Scholars of the Spirit: 50th Anniversary of the Society for Pentecostal Studies

Founding officers of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (l to r): Edward Wood, treasurer; William Menzies, president; Hollis Gause, vice president; and Vinson Synan, secretary.

This Week in AG History — February 7, 1971

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 12 February 2021

Pentecostals have been noted for their success in evangelism and missions. They have also left their mark on academia. The Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS), an organization for Pentecostal scholars, was launched a little over 50 years ago. A notice in the Pentecostal Evangel reported on the organizational meeting, held in conjunction with the 9th Pentecostal World Conference in Dallas.

SPS was the brainchild of three Pentecostal educators representing different schools and denominations — William Menzies (Evangel College/Assemblies of God), Vinson Synan (Emmanuel College/Pentecostal Holiness Church), and Horace Ward (Lee College/Church of God). With the blessing of Pentecostal World Conference leader Yonggi Cho, they invited attendees to an organizational meeting held on Nov. 6, 1970. Klaude Kendrick, former president of Evangel College, spoke about Pentecostal scholarship, and the theme of the meeting was “Following the Spirit of Truth.”

Pentecostal leaders from a variety of backgrounds attended this first meeting, including U.S. AG General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman, Yonggi Cho, and David du Plessis (an Assemblies of God evangelist who built bridges with charismatics and mainline denominations), as well as Roman Catholic priest Kilian McDonnell, who was a noted scholar of the charismatic movement.

At the founding meeting, 139 individuals who identified with the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions gathered to discuss organizing a society to promote the study of Pentecostalism. In anticipation of the meeting, Synan wrote a draft constitution and bylaws based on the existing constitutions of the Wesleyan Theological Society and the Evangelical Theological Society. Bishop D. E. Underwood (Pentecostal Holiness Church) chaired the constitutional meeting. The SPS constitution included the classical Pentecostal statement of faith held by the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America.

The society was formed with the intent “to serve the church world by providing an authoritative interpretation of the Pentecostal Movement.” Later this was clarified by identifying this group as “a scholarly forum to interpret the Pentecostal movement.”

The original name that was considered was the Society of Pentecostal Scholars, but after some discussion, the name Society for Pentecostal Studies was approved. Scholars came from a variety of backgrounds, including Trinitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Charismatics, members of classical Pentecostal denominations, and independent scholars, as well as African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups. In 1979 the society adopted the World Pentecostal Fellowship statement of purpose as the basis for full membership.

The society began with 108 charter members, and the membership has increased through the years. Since 1979, the society has published Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. The society holds an annual conference which includes lectures on various topics related to Pentecostalism. These have been held in various localities in North America, including one conference held in Guadalajara, Mexico.

This year, in 2021, the Society for Pentecostal Studies will return to Dallas for its annual meeting and to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Read more in “Society for Pentecostal Studies Launched at Dallas Conference” on page 14 of the Feb. 7, 1971, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Springs Still Flow,” by R. L. Cox

• “Baptized With the Spirit,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “It Happened 60 Years Ago,” by William F. P. Burton

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200

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