John Allen reports: “If demography is destiny, Pentecostals are the ecumenical future.”
Pentecostalism is certainly the only place where there’s any power or passion to ecumenism, and it played a role in my own path towards ecumenism–and then the Catholic Church. In the two years after I left the Adventist church, I visited a couple of Assembly of God churches, including going to one for several weeks when we first moved to Riverside, California. Around the same time I first heard of John Michael Talbot’s “ecumenical Franciscan community,” which I joined a couple of years later, about the time its “associate” program was being reorganized as the “Little Brothers and Sisters of Charity” (now the “Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic”). This was my first exposure to Catholic charismatics. Then, in the summer of 1990, I went for the first time to the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
This dabbling in Pentecostalism broke down the doctrinal barriers to considering Catholicism. It led me to put emotion over substance, and to assume that what I was experiencing was the working of the Holy Spirit.
I think Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement is indeed “the ecumenical future,” because it provides a motivation for getting closer to other Christians that isn’t bound to structure and doctrine and breaks down prejudices. It does for more conservative Christians what the New Age movement does among liberals. And I wonder, are the two really all that different? Are they not just two sides of the same coin? I suspect it is in fact the same spirit operating in both–and not the Holy Spirit, but, rather, a Christianized form of spiritualism.