Former Pentecostal leader becomes Anglican

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IT’S NOT UNCOMMON to hear stories of people who were raised Anglican or Roman Catholic becoming Pentecostals later in life. But recently, a prominent Pentecostal theologian has become an Anglican and is seeking ordination. Dr. Ronald Kydd, a history professor for the past decade at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College in Peterborough, Ont., left the faculty and relinquished his ministerial credentials with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada in December 1998. In January he became a pastoral lay assistant at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Cobourg, under the incumbent, Rev. Peter Walker. For the last eight years Kydd served on the highly acclaimed international dialogue between Pentecostals and Roman Catholics. He wrote a major theological work, Healing Through the Centuries (1998), as well as Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church (1984). As a young boy in Winnipeg, he remembers singing the Gloria while trudging through the snow delivering newspapers from his sled. His family attended the Icelandic Lutheran church, but in his teens he was drawn to the youth group at Western Gospel Church, a Pentecostal congregation. There he and his brother responded to an altar call. Speaking in tongues came “quite spontaneously” and is still a part of his devotional life, he said. Kydd sensed a call to the ministry and attended a Pentecostal Bible college in Saskatoon. He obtained his BA from the University of Winnipeg, his masters from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon and his PhD from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, where he specialized in patristic studies. Now 56, Kydd will be confirmed soon in the Anglican Church, but it could be two years before he is ordained, first to the diaconate then to the priesthood. His family supports his move. Kydd, who has always been inclined toward a liturgical expression of worship, finds himself “quite enamoured” with Anglicanism. “What’s gripping me is the traditional music I haven’t heard. It’s intellectually and spiritually stimulating. I’m very moved by the cantored Psalms. There is far more Scripture in a Anglican service and it’s just washing over me.” He was also drawn to the more frequent celebration of the eucharist and appreciates regular confession. “We Pentecostals have a much jollier exercise and don’t confess on a regular basis.” Kydd finds both Anglicans and Pentecostals worship with embodied prayer, whether that is kneeling or raising their hands. “Whether we are talking Charismatic, Pentecostal or Anglican, the attitude one brings to the worship experience is tremendously important. The heart preparation for worship is a prevention for the onset of worship fatigue, whatever the denomination.” In the 1950s and ’60s Pentecostal churches developed growing social concerns for the oppressed. When the Charismatic renewal occurred, however, Pentecostals got caught up in it. According to Kydd, “They reverted to their earlier stage of much less structure and more spontaneity. But denominational Charismatics had liturgical and ecclesiastical structures to keep them on the rails which Pentecostals did not have.” Canadian Pentecostalism grew fastest from 1971 to 1981. Many of the 1960s Charismatics, both denominational and non-denominational, and many Jesus People came into Pentecostal churches. At the same time, the televangelism of Jimmy Swaggart became a Pentecostal model for preaching and worship. “When the Toronto Blessing occurred a large proportion of classic Pentecostals hailed it as a return to the early stages of their own experience,” said Kydd. He never attended because he was distressed by the nature of its spirituality. “I thought it would harden the Pentecostal tendency to view spirituality as centred on highly charged, emotional, crisis experiences. Pentecostal spirituality is centred around traumatic, cataclysmic experiences such as conversion and baptism in the Spirit. “It did have the impact I anticipated, emphasizing experience over everything else and individual gratification that would generate enthusiasm and excitement which would make it difficult for churches to act responsibly in the communities they found themselves.” Many Pentecostal churches now view Airport Vineyard-style worship as the only legitimate worship, added Kydd. “Their focus of energy is to replicate it in their churches. But it is not balanced with social justice concerns. Thus the institutionalization or maturing of Pentecostalism was diverted by different waves of religious enthusiasms.” In Kydd’s assessment, the Airport achieved a “culturally western, American understanding of how one comes to God.” “It was exclusively sensationalist and dramatic. There were exceptions but in many Pentecostal churches and lives this became the norm. If you weren’t worshipping constantly in this transported manner and weren’t seeing phenomena such as at the Airport occurring, you were in some way spiritually deficient,” said Kydd. About a decade ago Kydd came to the conclusion that many Pentecostal churches had adopted the dominant values of the wider culture: excitement and instant gratification. “That distressed me profoundly. I preached about it across the country. I was applauded unanimously everywhere but they just carried on,” he said. Kydd believes there is a place for refreshing spiritual movements framed by institutional structures. For example, he supports the Alpha course with its Holy Spirit weekend. “It has developed in a firmly Anglican context. There is an ecclesiastical polity and liturgy that provide parameters for it. I see it as potentially being very helpful.” Finding the right balance is always a problem, though.”One of the challenges to the denomination is to be elastic enough to let these renewal movements occur within it, yet shepherd it so that it doesn’t dissipate the energy in extravagant phenomena, but rather let the energy of the Spirit be focused on what the church is supposed to be doing: living out the life of Christ in the world. “The anointing of the Spirit or the felt presence of the Holy Spirit is to energize everything the Church does as it lives out the life of the kingdom, engaging in issues of justice and social responsibility.” Sue Careless is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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