The Place of Pentecost: David Johannes du Plessis, the Assemblies of God, and the Development of Ecumenical Pentecostalism
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This dissertation focuses upon the work of the Reverend David J. du Plessis, an individual with deep connections to both denominational Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement in mainline American churches of the 1960s. His lifelong spiritual journey, ecumenical efforts, and ubiquitous presence in the Spirit-based revival constitutes a significant portion of this project. This study also analyzes the Assemblies of God, the classical Pentecostal denomination that grappled most with the growing renewal movement and the unwelcome implications of du Plessis’s work.Du Plessis favored a Pentecost set free and remained unconcerned with matters structural or denominational. He focused upon the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and came to share his experience with any Catholic or Protestant who would listen. For him the Charismatic Movement, rather than a means of bolstering classical Pentecostal denominations, was instead God’s great mechanism for renewing the Church and bringing all believers into spiritual unity. The Assemblies of God, by contrast, remained hesitant to accept either the new revival or the broadly ecumenical overtones of du Plessis’s ministry. Their 1962 decision to defrock the evangelist for his activities represented caution born out of long-held conservatism and their own history of controversy with uncontrollable schismatics. Quite simply, the speed with which du Plessis moved and the boundaries he summarily ignored raised too many concerns for a group seeking a practical Pentecost.Though the Assemblies of God eventually began embracing charismatics and readmitted du Plessis into their ranks in 1980, associated ecumenical dialogue often happened only under their aegis and on their terms. A tacit debate persisted over whether classical Pentecostalism should shepherd such revivals or if the Charismatic Movement must continue as a separate renewal in places ecclesiastically and theologically diverse. Even so, that du Plessis and the Assemblies of God could come together to accept charismatics with a common Pentecostal encounter suggests great potential for unity within such shared spiritual experience. This project thus highlights the debate over the “place of Pentecost” and recalls the contributions of an often forgotten Pentecostal ecumenist.
A dissertation submitted to the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Introduction: Uncovering Pentecost
Chapter one: A practical Pentecost
Chapter two: The path of Pentecost
Chapter three: Irreconcilable Pentecosts
Chapter four: Not Babel, but Pentecost
Chapter five: Pentecost set free?
Conclusion: The lessons of Pentecost
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viii, 289 pages
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