” prayer meetings. The vicar of the church, Fr. Frank Maguire, asked Fr. Bennett to investigate and give his opinion. Fr. Bennett went to see the couple who led the prayer group and was intrigued. After weeks of conversations with them, and of reviewing church doctrine of the Holy Spirit, re-reading the Book of Acts, as well checking the Book of Common Prayer, he concluded that the Baptism of in the Spirit and tongues were legitimate. By November of 1959 both he and Fr. Maguire received the Baptism of in the Holy Spirit. The prayer group expanded to include members of St. Mark’s.

Fr. Bennett attempted to keep everything low-key as the renewal continued to spread in his parish. But rumors and exaggerations also began to spread. To clarify the situation, Fr. Bennett felt it was important to go public, and he did so on Sunday, August 3, 1960.

I set aside the preaching scheduled for the day, and went into the pulpit at the three morning services and simply shared what had happened to me. I appealed to the people to dismiss the ridiculous rumors.

The general reaction was open and tender – until the end of the second service. At that point my second assistant snatched off his vestments, threw them on the altar and stalked out of the church, crying, “I can no longer work with this man!”

That blew the lid off. After the service concluded, outside on the patio, those who had set themselves to get rid of the movement of the Holy Spirit began to harangue the arriving and departing parishioners. One man stood on a chair shouting, “throw out the damn tongue-speakers!”

…The contrast was amazing. On the one hand was the unreasoning fury of the “opposition,” while the people who had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit were quietly moving around telling their story, faces shining with the love of God.[6]

The treasurer and one of his vestrymen joined the opposition and asked Fr. Bennett to resign. Fr. Bennett announced his resignation at the third service. He did not have to resign, but felt he needed time to sort out his wonderful but revolutionary experiences of the past months. Immediately, the Bishop of Los Angeles wrote a letter to the parishioners of St. Mark’s forbidding them to speak in tongues in any parish function. Those involved in the charismatic prayers left St. Mark’s but continued in two home prayer cells not under church auspices.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2016

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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