This paper traces the response of CIM and OMF leadership to the challenges of accepting members from Pentecostal and charismatic backgrounds into a mission that is broadly evangelical. These challenges have not gone away. The discussion concludes with considerations about how we can maintain unity amidst differing theological understandings and practices.
Walter McConnell’s journey began in western Washington State where he first discovered the twin joys of roaming in the mountains and delving into God’s word. Many trips to and from California allowed him to earn a BA at Biola before flying off to Taiwan for a two-year short-term experience. His eyes opened to the needs, he returned to North America where he gained an MCS at Regent College in Vancouver before joining OMF in 1987. After serving in Taiwan for two terms and earning a PhD in Old Testament, Walter joined the faculty at Singapore Bible College. He now heads OMF’s mission research department and enjoys traveling and hiking with his wife Claire. When not in Singapore, they make their home near the north coast of Northern Ireland.
CIM/OMF and the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement
Mission Round Table Vol. 11 no. 2 (May-August 2016): 4-14
The foundations of the modern pentecostal movement is usually traced to the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles led by William Seymour, a black preacher who was born in Louisiana and soundly converted to Holiness theology while attending a Church of God in Cincinnati. Early in 1906, Seymour was invited to help pastor a Holiness church in the heart of Los Angeles. Though the door to that church was soon barred because of his preaching about speaking in tongues, he secured an abandoned mission building on Azusa Street which became the wellspring of a revival that quickly crossed ethnic, linguistic, and national boundaries. For three years people flocked to the dilapidated building to witness the strange events that were happening. Some came to experience a new work of the Holy Spirit and to be filled with his power. Others gathered to gape at the spectacle of “holy rollers” laid out on the floor and to marvel over the strange syllables uttered throughout the assembly. Yet others determined to evaluate the movement according to biblical revelation, many of whom were not convinced by the explanations given for the manifestations.
In the years since the Azusa Street revival similar responses have followed pentecostal teaching wherever it has spread. The vigor of worldwide pentecostal and charismatic churches bears witness to the difference it has made in the lives of many and of its missionary roots. But despite its growth, many remain cautious about the movement because of the phenomena and some teachings that are associated with it. And while some are attracted to the movement by their study of the Bible, others remain unconvinced that Scripture supports the modern practice of some phenomena or that explanations given for them are based on sound exegesis of relevant biblical texts.
Photo of Azusa Mission Hall, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival#/media/File:AFM_on_azusa_street.jpg
This paper examines, not the movement as a whole, but the response of the China Inland Mission and its successor the Overseas Missionary Fellowship to the theological dilemmas that arose with the spread of the pentecostal and charismatic movements beginning in the early twentieth century, particularly as it impacted membership. It should come as no surprise that members of the organization reflected the common responses in the church and society at large. But while the reaction of the missionaries on the ground is a good gauge of the mission’s response, of greater importance is the overall stance of the organization as laid down by leadership reflected in their decision making and policy documents. It is mainly these “official” stances that are of interest here. Though different members and friends of CIM/OMF at different times may have been able to say, “But that wasn’t my experience,” the intent of this paper is to consider the authoritative texts intended to steer mission practice.
The kinship between the Pentecostal and charismatic movements can be identified through a number of distinctively Spirit-focused doctrines such as the continuation of New Testament spiritual gifts in the present church and (usually) an emphasis on the baptism in the Spirit following regeneration. Despite these similarities, Pentecostals and charismatics exhibit such a broad range of theological understandings of certain issues that it is not possible to paint all with the same brush. While most have maintained their roots in the holiness movement, and many hold to the major doctrines accepted by early twentieth century fundamentalists and premillennial dispensationalism, others border on heresy or cross the line by a wide margin. Discussions of pentecostal and charismatic Christianity should never refer to it as “liberal” in contrast to evangelicalism or treat heretical strains as though they represent the whole movement.
2. Common backgrounds
Though it is rarely appreciated, both the China Inland Mission and the pentecostal movement emerged from similar backgrounds as they were both greatly impacted by the broader evangelicalism that sprang from the First and Second Great Awakenings. Klaus Fiedler’s study of faith missions identifies three movements that influenced the development of the CIM and similar organizations: “the holiness movement, the Brethren movement and the prophetic movement.” This list is echoed in and augmented by a standard work on the pentecostal and charismatic movement which discerns its roots in (1) Wesleyan holiness, (2) the “higher-life” teaching of Charles Finney and others that emphasized a second experience following conversion, (3) dispensational premillennialism as developed in Plymouth Brethren teaching, (4) the evangelical faith healing movement, and (5) a restorationist longing for New Testament Christianity with an accompanied “latter rain” of the Holy Spirit that would usher in a great evangelistic harvest at the end of the age. The connection is made stronger since the categories overlap in significant ways. Though this cannot be developed in detail, we will consider how it played out in the life of Hudson Taylor and the early development of the CIM.
Hudson Taylor grew up in what was very much a model Methodist home. His great-grandfather, James Taylor, became a Methodist lay preacher at a time when they were immensely unpopular and he frequently suffered grave indignities and injuries for his activities. Hudson’s grandfather, John, similarly took up the role of lay preacher and served as class leader. The next James Taylor, who sired James Hudson and his siblings, raised his children to trust in God, introduced them to his Methodist beliefs and associates, and planted in them a heart for missions.
While it is well known that Hudson for a time repudiated the faith and traced his conversion to a chance encounter with a tract he found lying around the house, it is far less known that it was only much later, in 1869, that he came to experience what he called “the exchanged life.” In part, this experience was connected with some articles published by R. Pearsall Smith in The Revival magazine that stirred a number of members of the nascent CIM to seek what was at that time often called “holiness” or “the victorious life” or “union with Christ,” and has been referred to as Keswick teaching. To Taylor this was, in a very real sense, a second experience of God’s love and presence that he believed gave him power to live and work for his Savior.
Taylor’s Methodist roots and experience of the exchanged life were further impacted by his friendship with early Brethren leaders such as George Müller, William Berger, and Henry Grattan Guinness. Ideas he received from them influenced his development of the CIM into a non-sectarian, trans-denominational society. And while he was never a member of a Brethren assembly, his relationships with people within the loose movement resulted in a great number of CIM supporters, members, and London Council members coming from Brethren backgrounds.
In the mid to late nineteenth century, Brethren teaching on prophecy led many evangelicals to turn from a post-millennial to a pre-millennial eschatology with its expectation of Christ’s imminent return. Premillennialism so impacted A. B. Simpson that “Christ the coming King” became one aspect of the “fourfold gospel” that lay behind the Christian and Missionary Alliance and was adopted by a number of Pentecostal denominations such as the Foursquare Church. A main feature of early premillennialism as often preached was that the return of Christ was tied to the mission of the church. Since Jesus would return only after the gospel had been preached to the whole earth, it was incumbent upon his disciples to take his message everywhere. This powerful motivation spurred many to join the CIM and the Pentecostal missionary societies that later appeared. According to Fiedler, “The conviction that it was possible to evangelize the world before Christ’s return or even to speed it, was a major reason why faith missions gave top priority to the unreached areas of the world.”
Due to their common background, members of the CIM and the original Pentecostals exhibited the common vocabulary then current in holiness circles if not wider evangelicalism. China’s Millions thus trumpeted the turning of large numbers of tribals to Christ as “Pentecostal blessings” both on its cover and a major article that supplied the core of a short book titled A Modern Pentecost: Being the story of the Revival among the Aborigines of West China. There was a widespread feeling that the Holy Spirit was preparing to work as he did in the first century. This great expectation can be seen in the publication of several major articles on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the 1907 North American edition of China’s Millions. Indeed, the need of the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry, and prayers to the Holy Spirit for cleansing and conviction were regular features in China’s Millions.
3. Response to the early pentecostal movement
Despite their shared backgrounds, CIM and OMF members and leaders have not always accepted charismatic teaching and practice. Even so, Fiedler’s suggestion— that since the faith missions were spawned in the revivals of 1859 and 1873 and because leaders of one revival neither expect nor accept subsequent ones, “when the pentecostal revival broke less than two generations later they … could only see these newcomers as a nuisance or as teachers of wrong doctrine”—fails to satisfy. While his generalization reflects a truth that many CIMers rejected the unique aspects of pentecostal theology, it probably overemphasizes the sentiment that participants in one revival believed theirs is the last and neglects the truth that many CIM/OMF members came into the mission far too late to be considered children or even grandchildren of the 1859 and 1873 revivals though they remained in opposition to or ambivalent about Pentecostalism.
Though CIM literature from the early twentieth century makes few direct references to the new pentecostal movement, the reaction of members paralleled that of the evangelical world of their day. Some CIMers were convinced that Pentecostalism was true, others rejected it wholly, and yet more were happy to work with Pentecostals even if they weren’t convinced by the teaching. One of the earliest, and undoubtedly the most important, CIM member to become a Pentecostal was Cecil Polhill (1860–1938). Originally known as Cecil Polhill-Turner, he was one of the Cambridge Seven, and had sailed for China in 1885. Though he spent many of his years with the CIM trying to establish a foothold in Tibet, he was unable to advance beyond the fringes of that land when he returned to England during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Shortly thereafter he inherited the family fortune and was invited to serve on the London Council of the CIM. In January 1908, on the way back from a short trip to China, he stopped off in America where he was “baptized in the Spirit” in Long Beach, California.
CIM leadership was quickly appraised of Polhill’s experience as he sent other Pentecostals to work in China and Tibet as members of the Pentecostal Missionary Union. But even before those workers arrived, a “Special Council Meeting” was held on 3 February 1909 to discuss candidates who were “associated with what is known as the ‘Tongues or Apostolic Movement’.” The minutes record that “persons professing to have the gift of tongues” had held meetings in China that were “characterized by undesirable proceedings.” Candidates from Pentecostal backgrounds were informed of their need to loyally “recognize those responsible for carrying on the work in China” and to accept “the decision of the Mission Authorities as to their attending meetings in connection with this movement, or not.” These were amongst the earliest of strictures placed upon Pentecostals in the CIM. Even so, they were not random limitations placed upon one group; all members who supported doctrines that were not universally recognized by Christians were required to curb their enthusiasm for the wellbeing of the wider fellowship.
Restrictions did not mean outright rejection. Extracts from a letter written by Theodore Howard to Polhill at that time imply that Polhill was considering presenting Pentecostals as candidates for CIM membership and mention only two conditions that would cause Pentecostal applicants to be rejected: (1) they believed that God would give them the ability to speak Chinese without having to take the time to do so, and (2) they believed that only those who spoke in tongues had full fellowship with the Holy Spirit. As long as they were willing to work together with all who love the Lord and not just with those who agreed with them on this matter, there was no reason that someone would be dismissed for speaking in tongues.
The fact that Polhill continued to serve on the CIM London Council and sent both financial support and candidates to the mission for many years testifies to his acceptance of these conditions. Even so, before the “Special Council Meeting” was held, Polhill was already busy establishing the Pentecostal Missionary Union. This society, which began in January 1909, was modelled after the CIM and initially focused work on its founder’s long-time destination—Tibet. For a number of years the two organizations worked side by side and shared in each other’s training and ministries.
What began as a positive arrangement soured sometime around 1914. In part, this can be traced to a former CMA missionary, W. W. Simpson, who after becoming Pentecostal, travelled around China insisting that every missionary should become Pentecostal too. He brought this message to a number of CIM stations along with a circular in which he cited Polhill as a character reference and charged other missionaries of being lukewarm “Laodiceans.” Around the same time, a couple of CIM members complained about PMU “waiting meetings” being held in Yunnan. After discussing the issues for some time, CIM leadership decided to ban these meetings, stating that while in some cases blessings came from them, they are often “of a dangerous character” so that “the strain upon the brain occasionally is such that in some cases insanity has ensued.” In the end, the Council decided to sever ties with the PMU. The wording of the document demonstrates the concern leadership had “to keep faith both with fellow-workers in the Mission and with supporters at home” who did not accept pentecostal doctrine and practice. This concern for the response of members and constituents would become a common refrain and impact decisions to be made for a half century and more.
In April 1915 it was suggested that the mission should prepare a statement on its attitude to the pentecostal movement. This statement was drafted by D. E. Hoste and J. Stark and sent to the Home and China Councils for their consideration and approval. The main thrust of the statement is as follows. (1) One cannot rule out modern day speaking in tongues from Scripture. Even so, all claims about receiving this gift and practicing it should be subject to biblical revelation. (2) The “Mission cannot have any connection” with the movement lest it be misunderstood by its members and constituents. (3) A true pastoral spirit should be demonstrated toward anyone who has been led into error due to any irregularities and excesses encountered in meetings. As with earlier decisions, while no outright ban was placed on Pentecostals being part of CIM, room for maneuver was severely limited, particularly with regard to some doctrines on the Holy Spirit and sanctification.
4. Response to the rise of the charismatic movement
China in the first half of the twentieth century knew little but war. Sun Yat Sen fought the Ching Dynasty to establish the Republic. Chinese warlords waged incessant battles to control districts of greater or lesser size. The Sino-Japanese war drenched the land with blood. World War II was not long over before Mao Zedong and the Communists liberated China at the cost of millions of lives. Throughout those years, CIM missionaries struggled to remain with the people they loved and longed to see grafted into the tree of life. In the early 1950s, when it became clear that it would be best for the church in China if all foreign missionaries withdrew, CIM leadership wrestled over what their future would hold. Should they, as an organization founded to take the gospel into the interior of China, disband since their objective was no longer possible or should they reformulate in some way? Long conferences held at Kalorama near Melbourne, Hong Kong, and Bournemouth were impacted by pleas for help coming from churches throughout Southeast Asia. In the end, the agency continued to serve “overseas” from China as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
The political upheaval that followed the Second World War resulted in many European colonies in Asia receiving their independence. The confusion at the time was heightened as Communism spread from Russia to China to North Korea and induced fear that the new governments of Asia might fall like dominos. While the “Red Scare” was at its height and it seemed that ground was being lost to anti-Christian forces, many Christian churches and organizations, including OMF, fell under the scrutiny of some who wanted to ensure they remained faithful to the gospel and orthodox Christianity. Many believers were instructed to separate themselves from anyone who did not pass the test. In many instances, separation was demanded to a “second degree” level. “Good Christians” would not have fellowship with anyone who shared fellowship with “liberals” or “ecumenicals”. Organizations like OMF were forced to be very careful about who they associated with lest members or constituents conclude that they had started down the slippery slope into apostasy.
Just at this time, a new movement hit the churches that was in many ways similar to the Pentecostalism of the early decades of the century except that it wasn’t limited to the classical Pentecostal denominations but spread throughout many denominations and non-denominational churches. Its similarity to the earlier movement resulted in it sometimes being called neo-Pentecostalism, though it has become more widely known as the charismatic movement. The growth of this movement moved OMF leadership to return to the questions of an earlier generation to see how they applied in a new context in which constituents might cut off funds if they determined that the mission was “guilty by association.” Pressure from members and constituents clearly influenced decisions, and many times charismatic issues were discussed in the context of what to do about the ecumenical movement and the Roman Catholic Church. Since many supporters looked upon all three with suspicion, the mission needed to make a careful response. It is significant that while the three issues were considered together, OMF leadership did not respond to each in the same way.
J. O. Sanders
A powerful sign of the mission’s stance on an issue is the deliberations of its General Director, particularly when he speaks on behalf of the Council. Throughout the sixties, J. O. Sanders wrote a number of articles on spiritual gifts and the charismatic movement. In an article entitled “The Charismatic Movement,” he acknowledged that evangelicals were split in their response, and though he later delineated some “dangers and limitations” of the movement, began by positively remarking on the number of Latin American and Indonesian Pentecostals and how charismatic congregations from Seattle to London were growing in size and conversions. His conclusions for the Fellowship mix caution with openness.
While we may disagree with some aspects of the movement, who can deny that God has worked and is working through it in spite of some erroneous emphases? … In appraising the movement we must remember that no question of heresy is involved and therefore the question of limitation of fellowship on those grounds does not arise. The vast majority of “Pentecostals” tenaciously hold all the great evangelical doctrines, and we must therefore exercise care and Christian love in our attitude toward these fellow-members of the Body of Christ.
While direct engagement with WCC members or Roman Catholics was barred, the door remained open to work with Pentecostals and charismatics. The major sticking point continued to be a “concern over the divisive tendency due to emphasis upon charismatic gifts” by certain workers. Indeed, in 1968 when two couples resigned from their ministry in Thailand, the issue was not the fact that they had a charismatic experience but their continued insistence that their experience should be normative for other members of the mission and their refusal to heed the repeated calls of their leaders not to propagate their views since it had already sowed disunity.
The concern for unity was key. In a 1968 article, Sanders made it clear that the major problem leadership had with charismatics was the promotion of their views to the point that it caused division. As he states, charismatics were free to join OMF. They were free to testify to what the Lord had done in their lives and express their “personal views on the subject in the course of a balanced ministry of the Word,” so long as the subject was not artificially introduced or over-emphasized or unduly pressed upon the hearers. They were free to practice the gift in private or with their spouse. OMF leadership did not want to “restrict personal liberty, but to invite renunciation of such liberty … in the interests of spiritual unity.” To help members better understand what was in view, Sanders raised the possibility that someone who believed infant baptism or a particular millennial view to be valid might try to convert others to their position. If this happened, leadership would feel obliged to step in and ask them to desist. The overriding issue was not whether one view on a controversial subject was wrong, but how it affected spiritual unity across an international and interdenominational Fellowship. These views were communicated to the Fellowship in what is sometimes known as the first OMF Charismatic Statement.
5. A new statement for a new age
The second General Director to address the issue was Michael Griffiths who, at Central Council in 1973, delivered a paper and submitted a “Draft statement of the OMF’s position regarding the charismatic movement.” At the time around 10% of the mission’s members claimed to have had a charismatic experience and many of them had clearly received spiritual benefit from it. It only seemed right to review earlier statements and develop a new one that considered such issues as “teaching, propagation, public use, [and a] two-staged enduement with power teaching.” The issues were complex and far reaching.
As in the sixties, the major concern OMF leadership had about the movement was its potential to cause division. While it was not considered divisive to hold or even defend distinctively charismatic views, intentionally propagating such views could be, particularly if they caused offense to others. For the sake of unity, dogmatic interpretations needed to be set to the side and not promoted as the only possible biblical interpretation.
A secondary concern that came out during the discussion, even though it was omitted from the statement produced in the end, was the possible reaction of OMF constituents. As some saw it, “if the Fellowship were to relax its attitude toward the active propagation of charismatic teaching it would seriously affect candidate intake and financial support in some home countries.” Since CIM/OMF had always been recognized as a non-Pentecostal mission, the reaction of the vast majority of members and their supporters had to be taken into account before any major change was instituted that could lead to losses in membership and support. The problem was made more difficult because supporters and members in some countries (like the UK) thought that OMF should not be seen to oppose the charismatic movement, while those in other countries (like the USA) did not want the mission to grant more freedom to speak in tongues. How can a split constituency be appeased?
Another important consideration was the reality that by the early seventies the movement had evolved to the point that speaking in tongues was sometimes seen as being much less divisive than the practice of the “spectacular” gifts such as healing, miracles, and discerning of spirits. To some eyes, these were at times practiced in ways that seemed similar to “auto-suggestion and white magic,” if not “almost animistic.” In reviewing these considerations, Griffiths expressed his concern that the problem caused by extreme teaching about the Holy Spirit might cause some to cease entirely from teaching about the Holy Spirit and his gifts, a situation that would be unconscionable. A right understanding of the Spirit and spiritual gifts was essential, but how could that be carried out in a climate in which widely divergent understandings were held?
Though the issues were extremely complicated and the likelihood of misunderstanding incredibly high, Griffiths led the Council in developing a statement to provide workable guidelines for the situation then faced by the Fellowship. The resulting statement rightly acknowledged that all Christians are both deficient in their understanding of some doctrines and in need of the supply and empowering of the Holy Spirit. It denied, however, that the gift of tongues was “an indispensable evidence of the baptism or the filling of the Holy Spirit.” It also denied that all Christians should be expected to speak in tongues since the Bible clearly says that the Spirit gives gifts according to his will and that not everyone speaks in tongues (1 Cor 12:11, 29–30). Addressing the major concern, the statement highlighted the need to work for unity in the Spirit and refrain from that which causes division. It also took up “practical concerns” such as teaching about disputed matters or practicing gifts in a way or place that might offend other members. It further permitted members to attend (though not lead or plan) charismatic meetings, as long as such attendance didn’t become an excuse for not meeting with other members for fellowship and prayer.
While the statement could not satisfy everyone, it showed that OMF leadership longed to see missionaries walking in the Spirit and at peace with each other. It also attempted to refocus both supporters and opposers of certain gifts and experiences who had been distracted from “our main business of preaching, teaching, planting and perfecting churches.” The fact that the statement is part of a discussion entitled “Accommodation of Differing Viewpoints within an International/Interdenominational Fellowship” demonstrates that leadership viewed the doctrines and practices that characterized the charismatic movement to be secondary matters of faith, like the mode and timing of baptism, form of church government, and eschatological positions, that members could differ on as long as they worked together in unity.
6. Response to the “Signs and Wonders” movement
A further development in OMF’s thinking about charismatic issues arose in the early to mid-1980s with the development of the “Signs and Wonders” movement. This movement was closely associated with John Wimber and the Vineyard fellowship and the “Signs and Wonders” course he taught at Fuller Seminary. It is further linked to the “Third Wave Movement” as coined and described by C. Peter Wagner. Many who attended the popular Fuller course and read Wimber’s book, Power Evangelism, were challenged to integrate prayer for the sick and exorcism of evil spirits into their verbal proclamation of the gospel so that the “signs and wonders” that accompanied preaching might convince people of the reality of Christian faith in Jesus.
At this time, some members of the mission re-examined CIM/OMF history and discovered that whereas praying for the sick and exorcism may not have been common, they were not unknown. Hudson Taylor, Henry Frost, J. O. Fraser, Pastor Hsi, and others prayed for the healing of physical diseases and that people would be released from demons. A Central Council examination of the movement produced a statement that acknowledged and rejoiced in the way God had shown his sovereign power throughout CIM/OMF history. The Council also agreed that in spite of “questionable features” found in parts of the Signs and Wonders Movement the mission “should not ignore the evidence of the Spirit’s work” and both learn from and apply what Scripture has to teach about the subject. They further determined to study materials being produced by the movement and to expect that the power of the Spirit be seen as we preach the gospel.
Their review of the issues in the eighties led to another reformulation of the charismatic statement. In part, this was because it had become clear that different interpretations of the 1973 statement were in play. It was also to update the statement for a new day and a different set of circumstances. Following earlier statements, it was considered under “Points of Difference.” An organization made up of people “drawn from many different cultures, races, nationalities and denominations” will inevitably reflect differences in outlook on many issues including “baptism, church government, eschatology and charismatic gifts.” Since these matters are not “fundamental to the basic character of the gospel, members are expected to respect each other’s personal convictions” and to refrain from propagating views that will cause division or offense to others. Spiritual unity and care for the feelings of fellow believers stand out as an essential aspect of membership in the Fellowship.
This statement was the first to recognize that some OMF members were cessationists who believe that the gifts of the Spirit were only for the apostolic age, others believed that the gifts continued through the ages, and others saw them as the restoration of first-century Christianity in our day. It also regarded the first and last of these positions as opposites, though it nowhere developed that concept.
Three basic principles were delineated. (1) The Fellowship as such does not endorse any interpretation regarding a two-stage experience in the Christian’s life but frees members to hold a particular view. (2) The Fellowship believes that spiritual gifts are available to all as a sovereign gift from God and links no gift to any post-regenerational experience. (3) Despite differences in understanding, members pursue unity in seeking God, knowing his blessings, and enjoying the power of the Spirit as they preach the gospel. The statement then mentioned how these principles could be applied to some issues that were particularly relevant at the time: tongues, prophecy, word of wisdom/word of knowledge, teaching on spiritual gifts, involvement in churches, and promotion of charismatic teaching.
7. At the turn of a new millennium
The approach of the new millennium caused evangelistic plans to increase and end of the world speculation to rise until both were at a fever pitch. Fear that the Y2K bug would spark worldwide computer failure and throw the world back into the dark ages if it didn’t simultaneously release a thermonuclear holocaust sent millions scurrying for supplies that would see them through at least some of the turbulent days to come. At the same time, a bevy of Christian organizations released blueprints to show how the final stage of world evangelization could be completed by the year 2000. End-time speculation was fed by fictional accounts of the Great Tribulation and Christ’s return, and interest in spiritual warfare skyrocketed after Frank Peretti released This Present Darkness, and its sequels.
It was against this backdrop that the OMF Charismatic Statement next came up for renewal. In many ways the new formulation followed earlier statements, while expanding some ideas. Members were reminded that the purpose of the exercise was to help an organization composed of an international and theologically diverse group of individuals, “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” by maintaining the basic gospel truths which hold unity higher than the differences in biblical interpretation that could bring division. An extended section on the “theological basis” for the statement explained the official view of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, different views of spiritual gifts, and an examination of speaking in tongues in the New Testament and the need to practice (or not practice) gifts in a way that promotes unity within the Fellowship.
Though somewhat reworded, the basic principles from the previous version were retained. The guidelines for practice were lengthened and more biblical references given to support the official position on spiritual gifts (including tongues, revelatory gifts, and healing) and ways these should be used by members of the Fellowship. While freedom in one’s private practice of gifts was retained (biblical texts were supplied to guide public practice), an official separation between the Fellowship and the charismatic movement was kept in place—OMF was not a charismatic mission agency—and members were required not to take part in the planning of charismatic meetings. Since the Fellowship exists to serve the church in Asia, a newly raised concern was that members adhere to the practice of spiritual gifts as understood in and regulated by churches where they minister.
8. Demotion of the charismatic statement
The OMF charismatic statement developed as a means of communicating with members, potential members, and supporters about its position on an issue that caused controversy in the church. While the controversy over charismatic issues has not gone away, it has died down to a great extent due to the growing numbers of charismatics, their prominence in many parts of the world, the impact of their teaching on the wider Christian community, their earnestness to reach out in mission, and (in many cases) their ability not to treat others as though they lacked spiritual gifting or power.
While charismatics have increasingly become recognized as part of mainstream evangelicalism, OMF has engaged in a major new push to identify and send missionaries from places that are not officially OMF sending countries. In the past, many missionaries were sent out through a third country (e.g., a Pole might be sent out by the UK or a Brazilian through the USA). That path, however, can be cumbersome and raises questions about who the sending agent really is—the church in the home country or the sending country? Is there a way to simplify this process? Specifically, what can be done so that people from the southern hemisphere—where the church is growing, healthy, and predominantly charismatic—can join OMF? As various social, linguistic, and economic impediments were addressed toward this end, the OMF charismatic statement could not be overlooked.
These changes have led OMF leaders to again reexamine the response the mission should have toward the movement. The ultimate purpose of the reassessment was identified in the heading for the section—“Unity Statement.” According to the International Executive Council minutes, “The intention was to produce a broad theologically grounded statement about how the Fellowship works in unity when there are issues about which evangelical Christians disagree.” Along with a broad statement on unity, a list was to be provided of the kind of issues on which not all evangelicals agree and a statement about how unity could be maintained with regard to each issue. In the end, charismatic renewal and women in ministry were addressed directly, but other issues that might cause division, such as baptism, church government, and eschatology were not.
With the promotion of an “OMF Statement on Unity,” the charismatic statement will be moved to an appendix of the OMF Handbook to indicate its use as a supporting document that gives more information about how the Statement on Unity should impact principles and practices and provide an example of how Christians with different views on certain matters can work in love and the unity of the Spirit.
When Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, neither Pentecostalism nor the charismatic movement existed and they remained unknown at the time of his death. In the years since, this movement that began at the fringes of evangelicalism has grown to world-wide prominence. When it first emerged, some people accepted it wholeheartedly, some scoffed, and others welcomed some of its teachings and practices while they rejected others. Over the years, certain emphases have waxed and waned and in some cases, been supplanted by others. When people encounter it today, their reactions are similar to the reactions of the early years though often more welcoming. What is true for society (and Christian society) at large is true for missionaries from the CIM/OMF tradition.
As we look to the future, it is highly likely that as the percentage of evangelicals who have had a pentecostal or charismatic experience increases, the percentage of OMF members who have had such experiences will increase. Since what this will mean for the future of the mission is uncertain, we should raise a few considerations for both OMF leaders and members.
- It is essential to remember that the pentecostal/charismatic movement is neither monolithic nor static. During the past century it has taken a number of different shapes, some of which have been extremely conservative theologically and others have been heretical. The existence of heretics among charismatics should not cause us to reject the whole movement any more than the existence of a Church of England bishop who does not believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead should cause us to reject the whole Anglican community. Each candidate must be taken on his or her own merits and face the same level of scrutiny as any other candidate. The same should be true for their sending churches. The main principle here is that we should reject arguments that set up a strawman in the name of Pentecostalism (or any other group) and then knock it down because of deficiencies in one part of the movement and/or because of our own inadequate understanding of the whole.
- The decisions rendered by OMF leadership over the years point to two overriding principles that should be retained as long as candidates come from different theological backgrounds. The first is that the beliefs and practices of individual missionaries should be based as much as possible on biblical teaching. Where the Bible gives clear teaching on an issue, this may be easy. Even so, as with baptism and church government, different interpretations of one or two verses can result in wide variations in practice. And, as with many other issues, the Bible sometimes says far less about a topic than we would like it to. We must be careful lest the Protestant insistence on sola scriptura be reduced to my personal interpretation of the Bible. It is essential that dialogue remain open to ensure that understandings are clearly stated and that the major biblical doctrines are given a higher place than personal or denominational idiosyncrasies.
- The second overriding principle that should guide all responses to this and other issues is the pursuit of unity in the context of diversity. This reflects one of OMF’s seven stated values: “We celebrate diversity in unity.” The CIM was founded to be an interdenominational mission and immediately became an international organization. Diversity remains a strong part of OMF’s identity just as it is in worldwide Christianity. But while honoring diversity, the mission seeks unity in the Spirit, unity in the major biblical truths, and unity in ministry. Those who are willing to work within those parameters should be welcomed warmly. Closely connected to this is willingness to set aside issues that can cause division.
- Another principle that should be remembered is that OMF leaders and members should show concern for members, supporters, and the churches with which they work. As an organization’s identity is rooted in its members and constituents, their feelings and understandings should not be treated lightly. While this does not mean that the mission should be held at ransom by its supporters, it does mean that if a decision would make a sizeable number feel compelled to withdraw from service or withhold support, leadership should think twice about implementing the policy. If there are good biblical or legal or social reasons why something should be done, the loss in supporters and members might be regrettable but necessary. Even so, leadership should never attempt to weigh potential loss with potential gain as though a zero-sum game was being played between people from different countries, denominations, or theological positions. As declared in several earlier statements, pastoral care for the hurting, confused, and misled should underlie all decisions about matters where evangelicals hold divergent views. Care should be equally extended to charismatic and non-charismatic members, as hurt, confusion, and being led astray are not the experiences of only one group.
- Finally, there is great wisdom in completing a thorough historical and theological study of any issue like OMF’s response to charismatic practice before beginning to rewrite a policy statement. By placing the development of a statement in its historical context and working through the theological and personal issues that led to its formation, one attains a broader perspective and concern for everyone involved along with deeper insight into the real issues at stake. Writing up such a study provides leadership with a valuable guide as they reflect on the past and make decisions that will impact the future.
 Not every scholar of Pentecostal history agrees with this assessment of the origin of the movement. John Usher writes that “Historical-critical approaches recognise that Pentecostalism had a multi-genesis, or polycentric, emergence in different parts of the world, and did not merely ripple outwards from one spontaneous epicentre like Los Angeles in 1906.” John Usher, “‘For China and Tibet, and for World-wide Revival’: Cecil Henry Polhill (1860–1938) and his Significance for Early Pentecostalism,” (PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 2015), 13. For a critical overview of providential approaches that view Azusa Street as the source of Pentecostalism see J. Creech, “Visions of Glory: The Place of the Azusa Street Revival in Pentecostal History,” Church History 65 (September 1996): 405–24.
 For a first-hand account of the revival see Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos, 1980). An e-text of the book under its original title, How Pentecost came to Los Angeles, is available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bartleman/los.html (accessed on 6 April 2016).
Photo of the Azusa Mission Hall from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival#/media/File:AFM_on_azusa_street.jpg (accessed 5 May 2015).
 It can hardly be denied that “the present proliferation of Pentecostalism and indeed its inherent character result from the fact that this is fundamentally a missionary movement of the Spirit from the start.” Allan Anderson, Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007), 5, quoted in Cecil M. Robeck Jr., “Christian Unity and Pentecostal Mission: A Contradiction?” in Pentecostal Mission and Global Christianity, ed. Wonsuk Ma, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu (Oxford: Regnum, 2014), 184.
 The pentecostal/charismatic movement is far from monolithic in its beliefs and practices. While writers frequently combine pentecostal and charismatic with a slash as I did above, there are also clear distinctions, some of which are related to historical and ecclesiastical issues and others theological. The initial ecclesiastical distinction identifies the “classical Pentecostal” denominations (e.g., the Assemblies of God, the Churches of God, the Churches of God in Christ, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church) as those that arose in the early 20th century, trace their roots to the holiness and higher life movements of the 19th century, and accepted Charles Parham’s teaching that speaking in tongues was the first evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. (Not every early Pentecostal denomination taught that the baptism in the Spirit was evidenced by speaking in tongues. For instance, the Elim denomination [one of the largest British Pentecostal denominations] taught that the baptism in the Spirit was simply accompanied “with signs.”) In contrast, charismatics (sometimes called neo-Pentecostals) developed in the second half of the 20th century and, while accepting the biblical charismata as valid for today, initially remained loyal to their denominational roots while desiring to see a fresh movement of the Spirit empower their church life and ministry. Historical and ecclesiological differences aside, the movements usually are and probably should be seen as close kin. Further distinctions are found when one discovers that in Latin America “charismatic” refers to charismatic Catholics and “Pentecostal” is reserved for Protestants (including many from Reformed backgrounds) who have had pentecostal experiences.
See Vinson Synan, The Twentieth-Century Pentecostal Explosion (Altamonte Springs, Florida: Creation House, 1987), 9–11. For a longer introduction to the Charismatic movement that considers differences between it and traditional Pentecostalism, see P. D. Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1988), 130–60. Charles Hummel writes that “Unlike many movements in church history spearheaded by one influential leader, this renewal has sprung up spontaneously in a variety of shapes and forms.” He then lists the “three main streams” as classical Pentecostalism, neo-Pentecostalism, and Catholic Pentecostalism. Hummel, Fire in the Fireplace: Contemporary Charismatic Renewal (Downers Grove: IVP, 1978), 39. To Hummel’s list, some will add the “Third Wave,” a movement that others will see as part of the charismatic movement.
 An example of a borderline group is Oneness Pentecostalism which has been described as “a unique expression of Christianity on the fringe of the evangelical-Pentecostal movement” that “While sharing a common religious heritage and inheriting much of its theology … stands outside the accepted canons of orthodoxy by its rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and Trinitarian baptism.” D. A. Reed, “Oneness Pentecostalism,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 644–51. See also J. Lee Grady, “The Other Pentecostals,” Charisma 22 (June 1997), http://forerunner.com/orthodoxy/cu197123.htm (accessed 6 April 2016).
A group that is often said to be heretical is the Word of Faith movement. See Daniel R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, Updated ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2011) and Robert M. Bowman Jr., The Word-Faith Controversy: Understanding the Health and Wealth Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001).
 Klaus Fiedler, The Story of Faith Missions: From Hudson Taylor to Present Day Africa (Oxford: Regnum, 1994), 122.
 Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee, “The Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 2.
 A. J. Broomhall, Barbarians at the Gate, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century, Vol 1 (Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton and OMF, 1981), 98.
 Broomhall, Barbarians at the Gate, 282.
 See Howard and Geraldine Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Chicago: Moody, n.d.), 154–65; Howard and Geraldine Taylor, Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission: The Growth of a Work of God (Singapore: OMF, 1988), 168–83; A. J. Broomhall, Refiner’s Fire, HTCOC, Vol 5 (Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton and OMF, 1984), 211–15.
 A. J. Broomhall, “Appendix 2, Hudson Taylor and the Brethren,” in If I had a Thousand Lives, HTCOC Vol 3 (Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton and OMF, 1982), 446–50 and Alvyn Austin, China’s Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832–1905 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 94–7.
On a side note, when the Ulster revival broke out in 1859 Guinness was in Canada where he lead A. B. Simpson to the Lord. Simpson would later found the Christian and Missionary Alliance and exert a great influence on the early development of Pentecostalism.
 Broomhall, A Thousand Lives, 447.
 Austin, China’s Millions, 193.
 See Fiedler, Faith Missions, 272–83.
 Fiedler, Faith Missions, 278. This expectation found its way into China’s Millions when Cecil Polhill and family set sail for India to reach the borderlands of Tibet. “The times are growing more and more unsettled, and the Lord’s people are turned more than ever to the hope and expectation of His appearing. The day of widespread blessing in the barren heathen fields and the deliverance of Tibet and other countries totally without the Gospel must be quickly drawing near if a people is to be prepared for Him.” China’s Millions, British ed. (February 1896): 22.
 J. R. Adam, “Pentecostal Blessings among the Aborigines of West China,” China’s Millions, British ed. (Jan 1907): 10–15. A Modern Pentecost: Being the story of the Revival among the Aborigines of West China (London: CIM and Morgan & Scott, ).
 W. J. Erdman, “The Holy Spirit and Christian Life and Experience,” China’s Millions, North American ed. (April 1907): 37–8. R. A. Torrey, “The Personality of the Holy Spirit,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (June 1907): 61–3. J. Stuart Holden, “Receiving the Holy Ghost,” China’s Millions, NA ed. (September 1907): 99–101.
Torrey was a member of the North American Council of the CIM and wrote two books on the Holy Spirit: The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1895 and 1897), https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001939381 (accessed 5 may 2016) and The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1910), https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/30241 (accessed 5 May 2016). The second work contains what appears to be an expansion of Torrey’s article from the Millions. The book also presents his view that “the baptism with the Holy Spirit is an operation of the Holy Spirit distinct from and additional to His regenerating work,” and that “in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, there is the impartation of power, and the one who receives it is fitted for service” that will manifest itself as believers use various spiritual gifts, but not necessarily tongues. Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, 131, 134, 139–40, his italics.
 Fiedler, Faith Missions, 113.
 See Usher, “‘For China and Tibet.” See also “The Polhill Collection Online,” www.purl.org/itsee/polhill (accessed 5 May 2016).
 The photo of Polhill is from Usher, “For China and Tibet,” 1.
 Usher, “For China and Tibet,” 7, 165–6.
 “Minutes of Special Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Wednesday, February 3, 1909, at 11:30 a.m.,” Billy Graham Center Archives Collection 215 Box 2 Folder 37 (BGCA 215 2.37).
 Some early Pentecostals, like Charles Parham, who some say should be recognized “as the founder of the pentecostal movement,” believed that speaking in tongues was xenolalia—the ability to speak a foreign language supernaturally—and that it would empower missionaries to preach immediately to people in foreign countries. J. R. Goff Jr., “Parham, Charles Fox,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 660. Polhill did not have this expectation, perhaps due to the years he spent learning Chinese and Tibetan. Usher, “For Christ and Tibet,” 158–9, 167–8.
 “Extracts from Mr. Howard’s letter referred to in the Minute,” BGCA 215 2.37.
 This was the first European Pentecostal missionary society and was absorbed by the British Assemblies of God in 1925. Usher believes that one of his main reasons for establishing the mission was because the CIM was not supporting mission work in Tibet as wholeheartedly as Polhill wished.
 Usher, “For China and Tibet,” 332–3.
 “Minutes of Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Thursday, September 10, 1914, at 10:00 a.m.,” BGCA 215 2.38. The minutes indicate that co-workers Mr. and Mrs. Allen sympathized with the PMU missionaries while S. E. Peet and Eleanor Pilson “strongly opposed” the distinctive Pentecostal practices. It is possible that Miss Pilson was as much opposed to the engagement of a fellow CIM missionary to a member of the PMU as she was to Pentecostalism. See Usher, “For China and Tibet,” 333–5.
 “Minutes of Council Meeting, September 10, 1914.”
 “Minutes of Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Tuesday, April 13, 1915, at 10:00 a.m.,” BGCA 215 2.38.
 “Minutes of Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Wednesday, April 14, 1915, at 10 a.m.,” BGCA 215, 2.38. It was reported that the Australia Council accepted this document in “Minutes of Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Thursday, December 2, 1915, at 10 a.m.,” BGCA 215, 2.38. The acceptance of the Toronto and Philadelphia Councils was recorded in “Minutes of Council Meeting held in Shanghai on Wednesday, March 8, 1916, at 10 a.m.,” BGCA 215, 2, 38.
 See David A. Huntley, “The Withdrawal of the China Inland Mission from China and their Redeployment to New Fields in East Asia” (PhD dissertation, Trinity Theological Seminary, 2002).
 J. O. Sanders revealed the extent to which some would go in their pursuit of purity when he mentioned that a certain institution requested not to receive any OMF literature because a prayer calendar asked for prayer for the Billy Graham crusades. At issue was not OMF’s or Billy Graham’s doctrinal positions, but the fact that Graham allowed people who were considered to have questionable theology to be on the sponsoring committee. Sanders, “Guilt by Association,” Overseas Bulletin (June 1963): 62–6. See also, David Bentley-Taylor, “Cooperation or Separation,” Overseas Bulletin (March 1955): 37–40.
 A helpful overview of the Charismatic Movement that includes its essential elements and differences from the Pentecostal Movement is found in P. D. Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements,” 130–60.
 Bentley-Taylor acknowledges that in OMF, “We ignore Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, and (usually) Pentecostal activity.” While Pentecostalism is treated (slightly) more positively than the other groups, it is classed with denominations that most evangelicals do not trust. Bentley-Taylor, “Cooperation or Separation,” 40.
 Outside of the articles in OMF’s Overseas Bulletin, his study of the topic can be accessed in the book The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1970).
 J. O. Sanders, “The Charismatic Movement: The Third Force in Christendom,” Overseas Bulletin (April 1966): 76. See also, Sanders, “The Neo-Pentecostal Movement,” Overseas Bulletin (October 1963): 94–100.
 “Minutes of Directors’ Meeting held in Singapore at 11 a.m., August 29th, 1967,” OMF Singapore Archives, AR6.1.4 Box 22.2 (OMFSA AR6.1.4, 22.2). During the meeting, the directors felt that Michael Harper, “a leading figure in the British Neo-Pentecostal Movement” should not be invited by “OMF or by individuals within the OMF” to speak at a meeting in Thailand as “it would tend to break the unity of the spirit in our midst.” They further distanced themselves from Harper by saying he should not be allowed to stay at an OMF Mission Home.
 J. O. Sanders, “The Attitude of OMF to Speaking in Tongues,” Overseas Bulletin (April 1968): 18–20. It should be noted that Sanders acknowledged that charismatics weren’t the only ones who could cause division: “some who militantly oppose this teaching can cause division, and I would ask them to exercise grace.”
 Sanders, “The Attitude of OMF to Speaking in Tongues,” 19.
 “Third Session of the Central Council combined with the Sixteenth Session of the Overseas Council, 13–26 October 1973,” OMFSA AR5.2.4, 1.16.
 “Third Session of the Central Council,” 17.
 “Accommodation of Differing Viewpoints within an International/Interdenominational Fellowship CC:73, A:6,” 3. OMFSA AR5.2.4, 1.16.
 “Accommodation of Differing Viewpoints,” 7.
 Like his predecessor, Griffiths wrote on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. Three Men Filled with the Spirit: The Gift of Tongues: Must it Divide Us? (London: OMF, 1969), Cinderella’s Betrothal Gifts (Sevenoaks: OMF, 1978), and Serving Grace: Gifts without ‘ ’ (n.p.: MARC Europe and OMF, 1986).
 “Third Session of the Central Council,” 24.
 “Third Session of the Central Council,” 26.
 This is supported by the paragraph introducing the Charismatic Statement in the 1976 OMF Handbook. “The following statement of policy in regard to the charismatic movement is included, not to single out one point of possible difference above any others, but because the nature of the discussions on the movement within the whole Church of God requires a statement of position at the present time.”
 C. Peter Wagner, The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Vine, 1988).
 John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986).
 John Robb, “Signs and Wonders in the CIM-OMF,” Overseas Bulletin (3rd Issue 1984): 15–18, 20. For more CIM/OMF responses to faith healing, see Henry W. Frost, Miraculous Healing (Fearn: Christian Focus and Borough Green: OMF, 1999) and John B. Kuhn, “What of Faith Healing?” Overseas Bulletin (June 1963): 72–6, See also, Neville S. Long, “Signs and Wonders,” Overseas Bulletin (2nd Issue 1986): 9–15, “Signs and Wonders (Continued),” Overseas Bulletin (3rd Issue 1986): 27–34.
 Long, “Signs and Wonders (Continued),” 33–4.
 OMF Handbook (1986), B-11. OMFSA AR 5.1.2, 2.4.
 A distinction can be made between cessationists who believe that all the spiritual gifts ceased in the first century and those who believe that only the “sign gifts” ceased in the first century.
 It is rarely recognized that this principle places people from both the cessationist and restorationist camps in a separate (second class?) category from those who believe gifts have always been active, particularly since they are instructed not to propagate their views, something that the drafters of this statement (who apparently hold to the “middle view”) have done by stating that “The Fellowship believes that spiritual gifts are available to all believers” (and thus propagating a view that may make cessationists uncomfortable) and by declaring that “The Fellowship does not link any post-regenerational blessing with access to any particular spiritual gift or gifts” though they did not allow restorationists to propagate their position. Effectually, moderates can propagate their view (as they have in this statement), but those holding to the “opposing views” cannot.
 For instance, the AD 2000 And Beyond Movement desired to see “A church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000.” Rick Woods, “The AD 2000 Movement,” Mission Frontiers (January–February 1992), http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/the-ad2000-movement (accessed 18 April 2016). For another approach see Jim Montgomery, Dawn 2000: 7 Million Churches to Go (Pasadena: William Carey, 1989).
 Peretti’s This Present Darkness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1986) sold over 2.5 million copies.
 The initial proposal came from the International Directors in a meeting held on 25 January 2013. “25th International Executive Council, 17–19 September 2014, Minutes of Meeting (25),” 3. OMFSA AR6.1.1.x
 “25th International Executive Council,” 3.