Mainstream Protestantism and the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Monday, July 1, 1991
End Date: 
Thursday, June 30, 1994

Edith Blumhofer directed this study on “Mainstream Protestantism and the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements”; the study was coordinated through Wheaton College’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE), and it served two purposes. First, the project examined the intersection between mainstream Protestantism and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in America as a means of understanding their impact on each other and on American evangelicalism in the mainstream. Second, Blumhofer assisted the Lilly Endowment’s study of contemporary theological education and spiritual formation of church members by mapping trends, resources and expressions of popular Christianity related to these needs. <p> The project solicited proposals and commissioned specific studies to explore the history, sociology and theology of mainstream Protestantism and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. A series of invitational consultations presented papers on Charismatic and non-Charismatic relationships within mainstream Protestantism, mainstream Protestantism’s interaction with Pentecostalism through the Charismatic movement, and the influence of the independent Charismatic movement on mainstream Protestantism and Pentecostalism. In her consulting work for the Endowment, Blumhofer visited Christian bookstores, analyzed church bulletins, reviewed Sunday School materials, examined Bible versions and formats, and planned studies of Habitat for Humanity and Focus on the Family in her attempt to map the terrain of contemporary American faith. <p> In response to the project’s guiding question—i.e., “What happens when Mainstream Protestantism, Pentecostalism and/or the Charismatic Movement intersect?”—several findings emerged: (1) the answer depends on whether the question is asked in congregations, seminaries or in the larger ecumenical movement, (2) mainstream Protestantism evidences traditions of piety akin to Pentecostal and Charismatic forms, (3) the independent Charismatic movement is a direct product of the intersection of mainstream Protestantism and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, (4) mainstream Protestant congregations demonstrate increased openness to popular culture as they move closer to Pentecostal and Charismatic currents, (5) the Charismatic movement has influenced mainstream Protestant and Pentecostal worship, and (6) charismatic members of mainstream Protestant congregations tend to be more politically conservative than are others in the congregation.