World’s leading Pentecostal scholars meet at Evangel for annual meeting
March 23, 2014 | Ashli O'Connell
More than 300 of the world’s leading Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars recently gathered at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, for the 43rd annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) held March 6-8.
As SPS Executive Director, Dr. Lois Olena, associate professor at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, explains, “Our annual meeting is more than a gathering of academics presenting papers. SPS provides a rare blending of ages, genders, ethnicities and nearly 200 different academic institutions and 100 denominations sharing not only their scholarship, but times of worship as well.”
“But what we experienced this year was what we at AGTS call knowledge on fire,” Olena says of the event she and SPS first vice president and program chair Dr. Kenneth J. Archer of Southeastern University have been planning for two years.
“On Thursday night, following a powerful plenary session, there was a message in tongues and interpretation. Then on Friday, there was a sovereign move of God. We experienced a moment of brokenness together where a wave of God’s Spirit washed over us — professors weeping, side by side, in the presence of God — reminding us of His healing, purposeful work in us. A strong sense of God’s presence permeated the entire meeting this year — including during Dr. Lee Roy Martin’s presidential address — and even the business meeting.”
“It is exciting to see those who have such an influence on Pentecostal and charismatic believers experiencing the presence of God in such a powerful way,” says Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
“I pray the power of the Spirit will continue to flow through them, anointing their writings, and be a catalyst for revival throughout the Pentecostal world.”
“Hermeneutics and the Spirit: Identities, Communities, and Making of Meaning” was the theme set by Archer for this year’s SPS meeting. Speakers examined how the Holy Spirit works within the various academic disciplines to help believers form theological communities and interpret communal practices. Given the diversity of SPS members and the greater Pentecostal world, of particular focus was the role that ethnicity, gender and culture play on interpreting Scripture and the Pentecostal practices of Christianity. The program’s plenary sessions intentionally reflected theological, ethnic and gender diversity, which Archer observed, God honored with a sense of His presence.
“What occurs during SPS meetings has significant impact upon the global Pentecostal and charismatic world, including the local church,” Olena says.
“SPS meetings are designed to cultivate our [scholars'] minds, understand ourselves as Pentecostals, and understand the Pentecostal world. But significant to the church world is that what we do here ultimately influences what is communicated through books, blogs, journals, articles, papers and other resources to ministers, students and people in the pew. Often, what SPS scholars research, write and present in these sessions today is what you read tomorrow concerning the Pentecostal and charismatic understanding of the Holy Spirit and His work in the world. That’s why we bathe this event in prayer every year.”
“It is also important to understand,” says Jennifer Hall, promotions coordinator for AGTS, “that there is such a thing as serious Pentecostal scholarship happening across denominations and around the world. And the influential participation of AG people ensures that the AG has a significant role in the shaping of written Pentecostal theology and thought.”
Olena says that nearly 40 AG scholars, including representatives from AGTS/Evangel, Global University, North Central University, Northwest University, Southeastern University, Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Trinity Bible College, Valley Forge Christian College, Vanguard University, and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center presented or served as panelists in this year’s SPS, allowing numerous Assemblies of God scholars to speak into the purposes of the Society. In addition, this was the first year for SPS to have a student caucus, with 30 graduate students interacting with scholars, engaging in workshops and offering their vision for the future.
“I experienced God in a profound way at SPS again this year,” says SPS student member Justin Gottuso in a post. “I received clarity on my vocation and ministry calling into Pentecostal and charismatic scholarship, witnessed ‘history’ at the first [SPS] student caucus event, met so many amazing scholars and students, and received sage-like wisdom from two pre-eminent P/C [Pentecostal/charismatic] scholars.”
As part of the SPS annual meeting, several prestigious awards were presented. Included among them was The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship’s 2014 Award of Excellence, awarded to AG Missionary Robert P. Menzies for his book, Pentecost: This Story is our Story, published by Gospel Publishing House.
“The Pentecostal academic community honored one of its own for authoring a compelling book that provides an introduction to Pentecostal theology and identity,” says Darrin Rodgers, SPS member and director of the AG Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. “Menzies’ … heart for the church led him to make … Pentecostal theology accessible to the people in the pew.”
Dr. Randy Hedlun, vice provost of Global University, was also honored during the SPS meeting. He was presented with a Declaration of Excellence award by The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship for an article he recently authored titled, “Rethinking Luke’s Purpose: The Effect of First-Century Social Conflict.”
Also honored by SPS was Dr. Benny Aker, professor emeritus of New Testament Exegesis at AGTS, on the occasion of a book written in his honor by several SPS members-including AG educators, But These are Written: Essays on Johannine Literature in Honor of Professor Benny C. Aker.
This is the fourth time in the 44-year history of the SPS for the event to be hosted in Springfield. Olena says that AGTS and Evangel were selected for this year’s event in light of the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God, celebrated at the SPS closing banquet. Since the annual meeting rotates to various geographical regions of the country, next year’s meeting will be held at Southeastern University (AG) in Lakeland, Florida.
Dan VanVeen is editor of AG News.