Christianity Today: Holding Their Tongues
In the October 2009 issue of Christianity Today there is an article by Cary McMullen on the Assembly of God (AofG) called Holding Their Tongues. The article is about whether or not the distinctive teaching of speaking in tongues is being lost in the AofG through its outreach efforts.
The article begins by narratively describing Noel Rogers, AofG pastor, while attending the 53rd General Council of the AofG. Roberts is having an unhappy lunch while internally bothered by stronger matters. It was the second day of the conference and Roberts said, "I have not heard a message in tongues. When I joined the AG in 1974, it was not uncommon."
From the South Texas District, assistant superintendent Don Nordin said, "some pastor just don't believe the doctrine anymore." Others, like Terry Raburn (superintendent of the Peninsular Flordia District) disagree saying, "I frequently see manifestations of the Holy Spirit." Obviously it is an issue and that is why the South Texas District of the AofG offerd a resolution called "Reaffirmation of Pentecostal Distinctive: The Initial Physical Evidence of the Holy Spirit Baptism." This is the crux of the argument and has also been warned of by Oneness believers since Oneness and Trinitarian pentecostals chose separate paths in the 1940's.
AofG Pastors were polled on whether or not their church regularly prays for people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 28% of the Pastors agreed this was their practice while only 41% somewhat agreed. Another statistic determined whether or not spiritual gifts (in addition to preaching and teaching) were practiced regularly in worship services. 43% strongly agree and 13% somewhat disagree. Ironically, 68% of the pastors polled said that "I regularly teach that tongues is the initial physical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" while only 3% strongly disagreed.
Nordin also says that, "A lot of guys feel peer pressure to follow the trends. The trend in the circly is not to do it because it would offend somebody." James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, and AofG member since 1990 flatly stated, "It's not a live doctrine. It's not preached the way it used to be." Smith also noted though, "maybe this has not been policed the way the South Texas District wants."
The statistics, if anything, do indicate a decline whereas such a poll would offer much higher numbers of agreement in organizations like the UPCI or ALJC. On the last day of the council General Superintendent Wood announced the resolution and offered it up for a vote without debate and discussion. There was a "roar of ayes" for and an "all oppposed no" as Wood "barely paused in the silence that followed" said McMullen. "It is approved", said Wood. At least until the next council.
Check out the CT Library here for the full article.