However Pentecostals are cautiously in the matter of ecumenical dialogue, ecumenism itself is not alien to Pentecostal origins and current thought.Tendencies supporting ecumenism are easily found in Pentecostalism itself and it does not take much time to find them. It is also easy because they are to be found at the beginning.
EVALUATION OF THE BEGENINNGS
Any creeds or doctrines were seen as means of division. William J. Seymour inscribed himself within the same manner of thinking about ecclesiology. He pointed to the insufficiency of the temporal creeds and criticized existence of divisions in Christ’s body that was made by man. He wrote in the Apostolic Faith: ‘we are not fighting men or churches, but seeking to displace dead forms and creeds and wild fanaticisms with living, practical Christianity. ’Love, Faith, Unity’ are our watchwords, and ’Victory through the Atoning Blood’ our battle cry. ‘
Seymour argued that the unity of the church is beyond the power of humans as the church itself does not belong to humans. He rightly traced the idea of Church to the day of Pentecost when the Church began to exist. It consisted of people who were subject to the work of the Holy Spirit and they constituted the Church. This process of incorporating people into salvation (creating a Church) for Seymour did not lose its meaning or uniqueness.Problems that detract Churches from full unity are traced by Seymour to the third chapter of John’s Apocalypse.
The Revival challenged divisions among Christians as it encompassed people of different race, gender, class and language. Questions of organizing new churches, evangelizing and bringing the baptism of the Holy Spirit to the mother churches arose. Statements from the Apostolic Faith from 1906 firmly declare self understanding of giving birth to a new movement. ‘Jesus was too large for the synagogues. He preached outside because there was no room for him inside. This Pentecostal movement is too large to be confined in any denomination or sect. It works outside, drawing all together in one bond of love, one church, one body of Christ.’ The first Pentecostals did not think of organizing a new church, to be exact they did not use this category. For them a denomination was not an option, they choose all of Christendom as a target. The very first edition of The Apostolic Faith in fact announced on p. 4: ’it is not our desire to tear down churches but to make new churches out of old ones. We pray for God to send the Pentecost to every church.’ And this is what was shared among the first Pentecostals who sought to share their experience with others within their mother churches. Within this sphere the matter of evangelization appears.
Missions were one of the biggest concerns among them. And it is meaningful that many of them did not identify their missionary work as church planting. They were delivering the message of revival, their intention was not to form something new but restore something old. Tongues for a short time were seen as the new tool in situations where a missionary face people of different language. They though that tongues were God’s method to reach them, without learning their language. But for another reason tongues were given an ecumenical meaning, although implicit. Human creeds failed to unite the church, worse, they continued to split it. Hesitancy to formulate creeds in the Azusa Street Revival made space to belief that tongues are a creed directly from the Holy Spirit. It reminds me as when Salomon placed his sacrifice of 120 of sheep (1Kin 8:63; 2 Chr 7:1-3) on the altar, fire consumed it then the Temple been sanctified, and on the day of Pentecost around 120 (number repeated intentionally by Luke?) people were present when the tongues of fire sat on them to sanctify the emerging church (Act 1:15). The same happened at the Azusa Street Revival when tongues became evidence of restoring the church of God.
Restoration of Pentecost was interpreted as restoration of church unity from Apostolic times. Seymour stated that this movement ‘stands for the restoration of the faith once delivered unto the saints the old time religion, camp meetings, revivals, missions, street and prison work and Christian Unity everywhere.’
The former romantic idea of a movement led by the Holy Spirit and not organizing in a new church must have given way to reality. It was not decades but years after which those who were baptized must have adopt some form of organization.
Pentecostals soon found themselves organizing into congregations and even denominations. A will to remain free and ecumenical approach gone away for the sake of survival. When they finally organized themselves their ecumenical optimism had ceased quickly. Pentecostals were not warmly welcomed by the majority of American Christians of those times (there were pamphlets against them produced and statements of Bible Colleges published). They were pushed aside to the defensive positions and started to be accused of fanaticism, sectarianism and theological inconsistencies by historical churches. Cecil M. Robeck points out that what was their distinctive feature which previously seemed to be in favor of Pentecostals – most often people were poor, uneducated, from rural areas, mixed colors – soon turned against them and was used by their opponents to fight them. Also freedom and exuberance of Pentecostal praxis was seen as leading to chaos by members of WCC. Furthermore the original Pentecostal hope of staying free from doctrinal debates and claim to “preach the written word of God, and believe that God himself confirms it” had ceased. Again, it was only a matter of short time before the movement split over disputes about the baptism of tongues for example. Soon, the stress was shifted from experience to accepting faith constitutions, and in this order experiencing tongues receded in favor of confessing certain declarations.
But did everything that was so beautiful about Pentecostalism’s origins vanish without a trace? No, if we think about the self understanding of Pentecostals. They still do not feel quite good with calling themselves a church. The emergence of Pentecostalism was not connected with the breaking away from any Church, this is why we can think of ourselves as a movement, not another organized Church. The forming of the Assemblies of God is a good example. Its aspiration was to spread the Gospel, not to form a Church. This explains why the AoG preferred to call themselves a movement rather than a church. A movement can be directed by the Holy Ghost and church is perceived to be dead by definition, it is killed by structuring. Divisions into denominations are seen as an obstacle to the work the Holy Spirit, who, while trying to reach people, meets boundaries created by those people. That is why Pentecostals nowadays still regard themselves as a movement, and often emphasize that fact.
In 1940 Pentecostals found themselves in organized groups and soon became invited to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). In 1948 they formed the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America. The Pentecostal Movement, represented by associations, started to abandon the former unwillingness to formulate creeds and created some in order to become an equal partner in discussion with the traditional churches of those times.
Soon the contribution that Pentecostals made to Christianity worldwide became noticeable. They perceive the unity of Christians not on the basis of their own formed structures. Rather they point to the unity of poeple that has personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Since it is spiritual, it can hardly be made visible. Therefore, any attempt to form a visible unity is seen to be alertly close to the concept of Babel.
Pentecostals are not vigorous ecumenical dialogue partners and not fully open to idea of ecumenism in general. There are a few explanations for this. Some are on the side of Pentecostal intensions and some are on the side of possible dialogue partners. Pentecostals regard themselves as belonging to the invisible Church of God on the basis of relation with Jesus and are suspicious of any attempts to demonstrate this unity among members. Leaving aside the possibilities of dialogue I would ask if that visible demonstration of unity is really so important? What does it change if all stand in line only to show that unity? Is it the goal of the Church of Christ? The main concern of people within the Church should be to ensure that they obey God and fulfill His will. But, on the other hand, this focusing on personal faith becomes so important that meaning of group identity is weakened and therefore the idea of ecumenism recedes to the background.
Pentecostals find it hard to be open to ecumenical debate with, for example, Roman Catholics as they do not share similar ecclesiology. In fact the ecclesiology of both Churches differ to such an extent that they are almost at extremes. Hence, Pentecostals feel they do not have common ground to even compare themselves with Roman Catholics let alone talk about the unity of these different ideas of church.
Also Pentecostals are quick to separate from one another on the basis that would probably be overcome if they were organized. Continuing fragmentation has been fought against by older Pentecostal denominations but it has met with the opposition from those newly emerged groups who are vigorous and want to preserve independence. This readiness became a tendency and predisposition to fragment. Surprisingly this fragmentation leads to further and faster development of the movement. This is not clearly visible in Poland where single congregations seldom split, but the number of members does not grow significantly – in fact in most recent years the number of members has frozen. And this decentralized character of Pentecostalism makes it even harder to meet it in a dialogue with ecumenical partners. At his point a question could be raised: how can the divided and dividing Pentecostal churches adequately represent the catholicity of the church, much less present to the world a united witness to Jesus and the kingdom. Does the fact that Pentecostals do not demonstrate visual unity between themselves undermine their missionary efforts?
Excuses for not taking part in ecumenical dialogues that try to sound reasonable, “we are not going to forsake the truth to achieve unity” are somehow not sufficient. That kind of position makes Pentecostals appear hostile to the ecumenical dialogue in general, which is not true. I see one reason that may be rejecting the chance to dialogue with ecumenical partners. Many of the current churches opened to the idea of ecumenism are liberal in theology. They abandoned some truths that are crucial to Pentecostals (i.e. the infallibility of Scripture) and in search for common ground and for the core of the truth, they excluded all that is supernatural and keep only what is reasonable. Pentecostal may subconsciously be afraid of that mechanism and so avoid contact with liberal theology under the cloak of ecumenism.
Although there were not many times when Pentecostals joined ecumenical discussion; the unity sought for has been showing itself anyway. For example at a Full Gospel Business Men’s meeting, Pentecostals and representants of the Roman Catholic Church were present and together they praised the Lord.
Despite the aversion towards meeting other denomination in dialogue terminated the unfavorable stance in regard to formalized structures remains.
No one better than Pentecostals understand how it is to be ecumenical as they were born beyond (or above) the barriers made by Churches. Although attempts to point to a single time and place which gave birth to the Revival are being made, all affirm the truth that it was the work of the Holy Spirit, hence we perceive the barriers as alien. For Pentecostals the diversity in which were founded is the nature of living.
Pentecostals reject the idea of ecumenism in its present shape because they see it as an omen of world super church which in the Bible is identified with either the synagogue of satan or with great Babylon. The unity which this ecumenism wants to express, in the eyes of Pentecostals, would be one of hierarchy. A super-church unit somewhere in the world would dictate to other churches. On a higher level, the true bishop of the church – The Holy Ghost would be replaced by a man made structure. It would be a cutting off from the core and source of the church only to express physical unity. It would be stealing the church from its owner. And moreover it would be manifesting a physical unity of something that from definition is supernatural, spiritual.
The Church for Pentecostals is a reality that existed prior to them, conversely to sociological tendency in thinking of Protestants who think that they make the Church (Eph 1.4-14). The Church is a reality in which people are gathered and kept from condemnation and it is clear that man could not produce it, only God. We are only enclosed to it after the work of the Holy Spirit, that is through his baptism. If the church is a place in which people unregenerated people are incorporated, it becomes a mere organization. With that kind of reality – man made – Pentecostals feel obligated to disagree, since it seems to contradict God’s idea of the established body of believers. ‘The host of believers’ by definition applies to people who believed in something, were regenerated and now are guided by the Holy Spirit. More thoughts come when we reject the idea of church-organization. If the church is a group of selected people, then the issue of governing must be returned to the owner of the church – to God.
The ‘church’ founded by Jesus must have been completely different to what we regard at the church in the contemporary sense. He did not give any definition of what church is, i.e., a creed, a rite, a place of gathering. People who belonged to Him where appointed by His word only and equipped to reach others. Therefore ‘the church’ is the product of Jesus’ work and only after His departure the church was as we understand it founded by people. And again, we cannot be sure what the definition of the for the first Christians was. Johannine writings seem to support an unformalized and unorganized type of church, while on the other hand we have Pauline literature which clearly sustains a hierarchical structure. The initial reality related to Jesus bore the mark of equality, without division of those who were regular church attendants and those who were committed to serve them. It was a spiritual brotherhood. The first Pentecostals tried to reconstruct this reality under the work of the Holy Spirit.
We can speak of 500 (or more) Pentecostals in the world because we re not counting people who share the same doctrine (for example the 16 Fundamental Truths of AoG) but people who have experienced the Holy Spirit. This is ecumenism. Not creating conferences and disputing about doctrines followed by great declarations of allowing people from two denominations to participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Pentecostals seem to be the best partners for ecumenical dialogue since they are a newborn child of koinonia of all churches. It is a little misleading as we try pursue visible unity when we are ecumenism embodied. Maybe it would be a new way of thinking about the topic. Historic Churches sought to present unity among themselves and this was when the Holy Spirit came and produced Pentecostalism, reality born from the Spirit within the womb of all Churches.
1. Anderson, Allan, An Introduction to Pentecostalism. Global Charismatic Christianity, (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
2. The Apostolic Faith 1 (1906).
3. Bicknell, Richard, The Ordinances. The Marginalised Aspects of Pentecostalism, Keith Warrington (ed.) Pentecostal Perspectives, (New York: Paternoster Press 1998).
4. Black Origins of the Pentecostal Movement, in: H.V. Synan (ed.), Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975).
5. Bundy, David, The Ecumenical Quest of Pentecostalism, Ceberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 5, (1999), <http://www.pctii.org/cyberj/cyberj5/bundy.html#N_16_> [accesed 28th of March 2011]
6. Chan, S., Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000).
7. Du Plessis, David, The Spirit Bade Me Go, (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1970).
13.McClung, Grant, Try to Get People Saved. Azusa Street Missiology, Azusa Street and Beyond, (Alaucha, Fl: Bridge-Logos, 2006).
14.Robeck, Cecil, A Pentecostal Theology for a New Millenium, A Paper at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Society of the Pentecostal Studies, (Oakland, CA, 1997).
15.Robeck, Cecil, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith. Implications for ecumenism, Pneuma 8 (1986).
16.Seymour, William J., Christ’s Messages to the Church, Apostolic Faith 1, 11 (Jan. 1908).
17.Seymour William. J., The Holy Spirit: Bishop of the Church, Apostolic Faith 1, 9 (June-Sept. 1907).
20.Yong, Amos, Pentecostalism and Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future. III. Ecumenical Pentecostalism: A Historical Overview, Summer 2001 issue (Vol 4, No 3) PNEUMA REVIEW, <http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=article_ecum3.xml> [accesed: 4th of April, 2011]
21.Warrington, Keith, Pentecostal Theology. A Theology of Encounter, (London: T&T Clark, 2008).
 The Apostolic Faith 1.3 (Nov. 1906), 1, and 1.5 (Jan. 1907), 1.
Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-day Pentecost (1925; reprint, Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1980), 54.
Walter J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostal Movement and the World Council of Churches, Ecumenical Review 18 (1966), 313.
 Dale T. Irvin, Drawing all together in one body of love. Ecumenical vision of William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival, JPT 6 (1995), p. 26.
History of the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. 1895-1965, O.B. Cobbins (ed.), (New York: Vantage Press, 1966), p. 27.
 Irvin, Drawing all together in one body of love. p. 35.
 Irvin, Drawing all together in one body of love, p. 32.
 William J. Seymour and The Bible Evidence, 72-95.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p.68.
 Apostolic Faith 1, (1906), 2.
William. J. Seymour, The Holy Spirit: Bishop of the Church, Apostolic Faith 1,9 (June-Sept. 1907), p. 3.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 62.
 Irvin, Drawing all together in one body of love, p. 52.
 Irvin, Drawing all together in one body of love, p. 40.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 62.
 The Apostolic Faith Movement, The Apostolic Faith 1 (1906), p. 2.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 63.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 63.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 64.
 Keith Warrington, Pentecostal Theology. A Theology of Encounter, (London: T&T Clark, 2008) p. 173.
 Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Christengemeinden in Deutschland, Wer wir sind, by: Keith Warrington, Pentecostal Theology. A Theology of Encounter, p. 173.
 Holenweger, The Pentecostals, p. 425.
Cecil Robeck, A Pentecostal Theology for a New Millenium, A Paper at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Society of the Pentecostal Studies, (Oakland, CA, 1997), p. 3.
 Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism.Global Charismatic Christianity, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p 256.
 Karkainne, Spiritus, p. 334.
 Amos Yong, Pentecostalism and Ecumenism:Past, Present, and Future. III. Ecumenical Pentecostalism: A Historical Overview, Summer 2001 issue (Vol 4, No 3) PNEUMA REVIEW, <http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=article_ecum3.xml> [accesed: 4th of April, 2011]
 Nate Johnson, Wind, Fire and Unity: Pentecostalas and Ecumenical Dialogue, <http://www.rfiaonline.org/extras/articles/562-pentecostals-ecumenical-dialogue> [accessed: 4th of April 2011]
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 65.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 69.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 66.
 Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, p. 169.
 Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, p. 173.
 Richar Bicknell, The Ordinances. The Marginalised Aspects of Pentecostalism, Keith Warrington (ed.) Pentecostal Perspectives, (New York: Paternoster Press 1998), p. 218.
 Holenweger, The Pentecostals, p. 426.
 Warrington, Pentecostal Theology, p. 170.
 Amos Young, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, p. 167.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 66.
 Robeck, Pentecostals and Apostolic Faith, p. 69.
David Du Plessis, The Spirit Bade Me Go, (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1970) pp. 5-6.
 Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think and Discuss Theology, (Zondervan 2009), p. 70.
 Simon Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000), p. 96.
 Simon Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, p. 97.
 E. Shweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, (London: SCM Press, 1961), p. 239.
 Holenweger, The Pentecostals, p. 428.