It was the largest convention ever to hit town, announced Kansas City newspapers last month when nearly 40,000 registrants arrived for “The 1977 Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches.”

Almost half of the participants were Roman Catholics. The others came from a variety of denominational and independent backgrounds. For four nights Arrowhead Stadium, the sparkling 79,000-seat home of the Kansas City Chiefs football team in the southeastern section of the city, reverberated with their singing and jubilant praises to Jesus. On three mornings they gathered in denominational and “fellowship” sub-conferences on the Holy Spirit in auditoriums, halls, and churches scattered across town. During the afternoons they congregated in dozens of workshops and seminars. The event concluded on an upbeat note in Sunday morning worship sessions at the sub-conference sites.

Because of it all, many said they will never be the same. Numerous individuals said they had gained for the first time a deep sense of oneness in Christ with Christians from other backgrounds. Some leaders expressed belief that the conference will have wide influence on Christian unity efforts.

The emotional high point of the interdenominational conference probably occurred on Friday night in the stadium. Presiding Bishop James Patterson of the Church of God in Christ pounded home the need for personal renewal. Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens of Belgium, a leading figure at Vatican Council II and in the Catholic charismatic movement, spoke gently but powerfully. “The world is dying because it doesn’t know the name of its saviour, Jesus Christ,” said Suenens. This name, he stated, is one “no one can pronounce without the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit.” ...

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