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The Pentecostal movement within Protestant Christianity places special emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism may be viewed as a subset of the Charismatic movement which may also include Catholic members.
Theologically, most Pentecostal denominations are aligned with evangelicalism in that they emphasize the reliability of the Bible and the need for conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. While there is cross pollination with other movements, Pentecostals differ from other Fundamentalists by placing more emphasis on personal spiritual experience (often emotional), and, in most cases, by allowing women in ministry.
The distinguishing characteristic of Pentecostalism is its emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is seen as evidence that a person has received one of many blessings or spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most major Pentecostal churches also accept the corollary that those who don't speak in tongues have not received the blessing that they call "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit." Critics charge that this doctrine does not mesh well with Paul's criticism of the early Corinthian church for their obsession with speaking in tongues (see 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14 in the New Testament). However, the idea that one is not saved unless one speaks in tongues is rejected by most major Pentecostal denominations.
Some churches claiming the Pentecostal label hold to "Oneness theology", otherwise known as Modalism, which denies the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. The largest Pentecostal "Oneness" denomination in the United States is the United Pentecostal Church. Oneness Pentecostals, sometimes known as "Jesus only" or "apostolic" Pentecostals for their belief that the original apostles baptized converts in the name of Jesus only, believe that God has revealed Himself in three different roles rather than believing that God exists in three distinct persons sharing one substance. The major Pentecostal organizations, however, including the Pentecostal World Conference and the Fellowship of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America, have condemned Oneness Theology as a heresy, and refuse membership to churches holding this belief.
Modern Pentecostalism began around 1901. The commonly accepted origin dates from when Agnes Ozman received the gift of tongues (glossolalia) at Charles Fox Parham's Bethal Bible College in Topeka [Kansas] in 1901. Parham, a minister of Methodist background, formulated the doctrine that tongues was the "Bible evidence" of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Parham left Topeka and begin a revival ministry which led to a link to the Asuza street revival through William J. Seymour whom he taught in Houston.
The expansion of the movement started with the Azusa Street Revival, beginning April 9, 1906 at the Los Angeles home of a Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lee when Mr. Lee experienced what he felt to be an infilling of the Holy Spirit during a prayer session. The attending pastor, William J. Seymour, also claimed that he was overcome with the Holy Spirit on April 12, 1906. On April 18, 1906, the Los Angeles Times ran a front page story on the movement. By the third week in April, 1906, the small but growing congregation had rented an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal church at 312 Azusa Street and organized as the Apostolic Faith Mission.
The first decade of Pentecostalism was marked by interracial assemblies,"...Whites and blacks mix in a religious frenzy,..." according to a local newspaper account. This lasted until 1924, when the church split along racial lines. When the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was formed in 1948, it was made up entirely of Anglo-American Pentecostal denominations. In 1994, Pentecostals returned to their roots of racial reconciliation and proposed formal unification of the major white and black branches of the Pentecostal Church, in a meeting subsequently known as the Memphis Miracle. This unification occurred in 1998, again in Memphis, Tennessee. The unification of white and black movements led to the restructing of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America to become the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America.
About the latter third of the 20th century there was a movement of Pentecostalism, sometimes called the Charismatic Movement into the mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic church. Unlike earlier Pentecostals, they did not leave their churches for strictly Pentecostal churches, or found new denominations. Their motto became, "Bloom where God planted you."
The largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States today are the Church of God in Christ, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Assemblies of God. According to a Spring 1998 article in Christian History, there are about 11,000 different pentecostal or charismatic denominations worldwide.
The size of Pentecostalism in the U.S. is estimated to be more than 20 million and also including approx 918,000 (4%) of the Hispanic population, counting all unaffiliated congregations, although exact numbers are hard to come by, in part because some tenets of Pentecostalism are held by members of non-Pentecostal denominations in what has been called the charismatic movement.
Pentecostalism was conservatively estimated to number around 120 million followers worldwide in 2000; other estimates place the figure closer to 400 million. The great majority of Pentecostals are to be found in Third World countries (see the Statistics subsection below), although much of their international leadership is still North American. Pentecostalism is sometimes referred to as the "third force of Christianity." The largest Christian church in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, a Pentecostal church. Founded and led by David Yonggi Cho since 1958, it had 780 000 members in 2003.
Source: Operation World by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, 2000.
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