Charismatic Renewal

Charismatic Renewal, a transdenominational Christian movement, theologically diverse and ecumenical, begun in the 1950s, currently characterizes significant segments of the church and is frequently referred to as neo-Pentecostal.

Charismatic Renewal

Charismatic Renewal, a transdenominational Christian movement, theologically diverse and ecumenical, begun in the 1950s, currently characterizes significant segments of the church and is frequently referred to as neo-Pentecostal. Charismatic Christianity is characterized by spiritual immanence (the presence of the divine in believers' lives, as manifest by spiritual gifts or charisms), and spiritual democracy (the universal availability of those gifts to all believers). Charisms (gifts) include speaking in tongues (glossolalia, or ecstatic speech), healing and prophesying, such as those described in the Book of Acts and I Corinthians 12-14.

Divergence from Classical Movements

The principal similarity with the classical PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENTS is the importance of experiential relationship with God and an emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the classical Pentecostals, participants in the Charismatic Renewal claim that rather than being confined to the early Church, divine gifts continue and are available to all who seek them as a "second blessing." Both groups also lament the loss of spiritual vitality in the church and expect extraordinary evidence of God's presence and action. Finally, both emphasize the Book of Acts and the prescription for the normative pattern of a Christian church.

Perhaps the most significant difference from the classic Pentecostals is that most charismatics have chosen to remain within existing churches. They form a transdenominational movement rather than a sectarian group or distinct denomination, although occasionally individual churches with charismatic tendencies may sever ties with a denomination. In addition to differences in ecclesiastical stance, charismatics do not share the anti-intellectualism, fundamentalism and dispensational theology of the Pentecostals, nor is the primacy of ecstatic spiritual experience seen as necessarily antithetical to the development of a social conscience.

Influences

The movement's distribution among established denominations makes it impossible to obtain meaningful statistics. Although there are charismatic organizations, such as the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, there is no overarching association with a formal membership. Nevertheless the renewal has influenced LUTHERAN, PRESBYTERIAN, ANGLICAN, UNITED, MENNONITE, BAPTIST, ORTHODOX and Roman CATHOLIC churches across the country. Even though spiritual gifts are available to all, they are not meant to promote solely the religious development or expression of a single person, but rather to encourage internal harmony and outward expansion of the Church as a whole.


Further Reading

  • Harvey Cox, Fire From Heaven (1995); David Edwin Harrell Jr, All Things Are Possible (1975); David Martin, Tongues of Fire (1990); Karla Poewe, Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture (1994); Margaret Poloma, The Charismatic Movement: Is There a New Pentecost? (1982); Richard Qubedeaux, The New Charismatics (1976).