Memphis, TN - Memphis Mayor W.W. Herenton was so "moved" by the events taking place at the opening service of the first convention of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, that he did not speak from his prepared welcome, but rather asked for prayer, proclaiming, "Memphis does not need more programs, it needs the healing that comes from God."

Church leaders gathered from across North America surrounded the major and began praying for him, as almost all of the approximately 800 persons attending the service rose to their feet with shouts of "hallelujah." The Vincent DeFrank Hall of the Cook Convention Center was filled with intercession and praise.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA) was organized in Memphis, during October 1994, when blacks and whites joined in repenting of racism, expressed by the washing of each other's feet as an act of humility and apology.

Bishop Ithiel Clemmons of New York, Chairman of PCCNA, said, "We plan to tackle some tough issues, not just talking about it, but committing ourselves to doing whatever it takes."

Earlier today, at a press conference, Bishop Clemmons shared, "PCCNA leaders are in continuing dialogue, in search of an ever-deepening understanding of the Biblical principle that All have equal access to God.' Our goal is to create, encourage and intensify church-community based efforts to promote racial healing. We are calling upon churches and community leaders to speak out against bigotry and violence whenever and wherever they occur, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity of the perpetrators, exposing the evils of racism and neo-racism.' We envision that churches, colleges and other levels of Church-life address the problem of prejudice and that there be created projects that would send interracial teams into our society with the message of hope.

"MEMPHIS MIRACLE REVISITED is trumpet sound, that the Church might be reconciled. In October 1994, the trumpet was sounded; now we must begin to be equipped and our strategy given direction. Here in Memphis, we will bring ourselves together on key issues, that we can begin to build a community in which racial, ethic and cultural diversity may be affirmed through a transforming, recognizable relational bond in Christ."

Opening service speakers included Rev. Anne Giminez, co-pastor of The Rock Church in Norfolk, Virginia, and Pastor Carlton Pearson, of Higher Dimensions Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "The Church can no longer afford the luxury of racial, denominational and gender prejudices," Dr. Giminez said. "The Church, as you know it now, will drastically change."

Bishop Carlton Pearson declared, "God is doing a new thing. Denominational and racial walls are coming down. We don't need another civil rights movement. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit."

The conference will continue through Wednesday night. The day sessions, which begin at 9 a.m., are for registered delegates only. However, the 7 p.m. sessions are open to the public.

Press Release No. 2 Tuesday, October 1, 1996


Memphis, TN - Delivering the keynote address to assembled delegates, PCCNA National Chairman, Bishop Ithiel Clemmons, focused on the theme, "First Century Pentecost for 21st Century Witness and Ministry." Citing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the Book of Acts, Clemmons noted the earlier believers received a new surge of spiritual strength not only for personal transformation, but also to give them the ability to deal with the social tasks they faced.

"We'll never understand what happened in the Upper Room until we look at the disciples' attitude toward the outside world," Clemmons stated. "Early believers faced a world of need around them. God gave them power sufficient to take on the big task of making a difference on several fronts--thought and theology, morality, economics, racism, and world evangelism."

Focusing on the present, Clemmons cited three frontiers the Church is confronting: racism, prosperity, and the "encumbrance of adaptation" to societal norms. On racism, Clemmons shared, "The Church must move from behind the stockade of platitudes and generalities. The Pentecostal Church faces the task of making brotherhood and sisterhood a reality." He warned against a Church caught up in a prosperity ethic where profit motive reigns and gaining wealth is the chief goal. Thirdly, Clemmons cautioned the Church not to try to accommodate every nuance of the times. "Our purpose is not adaptation to the world, but the transformation of the world."

The task of changing the world is a big one--a task which requires Pentecostal power to accomplish. "But God doesn't waste His power," Clemmons stated. "He gives His power only to people who need it, who tackle something bigger than they can handle." On the issue of reconciliation, Clemmons adds, "The issue is too big for us. Unless God helps us, all our planning and talking will be only platitudes. But when we come to the end of ourselves and rely on God's power, that gives Him opportunity to open the door for a fresh touch of His Spirit."

Dovetailing with frontiers and challenges the church is facing were addresses, "The History of Women in Ministry" and "Releasing Women in Ministry" by the Rev. Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders and Reverend Sheri Benvenuiti respectively.

Prolific author, educator, and Associate Pastor for Spiritual Life and Leadership Development at Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., Sanders noted that women were very instrumental in leadership ministry during the early years of the holiness/Pentecostal movements. Yet, in ensuing years, the trend declined sharply. "Women in Gospel preaching have been an indicator of church vitality," Sanders stated. "But it is the nature of paganism to despise women. Revival will be marked by the partnership of men and women, with women involved in every aspect of leadership. Gifts, not gender, qualify women for positions of spiritual leadership."

Assistant professor of social ethics at Southern California College, Costa Mesa, Sheri Benvenuiti noted that as denominations formalized, the role of women in ministry declined. "The idea of authority became the center of discussion," she observed. "This was a reversal from the early days when servanthood was the focal point. But it is incomprehensible that the Holy Spirit would fill women with His power and presence only to demand they remain silent. It is imperative that the Church realize that as women become more assured of their calling and are affirmed by their leaders, they will rise to the occasion."

The conference will continue through Wednesday, October 2.

The Commercial Appeal Memphis, Tennessee October 3, 1996

Inspired by the reconciling spirit of 1994's "Miracle in Memphis," leaders of the nations two oldest Pentecostal denominations said Wednesday they are working to heal rifts that split their ranks years ago.

Leaders of the two branches of the United Holy Church, which split in a power struggle 20 years ago, said members of their respective groups will meet next week in North Carolina to try to mend the schism.

"I expect a miracle," said Bishop David Houston. North Carolina is home to both branches.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and the Church of God of Prophecy, which parted ways in 1921, said they have been meeting for months to move toward reconciliation.

"Whatever the Lord's ordering, we want to be involved in," said Bishop Billy Murray of the Church of God of Prophecy, also in Cleveland.

The announcements came one after the other and thrilled the nation's Pentecostal leaders, who met here this week at the first annual conference of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America.

"This is wonderful news and it shows that God is continuing to work miracles in Memphis," said Dr. Vinson Synan, Pentecostal historian and dean at Regent University in Virginia.

PCCNA was formed here in 1994 during an emotional meeting now called the "Miracle in Memphis."

During that meeting, black and white Pentecostal and charismatic leaders from across the continent shed their segregated past and formed a new fellowship of believers "regardless of race or gender."

PCCNA leaders returned to the Cook Convention Center this week to hold their first annual conference, which ended Wednesday evening.

Leaders say the three-day conferences was a tremendous spiritual success, though turnout for some sessions was disappointing.

Evening services drew about 8,000 {actually 800} but daytime meetings drew only several hundred {actually fewer than this}.

PCCNA chairman Ithiel Clemmons, a bishop in the Church of God in Christ, said he was particularly discouraged by the limited participation by his own denomination.

COGIC, with 5 million members, is the nation's largest Pentecostal denomination.

"This is our headquarters city and we should have filled this hall every day," Clemmons said.

Financially, officials said the conference broke even, bringing in about $25,000 to cover about the same amount of expenses. Next year's conference will be in Washington D.C. {September 22-24}.

But conference leaders say they didn't come back to Memphis to fill sears and offering plates. They came to reclaim the spirit of reconciliation that led to 1994's historic transformation.

"The greatest need in all the world is for reconciliation among the churches of Jesus Christ," said John Gimenez, co-founder of Rock Church in Virginia. "If that happens, we will see the greatest revival the world has ever seen."

Conference leaders say the "Miracle of Memphis" has inspired that sort of reconciliation among and within Pentecostal denominations. Wednesday's announcements provided more evidence.