Greenbelt Interfaith News
    U.S. News

    November 1997

    Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders Discuss Racial Reconciliation
    Pentecost/Charismatic Churches of North America

    After three days of meeting, fellowship, and dialogue, Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders announced the founding of a publication focused on the issue of racial reconciliation as well as a strategic planning meeting to put down in writing the specific steps towards reconciliation in their churches.

    Key leaders of prominent Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian denominations met October 1-3 to discuss the issues of racial, cultural and theological unity at their annual Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA) convention held in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.

    This year's conference was titled "Revival – Reconciliation – Justice." Under the direction of the theme, participants continued working through many of the issues facing the process of racial reconciliation within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of Christianity and how they believe these unifed movements will be better equipped to teach unity to the myriad of factions within the Christian Church.

    "The first step to true reconciliation is to have a relationship with each other. That's why we've chosen to gather together, to dialogue, and to get to know each other," said Dr. Ron Williams, spokesperson for the PCCNA organization. While developing relationships, there are many tangible steps that Christians can take in reconciling themselves across racial, cultural and theological lines, the participants believe. The first pro-active step, according to Bishop George McKinney of the Church of God in Christ, from California, is "to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with a strong and righteous emphasis on justice." Bishop McKinney also said that the PCCNA must begin to print position papers from various points of view to educate members and foster more dialogues such as the annual conference, and must ensure that Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders align what they say and do.

    Bishop McKinney, and other speakers such as Dr. Judy Brown, indicated that the Church must be about action. "Justice demands action against unjust laws that discriminate," said Bishop McKinney. Dr. Brown widened the discussion with a talk that raised the point of church discrimination against women. "Gender hierarchy first appears in Genesis not as a desire or command of God, but as a direct consequence of sin. It . . . reverses rather than reflects God's original, ideal plan for humanity," Brown told the crowd of several hundred Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders.

    The announced steps that the PCCNA organization took toward true reconciliation included the starting of a periodical titled Reconciliation. The first issue of the publication will be distributed to over 30,000 Christian leaders within North America. It will be of a scholarly nature and will seek to widen the discussion and dialogue of reconciliation. In addition, the Executive Committee agreed to meet in December to develop a strategic plan for positive, practical steps to move past the words of reconciliation and into the reality of reconciliation. "The question we want to answer with this type of strategic plan is ‘how can we take reconciliation to the grass root level and out to every single church?'" commented Dr. Williams.

    The groups also decided that all future conferences will be centered around specific issues from the PCCNA manifesto rather than solely on the general subject of reconciliation. The focus will be on action within the context of relationship and dialogue. As Dr. Brown said in her talk, "It is not enough that the PCCNA exists and convenes. What matters most are the real-life changes that are activated by us in between these meetings, simply because they are the right thing to do."

    At the turn of the century, Pentecostalism emerged as various groups of Christians sought and experienced what they understood to be the same "power" of the Holy Spirit received by the primitive Church on the day of Pentecost. The Pentecostal Movement centered around the "Baptism" in the Holy Spirit" described in the biblical book of Acts. The fact that most established Christian bodies rejected the experience of the early Pentecostals resulted in new denominations. Later, as members of mainline churches investigated and experienced the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit, the Charismatic Renewal was born. "Charisma" means a gift or extension of God's grace. This movement has influenced every Christian tradition: Reform, Catholic, and Orthodox.

    Along with the resurgence of Spirit-empowering has come division along cultural, racial and doctrinal lines. The Pentecostal Fellowship of North America aimed to bridge doctrinal differences. In 1994, the PFNA dissolved as Pentecostal and Charismatic believers joined in Memphis, Tennessee, to overcome racial and cultural divisions.

    With a goal of spiritual unity and to provide a framework for fellowship, dialogue, and cooperation, the PFNA dissolved, and the emerging organization was the PCCNA. Organized as a group of almost fifty Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations with over ten million members, the PCCNA brings together Christians of many ethnic and cultural heritages. In 1994, at the annual convention in Memphis, Tennessee, white ministers repented to their African-American counterparts and started the process of reconciliation. It is this continual process that is being dealt with at the annual conventions and through the interaction between the meetings.

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