An historic consultation took place between Anglicans and Pentecostals earlier this week at High Leigh in Hertfordshire.
Initiated by the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, it took forward resolutions passed at successive Lambeth Conferences, and bore out Archbishop Justin Welby’s recent call for greater interaction between the two traditions.
Nine Anglicans and eight Pentecostals gathered for two days of dialogue, prayer and worship to explore their similarities and differences, and to chart a way forward for enhanced partnership in mission.
Papers were presented on the roots and development of Anglicanism and Pentecostalism in England and worldwide, on Christian initiation, on worship, ministry and spiritual gifts, and on the nature and mission of the Church.
A report of the consultation will be made available shortly on the websites of the Church of England and participating Pentecostal churches and networks.
The consultation was organised in response to a proposal presented in 2012 by the Revd Dr David Hilborn, Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham and a member of both the Faith and Order Commission and the Society for Pentecostal Studies.
“I had been involved in ecumenical work for some years and had noticed that while Roman Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran churches had been engaged in bilateral theological conversations with Pentecostals, Anglicans had lagged behind," he said.
"Although the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences encouraged such interaction, Anglicans in the Church of England and beyond have been slow to take up the challenge at an institutional level. This consultation represents a real step forward in mutual understanding and co-operation between our two traditions.”
Professor William Kay, a Pentecostal participant from the Assemblies of God, said: “Pentecostals have much to learn from Anglicans and, dare I say it, Anglicans have much to learn from Pentecostals, and this enriching consultation got us off to a flying start.”
The Revd Dr Roger Paul, National Ecumenical Officer at the CCU, noted the value of addressing both theological and practical concerns at the consultation: “Alongside key doctrinal questions on the work of the Holy Spirit, apostolic leadership and prophecy, we have explored significant grass-roots issues such as church sharing, Christian schools and joint ministerial training.”
The Revd Nezlin Sterling, from the New Testament Assemblies, with a distinguished record of ecumenical work, described the consultation as a “welcome new development in understanding and co-operation between our respective traditions”.
Bishop Samuel Thomas from the New Testament Church of God added that it was “good to have the conversation” on so varied and relevant a range of issues.
In 1907 the Revd Alexander Boddy, incumbent of All Saints church, Monkwearmouth in Sunderland, led a revival now widely regarded by scholars the key conduit for the spread of Pentecostalism from the United States and elsewhere into Britain. For some years after that Boddy forged close relationships with several future Pentecostal pioneers.
In the 1960s and '70s Anglican Charismatics like Michael Harper and Tom Smail sought to reconnect with Pentecostals through the Fountain Trust. Informal relationships have continued on the ground and in various wider settings, but this consultation represents the first structured Anglican-Pentecostal conversation of its type.
Further such meetings are envisaged in England, and it is hoped that the model established here will be replicated at a global level in the future. Indeed, the Revd Canon Alyson Barnett Cowan, Director for Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion, was present and chaired a key session on Christian Initiation.