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

Reaction to the rapid spread of the Charismatic Movement within the Episcopal Church was swift, and in general unsympathetic. In 1960, Bennett was forced to resign his parish in Van Nuys and was forced to accept a small mission in a suburb of Seattle that was about to be closed after fifty years of struggle to survive. The same year, a commission of the Bishop of San Francisco temporarily forbade tongue speaking in groups under parish auspices. A few months later a Bishop’s commission in Chicago forbade the use of tongues in religious services, warned of the dangers of emotional excess and irrationality, and cautioned against the tendency of participants to exalt themselves above others. Controversy erupted again in 1963 when California’s Bishop Pike labeled tongue speaking “heresy in embryo”, and without expressly forbidding the practice, strongly urged that it be abandoned.

Internally, the movement suffered a blow in 1964 with the controversial divorce of Jean Stone and her subsequent remarriage to a member of the Trinity staff. The magazine was discontinued with the Christmastide issue. With the collapse of the institutions she inspired and the somewhat cautious if not hostile official stance of the church, the opportunity for a national coordinating center for the movement within in the church was lost. Many adherents left the Episcopal Church to join Pentecostal or independent charismatic bodies. Many of those who remained within the church often operated without adequate clerical supervision and were beyond the pale of official parish life. By the mid-seventies many critics were confidently predicting that within the Episcopal Church at least, the Charismatic Movement was dead.9

The prediction proved premature. As one veteran charismatic noted, “It was a furnace of affliction in which steel was forged and dross purged.” In 1973, 300 priests met in Dallas, Texas to form an informal group to encourage charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church. They sought and received the endorsement of the House of Bishops. Calling themselves the Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship, the group soon began publishing a journal entitled Acts 29. Having obtained official recognition and established a national organization to coordinate activities, the Charismatic movement slowly began a resurgence within the church. Today the Episcopal Renewal Ministries, renamed in 1977, has a full-time national coordinator, and according to a recent issue of Charisma, claims that 1,200 churches and some 300,000 adherents are involved in Charismatic renewal.10

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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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