Fully Pentecostal, Fully Orthodox
Picture a Pentecostal worship service. What comes to mind? Many outsiders, no doubt drawing on a healthy storehouse of stereotypes, might imagine gatherings full of exuberant spiritual experiences, of people speaking in tongues or dancing in the aisles. Far fewer, I suppose, would envision a congregation carefully observing ancient liturgies or reverently reciting the Nicene Creed.
Emilio Alvarez, presiding bishop of the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches, is at the forefront of a movement of Pentecostal believers looking to change such perceptions. In Pentecostal Orthodoxy: Toward an Ecumenism of the Spirit, Alvarez labors to show that the two words in his title can complement rather than vie with one another. Dale Coulter, a professor at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, spoke with Alvarez for the October issue of CT.
“I define Pentecostal orthodoxy as a segment within the broader Pentecostal movement that is recovering the doctrinal consensus and the liturgical and sacramental worship of the early church,” says Alvarez. “The exciting part about that definition is that it is incomplete if we do not retain our Pentecostal spirituality and theology. The consensus of the historic church and its liturgical and sacramental spirituality must be viewed through a Pentecostal framework.
“In the book, I explore places like the Joint College of African American Pentecostal Bishops, where there are efforts at recovering base elements. What I mean by ‘base elements’ is parts of historic liturgy or vestments. However, I don’t know of many self-identified Pentecostal congregations that have tried fully integrating these ancient elements. In the Convergence-Worship movement, you can find an integration between the evangelical, sacramental, liturgical, and charismatic, but I make a distinction between the charismatic movement and the Pentecostal movement. Aside from what we’re doing at the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches—where we celebrate the Eucharist every week, believe in the real presence of Christ, and follow the liturgical calendar—I haven’t found any places that embrace all of that while identifying as Pentecostals.”