17 June 2024

As a former Pentecostal, I found this book enlightening and encouraging

Picture: iStock

Amy White

7 June 2024

David Hilborn and Simo Frestadius (ed), Justin Welby (fwd). Anglicans and Pentecostals in Dialogue. Pickwick Publications, 2023.

Anglicans and Pentecostals in Dialogue is a stimulating and accessible collection of chapters written by Anglican and Pentecostal scholars in an ecumenical effort to promote deeper understanding and relationship between these two denominations. The format of this collective work is well-designed, addressing the key theological areas of ecclesiology, pneumatology, and missiology through the voices and expertise of first an Anglican scholar, then a Pentecostal scholar. These chapters make up the majority of this book, as subjects such as the sacraments, ordination, baptism in the Spirit, and church growth are examined through the lenses of different convictions and practices. These sections are preceded by a mapping out of the ecumenical landscape, and are followed by reflections on ecumenical engagement from a local, national, and global perspective. This work is written from the UK and therefore informed by this context, but there is much to recommend it to a more global audience.

Read more: The Pentecostals are coming. Are we ready?

In the opening chapter, Hilborn and Frestadius address the need for “a dedicated mutual assessment of convergences and divergences between these two significant Christian traditions, and of how each might inform the other’s role in the mission of God that they share with the whole church”. They present this work as a significant contribution in meeting this need. Shermara Fletcher later asks the vital question, “How can ecumenism be a countercultural beacon of hope in a season of division?” The most compelling chapters in this book begin to show how this question might be answered. They look upon both convergences and divergences with honesty and humility and seek to learn from the strengths and differences of other perspectives. Scholars seek to understand their own tradition in the light of others, rather than only understanding others in light of themselves. This provides a compelling example of ecumenical dialogue which can be both an encouragement and model to those seeking positive ecumenical engagement in their context.

Andy Lord’s chapter on Conversion, Water Baptism, and Communion demonstrates such an approach. He explores Anglican sacramental theology in close dialogue with Pentecostal theology and practice, concluding with a challenge to his own tradition as well as those with whom he is in dialogue. William P Atkinson’s chapter on Pentecostal Pneumatology also models an approach marked by humility and appreciation of the scholarship of those from outside his tradition. He describes the importance of theological study which engages and learns from different perspectives. He argues that in theological study and dialogue, “clear expression of lingering questions, as well as confident answers, is a good starting point for ecumenical dialogue and friendship”. Many chapters in this book demonstrate such a combination of questions and answers submitted in a commitment to ecumenical relationship. The few weaker chapters resulted from the author’s more singular focus on their own tradition and its history, without ongoing engagement with the theology and practice of the other tradition. In a project that promotes ecumenical dialogue, a monologue from one perspective seemed out of place.

Read more: Multi-denominational group seeks to build greater collaboration, rapport within Clayton

As someone who spent the majority of my life in the Pentecostal church before finding myself studying, worshiping, and working in the Anglican church, I personally found this book very enlightening and encouraging. I was delighted to encounter such robust Pentecostal theology, which I must confess was absent in much of my church experience. I was equally delighted to read Anglican theologians who demonstrated humility in learning from and being challenged by their Pentecostal sisters and brothers. This book is a welcome antidote to the challenges of both arrogance and ignorance that are dangers present in both traditions. I commend it warmly to any who wish to explore further the theology and practice of Anglicans and Pentecostals in dialogue.

Amy White is the Lay Training Officer for the Diocese of Blackburn, United Kingdom.

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