When friends and leaders found out that I was going to be studying theology at an Anglican institute, many of them expressed concern about studying under Anglican teachers. They were concerned that my charismatic beliefs would be heavily discouraged, and that I would be surrounded by people who might “stunt my spiritual growth”.
This was a shock to me, as I had been so focused on how my lecturers and students might stereotype me due to my Pentecostal upbringing; yet here I was confronted with the fact that many Pentecostals had just as poorly stereotyped the Anglican church. Having previously known many people in Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, I had already learned that there are as many charismatic evangelicals as there are conservative, and I definitely was not worried about my spiritual growth being stunted (although did expect to have occasional disagreements on some secondary faith issues and be challenged in what I believe – part of the reason for my choice of college). I am now worried, however, that too many of my fellow Pentecostal believers may have a shallow, misguided and ultimately damaging view of believers in other denominations. I’m aware that some of these stereotypes are rooted in truth and unfortunate experiences; but I firmly believe that Pentecostals have much to learn from the Anglican church.
My faith has been refined, grown and put into action whilst studying at an Anglican college in a way that it never would have had I chosen to stay in my Pentecostal bubble. No, it has not always been easy and yes, I have had to reconsider some of my long-held beliefs; but I feel that I know God more intimately and have a more solid, grounded understanding of my faith.
Moreover, being part of the Anglican church does not mean that my lecturers do not believe in the manifestation and functional gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is of course a spectrum of what extent they would agree with some matters, and an insistence of aligning beliefs with scripture; which is exactly the same in Pentecostal circles. A lot of my teachers encourage us to explore our spiritual giftings and learn to operate in them. In fact, I believe some of the students may be more charismatic than myself in some regards.
Pentecostalism is a very new denomination, and has a lot to learn. I believe that it has so much to offer the church and the world, and would greatly benefit from the tradition and knowledge that the Anglican church has built over centuries. Our differences may not be as great as either party would believe; and unity of the body of Christ requires that we respect, love, include and honour each other – regardless of disagreements on debatable matters.
My spiritual growth has not been stunted by my Anglican teachers – it has been excelled. Furthermore, I have found some of the greatest support, encouragement and growth in my relationships with Christians who have completely different views on spiritual gifts and other debateable theological concepts; and this is because we have decided to love each other as children of God despite our differences. Because the world will know that we belong to God not by our use of spiritual gifts or our beliefs on predestination, but by our love for one another (John 13:35). We must stop sidelining believers in other denominations and instead work together to glorify our God.