The laying on of hands may seem like sentimentalism to the non-Christian outsider, or superstition to the modern thinker, or Roman foolishness to the fundamentalist. But for those who are in the Church catholic–Western, Eastern, Reformational, and Pentecostal–the laying on of hands is a deeply Scriptural, communally significant practice. It is not merely the presence of physical touch in the worship of the community, but an expression of Spirit-empowered anointing intended for the life of the Body of Christ. While many in American evangelicalism happily place hands on those they pray for, and many have even considered that what they are doing is beneficial and biblical, this is quite different from the laying on of hands as practiced by historic Christianity or by Pentecostals. Read the rest of this entry »
My news feed has been ablaze with people talking about church and God and life with Christ, and what’s optional vs. what you have to do.
First off, if this is Christianity in its most foundational concerns, I want out. Clearly, the Gospel doesn’t give us a list of options and preferences or a list of do’s and don’ts. Yes, there is an obedience of faith, but I’m not talking about that yet. In the Gospel– in the faith once for all delivered to the saints– we are confronted by the love of a Father who won’t be denied, the hope-filled sacrifice of a Son who won’t be deterred and the joyful presence of a Spirit who won’t be diminished.
Second, The Triune God draws, calls and adopts each of us by name and makes us a single family–the Church. The goal was never, is never and will never be “Me and Jesus.” Or even “We and Jesus.” It’s always been JESUS. And you can’t be one with him if you aren’t one with his Body.
Third, none of our gifts and spirit-empowered passions and abilities can be made sense of apart from (1) the proclamation of Christ and him crucified, (2) the empowerment and refreshment provided by the Holy Spirit in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and (3) the direction and submission to the authorities that the Holy Spirit has made overseers in the Body of Christ. There are no Cowboy Christians. We are all utterly dependent on the Body, which in turn is utterly dependent on the Head–Jesus Christ, who is present through the Spirit and interceding before the Father.
So, in American Anglicanism, we talk about “3 Streams” — Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic Anglicans. Some churches consider themselves one of the three. Others try to blend two or all three together. In a class, some of the emphases were described this way:
- Catholics: Fed by Jesus in eating the Eucharist to re-vitalize faith.
- Evangelicals: Friends with Jesus who seek to encounter him in relationship.
- Charismatics: Filled with the Spirit of Jesus to experience God’s power for renewal.
This is deeply dissatisfying. If these are accurate characterizations, they feel very shallow and incapable of sustaining Christian faith, much less the Anglican tradition. Tribes like this can’t. But there are most is certainly distinctive ethos types within Christian faith, but they aren’t what’s above. Instead, we should consider the different ethos types within the Church, understand their place in our personal spiritualities, our corporate spiritualities, and faithfulness to Christian tradition but above all, in relation to our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s some of the broad types or streams that are legitimately within Christian spirituality:
- Orthodox/Catholic (Eastern/Western)
- Reformation (Lutheran/Reformed)
- Primitive (Baptist/Methodist/non-denominational)
- Pentecostal (Wesleyan/Finished Work/Global)
Alright, so I’ve been sitting on this footwashing thing for awhile. Why? Because it’s not an easy question. Even though a number of small Baptist groups, Brethren churches, and a number of the Pentecostal churches observe Footwashing as the third ordinance or sacrament, the reality is that through much of Church history, it has not been regarded as a one by most of the Church. It’s never gone out of practice, however, and many liturgical traditions observe footwashing in some way on Maundy Thursday or, as in the early centuries of Christian practice, at baptism. So what’s someone who is both Pentecostal and Anglican to do?
The Gospel of John’s an interesting take because, unlike the other Gospels, John does not record for us the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He has the most content of what Jesus said at the supper of all the Gospels, but he doesn’t give the command about the Eucharist. But he does provide the only account of the Lord washing the feet of the disciples. The question is, does John give us this story instead of the institution of the Lord’s Supper?
People far wiser and educated and more thoughtful than I have given that question a lot of consideration and I’m not sure that there’s any clear consensus (feel free to correct me, scholars). Some will cite Tertullian, or Augustine, or early synods that seem to assume the practice. But everyone has to tangle with the fact that no binding “formularies” (creeds, councils, confessions, articles of religion) hold footwashing as one of the sacraments of the Church. Some Brethren scholars make a compelling case to see it as sacrament, however.
But I don’t want this to be a scholarly argument. I don’t know the answer to the question. I know I want footwashing to be a sacrament practiced in the Church. I also want to not cause those kind of waves! Our Pentecostal forefathers and foremothers found great joy and fellowship with Christ in this rite. They experienced the fellowship of the Spirit and a strengthening for their Christian lives that complemented the Lord’s Supper. They knew that Jesus was there in that service.
When I read John 13, and hear Jesus say, “Just as I have done for you, you ought to do for one another” I can’t help but think that he meant it just as he said it. It’s not popular or glitzy and you can’t dress it up as fancy as baptism or the Lord’s Supper can be. But there’s something to it. There’s something of the presence of Jesus there that is more like Baptism and the Eucharist than not.
What do you think? Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences!
- Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
- Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
- Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing
Part 3 may have made some waves. I’m okay with that. We were once a whole movement of wave-makers and earth-shakers, and what happened since is the subject of books and articles by church historians and theologians who have a far better grasp around the issues than I do. But if we’re to be a Pentecostalism for the Church, we have to take our practice of Baptism that seriously– we have to remember it’s about Jesus, not us. Read the rest of this entry »
So there may be some confusion as to why I started with the Lord’s Supper. In the “order” of sacraments, baptism should be first in our experience of the Kingdom of God. It’s why I “held back” from Communion until I could be baptized. But when we’re dealing with a Pentecostal approach to the sacraments, we also have to recognize that to shake the assumptions that have often invaded from our evangelical friends (that it’s “just symbolic”), it helps if we first recognize Jesus’ presence in the Lord’s Supper before we tackle Baptism. In the interest of full disclosure here, I’m going to argue something that few Pentecostals will–at first–accept as valid, but if we are consistent in our baptismal theology, it’s where we end up. Read the rest of this entry »
So in Part 1, I laid out a theology of the Lord’s Supper focused on Jesus’ presence. Chris Green’s book, “Towards a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper” does, in fact, lay out that early Pentecostals undeniably upheld the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. In this part, I want to write more of my own testimony and experience of the Lord’s Supper. Read the rest of this entry »