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The Charismatic Renewal

One of the lay leaders, Mrs. Jean Stone, had excellent social and press connections and managed to get national press coverage of Fr. Bennett’s dramatic Sunday in both Newsweek and Time. The Newsweek article headlined “Rector and a Rumpus” (July 4, 1960). Both articles presented the appearance of Pentecostalism at St. Mark’s in surprisingly positive terms. The Time article began:

The early Christians were much impressed by the phenomenon known as glossolalia (literally, “speaking with tongues”), which appeared at the first Pentecost: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” To the skeptical, the “other tongues” sounded like gibberish, but the faithful found special meanings in the spontaneous outpouring of sounds.

Peter saw the “gift of tongues” in a group of Gentiles as evidence that the Holy Ghost was present and they should be baptized forthwith. Paul cited it as a notable Christian gift, and though he had it himself (“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all”), he warned in his first letter to the Corinthians against letting it get out of hand. The general practice lasted into the 3rd century. Now glossolalia seems to be on its way back in U.S. churches—not only in the uninhibited Pentecostal sects but even among Episcopalians, who have been called “God’s frozen people.”[7]

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Stone organized the Blessed Trinity Society to promote the Pentecostal experience among Episcopalians. The society published various pamphlets on Holy Spirit baptism and Trinity Magazine, and mailed it to extensive list of Episcopalians all over the country. When Dennis Bennett’s witness of how he received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit appeared in Voice Magazine (The FGBMFI journal) the society mailed a copy of the magazine to every Episcopal priest in the country. For five years Trinity and Voice magazines were the only non-Pentecostal magazines that advocated practicing of the Gifts of the Spirit. The Blessed Trinity Society organized meetings and conferences on the Holy Spirit which attracted persons from many denominations. It disbanded in 1964 due to the scandal that ensued when Mrs. Stone divorced (how times have changed!) but not before the society did its providential work of publicizing that one can practice the Gifts of the Spirit and still live within a mainline church.


St. Luke’s of Seattle

After Fr. Bennett resigned from St. Mark’s, the Episcopal bishop of Olympia (Washington State) invited Fr. Bennett to take over a small parish in Seattle that was on the verge of closing, St. Luke’s. Bennett accepted the charge and in a year increased the membership from seventy-five to over three hundred. More importantly, St. Luke’s became the center of the new Pentecostalism for much of the West Coast. Visitors came to see what tongues were about, or to attend the conferences Fr. Bennett organized on the Gifts of the Sprit. Fr. Bennett also received invitations from all over the country, including many FGBMFI chapters and conventions, to share his testimony and experiences as an Episcopalian openly living the Spirit-filled life. At first, these new Pentecostals in the mainline churches, like Bennett, were called “neo-Pentecostals” – an accurate if clumsy name. “Charismatic” was suggested by the Rev. Harald Bredesen in Trinity Magazine and this word soon gained acceptance.

St. Luke’s

A factor for the wide success of the charismatic movement was Fr. Dennis Bennett himself. He was the Episcopal rector out of Hollywood central casting: handsome, dignified, theologically well educated, and a great speaker. He could explain how the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was not only good theology, but how it could help every congregation and denomination of the mainline churches.

Significantly, he also reassured his fellow Episcopalians that there was no conflict between being filled with the Spirit and the great liturgies of the church. In fact, one complimented the other. He related that one Sunday, when his assistant was celebrating the liturgy at St. Luke’s, he sat in the congregation with his family:

“As I listened to the familiar words of the Book of Common Prayer, and the readings of the Scripture lessons, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty and significance of it. For the first time in my life, to my remembrance, I was moved to tears by a church service!”[8]
In 1973, Bennett and several others initiated Episcopal Renewal Ministries (ERM), an organization dedicated to spreading the charismatic renewal among Episcopal churches.[9] It did this through conferences, literature and through it journal, Acts 29. ERM met with a good degree of success, and by the 1980s over 500 Episcopal parishes were renewed—their clergy and member were predominantly charismatic.

Unfortunately, the number of renewed parishes was insufficient to turn around a denomination that numbered over 8,000 parishes and was becoming among the most theologically liberal and apostate of the mainline churches. This was mostly due to the fact that the ERM did not make major headway in altering the various Sadducean, anti-supernatural theologies that were rampant in Episcopal seminaries.[10]

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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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