The charismatic movement in the U.S. marks its golden anniversary this year, having begun with Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett in 1960. For more than a hundred years, its parent movement, Pentecostalism, has popularized practices such as speaking in tongues and prophesying. The younger charismatic movement surfaced when many North American Christians in mainline denominations began adopting similar practices.
Vinson Synan, a professor of church history at Regent University in Virginia Beach, documents the movement's development in An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit (Chosen/Baker). CT online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Synan about Pentecostalism's past and future.
What to you has been one of the most unexpected changes of the past century?
The biggest surprise was the Catholic-charismatic renewal that started in 1967. That came as an utter shock to me, to most of my friends, and probably to the Catholic Church. It gave legitimacy to the movement, that the largest and one of the oldest churches in the world was seeing a Pentecostal movement.
What has been the high point of the movement?
The movement reached a climax in America around 1977 during the Kansas City Conference, because all the different streams came together. The 50,000 people in the stadium showed the vigor and force that was sweeping the world. National television and magazine outlets wrote about the conference, and Regent University was formed the year after that.
How about the low point?
The televangelist scandals of the late 1980s involving Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. That put a black mark on the movement. It didn't stop the movement from growing, but it was so publicized; the whole world watched. A lot of the independent ministries ...1
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