Ecumenical News International
ENI News Service
28 September 1998

Theologian tells Pentecostals to be less defensive and more ecumenical ENI-98-0436

Havana, 28 September (ENI)--Pentecostal churches should have the courage to overcome their traditional defensive attitude and re-adopt the vision and the practices that inspired the early years of the Pentecostal movement, according to Chilean theologian, Juan Sepulveda.

In a speech on "Pentecostalism and Ecumenism", given during a Latin American Pentecostal Meeting (EPLA-98) from 23 to 27 September in Cuba, Sepulveda said that Pentecostalism's origins were profoundly ecumenical. However, over time, the negative reaction of mainstream churches to Pentecostal campaigns had prompted Pentecostal churches to move further away from the mainstream and to think of themselves as churches separate from the rest of Christianity.

"Other churches were not willing to appreciate the positive aspects and the renewal that marked Pentecostal movements," said Sepulveda, according to the Latin American and Caribbean Communications Agency. "Everything was rejected, condemned and ridiculed [by other churches] and in many cases the Pentecostal experience was described as the work of the devil," he said.

This was one of the factors that forced Pentecostal groups within the mainstream churches to set up separate churches, he said. Then the gulf grew wider because of the "self-awareness" that Pentecostals began to acquire.

"The new Pentecostals felt that God had begun to return the church to its spiritual purity, and they began to view their church as a community of those who had also been restored by the power of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit," he said.

This perception led them to begin to judge other churches as "mere human institutions".

However, no church possessed the "complete Gospel", Sepulveda said, pointing out that this mistake had been one of the causes of Pentecostal "impoverishment". The ecumenical movement was a gift of the Holy Spirit, he added. A return to the visions of early Pentecostalism would allow Pentecostal churches to accompany the churches that were trying to "walk
together in ecumenical hope"


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