This essay seeks to understand theological rudiments embedded in traditional black Pentecostal spirituality to enhance spiritual formation in contemporary black Pentecostalism. Its conclusions contribute to a praxis-oriented discourse on the black folk religious tradition, black holiness Pentecostalism, and a contemporary ethnically diverse society in which black people continue to suffer disproportionately. The salient question is, what transformative proposals emerge from black ‘spiritual praxis’, or a conversation between black religious heritage and contemporary black America? While this essay does not attempt to draw conclusions for contemporary lived practice, it unearths jewels in black Pentecostal spirituality that deepen insight into faith formation in an increasingly diverse society wherein the dominant formational paradigms have lodged within the tunnel vision of Western categories.
This essay advances hermeneutical insights for emerging black pentecostal scholars to consider. The salient question is, “What distinguishes black Pentecostalism?” This study revisits James H. Cone’s sources for black theology for insight into the role of blackness in shaping black Pentecostalism. On the one hand, the study dispels the myth that black Pentecostalism is inherently a spiritual alternative to the fight for social justice. On the other hand, it calls for critical dialogue between Cone’s sources for black theology and black Pentecostalism to advance scholarship on the formation of black pentecostal hermeneutics. This essay explains that blackness is more than a cultural and experiential reality. Blackness is a theological source that correlates with other sources in shaping black Pentecostalism. Blackness, moreover, legitimates black pentecostal proclivities for the integration of the faith, spirituality, and social advocacy. Theological blackness in Pentecostalism has historically distinguished black Pentecostalism from subsequent white Pentecostalism.
Theological authority is of paramount importance for the future of African American Pentecostal public theology. Largely ignored as authoritative sources by white Pentecostals in the years following the Azusa Street Revival, black Pentecostals were often snubbed by black denominations as well. Consequently, at the traditional table of theological discourse, black Pentecostal pastors have been notably absent. The question of theological authority in black Pentecostalism can be answered, in part, by examining its historically relevant contributions to theology in general, and to black liberation theology in particular. Early social prophetic theologians left a treasure trove of leadership hermeneutics and models for public engagement. This article highlights four pastors who left legacies built on their roles as pioneers in the black Pentecostal movement. The biographic profiles reveal sources of i) historical authority within the broad contours of the black Pentecostal tradition, and, ii). innovative hermeneutics as valid models for engaging public theology.