(Photo: Assemblies of God)
Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, which claims over 66 million Pentecostals worldwide, acknowledged in a letter addressing Pastor John MacArthur's Strange Fire conference that "there have been isolated aberrations of behavior and doctrine over the past century among those who self-identify as Pentecostal or charismatic." Wood insisted, however, that "the movement as a whole has proved a vital force in world evangelization."
Dr. Wood, general superintendent of The General Council of the Assemblies of God and also chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, issued a letter on AG.org in the wake of the Strange Fire conference that brought about 4,000 people to Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., over a week ago. The conference, hosted by Pastor MacArthur and featuring other speakers, such as R.C. Sproul, Conrad Mbewe, Steve Lawson and others, called out what the California minister deems as "unacceptable worship" among the Charismatic movement.
"Dr. MacArthur believes that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased with the close of the Apostolic Era and that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are therefore theologically aberrant at a foundational level," Wood's said in his statement.
The general superintendent went on to outline New Testament passages that support Pentecostal beliefs in the ongoing gifts of the Holy Spirit, some of which include speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and interpreting tongues, prophesying, and divine physical healings.
"While there have been isolated aberrations of behavior and doctrine over the past century among those who self-identify as Pentecostal or charismatic, the movement as a whole has proved a vital force in world evangelization — a fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to His disciples in Acts 1:8. On behalf of the 66 million adherents and 360,000+ churches in the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, I thank God that the faith and life of the Acts 2 church are still being believed and experienced today.
"The Assemblies of God celebrates 100 years in 2014 and remains committed to the full authority of God's Word. As a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God has sought to cooperate in the Great Commission with Christians of like-minded faith, even when they are not Pentecostal and charismatic and we remain committed to that collaboration.
"We trust the time will come when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and Charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ. We pray God's blessings on their efforts to share His gospel with a lost and dying world. Pentecostals and charismatics are their co-laborers in this effort so we ask that they would similarly pray for God's blessing on us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission that God has given us all."
Read Dr. Wood's statement in full regarding the Strange Fire conference here (pdf).
Pastor MacArthur, whose Strange Fire conference unfolded Oct. 16-18, said at the onset of the controversial conference that he and other speakers would be addressing "the false worship" he believes has been coming out of the Charismatic movement. MacArthur's new book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship, addresses the same issues.
"What I'm talking about is the Charismatic movement that offers to God unacceptable worship, distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan. People are caught up in it, deceived, led astray," MacArthur has said.
During the conference, which was accessed during a live online stream by viewers in more than 170 countries, there were at least 15 different talks given by the various guests, which can be accessed at Tmstrangefire.org.
In one of MacArthur's talks, titled "An Appeal to Charismatic Friends," the Calvinist theologian insisted that the Strange Fire conference was for "the true Church" so that they can "discern, be protected from error … and be a source of truth for others outside the Church."
He went on to claim that the Charismatic movement was "alien," led by the greater culture, seeker-driven and depreciates and diminishes the glorious way the Holy Spirit worked in the foundation of the church, The Christian Post previously reported.
"The broader Charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other doctrinal aberration in this modern day," MacArthur added.
The minister has called on "people in the traditional Pentecostal movement who love Christ" to speak out against "the aberrations, the heresies, the terrible, terrible kind of manipulation and deception that many in the Charismatic movement have been able to pull off on unwitting people."
As the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project reports, in citing the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are 279 million Pentecostal Christians and 305 million Charismatic Christians in the world.
In addition to denominational Pentecostals, Christians of other traditions and expressions, such as Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Calvinist/Reformed adherents, also believe in the ongoing charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.