Hopeful Signs

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor

There can be no mistaking an important trend: We see a growing emphasis upon the Holy Spirit across United Methodism. So-called “Holy Spirit Conferences” are being sponsored by more and more annual conferences. For example, 700 pre-registered and some 1,200 attended a Holy Spirit meeting in Michigan recently. In Arkansas, a Holy Spirit Conference in which the bishop took part, attracted some 1,500.

Here and there, local churches are doing the same thing. Lots of people are involved—freely and enthusiastically. And at long last, the much-neglected Third Person of the Holy Trinity is being included in United Methodism’s official programming.

What has caused this welcome change?

The “Charismatic Movement” is the most obvious answer. Like a rising tide it is moving across the church at the local level, involving countless lay people and pastors. They relate with excitement to God, themselves, and to a new world of speakers, writers, groups and conferences- all centering around activity of the Holy Spirit today.

Less spectacular perhaps, but none the less significant, has been the “remnant” of Bible-believers who, through the long years of liberal church dominance, have escaped spiritual starvation by participating in Lay Witness missions, ashrams, retreats, conferences, revivals, prayer groups and camp meetings. These Good News-type people constitute the evangelical core of the church. Their work, their faithfulness and their prayers have created a kind of evangelical “underground” which has persisted despite indifference and/or sometimes open hostility from upper levels of the church. Now, with liberal institutionalism dead or dying, the evangelical underground is coming alive. This is a worldwide movement, as evidenced by this summer’s world evangelization meeting in Switzerland.

U.M. evangelicalism is just one manifestation of a worldwide movement of God, and our Holy Spirit conferences are thus a welcome sign that Father, Son, and Spirit are indeed moving in people’s lives and in the church.

Regardless of why the new Holy Spirit emphasis is happening, the most appropriate response is Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!

Attendance at these meetings is impressive, and we think th is says something that our leaders would be wise to note. Contrary to what a lot of people have been telling us for a long time, the “whole man” includes a soul, and the human soul is hungry for personal relationship with the Living God. This being true, people are more eager to attend Holy Spirit Conferences than conferences on human sexuality, conflict management or church goalsetting.

Wouldn’t United Methodism be wise to broaden its programming to include more Biblical topics? The Spirit, after all, is simply one-third of the Trinity—why not schedule some conferences concerning the Father, the Son, as well as the Spirit? And why not some conferences dealing with prayer, the Scriptures, or “going on to perfection”?

We hope that Holy Spirit Conferences keep on increasing. We also hope this is just the beginning of a movement which will restore spiritual concerns to their rightful place as the fountainhead of all that United Methodism is and does.


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