Charismatic movement

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Charismatic movement, or Charismatic renewal, refers to spirit-filled worship services and Masses (e.g., integration of Third-force Christianity) within certain Christian denominations.

It is sometimes considered a synonym for Pentecostalism; however, the two differ in that while all Pentecostals would fall within the charismatic movement, not all who are charismatics are Pentecostals. There are charismatics within Evangelical, mainline, and even Catholic churches.

The distinctive characteristic of early Methodism in the United States that most appealed to people and resulted in conversions and joining the Methodist Church was not a theological concept, such as Arminianism, but rather was "enthusiasm," including dreams, visions, supernatural impressions, miraculous healings, Speaking in tongues, swoons, and trances.[1]

Inspired by revivalist and fundamentalist movements, the Pentecostal movement was founded in Topeka, Kansas, by Charles F. Parham, a Methodist preacher. The most prominent occurrence in the early history of Pentecostalism was the 1906-09 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This event was marked by great emotional excitement, relatively brief interracial harmony, and an obsession with speaking in tongues and healing. It was touched off by the preaching of William J. Seymour, a black preacher who had absorbed Patham's teachings. Glossolalia became a central issue in it, as a criterion for baptism. It was organized into the Assemblies of God which founded many missions.


In recent years, Speaking in tongues and the demonstration of other Charismatic practices has become common in some Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches.


In Wales, the preacher and miner Robert Evans (b. 1879) initiated a revivalist movement that spread to Europe. The first true European Pentecostalist movement was organized by Thomas H. Barratt in Oslo, Norway after a trip to the United States in 1906.


In the 1830s leaders of the Mormon church encouraged members to practice glossolalia, the unintelligible ecstatic speech often called the gift of tongues. A chief advocate of speaking in tongues among the early Mormons was Sidney Rigdon, a one-time Campbellite minister who had converted to Mormonism in 1830. This practice, considered sincere in most cases, eventually brought about social strife and institutional instability, and was thereafter officially discouraged. The dawning of the 20th century saw a decline in the acceptability of speaking in tongues. From 1900 until the present it has seldom been seen.

For American Pentecostalists, speaking in tongues served to authenticate the Spirit's special baptism, but for many in India and other areas outside the United States speaking in tongues was not an absolute requirement for identification as a Pentecostalist.

The possession trances of southern Appalachian serpent-handling sects are stylized, controlled, and conventional activities adopted by people well-adjusted to their Pentecostal religious environment. The 'power' of these trances includes glossolalia, serpent and fire handling, strychnine drinking, miracle working, casting out devils, healing, prophecy, and discerning spirits.


In 1967 the emergence of Catholic Pentecostalism surprised many inside and outside the Church. Its origin was among thousands of Catholic lay leaders. This movement's beginning is marked by Catholics publicly speaking in tongues.[2]

Further reading


  1. John H. Wigger, "Taking Heaven by Storm: Enthusiasm and Early American Methodism, 1770-1820" Journal of the Early Republic 1994 14(2): 167-194 in JSTOR
  2. Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. (Eerdmans, 1997). 340 pp., page 240, 243

See also