Pentecostal “Schools”: Cleveland (!) and Springfield (?)

cptRecently I was asked the following question via Facebook Messenger (see…Facebook can be useful and constructive):

Do you see any differences between the “Springfield school” and “Cleveland School” of Pentecostalism? If so, what do you think they are?
My response to this question is rooted in numerous conversations with several other PhD students writing on various Pentecostal matters and working to develop constructive Pentecostal theologies. This person’s question was the result of a good friend, Daniel Isgrigg (PhD, ABD),  who has used the language of “Springfield School” in his doctoral work with regard to the Assemblies of God stream of Pentecostalism as other than the previously labelled “Cleveland School” (due to its location in Cleveland, Tennessee as part of the work of Pentecostal Theological Seminary and more properly the Centre for Pentecostal Theology).
My answer follows:
I’ve had multiple conversations with Daniel Isgrigg about his use of the label “Springfield School”. It is highly problematic and the only (to my knowledge) one who ever used it in writing is James K.A. Smith who wrote “Springfield School (?)” in a footnote and does not appear to himself regard it as a “School” of thought or methodology.[1] My own argument is that it is not actually a “School” even though whatever it is may in fact represent majority views of interpretation, etc. within broader Pentecostal circles.
However, the Cleveland School holds to particular ideas and methods [2], has a publishing house producing significant works of constructive Pentecostal theologies, operates the Journal for Pentecostal Theology and continues to produce numerous PhDs following its trajectories.
I believe my Facebook friend’s follow-up response largely represents the distinctions even if only the Cleveland one might properly be called a “School” in the proper sense by my reckoning.
My observation (perhaps I’m wrong) is that the “Springfield School” leans more Reformed, Evangelical, Dispensational, Fundamentalist, whereas the “Cleveland School” leaned more Wesleyan and strives to produce a hermeneutical distinction between Pentecostalism and the rest of Evangelicalism. The Cleveland School *seems* to be more comfortable with the Great Tradition of the Church than the “Springfield School”. Am I off base? There just seems to be a different “feel”, for lack of a better word.
As such, my contention is for a legitimate burgeoning Cleveland School of Pentecostal theology, but remain unpersuaded that any actual “Springfield School” has ever coalesced into anything comparable. Not to say that it will not or that the institutions (publishing and academic) associated with it have not produced anything. They have and will continue to, but not at this point in the same distinct fashion as the more properly labelled Cleveland School.
Full disclosure: I am ordained with and teaching/administrating at a college that is associated with Springfield, yet I am completing a PhD via the Cleveland School and make great use of its methodological and spiritual tools.
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1.  J.K.A. Smith, Thinking in Tongues (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), p. 6n13, is the footnote where Smith questions whether there might be a “Springfield School (?)”.
2.  K.J. Archer, ‘The Making of an Academic Pentecostal Tradition: The Cleveland School’. A paper presented at the Society for Pentecostal Studies (March 2016). Archer contends in this paper for a number of key figures related to the “Cleveland School” as well as certain features of it such as hermeneutics, epistomology, and spirituality.
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Student FAQ for the Society for Pentecostal Studies

SPS Student CaucusWhile this is not an official FAQ of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS), I offer it in response to a series of questions I was asked by a friend who is a student member wishing to submit a proposal for a paper to be presented at an SPS Annual Meeting. I have also offered a few of my own questions which I thought might be beneficial. I have been an active member of the Society since 2008 and helped to found the SPS Student Caucus in order to assist students in developing as scholars within the broad field of Pentecostal studies and as Pentecostal scholars. I believe my responses to his questions might prove helpful to others who might also be wondering similar things about writing and presenting research for SPS.

What is the standard length of a paper submitted to SPS?

There is no official standard length for papers. Some present papers of only 10 pages while others have submitted papers over 50 pages. The key is how much time your session will allow for presentation and questions afterward. Typically there is about 20-30 minutes for presentation and questions which means a paper of 15-20 pages is almost all that one has time to read in that timeframe. Longer papers are not discouraged, but that means much of the material will need to be summarized rather than shared outright.

Does the paper have to be completely written before you submit a proposal?

No. For student members it is better to have already written the paper (or much of the paper) prior to submission of the proposal since it can be difficult to meet the time demands of writing a paper after being approved. Proposals are submitted by the June deadline, approved by August-September then the paper is expected to be submitted in January. While this sounds like a lot of time it can slip away rather quickly in the midst of study and work.

Does a paper have to fit the theme for SPS?

No. It is helpful to use the proposed theme for the upcoming meeting in order to offer something which is more likely to be approved, but members are welcomed to submit on any number of topics which may or may not have anything to do with the overall theme.

Are all papers that are accepted also presented at the SPS conference?

That is the agreement made when submitting the proposal. If a student submits a proposal they are agreeing to write the paper, renew their membership, and attend the conference to present. The approval process is approving papers for presenting and the schedule of the conference is developed according to the papers approved.

How would I go about finding 2 respondents?

It isn’t necessary to have two respondents, but if you know people who are a part of SPS and might have some expertise or interest in your topic then they can be included. Most papers do not have respondents in my experience. I’ve only ever had one respondent and it was not even a person that I knew nor had I put their name down, but they were an expert in the field and their feedback was excellent.

 I have done something similar for my thesis, but I haven’t written a paper for a conference yet. Is this something I should wait on and try to attend SPS and see how it is done?

You are always welcome to attend an SPS conference to see how such things flow. Many other conferences function similarly so it isn’t necessary to attend SPS to see how an academic conference can be run. However, the spirituality and the comradery of SPS are unlike any conferences I have had the pleasure of sharing in or attending. I would personally say that presenting at SPS is an excellent opportunity for students beginning their engagements within the broader academic world as the members of SPS are primarily sympathetic and constructive. You would likely find that the feedback and engagement with your presented work will benefit its further development.

How would I join a special interest group?

You “join” a special interest group by attending that group’s meeting at the annual SPS meeting. It is as simple as saying you want to be a part of a particular group because you feel it intersects best with your reason for being a part of SPS. When filling in the interest group information online for your proposal simply select the group which seems to best fit the broad field of study being proposed. For instance, several years ago I wrote on an engagement between Post Modern and Pentecostal homiletics so I submitted the proposal to the “Practical Theology” interest group. My typically writes philosophical works and thus typically submits to the “Philosophy” interest group. Most years I propose something that is primarily exegetical (with theological orientation) and thus submit my proposals to the “Biblical Studies” interest group.

I trust these are helpful and would welcome any further questions that are felt to be pertinent particularly to student members of the Society.

SPS 2017 Proposal Submitted

I just submitted my proposal for the 2017 Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting in St. Louis, MO. It is always a bit daunting preparing for a presentation at a scholarly society, but I have always found the effort well rewarded by the responses and engagement at the time of presentation. My title is Toward a Pentecostal Hermeneutic of the Former Prophets. Here is my proposal synopsis:

While there is no singular Pentecostal hermeneutic (nor a singular definition of ‘Pentecostal’), and some still persist in questioning whether there is or should be any, there are noticeable trends toward more clearly defined Pentecostal hermeneutics while still ‘in the making’. Perhaps this ‘still in the making’ is part and parcel of the Pentecostal’s sanctified/sanctifying interpretation. Claims to any form of Pentecostal hermeneutics must admit no ‘claim to possess a pristine and qualitatively unique methodology’. Instead, every hermeneutical approach (including those which might be called Pentecostal) is distinguished ‘by the presuppositions on which they build, the questions that they privilege, the interpretive tools they prefer, and the texts to which they attend’. Such a hermeneutical approach is perhaps properly always in the making as an improvisational performance of the Word by the Spirit within the community.

This paper briefly traces the four broad streams of historical development with the Pentecostal community’s hermeneutics as outlined by V. Kärkäinnen: Oral pre-reflexive, Fundamentalist-Evangelical, pneumatic exegesis and an emerging post-modern movement. This last movement is followed more closely as it unfolds in a triadic form in developing the hermeneutic suggestive by the text of the Former Prophets within the Pentecostal community taking into account the recent work on this trajectory by Scott Ellington, J. Christopher Thomas, Kenneth Archer, and Amos Yong (among others). A proposed phenomenological experience of the text by the Pentecostal community is offered toward a narrative approach to the text of the Former Prophets.

And in case you were wondering … “Former Prophets” refers to the books of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament known as Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings. 🙂

Worship, the Arts, and the Spirit

David Plays the Harp for Saul by RembrandtI just submitted my proposal for the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2016 meeting in San Dimas, California (most excellent, dudes!) which is broadly themed “Worship, the Arts, and the Spirit”.

I am hoping my proposal gets accepted as in most previous years. I’ve titled my paper (which will end up as a part of my PhD thesis) “When Prophets Play the Lyre: Saul and the Strings of the Spirit”.

Here is my summary that I submitted (which is always fun to write when NONE of the paper has been written yet 🙂 ):

A recurring notion in 1 Samuel (chapters 10, 16, 18-19) appears to highlight the relation of King Saul to the Spirit, prophesying and the playing of the lyre. Saul initially receives the Spirit of the LORD and begins to prophesy as predicted by Samuel once Saul hears the music of the prophets at Gibeah. Later, the Spirit of the LORD departs from Saul and comes upon David. With the departure of the Spirit of the LORD a “troubling spirit of God” comes upon Saul causing sudden violent outbreaks. The only relief from the troubling spirit is the music of Spirit-endowed David on the lyre. Further, the “prophets prophesying” appears to function musically throughout this literary unit including with the overcoming of Saul twice to “prophesy” when encountering a group of prophets prophesying (in the first instance explicitly with music and suggestive in the second). A literary and theological interpretation of the relevant texts is offered for discerning the role of the Spirit in the instrumentation of the prophets in 1 Samuel with several proposed implications for Pentecostal practice.

History in the Making – SPS 2014

History has been made. What impact will be felt is yet to be seen, but this year’s Society for Pentecostal Studies saw the launch of a new endeavor that has been in the works for a couple of years now: the SPS Student Caucus.

I have been working with several other guys to see this come to fruition: Justin Gottuso (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Daniel Levy (Princeton Seminary). We were delighted to add Dan Morrison (McMaster Divinity College) to the mix over the last year. This inaugural Student Caucus was (by all means) a success.

AGTS kindly hosted a meet and greet get-together on Friday night after the last plenary session of the day with many student members (and others) in attendance. Yun Lois Dan Justin

Then Saturday morning we held a breakfast session with Drs. Russell Spittler (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Cecil (Mel) Robeck (Fuller Theological Seminary). They shared the formation and history of the Society and offered great wisdom to the student members.breakfast eating Spittler and Robeck

Here is the story of where it began in Justin’s words:

The 2012 SPS gathering at Regent University was my first academic conference, first SPS event, and my first time presenting an academic paper. I had an incredible experience that was beyond any of my pre-conceived ideas, but I also discovered three important issues that needed to be addressed for Pentecostal and charismatic students and next generation leaders.

My first discovery was how important it is to have a mentor who has been around SPS and academia for a while if you are a student or a first time presenter. Dr. Karkkainen from Fuller Seminary read over my initial paper outlines, gave me pointers on presenting, and introduced me to academic conference etiquette-all of which proved invaluable. His wisdom helped me navigate the anxieties and logistics of my first SPS conference.

My second discovery was the power in collaborative research projects and thinking out loud with other SPS members. After my paper presentation, I had the opportunity to discuss my paper topic with fellow scholars and students at SPS. Their ideas helped me see my topic in new ways and open new opportunities for future research. I realized there is power in thinking together and encouraging one another in our scholarship.

My third discovery was how Pentecostal and charismatic scholarly communities like the Society for Pentecostal Studies can help address current issues impacting the local church and the pastors of tomorrow. One of the plenary sessions discussed the need to find new and creative ways to talk about Jesus and experience the power of the Holy Spirit among the Millennial generation. As a “Millennial,” this struck a cord with me as a seminary student wrestling with what it means to communicate the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to my own friends, co-workers and strangers.

When SPS 2012 was about to end, I approached Dr. Paul Alexander, the President of SPS and shared my idea of forming a Student Caucus within SPS. I explained what I saw as a need for three things: 1) To facilitate mentoring relationships between seasoned scholars and student SPS members; 2) to promote collaboration research and writing projects; 3) to help form next generation Pentecostal and charismatic scholars and leaders. He was thrilled by the idea and encouraged me to draft a proposal. I drafted a proposal and sent it to two friends I made at SPS, Rick and Daniel. I submitted this proposal to Dr. Lois Olena, SPS Executive Director who made final edits and presented it before the SPS Executive Committee in April, 2013. I was overjoyed and a bit shocked when I received the notice that the proposal was “approved” by the Executive Committee!

And here are the core contributions which drive the Student Caucus:

1) Next Generation Formation: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic (P/c) scholarship by networking and building community among next generation student scholars. The SPS is a network of people who are ecumenical. Thus, it is entirely crucial that work being produced by P/c scholars becomes known, first by people who engage in P/c circles, and those within the broader Christian theological community. This could be promoted by a) establishing networks of relationships across North America and around the world of student/independent scholars through social media, especially through the medium of blogging (perhaps an official consortium of Pentecostal and charismatic blogs can be formed; b) promoting student scholarly societies on college and seminary campuses; c) facilitating community building among students and scholars at SPS by hosting special student and Next Gen social gatherings at yearly meetings; and d) managing a student contact list database and sending out quarterly newsletters/updates from around the country.

2) Research and Collaborative Projects: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by writing quality papers for SPS, generating student specific publishable literature, and working on collaborative projects with established scholars. These student leaders could work toward collecting and disseminating research and writing resources that are particularly gauged towards Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship; and also be encouraged to contribute quality papers at annual SPS gatherings. If a paper is considered worthy of publication, perhaps there could be a place for student contributions in Pneuma.

3) Mentoring Relationships: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by helping facilitate mentoring relationships and collaborative inter-generational projects with established scholars. This could be accomplished through a) connecting students with particular research interests with established scholars who are experts in that field and are interested in being a mentor; b) asking established scholars about current issues in Pentecostal/charismatic research and what still needs to be written and researched; c) establishing boundaries and expectations for mentoring relationships; and d) promoting collaborative projects inter-generationally between older and younger scholars as referred to in point #2.

We look forward to the future of the Student Caucus as a valuable part of the development of Pentecostal scholars.

Breakfast group

Seattle Here I Come

I received word today that my paper proposal has been accepted for the annual Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting in Seattle in March 21-23, 2013 hosted by Seattle Pacific University.  I truly enjoy these meetings — the papers, the discussions, the friendships.

If anyone is interested, my paper is titled “Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response.”  In this paper, I interact primarily with the homiletical proposals of Doug Pagitt (pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN) who is a leading voice in the Emergent Church and has written Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Zondervan 2005).  From my perspective, I appropriate what I believe is right about Pagitt’s approach and lay out how I believe Pentecostal preaching actually engages the criticisms he raises against “speaching” (Pagitt’s term for contemporary models of preaching). 

So, I’m looking forward to another eventful time at SPS this coming year!

Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness

I’m thrilled to once again be attending the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS).  This year it is being hosted by Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA from March 1-4 (which promises to be much warmer than Karlstad).  The topic is one I find close to my heart — Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness” and this year I will be chairing one of the Bible sessions.  It looks to be an interesting conference.  You can view a PDF of the sessions HERE.  

The two presenters and their respective papers I will be chairing are:
“‘New Treasures and Old’: (Re-)Reading the Old Testament Theologically with Early Pentecostal Mothers and Fathers” — Chris Green, Bangor University (Wales)
“‘Tell Me the Old, Old Story’: The Hymns and Testimonies of Ancient Israel and American Pentecostals” —
Meghan Musy, Missouri State University

I am thrilled to be able to chair the session (especially as it pertains to the joint topics of Pentecostals and the OT).  Also, its a delight to be able to chair for Chris Green…who I’ve found helpful in several previous sessions of SPS concerning the integration of the sacraments — and a sacramental appreciation — and Pentecostal theology and praxis.


On a related note…I realized I still haven’t joined Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice, but will have to rectify that this year.  By joining you can elect to receive a PCPJ mug, shirt or book (Pentecostal Pacifism by Jay Beaman).  This group was formed by Paul Alexander (and several others of like mind) of whom I intend in 2012 to read his “Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God”.