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

Ultimately, critics and many adherents as well, came to recognize this interpretation to be incompatible with the historic Anglican sacramental understanding of the faith. Either the tradition was in serious error and had to be discarded or the Pentecostal experience had to be understood in different categories. As this realization began to dawn upon the movement’s consciousness in the early 1970’s, many adherents left to join Pentecostal or independent churches. Others renounced their experience to return to a more traditional Anglican understanding of the faith. Several, however, began the more difficult task of attempting to ground the charismatic experience in the Anglican tradition.

These leaders have tended to follow the lead of Roman Catholics by teaching that the charismatic experience is the “actualization” of what was dormant before. They contend that the indwelling of God’s Spirit was bestowed in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation God’s power, latent in the believer, is now released through the charismatic experience to empower the individual for Christian service. Glossolalia, according to this view, is seen as a gift of the Spirit as designated by St. Paul in I Corinthians, chapter twelve.16

This shift of understanding has greatly reduced the tension that existed between adherents and church leaders. From its birth in 1973, the Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship self-consciously sought to work within the structures of the church. This trend was strengthened in 1977 when the fellowship merged with two other groups seeking renewal and took the more generic name, Episcopal Renewal Ministries. The most evident result, to date, has been rapid numerical growth of the movement within the church. The change of perspective has also provided the structure that has encouraged an intentional recovery of spirituality inherent within the Anglican tradition.

At the same time, in the effort to embrace a variety of groups seeking the renewal of the church, there has been an understandable tendency to gloss over doctrinal differences in the interest of unity. This is coupled with a lingering suspicion that theological reflection will “quench the Spirit.” Despite conscious efforts to tone down the rhetoric, the pages of Acts 29 are still filled with examples of triumphalism. Finally, the inward focus on the Episcopal Church has, for all practical purposes, caused the ecumenical concern to be set aside.

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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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