This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at some Australian books.
Heart of Fire by Barry Chant
Adelaide: House of Tabor, 1984, 382 pages.
Dr Barry Chant has written the only comprehensive history of Pentecostalism in Australia. The 1973 edition, updated and expanded in 1984, makes fascinating reading. Every college and Christian education centre should have one. Every minister and leader in renewal needs to be aware of its story and heed its advice.
The revised edition includes twelve sermons by Pentecostal pioneers and has twenty pages of historical photographs. It also tells of the beginnings of charismatic renewal in denominational churches and in inter-church activities.
Subsequent printing and the revised edition enabled the author to correct any errors in the account and add valuable information. He wrote, ‘Not everyone apprecaited the ‘warts and all’ approach. To those who have complained that I have been too ‘honest’, I can only answer that I know of no other way to write. On the other hand, there have been widespread comments of appreciation, including many from outside the Pentecostal movement, for ‘telling it like it is’.
It tells the story of failure as well as success, of God’s grace and power amid human weakness and faithfulness. Pentecostalism has been and continues to be controversial. It must be. Wherever God’s Spirit moves in power the evil in us and in society is confronted. Pentecostalism itself is confronted, for like every movement it can lose its heart of fire and needs constant renewal (GW).
Dr Andrew Evans, General superintendent of the Assemblies of God writes,
Barry Chant is one of the leading Pentecostal ministers in Australia. … This book, I would consider as being one of the best that he has written. It is a unique record in which he has set down in accurate detail the history of the Pentecostal movement in Australia from its beginnings until now. It is the only one of its kind in print. I find it to be inspiring and filled with many interesting anecdotes. It also has an element of teaching in it; if the Pentecostal churches were to study it in depth it would help them in the future from making some of the mistakes of the past.
I have been personally blessed as I have read this outstanding account and it is my special joy to commend this book to those who are intereted in what God has done and is continuing to do through the Pentecostal movement.
The Spirit in the Church by Adrian Commadeur
East Keilor: Comsoda Communications, 1992, 143 pages.
A book about Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Australia reviewed by John Wilson, in Jesus is Alive, February 1993.
What? Another book on the Renewal? Aren’t our prayer groups’ tables already overladen with books? But hold on a minute. How many are locally produced and with the common touch as we know it? How many leave us with the feeling, ‘Wow, we really have got something here!’
The author of The Spirit in the Church outlines the story of the Renewal in Australia with special reference to his involvement in Melbourne following his eight years as a Redemptorist student. He takes us back to the 1970’s when the ‘new thing the Lord was doing’ was like new fire among us. This is a timely reminder of our younger and fervent days.
The reader is taken on the spiritual journey with Adrian the young man and ‘New Australian’ who makes discoveries about the Lord, about the Church, about Scripture, about himself. It is also the story of many of us who have been around since those days. This reader knows personally many of the circumstances and personalities mentioned. This gives the book authenticity. Adrian explains the workings of the Holy Spirit and the consequent happenings in the prayer groups and beyond. He explains with precision and sensitivity.
We may read here of the authoritative backing given to the Renewal by recent Popes and National Bishops Conferences. We read of Covenant Communities, of miracles and above all of joy in the midst of a Church otherwise in turmoil.
My question after reading the book was: ‘What other section of the Church in our day has contributed as much as the Charismatic Renewal to the Church?’ What a treasure we have, is my final reaction to reading this book. And perhaps the challenge to each of us is to appreciate ever more the treasure of Charismatic Renewal as we have it now, lest we say with shame later on, ‘Surely Yahweh was in this place and I never knew.’ I am referring to the fact that the Lord has done marvellous things already for those prepared to see. What might He do in the future?
Available from the author, 15 Holly Green Court, East Keilor, Vic 3033, Phone/Fax (03) 337 2051. Cost $12.50 posted.
Streams of Renewal, edited by Robert Bruce
Sydney: Uniting Church Board of Mission, 1991, 92 pages.
Here is a book of inspiration and encouragement concerning charismatic renewal in the Uniting Church, especially in New South Wales.
Part I, the first 22 pages, includes a summary of the developments of the healing and charismatic streams in the Uniting Church, written jointly by Don Evans, Don Drury and Robert Bruce. It is an invaluable historical record of these significant developments.
Part II gives the personal journeys of twenty people (photographs included) whose lives have been deeply transformed by these streams of renewal. Some of these people have become well known nationally, including Sue Armstrong, Don Evans, Harry Westcott, Audrey Drury, Con Stamos, Alan Robinson and Peter Savage.
Are you looking for a book to give your friends about the significance of charismatic renewal in Australia? Here’s one. It’s available at $6 ($8 including postage) from the Uniting Church Board of Mission, PO Box E178, St James, NSW 2000. Ph (02) 285 4584.
Word and Spirit by Alison J Sherington
Published in Brisbane by the author, 1992, 38 pages
Republished by Renewal Journal Publications, 2011.
Reviewed by James Brecknell, in Journey, November 1992:
Alison Sherington’s Word and Spirit has the potential to bring healing to Christian disunity concerning the role of the Holy Spirit. The booklet is subtitled Coming to Terms with the Charismatic Movement, ‘and is intended as an encouragement to be both faithful to the Word and open to the Spirit.’
Word and Spirit addresses many of the questions produced by confusion about the Word of God. Confusion seems so unnecessary in the light of Alison Sherrington’s writing. She shows that the truth of God is clear.
Her booklet clarifies topics such as the role of experiences of the Holy Spirit, problems of terminology, the desire to be baptized and filled with the Spirit, and the modern position on spiritual gifts.
The author reinforces the need for the people of God to have the right attitude to the Holy Spirit. She writes that we need to be open to God, and this means being ready to change, ready to understand the empowering of the Holy Spirit as a means for glorifying God. We should seek the Giver more than the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts are for his glory. Openness enables a living knowledge of the unity of Word and Spirit.
These reviews of the first issue of the Renewal Journal are written by Rev Dr Lewis Born, a former Director of the Department of Christian Education and Moderator in the Uniting Church in Queensland, and the Rev Prof. James Haire, Principal of Trinity Theological College and Dean of the Brisbane College of Theology.
Lewis Born wrote:
Renewal is no longer a matter of speculation. It will be recorded as one of the most significant faith history phenomena of all time. The Global Village factor makes this revival the most comprehensive international social and religious phenomena ever known.
To those who remain untouched or unexposed to renewal theology and events may I suggest that Geoff Waugh’s editorship of the Renewal Journal is a good step towards being more informed and possibly persuaded to the point of being involved, even to being a corrector of its course.
Future students of both social and church history will be surprised, both at the facts and at those who slept through them. Professor Walter Hollenweger (Missiology, Birmingham) has stated, ‘a movement which represents more or at least as many members as all other Protestant denominations taken together can no longer be considered a fringe topic in church history, missiology and systematic theology.’
Among those who still sleep are members, clergy and leaders of orthodoxy who see themselves as defenders of the faith against this threat of enthusiasm and ‘unnecessary extremes’ to traditional faith, practice and theology. Tradition and orthodoxy need to be re-defined. If New Testament Christianity is the orthodox, then what claims to be twentieth century orthodoxy may be labelled by future theological historians as in fact deviant.
No doubt some of the renewal theological emphasis runs into error, if not enthusiastic heresy. Some of its worship forms and practice are too subjective and unbalanced for my limited taste. There are many charlatans. But who would claim that contemporary ‘orthodox’ faith and practice were free of phonies and heresy?
Contemporary renewal is one of the most significant events in the history of Christianity. Don’t do a ‘Rip Van Winkle’.
James Haire wrote:
Dr Geoff Waugh, an expert in Renewal Studies over many years, has begun editing an important Australian Journal which is unique in that it gathers together renewal material from the many church groups throughout Australia and overseas.
The first issue was published in the summer of 1993 and has articles ranging from an historical view of revival movements throughout history by Geoff Waugh himself to more specific accounts or revival experiences in Arnhem Land among the Aboriginal people of Australia by Dr Djiniyini Gondarra.
There are also significant articles by Stuart Robinson, J Edwin Orr, and material from John Greenfield. In this issue all of them are centred on the theme of revival. In addition, there is material on Renewal Studies in Australia and reviews of recent books on Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
The Journal is breaking important new ground by linking renewal with ecumenical fellowship primarily throughout Australia. For that reason it is quite a new contribution in this area.
I warmly commend this fresh and ground-breaking enterprise. It looks as if it will play an important part in the Christian Church throughout this country.
Living in the Spirit, by Geoff Waugh
Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 1987, 80 pages.
2nd revised and enlarged edition 2009, Renewal Journal Publications
Review by Bishop Owen Dowling.
Many Australian Christians have experienced renewal in the Holy Spirit. Yet it would be true to say that those church members enthusiastic about renewal are often a small group within a parish, frustrated because the parish, in its overall life and direction, does not seem to be renewed.
The Joint Board of Christian Education has produced a book of eight studies on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life called Living in the Spirit. The author is Geoff Waugh, Director of Distance Education at the U.C.A.’s Trinity Theological College in Brisbane.
The assumption is that each study will take two hours, but the suggestion is made in the excellent guidelines at the beginning of the book that the course may be spread over sixteen sessions with only half the material in each chapter being attempted at each study session.
I find the study material to be balanced in theological emphasis and exceptionally well orgasnized and presented. A relavitely large group, say a parish camp as a whole, or a group meeting in the parish centre, could handle the studies, with small group activity taken as part of the operation of the whole to allow closer interaction. On the other hand I can see that the handbook would work well in a smaller home group, though I would recommend the sixteen study approach in this case.
There is a balanced approach to the controversial matter of the gifts of the Spirit. I find myself opposed to that kind of teaching which treats the list of gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 as an exhaustive list – the 9 gifts – because Paul alters the list when he gives it again in verse 28 of the same chapter. Living in the Spirit takes a wider perspective on the gifts, following Robert Hillman and his list of 27 Spiritual Gifts (see his book of that title also published by the J. B. C. E.). Hillman finds biblical evidence for 27 spiritual gifts which we should expect to see operative in the church, and rightly divides them (following 1 Peter 4:10-11) into Speaking Gifts and Serving Gifts.
The study techniques used in the book are specific and helpful. There is a good understanding of group dynamics, and exercises provided where possible answers are listed so that group members have something to start with. Bald questions without any suggested answers are often daunting; the method here seems to be one of easing people in to dealing with biblical material, and sharing their own experience along with this. Some study books go one way or the other – all on biblical references, or all experiential; this book combines both.
One feature I like of the studies is that in each one there is a ‘Voices from History’ section, with apt quotes from members of the Body of Christ from such writers as Tertullian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Francis of Assissi, Charles Finney and David du Plessis. The studies thus connect into the wider life, thought and practice of the church family, and are the richer as a result.
Those seeking to lead their parishes down a path of spiritual renewal with strong practical overtones and outcomes should look carefully at Living in the Spirit.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth