The Pentecostal Convergence Movement
by R.W. Deese
This treatise explores the Pentecostal Convergence Movement, which requires a basic historical understanding of the Convergence Movement. Therefore, it will rely heavily on the historical research of Wayne Boosahda and Randy Sly.[i] Conversely, it will be viewed through the lens of the Orthodox-Pentecostal Movement™. There are two critical passages that, when linked, reveal the fundamental principles that form the foundation of the Convergence Movement.
1) "Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." - Mat. 13:52
2) "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." – John 17:20-23.
The convergence movement is a beautiful merging of various streams in the global Church, offering new and ancient treasures. It recognizes that the Church was established by Christ two millennia ago and has continued to evolve. As Jesus himself said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18 ESV). This ongoing evolution means that the ancient and modern Church have valuable insights to offer the larger body of Christ. It is essential to appreciate these contributions while still maintaining a biblical foundation. For many, the convergence movement answers Christ's prayer for unity. As Boosahda and Sly explain,
…this emerging movement appears to many, both observers and participants, to be another contemporary evidence of God's continuing activity in history to renew, replenish, and unify His people in one heart and purpose in Christ. Arising out of a shared desire and hunger to experience the fullness of Christian worship and spirituality, the Convergence Movement seeks to blend or merge the essential elements in the Christian faith represented historically in three major streams of thought and practice: the Charismatic, Evangelical/Reformed and Liturgical/ Sacramental. An increasing number of local congregations and leaders from many backgrounds are finding "treasures old and new" in the spiritual heritage of the Church universal.[ii]
One thing should undoubtedly be assumed – the prayers of Christ are and will always be answered. No one
can question that Christ prays by the will of the Father. Could this convergence be a part of that plan?
Brief History of Emergence and Growth
Two major spiritual and worship renewals have significantly impacted the Church since the 1950's. The contemporary Charismatic worship renewal and the Liturgical Renewal Movement have influenced Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations. The Charismatic Renewal began in the early 1960s, mainly within mainline denominations. Those involved in the Renewal aimed to combine Charismatic or Pentecostal practices, like healing, prophecy, and spontaneous worship and praise, with the more traditional elements of mainline (and later, Roman Catholic) liturgical and reformed practices.
The "Third Wave" or "Signs and Wonders Movement" is said to have started in 1978 with the ministry of John Wimber and the Vineyard Churches that followed. Southern Baptist leaders such as James Robison, Jim Hylton, and Ray Robinson witnessed a surge in the "Fullness Movement," which mainly impacted the SBC. Peter Wagner and others from Fuller Theological Seminary formalized the movement through their writings and became a filter and focal point. Some see The Third Wave as an epilogue to the Charismatic Renewal, combining Charismatic elements of worship, experience, and practice with the Evangelical tradition.
A significant influence on the Convergence Movement was the Liturgical Renewal Movement, which emerged from France in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Oxford or Tractarian Movement in the Church of England during the 19th century. This movement sparked renewed interest in early Christian worship's essential, spiritual, and structural aspects, as practiced and understood by the undivided Church in its earliest eight centuries. The movement focused mainly on the teachings of the apostolic and Ante-Nicene Fathers up until around 390 A.D. The theological and worship practices discovered and enriched during this fruitful period spilled over into mainline Protestant churches, significantly impacting them from the 1950s onwards.
The Convergence Movement, which has roots in earlier movements, emphasizes unity within the Church and a desire to learn from different traditions of worship and spirituality. Although not affiliated with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Movement, those involved in the Convergence Movement feel a solid hunger to integrate these diverse perspectives into their faith journey. Notable figures leading the way for the movement include Dr. Robert Webber, a renowned author and Theology professor at Wheaton College; Dr. Robert Stamps, former chaplain of Oral Roberts University; Peter Gillquist, a former leader with Campus Crusade for Christ and now an Eastern Orthodox priest and evangelist; Thomas Howard from St. John's Seminary; Thomas Oden, a theologian and author from Drew University; Howard Snyder, a theologian, author, and Christian educator; Stan White, formerly an Assemblies of God pastor and now an Episcopalian priest. Other influential individuals include the late David duPlessis, a prominent Pentecostal minister and a key advocate for the Charismatic ecumenical dialogue between Roman Catholics and Pentecostals; current Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey; the United Methodist liturgical Order of St. Luke; and Roman Catholic theologian Peter Hocken.
The individuals involved in the Convergence Movement come from diverse backgrounds, encompassing Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Anglican/Episcopalian and mainline Protestants, Classical Pentecostals, independent Charismatics, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox. While not all are directly involved in the movement, they have all contributed to shaping and influencing its vision, thought, and developing practices.
Robert Webber is a well-known author who has contributed significantly to the understanding and practicing Christian worship. His notable works include Worship Old and New, Worship Is A Verb and Signs of Wonder. The Phenomenon of Convergence in the Modern Liturgical and Charismatic Churches has been highly influential within the movement. In his book Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, Webber explores the trend of Evangelical Christians embracing liturgical churches and sheds light on the reasons behind this shift, a groundbreaking discovery for many who now operate with a convergence perspective.
The emergence of the new movement gained widespread attention thanks in part to Stan White, a young pastor from Valdosta, Georgia. As a fourth-generation Assemblies of God minister, he caused quite a stir when he led his independent Charismatic congregation into the Episcopal Church. In September 1990, Christianity Today published an article about White's journey titled "Why the Bishops Went to Valdosta," and Charisma Magazine, a leading voice in the Charismatic movement, followed suit with a similar piece in April of 1991. Both articles chronicled White's remarkable path toward a church that was thoroughly Charismatic, fully Evangelical, and fully Liturgical and Sacramental.
Peter Giliquist, a former leader of Campus Crusade for Christ during the 1960s, embarked on a quest with other leaders to discover the true New Testament Church. Their journey, spanning over 15 years, involved extensive research and study, culminating in the publication of Giliquist's book Becoming Orthodox - A Journey to The Ancient Christian Faith. Ultimately, their findings led them to be fully embraced by the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and the fifteen congregations they had established, consisting of 2,000 Evangelical/Charismatic believers from diverse backgrounds, were also welcomed into the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
As word of these events and essential materials began to spread, others on the "journey" - as many came to call it - took heart that God was indeed at work. Leaders and participants alike were relieved to discover they were not alone in thinking or compelled by this vision. Unexpectedly, it seemed that God was confirming His call to a vision of unity in the Body of Christ, in accordance with Jesus' prayer in John 17 and His statement in John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also. They, too, will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd." This unity would not only break down boundaries but also enrich the faith, vision, worship, and practice of the fullness of Christ in the fullness of His Church.
The Midwest is home to two significant groups of local congregations representing the Convergence Movement - one in the metropolitan Kansas City area and the other in Oklahoma City. Hosanna Church of The King, an independent Third Wave/Charismatic congregation founded in 1988, played a pivotal role in building relationships and generating interest in the convergence of streams locally and trans-locally. Under the leadership of Randy and Sandy Sly, who worked alongside founders Wayne and Stephanie Boosahda, the Church continues to raise awareness of this fresh work of God's Spirit. The convergence of thought and practice has also influenced other congregations and leaders in the Kansas City area, including those representing Episcopal, independent Charismatic, Evangelical holiness, and mainline Protestant denominations. Notably, the impact of the convergence movement can be seen in the leadership of Pastor Ron McCrary of Christ Episcopal and Pastor Randall Davey of Overland Park Church of the Nazarene in the metropolitan area.
The Church of the Holy Spirit, led by pastors Mike and Beth Owen, and the Community Church of the Redeemer, led by Dr. Robert Wise and Marguerite Wise, have significantly impacted the Oklahoma City area and beyond. Through sharing their personal journeys and building relationships with leaders in both liturgical and Charismatic circles, they have helped to formalize a national and trans-denominational focus on the movement's core values and vision.
Together with other churches and leaders across the wider Church of Jesus Christ, many now believe they are part of a historic and promising movement for the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" of Jesus Christ in our time. In further development, there is a movement expressed by the term Orthodox-Pentecostalism, which has broadened the scope of the convergence movement, doctrinally and in practice. The Assemblies of Christ Int’l is representative of this movement.[iii] Through the leadership of R.W. Deese, Anastasius Omoke, Philip Burd, and Emmanuel Julian, Sacramental, Evangelical, and Pentecostal streams converge into one unique stream.
Throughout the history of Christianity, the Church has been compared to a river with streams that bring joy to God's city, the Holy Place where the "Most High" dwells. Over time, this river has split into many tributaries, which some believe began during the Reformation, although others point to earlier periods. In their effort to purify the Church, men like Martin Luther and John Calvin laid the groundwork for countless denominations, churches, and fellowships, each claiming to represent the original Church. Today, advocates for each tributary fiercely defend their beliefs as the only accurate representation of God's true Church. The first breakaway tributary from what is referred to as the Unified Church was the Assyrian Church in A.D. 431, followed by the Oriental Churches in A.D. 451, which gave rise to many more church tributaries, such as the Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Eritrean Orthodox. The Unified Church remained somewhat united until A.D. 1054, when it split into two major rivers, the Western Church (later known as the Roman Catholic Church) and the Eastern Church (later known as the Eastern Orthodox Church). While many tributaries originate in the Eastern Church, most trace their roots back to the Western Roman Catholic Church, particularly after the Reformation. Lutherans, Calvinists, Evangelicals, Methodists, Pentecostals, and others can all trace their origins to the Western Church, whether or not they acknowledge this historical fact.
When Western Christians think about returning to the main river, they believe it is returning to the Roman Catholic Church or the Western River before the Reformation. Sometimes, they think of returning to the Eastern Church. This author advocates returning to a time when the Unified Church was at the height of theological unity, sometime after the completion of the Athanasian Creed (A.D. 500). Since we adhere to Prima Scriptura, we do not necessarily agree with all the early church fathers have taught or practiced, nor do we automatically disagree with them. However, we embrace the four early creeds of the historical Unified Church as representing the best summary of early Christian doctrinal positions: Apostles' Creed, Nicaean-Constantinople Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, and Athanasius Creed. Since then, many ecclesiastical developments have emerged – some good and some bad. Although we embrace many aspects of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, for example, not everything in that movement has been healthy for the worldwide Church. As a Pentecostal Convergence movement, we believe we have found a balance between the Ancient and Modern Church that is in union with the heart of Christ for unity at some level. Yes, we are aware that some teach that unless we are a part of their specific river, we are not part of the Church that Christ is building and preach that to practice true unity, we must embrace what they teach. However, being intellectually honest with the history of the Church, one would be hard-pressed to teach that any one river or tributary represents the fullness of the truth. All we can do is offer a small effort to cooperate with Christ's building program and His prayer for unity.
Common Elements of Pentecostal Convergence Churches
Several common elements characterize those whom the Lord draws into the Pentecostal Convergence of streams. While these are not exhaustive or in any order of importance, they seem to form the basis for the focus and direction of the Convergence Movement.
1. A restored commitment to the Lord's Table.
Most Evangelical, Charismatic, or Pentecostal streams view the Lord's Supper as a symbolic ordinance. It is an act commanded to obey and remember what Christ has accomplished on the cross. However, in the Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence movement, the Lord's Supper is a holy sacramental means through which God offers and bestows His grace for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
2. A restored commitment to the meaning of Water Baptism.
Again, most Evangelical, Charismatic, or Pentecostal streams view Water Baptism as a command symbolizing one's faith in Christ. It is nothing more than an ordinance in those groups. However, in the Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence movement, it is seen as a means of grace, providing the remission of sins of one converted.
3. A re-invigorated commitment to the meaning of the Sealing of the Holy Spirit (i.e., Chrismation or Confirmation).
Most Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals see the Sealing of the Holy Spirit occurring automatically at conversion. However, some Charismatics and Pentecostals add that one receives extra empowerment when receiving Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Those within the Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence movement do not agree that the Sealing of the Holy Spirit takes place at conversion, but rather at a separate time, usually after water baptism, and will always include the ability to speak in other tongues.
4. An increased appetite to know more about the early Church.
Many Christians today feel a disconnect between the modern-day Church and the teachings of the New Testament, leading to a lack of historical context and a sense of aimlessness. However, there is a growing interest in exploring the early Church and its Scriptural and historical practices, which can help establish a shared connection to God's Kingdom. By examining the writings of those who learned directly from the Twelve and their followers, we gain valuable insights into how the early Church approached matters of faith and worship and how it provided leadership to a growing movement. By tracing the lineage of the Body of Christ through successive generations, we can witness both the triumphs and the struggles of faith. This shift in perspective has sparked a renewed sense of purpose and identity within the church community. Within the Orthodox-Pentecostal paradigm, we consider ourselves an Ancient-Modern expression of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
5. A love and embrace for the whole Church and a desire to see the Church as one.
For many years, different expressions of Christianity have remained distinct due to sectarianism and denominational separatism. However, Convergence churches are breaking down these barriers and encouraging appreciation and learning about the unique aspects of various bodies of faith. In John 17, Jesus prayed for the Church to become one - one united Body of Christ, without compromising doctrine or dogma, but rather, unified under Jesus Christ himself. This sense of unity celebrates and embraces the diversity of the Church rather than dismissing it. Within the Orthodox-Pentecostal Convergence, we value the investment that each stream of the Church brings. We strive to portray a united people under Christ, positively impacting the world while holding to our theological distinctions where necessary.
6. An interest in integrating more structure with spontaneity in worship.
As the Holy Spirit works in powerful ways throughout the world, it has become apparent that new structures are needed to contain the potential of His new wine. While many Christian futurists expected these structures to be more open and spontaneous churches with a reduced emphasis on hierarchy, the independent spirit prevalent among North American Christians suggests that such a structure would be akin to pouring wine into a fishing net. The Christian Church did not begin a few hundred years ago.
The flames of faith are being kindled in churches where liturgical forms provide a safe framework for worship, allowing for the impartation of power without fear of error. Liturgies are being reintroduced to create a balanced approach to worship that incorporates all elements of Scripture necessary for worshipping God in spirit and truth. The word "liturgy" means the "work of the people," making worship a collective effort of the body in praise, repentance, hearing the Word, and celebrating Christ's death and resurrection.
Spontaneity is always welcome within these forms, and historic creeds like the Apostles' and Nicene Creed provide the Body of Christ with a solid foundation of orthodoxy. Convergence churches blend the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical resources with spontaneous praise and worship. The Lord's table is being celebrated with a greater sense of reverence, and churches are following the Christian year and church calendar more consistently, taking their people on an annual journey of faith. These expressions create a stronger connection between local fellowships, the Church worldwide, and throughout history. We encourage a less formal liturgy within the Orthodox-Pentecostal churches, but not a non-existent one. Liturgies are the foremost challenging aspect for our churches.
7. A greater involvement of signs and symbols in worship through banners, crosses, Christian art, and clerical vestments.
The modern Church has embarked on a mission to reclaim the arts in the name of Christ. Through the use of signs and symbols, greater truths are represented. Banners and pageantry have found renewed purpose within the Church, while other symbols connect two realities: the external symbol and the internal spiritual reality. In a surprising shift, crosses and candles now feature in processionals of some churches that had previously viewed pageantry as a sign of lost faith.
As part of the Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence movement, certain pastors now don clerical collars and vestments during various services, worship settings, and church celebrations. The collar serves as a symbol of spiritual reality, an acknowledgment of being yoked with Christ, and an identification with and message to the Church as a whole - prophetically proclaiming, "Be one!"
8. A continuing commitment to personal salvation, Biblical teaching, and the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Some individuals observe the "new direction" taken by convergence churches from the Evangelical, Charismatic, or Pentecostals but remain hesitant. Their apprehension stems from a worry that these churches are forsaking their roots and may compromise the importance of Biblical infallibility and personal conversion in pursuing liturgical and sacramental practices. This concern is often rooted in negative personal experiences with specific expressions of the Church or an inaccurate generalization. With a balanced approach, the Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence churches see that some liturgy and spiritual gift expressions bring health to churches.
The Church's profound and invaluable Biblical tradition, emphasizing the power and supremacy of the Word, has been reinforced through an increased focus on corporate Bible reading during worship services. This practice aligns with Paul's guidance to Timothy to "dedicate yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and teaching." Interestingly, liturgical services on Sunday mornings often feature more Scripture readings than Evangelical or Charismatic gatherings.
The Orthodox-Pentecostal convergence movement is expected to profoundly impact the future of the Church, particularly in Pentecostal congregations. Those who have experienced the spiritual gifts in a Pentecostal church will long for their liturgical traditions but question if they should return. Embracing the Pentecostal convergence movement will help those who long for a church with activated spiritual gifts have a deep sense of security being established within the perimeters of the historical Church.
On the other hand, Pentecostal churches will enjoy greater security because of a stronger connection to the Church of history and an experience of a deeper relationship with Christ as they embrace the sacraments. This enthusiasm for traditional forms combined with open expression of spiritual gifts is sure to spread, rekindling the passion for God of those who may have lost it. Expect to see a renewed focus on sacramental theology and practices, initiation rites, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the future of His Church.
Boosahda, Wayne, and Randy Sly. The Convergence Movement. Ed. Robert Webber, 1992. Accessed February 1, 2023.
[i] Boosahda, Wayne, and Randy Sly. The Convergence Movement. Ed. Robert Webber, 1992. Accessed February 1, 2023.