For Pentecostals, a Move Toward Racial Reconciliation

Blumhofer, Edith L. “For Pentecostals, a Move Toward Racial Reconciliation.” Christian Century 111(14):444-446. April 27, 1994.

Edith Blumhofer’s essay, “For Pentecostals, a Move Toward Racial Reconciliation,” reflects on recent plans by the predominantly white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America (PFNA) to reorganize to become racially inclusive, what this may mean for other issues of discrimination in classical Pentecostalism, and on the “historiography” of those favoring this move. Increasing calls by white Pentecostals to repent of racism, coupled with an “emerging interracial conversation” between younger leaders in both the largely black Church of God in Christ and the PFNA, promise the dismantling and reconstituting of the PFNA to reflect this change of attitude. Blumhofer, though, wonders if this change will make a lasting difference if it does not lead to the rejection of other forms of exclusivism that mark classical Pentecostalism. Also, recent attempts to interpret Pentecostalism’s beginnings—and especially the 1906-1908 Azusa Street revival—as originally inclusive across racial and gender lines, together with the accusation that the Assemblies of God fostered racial division by separating from the Church of God in Christ in 1914, raises concerns over the accuracy of these memories and, more importantly, over the way in which they function in American Pentecostalism. Blumhofer feels that such “popular wisdom” needs to tested and refined before it becomes the accepted version of Pentecostalism’s past.