Highlights from the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2019 Annual Meeting (SPS 2019)

The plane took off from the runway, rescuing me from -30 degree weather. I was heading to the American capital to meet with Trump after he returned from his meeting with the leader of North Korea.

But I stood him up and attended the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) instead.

Throughout the week many people expressed what I felt: they look forward to SPS all year. They find it an energizing place where they are encouraged as they learn from and worship with friends, old and new—professors, students, and others with a general interest in Pentecostal-Charismatic studies.

Versions of Pentecostal History

On Thursday I thoroughly enjoyed Linda Ambrose’s presentation where she described the changing ways that Pentecostals have written their history.

Canadian Pentecostals wrote their first histories as celebrations of how God was at work building the Pentecostal Church in Canada. As time past, histories became exhortations as authors started to show concern about the spiritual vitality of the denomination. More recently, the PAOC’s Picture This! book (2018) approaches history as strategy as the PAOC is engaged in its 2020 initiative of growth and vitality.

While Linda didn’t include this in her presentation, she and Michael Wilkinson expect that their own book on the PAOC will be published in the next year or so—a book which they describe as a “cultural analysis” of the PAOC.

PAOC Statement of Faith

PAOC Statement of FaithThursday afternoon I participated on a panel concerning the current process of reviewing and refreshing the PAOC’s Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths (SOFET).

David Wells, the PAOC’s General Superintendent, explained the rationale for the process—to encourage theological vitality in the PAOC, so that truth will remain a basis for praxis. Van Johnson then presented on the process, which has included cross-country consultation and discussion. Finally, I focused on the content of the current SOFET draft, highlighting aspects that reflect key emphases in historic Pentecostalism as well as emphases in current Pentecostal scholarship.

Many people commented on how blessed we are in the PAOC to have the opportunity to engage in such conversations. And indeed we are!

Shake and Bake

On Friday night, Kimberly Alexander gave a fantastic plenary address on “Receiving the Spirit in the Early Pentecostal Body.”

A large part of her presentation described historical accounts of people shaking and being slain in the Spirit. Those who have read my book, Simply Spirit-Filled, will know that I am cautious about such experiences.

But what I really appreciated about her presentation was the attention she gave to how these people understood their experiences. For many, the experience theologically represented a crucifixion of the flesh and sanctification. She noted that before affective change came, something happened in the body.

Canadians, eh?

Another highlight for me was that I noticed a continual increase in the number of Canadians who are attending SPS. Each year we have a Canadian dinner, and it wasn’t that long ago that we could all fit around one large table in a local restaurant. Now we take up at least two very long tables!

And Some Other Amazing Things at SPS 2019

I was privileged to sit through many other creative and thoughtful presentations. In addition, in a Friday session, I presented a paper called, “What is Pentecostal Pneumatology (Other than Spirit Baptism)?” I will post the presentation on my blog in the next couple of weeks.

Finally, on Sunday I had the joy of attending a Oneness Pentecostal Church for the first time. But I will save that story for another occasion.

The next SPS meeting will take place from March 18-21, 2020, at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. If you have ever thought about attending SPS, I highly recommend you put it on your calendar! Any maybe add an extra day to go surfing.

Question: Do you have a highlight from SPS 2019 to share? Leave a comment below by clicking here.

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Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D., is the author of Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit as well as three academic books, including The Lord is the Spirit. He is a theology professor and VP of Academics at Horizon College and Seminary and serves on the Theological Study Commission for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter.


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