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The Legacy of Azusa Street

Has the global Pentecostal movement done enough to share Azusa's racial, ethnic, and gender diversity with the world?

Continued from page 1

 

In one of the saddest chapters of early Pentecostal history, this racially inclusive fellowship did not last very long. The original sin of America, racism, soon intruded into the growing movement. A fissure appeared between whites and blacks that is only now beginning to be healed in Pentecostal communities. However, Pentecostal congregations remain some of the most integrated in America.

 

Meanwhile, Pentecostalism is now spreading to places few thought it would ever reach. With no hierarchy, it scatters its spores in all directions. But instead of undermining its growth, division, like the mitosis of a cell, spreads Pentecostalism further. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small Christian groups like the "Jesus Family" are now appearing throughout mainland China. There is an Arab Pentecostal congregation in Casablanca, Morocco. The largest single Christian congregation in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea. Today, Pentecostals praise and testify in Minsk, Bombay, and Caracas.

 

But has this spectacular explosion had any real impact on the rest of the Christian world? It has, and that impact will continue. Martin Marty recently commented that the future of Christianity belongs not to the fundamentalists but to the Pentecostals. One reason he is right is that what might be called "Pentecostalism-lite" has erupted within several other denominations. The Catholic "charismatic" movement is well known, and has replaced "base communities" as the heartbeat of Latin American Catholicism. There is already an organization of "Full Gospel Black Baptist" churches. Lutherans, Methodists, and Congregationalists now often pray in Pentecostal style, with their hands raised to heaven, and few mainline churches are without healing prayers and services, something left to Lourdes pilgrims and Christian Scientists (and of course, Pentecostals) until a couple of decades ago.

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