Original Research

Pentecostal ecumenical impulses: Past and present challenges

Marius Nel
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 52, No 1 | a2330 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v52i1.2330 | © 2018 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 November 2017 | Published: 26 June 2018

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Marius Nel, Pentecostalism and Neo-pentecostalism, Unit for Reformed Theology, North-West University, South Africa

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Several leaders in the early Pentecostal movement interpreted the outpouring of the Spirit at the Azusa Street Mission and other places as a sign that the Spirit would now unite Christians across the borders of denominations in a new Pentecost that concurs with the events of Acts 2 which led to the formation of the Early Christian Church. They did not actively pursue ecumenism, but expected it as a natural and spontaneous result of the Spirit’s work, carried by their primitivist and restorationist impulses. Instead of the other churches appreciating and accepting Pentecostal experiences as interventions by the Spirit, most main-line churches alienated and rejected Pentecostals as a heretical sect. Within one generation, Pentecostalists entered denominationalism and by the 1940s, in an upward social mobility surge, aligned themselves with some evangelicals with a biblicist-literalist hermeneutics. Today Pentecostalism has accepted that Spirit baptism did not bring the expected unity of the Christian church and entered into formal ecumenical relations with several international ecumenical bodies and para-church organisations. It is argued that an ecumenical impulse need to originate on grass roots level. Ecumenism will only succeed when the local assembly and its members become involved. This can be done, for example by building ecumenical relations with historical churches that experience a charismatic renewal, neo-Pentecostalist groups and African Indigenous Churches, especially those with a historical connection with Pentecostalism, and motivating assemblies to cooperate with assemblies of their denomination in instituting a regular worship service in a common language where members may fellowship together. The aim of such contacts would not primarily be to realise organisational unity, but mutual understanding and communication leading to cooperation and trust.


Ecumenical impulse; pentecostals; unity; primitivist-restorationist urge; work of the Spirit; denominationalism; grass-roots ecumenism


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