Pentecostal Churches in Transition

Analysing the Developing Ecclesiology of the Assemblies of God in Australia


The global growth of Pentecostal movements during the course of the twentieth century has been widely documented although, to date, there has been little written on their developing ecclesiology. After making the case for a concrete rather than idealised approach to ecclesiology, this book describes and analyses the transitions that have framed the ways in which Australian Pentecostals have understood church life and mission. From a loosely knit faith missions movement, to congregational free church structures, to the so-called apostolic models of mega-churches, Australian pentecostalism stands as a microcosmos of ecclesial developments that have occurred throughout the world. This book, therefore, provides a means of reflecting upon what has been gained and lost in the process of ecclesiological change.

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Shane Clifton, PhD. (2005) in Theology, Australian Catholic University, is Academic Dean and Lecturer in Theology at Alphacrucis College in Sydney. He is editor of the Australasian Pentecostal Studies journal, and co-author of Globalization and the Mission of the Church.
"Shane Clifton is a rising star in Pentecostal studies. This study of the Assemblies of God Church in Australia combines a unique ecclesiological methodology with a fine historical sense to produce a historical ecclesiology for the movement, one that is of relevence for Australia and beyond. Putting aside idealistic approaches, Clifton's approach is grounded in the historical data, tracing the movement of the Church since its inception to the present day, providing a theological evaluation of its key transitions. This is groundbreaking work." - Prof. Neil Ormerod, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, Australia
"Clifton offers the reader a compelling narrative of the history of Pentecostalism in Australia, granting us in the process a microcosm of a global Pentecostal movement that has experienced rapid change and growth over the decades of the twentieth century. Rather than starting with an ecclesiological ideal, he grounds his reflection in the concrete symbols and realities that have emerged historically within Australian Pentecostalism. This ecclesiology from below occasions a skillful discussion of the tensions and problems involved in Australian Pentecostalism as well as the positive possibilities for realizing its commitment to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He thus signals a fruitful way forward for joint reflection among the churches across confessional and cultural boundaries on how we may realize together the implications of our most promising symbols." - Frank D. Macchia, Vanguard University, USA

Preface ... vii

Chapter One. Pentecostal Ecclesiology ... 1
1.1 Developing a Concrete Ecclesiological Method ... 7
1.2 Assessing Progress and Decline ... 21
1.3 Summary ... 26

Chapter Two. From Faith Missions to Churches, 1800s to 1930s ... 27
2.1 Pre-narrative: The Global Currents of Voluntarist Revivalism ... 28
2.2 Analysis: Transcendence, Transformation and Breakdown ... 38
2.3 Narrative: The Emergence of Pentecostalism in Australia ... 50
2.4 Analysis: From Faith Mission to Church ... 68
2.5 Summary ... 79

ChapterThree. Formation of a Democratised National Fellowship, 1930s to 1960s ... 81
3.1 Narrative: Forming a National Assembly ... 81
3.2 Analysis: Assessing Institutionalisation ... 113
3.3 Summary ... 13

Chapter Four. Growth, Controversy and Revolution, 1960s to present ... 137
4.1 Narrative: Charismatic Revival and Radical Change ... 137
4.2 Analysis: Global Debates about the Apostolic Revolution ... 169
4.3 Summary ... 205

Chapter Five. Conclusion: Looking Forward and Thinking Globally ... 207
5.1 Social Values ... 208
5.2 Cultural andTheological Values ... 214
5.3 The Australian Story and Global Pentecostalism ... 221
5.4 Final Comment ... 225

Bibliography ... 227
Index ... 243
Students, scholars and church leaders interested in ecclesiological method in general and Pentecostal churches in particular. This includes those wanting to understand and analyse ecclesiological change.
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