The Forgotten Dimension: Education for Pentecostal-Charismatic Spirituality in Global Perspective

 

Allan Anderson

Director: Research Unit for Pentecostal Studies
Centre for Missiology and World Christianity
University of Birmingham, England

 

Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies,
Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 2001

 

A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

It is difficult to determine how “spirituality”, because of its very nature, might be “educated”; and some might see “education for Pentecostal-Charismatic spirituality” a contradiction in terms.[1] A certain tension exists between academic integrity and spirituality, especially when education does not seem to further Christian spirituality.[2] Klaus and Triplett speak of Pentecostalism’s “tenuous relationship” with theological training, and a “dead intellectualism” that “stifles the Spirit-filled life”.[3] Del Tarr, after applauding the rise in the qualifications of US Assemblies of God educators, laments that “this century’s revival with all its awesome fury and wonder” may have “passed some of us by”.[4] This paper is a preliminary attempt to point to a possible model of theological education that will enable the “fury and wonder” of Pentecostal and Charismatic experience to be promoted. It is intended, with the help of many spiritual people who have already reflected on this subject, to sketch a way forward. I suspect that most of us might not have thought of “theological education” in any other terms than that to which we are accustomed—a particularly Western, conservative evangelical model that processes self-selected young people through an information-gathering seminary into “ministry”, sausage-machine like, so that the end product is a person who looks like everyone else subjected to the same process. We are in the business of training leaders, but whether we are doing this effectively is a moot point.

Chris Thomas in his presidential address at the 1998 meeting of SPS suggested that Pentecostal theology in the twenty-first century needed to have five characteristics, one of which was to be “contextual”. By this he explained that “the diverse voices from all parts of the world that make up the Pentecostal family” must be “encouraged and expected to speak their own theological language” in order to strengthen and critique the global Pentecostal community. He admitted that this was “much more difficult to achieve”.[5] At an ecumenical conference on theological education, Robin Pryor argued that “authentic Christian spirituality” was “‘the practice of the presence of God’ in all of life, at every moment of every day, and so, it is inevitably contextual and tentative if it is to be viable, that is, life giving”. The fact that this SPS Meeting is concerned with the theme of education for spirituality is in itself significant, and this paper is an attempt to place this theme within its diverse global contexts.

Indulge a personal testimony from my South African background. My first experience of “theological education” was training for the ministry in an all-white, male, classical Pentecostal Bible College in South Africa, a small, strictly conservative denomination with roots in the British Apostolic movement.[6] This college was held in a church building, presided over by a pastor with an undergraduate degree in law. Only one of five lecturers had a degree in theology. Outward signs of “holiness” were a priority. Here at the beginning of the seventies, men had to have “short back and sides” haircuts, women were not admitted to the college at all, and students’ wives had to wear head coverings in church and never be seen in “men’s clothes”. The King James Version of the Bible was the only “Holy” Bible, and in common with similar colleges in the English-speaking world at the time, the Scofield Reference Bible was the preferred choice.[7] The two-year program consisted of indoctrination in the main tenets of the church, with a limited smattering of basic biblical survey studies. In common with many Pentecostals in other parts of the world, we shared a belief that spirituality and higher education were basically incompatible,[8] and were warned against “theological cemeteries”. We were processed into probationary pastors, evangelists and “missionaries”. Not surprisingly, after a few years the rate of fall-out from the ministry of my fellow-students was high.

Five years later, as a young “missionary” and part-time theology student at the University of South Africa, the denomination assigned me the task of setting up a curriculum for another segregated college, this time to train African pastors. The pattern was the same: a two-year program to make sure that pastors remained faithful to the particular doctrines of this church. By this time I was beginning to feel very perturbed, not only about the doctrines, but even more about the politics and ideologies of the church. Within five years I had resigned and joined a large charismatic Baptist church,[9] and here was introduced to ICI and its four-year degree program.  I began to teach from these impressive materials, complete with glossy study guides and multiple-choice “monkey puzzles”. This was my introduction to North American theological education—even though at the time it came from Brussels! I was to teach ICI subjects in two accredited colleges for the next twelve years, and by 1995 I had become “Adjunct Professor of Missiology” at ICI. Now, there were four distinct ingredients of a “Bible/Theology” degree influenced by the “liberal arts” model.[10] Most people in Africa and Asia (and probably in Europe too) had no idea what “liberal arts” meant, let alone the educational philosophy behind this agenda. Theological education in the West, including this ICI program, is based on the classical fourfold educational model of Bible, theology, history (education) and praxis.[11] Nevertheless, the ICI degree in Bible/Theology had become the preferred option for several Pentecostal and Charismatic colleges in South Africa, and there was really little else to choose from. Among other benefits, an ICI degree also brought access to graduate degrees at some South African universities at a time when higher education had become a priority for those disadvantaged by the system.

From 1988-1995 as principal of Tshwane Theological College, I had moved into a very different environment, where the interests of black South Africans were paramount, and where I found those interests often colliding with those of my former colleagues. A Pentecostal theological college funded from the USA closed down temporarily, partly because of political unrest. The administrators were unwilling to receive scholarship money paid for students by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), whose General Secretary Frank Chikane had been defrocked as a Pentecostal minister.[12] Most white Pentecostals regarded the SACC as a front for African nationalist movements, and therefore “Communist”, but many black Pentecostals saw it as an ally in their struggle against oppression. Two years later another Pentecostal college, this one funded mainly by white Afrikaners, had similar difficulties, and at Tshwane we found ourselves receiving so-called “rebels” from both institutions to complete their ICI degree programs.

I will never forget the day I faced a moment of truth that Sunday in February 1990 when together with our resident students, I sat glued to the television watching Nelson Mandela make his “Long Walk to Freedom” from 27 years as a political prisoner.[13] We had just had a prayer time—as “Pentecostal” as they come—with loud praising, crying and shouting to the Lord. When the room grew silent, a young woman (one of our most “spiritual” students and one of the “rebels”) prayed out: “Lord, we never dreamed this day would ever come. We praise you for this wonderful day, for releasing our leader, for answering our prayers that we have prayed these many years.” I was dumbfounded. Could it be I had been praying the wrong prayers (to keep our country from “Communism”)? I had begun to identify with the “freedom struggle” and felt I had done as much as any white Pentecostal to work towards reconciliation in our deeply divided and traumatized society. Other white South Africans considered me a “liberal”—a dirty word in these quarters. But pray for the release of Nelson Mandela? That had certainly not been in my Bible school curriculum. I began to realize that theological colleges in South Africa (and, I suspected, in many other places in the world) were answering questions that no one was asking, and worse, not answering questions that most people were asking. I had begun to think about “contextual theology”, but up until that time I had done most of my research exploring African indigenous churches with Pentecostal connections, and the role of African religions and cultures in formulating a relevant Christian theology. I later devised two courses taught at our college called “African Spirituality” and “African Pentecostalism”, which tried to be more “contextual” and used the two books I had written at the time.[14] There was a dearth of materials on these subjects for theology students in Africa. But I had neither thought much about the socio-political implications of theology, nor about God’s concerns for the poor and oppressed in this world, even though the Bible was full of these themes. I could not understand how the “spiritual” black Pentecostals I had come to love and respect could be “Communists” (so I thought) at the same time!

 

THE SOUTHWARD SWING

This incident brought about a personal paradigm shift. The issues of the “religious right” that seemed to influence “conservative evangelicals” in North America were peripheral to those concerns of people in the rest of the world. The characteristic battles against “Communism” and abortion, supporting the state of Israel, retaining the death penalty, and so on, were not major concerns for people who lived under oppressive governments that sometimes used “Christianity” to maintain that oppression. Issues of rampant poverty, unemployment, institutional corruption, housing shortages, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poor educational and medical facilities, the exploitation of women and ethnic minorities, and the redistribution of land, were some of the much more pressing needs. Furthermore, Pentecostals in the non-Western world had a Christian spirituality that was influenced by the popular religions of the regions in which they lived, which often led to sharp differences with the rather cerebral Christianity of Western missionaries and their theological colleges. I realized that the context of theological education was not the Bible college, the seminary or the university, but the community in which God’s people were found. Only when the context is clear in our minds can we begin to adjust the content of our education. Lee Wanak reflects on his experience in the 1980s in a “grassroots Bible school for leadership development” in the Philippines, where he began to realize that “something was missing”. He concludes:

Our theology and teaching had not adequately entered the lives of people, their worldviews, their fears, the oppressive elements in their lives and their poverty. Ours was a proclamation oriented school that had little to do with sociocultural concerns.[15]

Pentecostals and Charismatics are often viewed by the outside Christian world as those who are “otherworldly” and unconcerned about the pressing needs of society. A recent Latin American ecumenical report on “Pentecostality and Church and Society”, made the telling comment about divergent forms of Pentecostalism, some that “develop a grassroots ministry among the poor that is most impressive” while others “live and preach economic affluence and social irresponsibility”.[16]

It is now almost a missiological maxim to speak of “the southward swing of the Christian center of gravity”, which has made Christianity more non-Western than Western.[17] What in the past were the continents of “non-Christian religions” are now where most of the Christians are.[18] Larry Pate estimated that by 1998 the majority of Protestant missionaries would come from the non-Western world. The leading missionary sending nations are no longer the United States, Britain, or Germany, but India, South Korea, Brazil and Nigeria.[19] In Africa, there are very large numbers of Christians for whom theology can only be studied within an African context. The same can be said for Asia, where the largest number of evangelical Christians in any continent of the world live, most of whom are of a Pentecostal and Charismatic type; and so too for Latin America, where the largest number of Pentecostals in any continent live. Barrett and Johnson’s statistics give dramatic evidence of how rapidly the “Western” share of world Christianity has decreased in the century of Pentecostalism. In 1900, 77% of the world’s Christian population was in Europe and Northern America. In 2000, only 37% of the two billion Christians in the world were from the northern continents, while 63% are from Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Latin America, and. Their projections for 2025 are 29% and 71% respectively. Furthermore, 26% of the world’s Christians are now “Pentecostal/ Charismatics”, to rise to 31% by 2025.[20] The “southward swing” is more evident in Pentecostalism than in other forms of Christianity. Most of the dramatic church growth in the 20th Century in Asia, Africa and Latin America has taken place in Pentecostal and indigenous and independent Pentecostal-like churches, and I would guess that at least three-quarters of Pentecostalism today is found in the Third World.[21] Classical Pentecostal churches with roots in North America like the Assemblies of God, have probably only some 8% of their world associate membership in North America, with at least 80% in the Third World.[22]

But this drastic transformation in Christian demographics has made little impact on Western, rationalistic, theological education, which continues to be the leading model in seminaries across the globe. Africans and Asians do not become Pentecostals or Presbyterians for precisely the same reasons that North Americans do. They have an increasing sense of self-identity. Academic appointments in “Third World Theology” in Western institutions often serve as smokescreens to camouflage the reality or to further marginalize the “voices from the margin”,[23] whereas actually little has changed in the way most educators think of and teach theology. Although Western theology has adjusted of late to the particular challenges of post-modernism, feminism and religious pluralism, the presuppositions remain. The rise of post-modernism has profoundly challenged the autonomous rationalism and empirical skepticism of Western theology, but has not yet shaken the foundations of the theology taught in Pentecostal and Evangelical seminaries. According to Andrew Walls, this theology exported to the rest of the world is a “heavily indigenised, highly contextual theology… a way of making peace between Christianity and the European Enlightenment, of translating Christian affirmations into Enlightenment categories”. Characteristic of this is the literary-historical method of approach to Scripture that is almost universal in the West. Such theological methods were foreign to the Western church for centuries, and were certainly not practiced by the apostle Paul![24] Walls shows how all theological disciplines are affected, actually representing “a series of choices related to the cultural and religious history of the Western world”.[25] However, the “southward movement” of world Christianity has both “opened up untold fresh possibilities for theology” and “vastly multiplied the resources available”,[26] but the Western hegemony remains in theological institutions and their curricula. If the “non-Western” world is given any attention, it is usually placed in the context of Western churches and missions.

North American Pentecostal missions contributed generously towards the establishment of “Bible schools” and in-service training structures throughout the world, resulting in the more rapid growth of indigenous Pentecostal churches.[27] However, the fundamental flaws in these structures exist particularly because they are Western models foisted onto the rest of the world. This is part of the legacy of the colonial past with its cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism. Paul Pierson places this in historical perspective:

The Western Protestant missionary movement… assumed that Western theological and technological training were adequate preparation for cross-cultural missionary service…. it was widely assumed that Western culture was Christian and that other cultures would eventually conform to Western “Christian” culture. Along with this went an ignorance of the values in non-Western cultures….[28]

Pentecostal (and other) missionaries from Europe and North America followed this pattern. They thought they knew what sort of training people needed in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in order to become ministers after the model of the West, and at least in Africa, they even provided suits and ties to help fit the bill. It is clear that the alliance between Evangelicalism and white classical Pentecostalism in the USA from 1943 onwards had a profound effect on Pentecostal theological education. Pentecostals found themselves being drawn in to the evangelical-ecumenical dichotomy pervading evangelical Christianity.[29] Pentecostals became vulnerable to losing their distinctive experience-oriented spirituality as Evangelical and fundamentalist models of education were bought into wholesale and uncritically. Henry Lederle points out:

It is an irony of recent ecclesiastical history that much of Pentecostal scholarship has sought to align itself so closely with the rationalistic heritage of American Fundamentalism… without fully recognizing how hostile these theological views are to Pentecostal and Charismatic convictions about present-day prophecy, healing miracles and other spiritual charisms.[30]

Pentecostal Bible colleges became prime generators of this new Pentecostal fundamentalism,[31] and Western Pentecostal denominations gave priority to exporting this theological education to the Third World. The US Assemblies of God has been in the forefront of this trend, with ICI being particularly influential in Africa and Asia. A survey conducted in 1959 by the US Assemblies of God revealed that half of its missionaries and half the budget of the Missions Department were committed to theological institutions.[32] The question is whether this new emphasis was at the expense of spirituality, and as Lee Wanak observes:

Theological education in the 20th Century has been dominated by the West—its theological categories shaped by Greek culture; its educational patterns shaped by the university model; its attitudes influenced by modernity, industrialism, colonialism, and individualism. In the past its spirituality was marked by pietism, in the present it bears a faith of affluence and superficial commitment, and as the 20th Century comes to a close, the zeal of the Western church is waning.[33]

The rest of the world suffered from this great malaise in Western theological education, as missionary educators from Europe and North America unconsciously shared their presuppositions, paradigms and theological prejudices in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific. Hwa Yung points out that the many theological institutions that have sprung up all over Asia have been “conditioned by the methodologies, agenda, and content of Western theology”. He says, “This approach must be changed if the Asian church is to come to terms more adequately with its own identity, context, and mission”.[34] But this conditioning has not only disturbed the non-Western world; Western Pentecostalism itself has lost something as a result. Del Tarr speaks of “the erosion of the sense of the supernatural” and “the eclipse of the experiential dimension of the Christian faith”. The emphasis on rationalism in Western theology led to an “indifferent attitude towards spiritual experience and power”.[35] This all had a profound effect upon Christians in the Third World for whom this dimension was vital. The independence of India in 1949 began a domino-like fall of colonies culminating with South Africa in 1994. The end of colonialism gave rise to a new and strident nationalism, and more recently there has emerged a new continentalism that emphasizes human dignity.[36] The recent emergence of an “Asian Pentecostal theology” is but one example of the changing scenario. The time has come when the churches in the Third World continue to develop their own theological paradigms that challenge and transform Pentecostal and Charismatic spirituality throughout the world.

Perhaps it is all the more sobering for us to remember that most early Pentecostal leaders in North America, and some of the most successful indigenous pastors in many parts of the world, have been those with little theological education, or none at all. In the 1960s, Swiss sociologist Lalive d’Epinay contrasted the remarkably successful indigenous Pentecostal pastors in Chile with little or no education, and the “complete stagnation” of the Methodists and Presbyterians whose pastors had high educational levels. This made him “less confident of the benefits of theological education, and even of the method of training in the developed countries which we impose on Protestants in the developing nations”. He stated that the educational methods of Europe and the USA were simply “not suitable for the needs in Chile”.[37] There, because North American missionaries had instituted theological education to avoid the “excesses” and “ignorant fanaticism” of Pentecostalism, indigenous Chilean Pentecostalism now has a “strong anti-theological, anti-academic prejudice”.[38]

Quite rightly, the emphasis in Pentecostal and Charismatic leadership usually has been on the spirituality of the leader rather than on intellectual abilities or even ministerial skills. If we lose this emphasis we are in great peril. The European university model that pervades education in Western cultures has created an educated elite that often has lost touch with ordinary people. Robert Schreiter speaks of the “separation of the theologian from the experience of living communities”.[39] The precious doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” that spurred on early Pentecostals to great heights of mission and ministry has become an empty shell. The clergy/ laity dichotomy has been recreated through an emphasis on the need for a paper qualification before recognizing a calling and gifting for ministry. Edgar Elliston speaks of the “inflationary professionalization of the ministry” that posed serious questions for the church, exerting “pressure for ever higher entrance and exit requirements for our training programs”. He said that the “requirements for accreditation and certification (ordination) move ever higher in terms of academic achievement and away from effective ministry experience”.[40]

North Atlantic models of theological education often do not take enough notice of the specific, local, religious, social, and cultural contexts that dominate Pentecostal/ Charismatic people throughout the rest of the world. Pierson points out that because theology was perceived to be “a list of timeless doctrines, the theological training of missionaries did not prepare them to recognize the theological issues arising in their host countries”. Consequently, it was also assumed that leadership would be trained using Western methodologies, and little thought was given “to understanding how the gospel might be communicated appropriately in the receptor cultures”.[41] The Third World contexts are increasingly becoming globalized, multi-ethnic, pluralistic, and urbanized. In addition, a polemical and confrontational approach to Christian theology seeking to preserve a “Pentecostal spirituality” often unrelated to Third World contexts and overly reliant upon foreign personnel has been nurtured. This in turn creates a vicious circle where a North American “religious right” ideology and premillenial eschatological pessimism become “orthodoxy” in Pentecostal institutions throughout the world. Pentecostal and Charismatic quietism in the face of oppressive regimes, racism and “ethnic cleansing” is a disturbing feature of its recent history. Sometimes, insensitive and imperialistic attitudes on the part of dominant foreign missions have tended to stifle protest and constructive change. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that in some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in the Third World, a new, educated elite in the ministry are clones of Western forms of theologizing, and new initiatives in providing relevant theological education for Third World contexts are very few and far between. The new schools that spring up are hard pressed to find accreditation unless they follow established Western patterns of education.[42]

In spite of this, fundamental questions are now being asked about the nature of theological education in the Third World. From Asia, Lee Wanak asks, “What will be the shape of Asian theology? Will it shed the Western middle class paradigms inherited from the missionary era and become distinctively Asian?”[43] Asian theologian Hwa Yung says that “there is even less reason today for non-Western Christians today to allow their theologies to be domesticated by Enlightenment thinking, something which Western Christians themselves find increasingly dissatisfying”.[44] From Africa, Kwame Bediako speaks of the “hard-line and historically imported categories” from the West that are “now found to be not always helpful, as they do not describe adequately the actual experience of the majority of African Christians”.[45] And Latin American José Miguez Bonino thinks that Pentecostalism has been “too limited by some current theological formulations adopted from Anglo-Saxon Evangelical circles” and that “the spiritual experience and the evangelical praxis of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic Renewal is much larger and richer than those formulations”. He draws particular attention to the Pentecostal emphasis on experience as the grid by which to interpret the Bible.[46]

 

HEARING VOICES FROM THE MARGIN

The way forward might be first, to acknowledge that for our theological education to be truly contextual, its content must change. This means that North American and European theological institutions could focus more on the “Rest of the World” in their education, which will often require re-educating on the part of educators themselves. Culture, global ideologies, local theologies, religions and new religious movements (for example) should be given more priority. Attention could be paid to insights from local anthropology, sociology, history, communication theory and cultural studies—not as exotic studies of “the other”, but as part of a comprehensive attempt to learn more about the context in which global Pentecostal and Charismatic spiritualities are found. Africa, Asia and Latin America have their own Christian heroes, who are not just Western missionaries there! The voices of these Pentecostal and Charismatic pioneers should be heard in the study of church history and theology. So for example, African writers have often pointed out that in the Western world, information on Western missionaries to Africa “is many times disproportionate to their role and contribution”, mainly because of the scarcity of written information on African Christians.[47] A serious and extensive rewriting of Pentecostal history needs to be done, in which the enormous contributions of the as yet unnamed indigenous pioneers is properly recognized, so that US American classical Pentecostals in particular shed their often-heard assumption that Pentecostalism is a “made in the USA” product that has been exported to the world. Walter Hollenweger thinks that Pentecostals have made some “grave departures” from their earlier mission strategy, particularly those “who detached the local churches from the values and needs of the local culture in favour of an Assemblies of God orthodoxy”.[48] The challenging issues of today are the emergence of Third World Pentecostal churches with their own theologies, Pentecostal missionaries who “are prisoners of their own western culture due to their monocultural education”, and the burgeoning numbers of Third World missionaries. He pleads for an “intercultural” theology and education that “does not transform vital and spontaneous Christians into detached intellectuals”. He says we must “break out of the monocultural methodologies and topics of the past” and allow the theologies of the Third World to be heard. The Holy Spirit often works without Western missionaries; and theologies, liturgies and ethics that are a result cause tensions with Western Pentecostal missions. The “bewildering pluralism within Pentecostalism worldwide” and “the theological contributions of Third World Pentecostalism” must be fully acknowledged and given due recognition.[49]

The “voices from the margin” of Pentecostal spirituality should be given attention, particularly as Pentecostalism encounters very different contexts outside the Western world. Although the sources of these local voices are more difficult to come by, academic theses and publications on Pentecostalism in Africa, Asia and (especially) Latin America continue to multiply, and the information highway has opened up new vistas of knowledge for those who are genuinely concerned to change the status quo. This also means that educators from the Third World could participate fully in Western institutions, and not serve as mere tokenism. As Wesley Ariarajah observes, Third World theologies are not just optional extras, but they “provide fundamental challenges to what has been going on within the dominant tradition in the name of ‘theology’”.[50] Western theological educators working in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Eastern Europe (as well as those working in Western Europe or North America with students from these continents) should themselves be given thorough exposure to the contexts in which they work, in which the agenda is set by local people. They should first and foremost be learners, where they can listen to local concerns before presuming to teach. This probably means that before educators or “missionaries” from North America and Europe in other continents begin their work, they should first be apprenticed to local ministers and be thoroughly exposed to the local context. Through serving people in humility over an extended period of time, intercultural workers will learn many vital lessons that several years in theological seminaries back home did not teach, and thus will be much more effective.

Second, our theological education should be more holistic and functional. The curricula we develop are usually photocopies of our own curricula and reflect our own worldview. We can no longer assume that a “liberal arts” education followed by specialized seminary training will make a person fit for ministry anywhere in the world. This does not mean that we should simply expand our curricula to add more knowledge. Theological education must become “training in diversity to build tolerance and understanding, without which evangelization will be fruitless”.[51] Anglican bishop John V Taylor lamented that the churches’ training curricula are “largely a hangover from the past and are not, in the main, functionally related to the tasks” for which people are being trained. He suggests that the only way forward is “to abandon the ideal of a comprehensive theology” and to train people “for different functions of ministry in the same way that all other professions have adopted long ago”—what he calls “a functional approach to theology”.[52] Lalive d’Epinay observed that Chilean Pentecostals were trained “by the street”, that any convert could become a minister after a long time of testing of calling and capabilities in leadership and preaching, to the extent that this person must have actually “gathered a flock” before appointment as a pastor.[53] Sepúlveda speaks of “the inadequate nature of a model of theological education that takes for granted a professionalized ministry with independent means”, and says that the Chilean “practical apprenticeship” model is well suited to their own needs.

The dichotomy between training for the ministry and academic theology must be overcome.[54] Elliston recommends a “non-formal” education that is “usually functionally oriented, democratic, and the entry requirements are set by the community being served”. This “task-oriented” education has clear goals to be achieved, and is labor-intensive rather than resource-intensive.[55] Perhaps we have departed too far from the biblical model of in-service leadership training by apprenticeship. Jesus and the apostle Paul both took “education for spirituality” very seriously, but the methods they used were so different from ours. They were also very different from the rabbinic method of education that Jesus vigorously rejected, an academic and residential method that was not unlike the models we use in theological education today.[56] The Holy Spirit did not come on “empty heads” on the Day of Pentecost. He empowered those who had been through a three-year intensive process of training on the job. This is not to suggest that we take a first century model (or even an early twentieth century one) and make it normative for the twenty-first century. But if more recognition or accreditation were given to the experiences of ministry and the developing spirituality that these experiences bring, we would be “educating for Pentecostal/Charismatic spirituality” more effectively. We must find ways and means to quantify and realize this, and to integrate cognitive learning with concrete, active learning.

Third, and most importantly, our Pentecostal and Charismatic spirituality should lead to total dependency on the Spirit of God in our teaching and example. He is the one who makes and equips teachers; he is an active participant in our development, and the one who enables us to change in a changing world. The Western Church in particular, affirms Cheryl Bridges Johns, “has lost sight of the pedagogical role of the Holy Spirit”. She says that Pentecostal experience is the “epistemological key” that “radically alters traditional forms of theological education”.[57] This is what is distinctive about Pentecostal/Charismatic education. We must never forget that as teachers we have been given a gracious gift by the Spirit that enables us “in a very significant way” to be “wisely guided and energized by the same Spirit”.[58] The result will be that all involved will be radically transformed—teachers and learners alike.[59] It is certainly true that Pentecostals and Charismatics in all their diversity throughout the world, will overlook many faults in their leaders, but require above all that these women and men know the Father intimately, love the Lord Jesus deeply, and are filled with the Spirit completely.
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Lalive d’Epinay, Christian, “The Training of Pastors and Theological Education: The case of Chile”, International Review of Missions LVI: 222 (April 1967), 185-92.

Lederle, Henry I, “Pentecostals and Ecumenical Theological Education”, Ministerial Formation 80 (January 1998), 44-6.

Lee, Edgar R, “What the Academy Needs from the Church”. Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3:2 (June 2000), 311-8.

Mandela, Nelson, Long Walk to Freedom (London: Abacus, 1994)

McKinney, Everett L, “Some Spiritual Aspects of Pentecostal Education: A Personal Journey”, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3:2 (June 2000), 253-79.

Omulokoli, Watson AO, “Researching and Writing Christian Biography in Africa: A Challenge to Evangelical Studies in Global Context”, Journal of African Christian Thought 3:1 (June 2000), 41-4.

Pate, Larry D, “The Dramatic Growth of Two-Thirds World Missions”, William D Taylor (ed), Internationalising Missionary Training (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1991), 27-40.

Pierson, Paul E, “A North American Missionary Trainer Responds to Two-Thirds World Concerns”, William D Taylor (ed), Internationalising Missionary Training (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1991), 193-202.

Report on Intensive Group Study Experience, “The Pentecostal Spirit and Transformation: Pentecostality in Church and Society”, Latin American Biblical University, San José, Costa Rica, May-June 1999, Ministerial Formation 88 (January 2000), 69-73.

Robeck, Cecil M Jr, “Seminaries and Graduate Schools”, Burgess SM, McGee GM & Alexander PH (eds) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 772-6.

Schreiter, Robert J, Constructing Local Theologies (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1995)

Sepúlveda, Juan, “The Challenge for Theological Education from a Pentecostal Standpoint”, Ministerial Formation 87 (October 1999), 29-34.

Sugirtharajah, RS (ed) Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World (London/ Maryknoll: SPCK/Orbis, 1995).

Sun, Benjamin, “Assemblies of God Theological Education in Asia Pacific: A Reflection”, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3:2 (July 2000), 227-51.

Tarr, Del, “Transcendence, Immanence, and the Emerging Pentecostal Academy”, Wonsuk Ma & Robert P Menzies (eds) Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W Menzies (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 195-222.

Taylor, John V, “Preparing the Ordinand for Mission”, International Review of Missions LVI: 222 (April 1967), 145-57.

Thomas, John Christopher, “Pentecostal Theology in the Twenty-First Century”, Pneuma 20: 1 (Spring 1998), 3-19.

Walls, Andrew F, “Of Ivory Towers and Ashrams: Some reflections on theological scholarship in Africa”, Journal of African Christian Thought 3:1 (June 2000), 1-4.

Wanak, Lee C, “Theological Education and the Role of Teachers in the 21st Century: A Look at the Asia Pacific Region”, Journal of Asian Mission 2:1 (January 2000), 3-24.

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Wilson, LF, “Bible Institutes, Colleges, Universities”, Burgess SM, McGee GM & Alexander PH (eds), Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 57-65.

Zehr, Paul M and Egli, Jim, Alternative Models of Mennonite Pastoral Formation, Occasional Papers No. 15 (Elkhart: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1992)


[1] This paper proceeds from reflection on over twenty years as a Pentecostal/ Charismatic theological educator, firstly in southern Africa: United Bible College, Soshanguve, South Africa (1978-1983), Hatfield School of Theology, Pretoria (1984-1988), Tshwane Theological College, Soshanguve (1988-1995), and University of South Africa, Pretoria (1989-1995); and most recently (1995-) in an international theological institute in England: the Graduate Institute for Theology and Religion in the University of Birmingham, since 1999 the home of the Centre for Missiology and World Christianity, formerly part of the Selly Oak Colleges.

[2] Everett L McKinney, “Some Spiritual Aspects of Pentecostal Education: A Personal Journey”, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3:2 (June 2000), 253.

[3] Byron D Klaus and Loren O Triplett, “National Leadership in Pentecostal Missions”, Murray A Dempster, Byron D Klaus, and Douglas Petersen (eds), Called and Empowered: Global Mission in Pentecostal Perspective (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 226.

[4] Del Tarr, “Transcendence, Immanence, and the Emerging Pentecostal Academy”, Wonsuk Ma & Robert P Menzies (eds) Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W Menzies (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 198.

[5] John Christopher Thomas, “Pentecostal Theology in the Twenty-First Century”, Pneuma 20: 1 (Spring 1998), 10-1.

[6] The United Apostolic Faith Church, founded in 1926 by James Brooke, who left the first classical Pentecostal denomination in Britain, the Apostolic Faith Church. Both churches had an unorthodox premillenial eschatology and like Charles Parham’s Apostolic Faith in the USA, they espoused British Israelism, probably the main reason why they did not grow significantly. Malcolm R Hathaway, “The Role of William Oliver Hutchinson and the Apostolic Faith Church in the Formation of British Pentecostal Churches”, Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association XVI (1996), 40-57.

[7] This was common practice in Bible Colleges in North America and Britain until the seventies, and it helped foster the emphasis on premillenial dispensationalism. See CM Robeck, Jr, “Seminaries and Graduate Schools”, Burgess, McGee & Alexander (eds) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 773.

[8] LF Wilson, “Bible Institutes, Colleges, Universities”, Burgess, McGee & Alexander (eds) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 57.

[9] The Hatfield Baptist Church, now Hatfield Christian Church, where ICI courses were taught at their theological school.

[10] Bible, Theology, Church Ministries and General Education.

[11] Robert K Johnston, “Becoming Theologically Mature: the Task of Theological Education Today for American Evangelical Seminaries”, Ministerial Formation 73 (April 1996), 43.

[12] Frank Chikane, No Life of My Own (Braamfontein: Skotaville, 1988), 62-4; Allan Anderson, Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist/Apostolic Churches in South Africa (Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 2000), 93-6.

[13] Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (London: Abacus, 1994).

[14] Allan Anderson, Moya: The Holy Spirit in an African Context (Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 1991); id, Bazalwane: African Pentecostals in South Africa (Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 1992).

[15] Lee C Wanak, “Theological Education and the Role of Teachers in the 21st Century: A Look at the Asia Pacific Region”, Journal of Asian Mission 2:1 (January 2000), 11.

[16] “The Pentecostal Spirit and Transformation: Pentecostality in Church and Society”, Report on Intensive Group Study Experience, Latin American Biblical; University, San José, Costa Rica, May-June 1999, Ministerial Formation 88 (January 2000), 69.

[17] Andrew F Walls, “Of Ivory Towers and Ashrams: Some reflections on theological scholarship in Africa”, Journal of African Christian Thought 3:1 (June 2000), 1.

[18] Kwame Bediako, “A Half Century of African Christian Thought: Pointers to Theology and Theological Education in the Next Half Century”, Journal of African Christian Thought 3:1 (June 2000), 6.

[19] Larry D Pate, “The Dramatic Growth of Two-Thirds World Missions”, William D Taylor (ed), Internationalising Missionary Training (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1991), 35.

[20] David B Barrett & Todd M Johnson, “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 2001”, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25:1 (January 2001), 25.

[21] I use “Third World” rather than “two-thirds world” in this paper following the lead of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, who agreed that the term, although inadequate to describe the vast majority of people in the world that it refers to, emphasises the marginalization of most of Asia, Africa and Latin America in the face of Western hegemony. “Third World” theology has been defined as that which “primarily arises from the social, economic, political, religious and cultural focus which render our people expendable”. Final Statement of the 4th EATWOT General Assembly, “Search for a New Just World Order: Challenges to Theology”, Ministerial Formation 81 (April 1998), 36.

[22] One estimate puts the total number of adherents of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship in 1997 at some 30 million, of which about 2½ million are in North America. Everett A Wilson, Strategy of the Spirit: J Philip Hogan and the Growth of the Assemblies of God Worldwide 1960-1990 (Carlisle: Regnum, 1997), 3, 107, 183.

[23] RS Sugirtharajah (ed) Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World (Maryknoll/ London: Orbis/ SPCK, 1995).

[24] The African Theological Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 14-18 August 2000, affirmed that a “reader-centred approach to biblical hermeneutics” was “more appropriate than the dominant historical-critical approach”. “Final Communiqué”, Ministerial Formation 91 (October 2000), 65.

[25] Walls, 1-2.

[26] Walls, 3.

[27]  Klaus and Triplett, 227-9.

[28] Paul E Pierson, “A North American Missionary Trainer Responds to Two-Thirds World Concerns”, William D Taylor (ed), Internationalising Missionary Training (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1991), 193-4.

[29] Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century (London: Cassell, 1996), 303, suggests that fundamentalism was “a desperate effort to fend off modernity by using modernity”s weapons”.

[30] Henry I Lederle, “Pentecostals and Ecumenical Theological Education”, Ministerial Formation 80 (January 1998), 46.

[31] D William Faupel, “Whither Pentecostalism”, Pneuma 15:1 (Spring 1993), 24.

[32] Quoted in Benjamin Sun, “Assemblies of God Theological Education in Asia Pacific: A Reflection”, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3:2 (July 2000), 230.

[33] Wanak, 3.

[34] Hwa Yung, “Critical Issues Facing Theological Education in Asia”, Transformation (October-December 1995),1.

[35] Tarr, 206-7.

[36] South African President Thabo Mbeki gave an example of this in his inaugural speech in 1999, when he spoke of an “African renaissance”.

[37] Christian Lalive d”Epinay, “The Training of Pastors and Theological Education: The case of Chile”, International Review of Missions LVI: 222 (April 1967), 185, 191.

[38] Juan Sepúlveda, “The Challenge for Theological Education from a Pentecostal Standpoint”, Ministerial Formation 87 (October 1999), 29-30.

[39] Robert J Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1995), 18.

[40] Edgar J Elliston, “Designing Leadership Education”, Missiology 16:2 (April 1988), 204.

[41] Pierson, 194.

[42] Wanak, 12.

[43] Wanak, 3.

[44] Hwa Yung, 2.

[45] Bediako, 7.

[46] José Míguez Bonino, “Pentecostal missions is more than what it claims”. Pneuma 16:2 (Fall 1997), 288.

[47] Watson AO Omulokoli, “Researching and Writing Christian Biography in Africa: A Challenge to Evangelical Studies in Global Context”, Journal of African Christian Thought 3:1 (June 2000), 41.

[48] Walter J Hollenweger, “Crucial Issues for Pentecostals”, Allan H Anderson & Walter J Hollenweger, (eds), Pentecostals after a Century: Global Perspectives on a Movement in Transition (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 177.

[49] Walter J Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997), 301-2.

[50] S Wesley Ariarajah, “Changing Frontiers of Ecumenical Theology: A Challenge to Ecumenical Formation”, Ministerial Formation 89 (April 2000), 10.

[51] Wanak, 6.

[52] John V Taylor, “Preparing the Ordinand for Mission”, International Review of Missions LVI:222 (April 1967), 147-9.

[53] Lalive d”Epinay, 188-9.

[54] Sepúlveda, 32, 34.

[55] Elliston, 212.

[56] Jim Egli argued for this in the Mennonite context. Paul M Zehr and Jim Egli, Alternative Models of Mennonite Pastoral Formation, Occasional Papers No. 15 (Elkhart: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1992), 42-57.

[57] Cheryl Bridges Johns, “The Meaning of Pentecost for Theological Education”, Ministerial Formation 87 (October 1999), 42.

[58] Lee, 315.

[59] Johns, 47.