The Rise of Pentecostal Fusionists

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Penterecostalism emphasizes the dynamic working of the Holy Spirit. As a result, it often carries the reputation of being freed from the dead hand of the past, rather than rooted in historical Christian orthodoxy. Emilio Alvarez, presiding bishop of the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches, seeks to merge his own Pentecostalism with the riches of the Church’s tradition in his book Pentecostal Orthodoxy: Towards an Ecumenism of the Spirit. Pentecostal Theological Seminary professor Dale Coulter spoke with Alvarez about forging a closer connection between Pentecostalism and the Church through the ages.

Tell us about your journey in Pentecostal Orthodoxy and what led you to write this book.

As a minister of the Church of God, a Pentecostal holiness denomination based in Cleveland, Tennessee, I began to wrestle with some questions: Why do we believe, for example, that Catholics go to hell? What are saints? And what is the Eucharist? As I explain in the book, I had an epiphany during a service as we celebrated communion. As I stood there behind a makeshift table, I froze and wondered, Is it the body and blood of Jesus Christ? It was as if the Holy Spirit placed a desire in me.

I started connecting with people involved in what was called the Convergence-Worship movement. They are evangelicals, like Robert Webber or the theologians at the origin of the Chicago Appeal of 1977, interested in rediscovering the Great Tradition of the Christian faith in its historical and liturgical plenitude. During this time, I began to rebuild my own church’s worship around liturgical practices seen in other traditions, such as Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Catholicism. I was wondering if I should change my denomination, but I concluded…

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