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"The Community of the Spirit in the International Reformed - Pentecostal Dialogue"


By Mr. Josiah Baker




The international Reformed–Pentecostal dialogue has become an exemplar of theological discourse and reconciliation between the two traditions. The dialogue has brought together scholars from around the world to engage theological doctrine and contemporary issues in order to overcome historical animosities between the two groups and to encourage future cooperation. One of the areas where this achievement can most clearly be seen is in the dialogue’s analysis of the relation between the Spirit and the church. The ecclesiological reflections contained within the final reports reveal pneumatological implications for the church’s identity and functions, resulting in a convergence of Reformed and Pentecostal doctrine and practice. This article will argue that the international Reformed–Pentecostal dialogue’s depiction of the church as the community of the Spirit is a key contribution of the ongoing project to how the two traditions dialogue, relate, and work with one another.

The article will argue this by first analyzing the statements made by the dialogue and the papers presented in its sessions on the nature of Christian fellowship and the church’s unity. The study will then expound upon the worship and spirituality of the community, noting convergences and divergences between the two traditions as revealed in the final reports. This will lead into the role of the Spirit within the Christian community’s use of Scripture and its process of discipleship. The article will then discuss the role of spiritual gifts within the community in order to discern their proper use and purpose. The study will conclude by examining the Christian community’s mission and the Spirit’s role in this mission, thereby anticipating questions and topics that will need to be addressed in the final report of the ongoing third round of dialogue.

In order to follow closely the dialogue’s texts, the article will cite frequently the final reports of the two previous rounds of dialogue to give a thorough survey of their relevant contents: the first report in 2001 on “Word and Spirit, Church and World” (WSCW)[1] and the second report in 2012 on “Experience in Christian Faith and Life” (ECFL).[2] The session papers of the dialogue will also be discussed in order to flesh out statements made in the reports and to explore more deeply the respective beliefs and practices of the Reformed and Pentecostal communities. For these papers, I am indebted to those presenters who published their papers or graciously shared them with me for the sake of this article. Because the final report of the ongoing third round of dialogue has yet to be released as of this article’s publication, those papers discussed in the third round will only be cited in the final section of this article on the church’s mission in order to build anticipation for the third report. This study will now turn to a dominant subject of the dialogue: the communion of Christians in the Spirit.

Concepts of Koinōnia

Observations made within the final reports of the dialogue concerning the Christian community are dominated by the concept of koinōnia. The second report abounds in definitions of the concept, describing it as a "new way of being" (ECFL 131) that is "the fullness of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and thus, communion in the unity of the gospel” (ECFL 119). Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen explains how, for Pentecostals, the church is a charismatic fellowship of persons.[3] This causes Pentecostals to focus little on the structural or sacramental aspects of fellowship and instead on the persons in fellowship, resulting in a dynamic and dialogical koinōnia.[4]Additionally, because no individual is given all charismatic gifts, the fullness of the Spirit can only be experienced in fellowship with others (ECFL 121).[5] The Reformed delegates also identify a similar role of fellowship in claiming that “life ‘according to the Spirit’ is shared, corporate life.”[6] This corporate life occurs in gatherings where “communion is seen and touched and heard and tasted” in worship, a theme discussed below (ECFL 127). Fellowship is therefore seen in the reports as an integral part of the community’s formation and participation in the Spirit.


This fellowship between individuals results in the formation of the church, which the first report describes as "the community of the Holy Spirit's leading" (WSCW 36). The dialogue itself is an expression of this community in that participants in each dialogue session seek to share in both communities' forms of spirituality (WSCF 6). The Reformed delegates use covenantal language when describing the church community, saying that the reconciliation of church members with each other and God is based on the promises and commandments of God. This reconciled community thereby receives the gospel as the Spirit seals the Word in the community (WSCW 38). The delegates go on to describe how believers are gifted and commissioned at baptism to participate within this community in various offices and ministries (WSCW 58). Julie and Wonsuk Ma describe a similar commissioning within the Pentecostal tradition, saying that Spirit baptism acts as a "doorway event" through which believers receive various gifts and callings for the community.[7] Though the dialogue should explore the diverging understandings of this commissioning in future rounds, the reports still evidence a marked similarity between the two traditions in their understandings of the Christian community.

A key theme of this community with which the dialogue concerns itself is its unity. The first report describes the church’s unity given by the Spirit in saying that it is “manifested in the relations between congregations, groups, churches, and denominations on the regional, national, and global level” (WSCW 59). As congregations are drawn into communion with God, they are also drawn into communion with other congregations (ECFL 125). This unity is further described by the Belhar Confession, a document written by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1986 in response to apartheid, as the Spirit’s “binding force” and as a sign against the world’s enmity and division.[8] This confession was discussed during the second round of dialogue as an example of the Reformed tradition’s understanding of church unity. The Reformed tradition has long held that unity is vital to the church, for, as Calvin claims, “No hope of future inheritance remains to us unless we have been united with all other members under Christ, our Head.”[9] Similarly, many of the early leaders of Pentecostalism had a concern for the church’s reconciliation in the Spirit; as Douglas Jacobsen states, “They ached for unity.”[10] Though this impetus may have been marginalized by both communities historically, the dialogue and its reports are a recovery of this focus.

The dialogue, in addition to discussing the theological aspects of the church’s unity, is also devoted to promoting practical aspects of this unity. The initial exploratory group for establishing the dialogue identified a central concern of their endeavor as promoting the practical implications of ecumenical dialogue (WSCW 2). These practical implications are important because ecumenism and church unity do not only consist of good thoughts and diplomatic relations but also of responsibility, accountability, and the sharing of resources (ECFL 140). The dialogue seeks to establish relations between antagonistic portions of the two traditions where there are no formal channels of communication (WSCW 3). This lack of communication can be seen even in the formation of the dialogue: when the World Alliance of Reformed Churches first contacted the World Pentecostal Fellowship to establish the dialogue, the effort fell through.[11] Participants have met with local leaders of churches wherever the dialogue sessions have been held to promote communication between communities, whether in Lippe, Germany (ECFL 12), Puerto Rico (ECFL 9), or Seoul, South Korea (WSCW 12). The dialogue has thereby attempted to build bridges between communities of different identities, a shared space which Paul Haidostian describes as the “domain of the Holy Spirit.”[12] This study will now turn to examine how these communities interact with the Spirit.

The Community’s Worship and Spirituality

The dialogue describes worship as “personal and corporate communion with God” (ECFL 30). Because the Christian community is shaped and indwelt by the Spirit, it is “called upon to respond to God’s grace by worship in Spirit and in truth” (WSCW 37). Through worship, the community encounters God. Julie and Wonsuk Ma note how, for Pentecostals, this experience of divine encounter is a central part of the believers’ worship.[13] Jean-Daniel Plüss further comments that this encounter is rooted in God’s intertrinitarian life through the communion of persons.[14] The Christian's encounter with God in worship is therefore an extension of the encounter of divine persons in the Godhead. For the Reformed, this encounter is understood principally through the proclamation of the Word and the subsequent transformation of the believer, themes discussed further below. Divine encounter therefore plays an integral role within worship because of its effect on the worshiping community. Consequently, worship is seen by both groups as the center of the community’s life because it connects the community to God (ECFL 57).

The Reformed and Pentecostal delegates state concerning worship that, while their respective communities practice different forms of worship, they hold common affirmations about the same (ECFL 25). As Peter Kuzmic and Miroslav Volf once famously described, mainline Protestant worship services function as the lecture hall of the Word’s exposition, while Pentecostal worship services function as the communal sharing of the Spirit’s life.[15] Any observer who is even casually familiar with the liturgical practices of both communities will note numerous differences between the two. This contrast has historically caused much animosity and misunderstanding between the two traditions. Reformed Christians have frequently viewed Pentecostal worship as an emotionally charged distraction from the Spirit, whereas Pentecostals have viewed Reformed worship as an attempt to quench the Spirit’s power. Even a Pentecostal commenter on the first report juxtaposes “rigid, formal, and spiritless worship” with the “living, truthful, and spiritual worship” of Pentecostals![16] This reveals the deep need for further dialogue in future rounds on the “concrete reality of worship” between the two traditions, including the roles of the sacraments and spiritual gifts (WSCW 41). Such dialogue should be oriented towards promoting further interaction on the local level to help overcome these same attitudes of each community towards the other.

The dialogue also notes the role that the proclamation of the Word serves in the community’s worship and service. Both groups understand worship as including numerous parts of the liturgy, including proclamation, the sacraments, preaching, testimony, and the exercise of spiritual gifts (ECFL 28). The Reformed tradition views worship as where the community confesses its faith in accordance with the Word (WSCW 46). Yohan Hyun describes how the Reformed tradition explains the role of the Spirit in Scripture’s interpretation and the gospel’s proclamation, resulting in the spiritual regeneration of the believer.[17] The community’s engagement with Scripture is a deeply pneumatological event and experience that further connects the community with the Spirit, a subject discussed below.

The proclamation of the Word transforms the community for service. The final report on the second round states that the community responds to proclamation within worship in “love, reconciliation, service, and Christian unity” (ECFL 29). In worship, the community offers itself to God and is equipped for service in the world (ECFL 22). The community’s spirituality therefore includes its acts within the liturgy and in the world, for all of these acts that stem from an encounter with the Word through the Spirit are forms of the Word’s proclamation through the Spirit.[18] For example, Daniel Albrecht notes that Pentecostal spirituality is manifested both in the church and in the community’s mission outside the church.[19] The Pentecostal exercise of spiritual gifts is not limited to the church service but is considered normative during the week as well. Both traditions therefore see their encounter with the Spirit in worship to have implications for their service to the world. How these communities are formed for service this article will now examine.

Christian Formation

The dialogue has focused extensively on how Christian communities are formed; a key aspect of this formation is the Spirit's use of Scripture. Both Reformed and Pentecostal delegates affirm that Scripture is integral to the church, for Christian congregations are meant to be “Scripture-shaped communities” (ECFL 54). Scripture is able to fulfill this role because it is not merely a dead text containing lists of doctrine but because the Spirit makes the text transformational in its testimony to Christ (WSCW 22). The Word and Spirit are therefore intimately connected in their work in the community; while the “Spirit enlivens the Word, the Word provides a context for the Spirit's work” (WSCW 26). Within the Pentecostal tradition, the proclamation of the Word is both an event and encounter that occurs through the homily and in the exercise of spiritual gifts (WSCW 25). This proclamation is therefore dialogical between the preacher and the congregants, an inheritance from black spirituality,[20] and includes acts ranging from testimony to the exercise of charismata.[21] The Reformed tradition also views Scripture as actively speaking to the church; many Reformed churches keep an open Bible on the communion table or pulpit in order to signify God’s desire to speak to the church (WSCW 30). Because the Spirit speaks to all through Scripture, the study and discussion of the Bible is encouraged among all (WSCW 31). This devotion to Bible study prompts Paul van der Laan to challenge Pentecostals to learn from the Reformed understanding of the Spirit’s role in Bible interpretation.[22] Both traditions therefore see the Spirit as causing Scripture to be an active force within the community's formation.

Similarly, the dialogue sees the Spirit as playing a role in the community’s engagement with and utilization of Scripture. Through their engagement with Scripture, Pentecostals participate in the biblical narrative (WSCW 27); they view themselves as part of the larger biblical story.[23] The Spirit provides this link between the community and the text, for the same Spirit who attests to Christ in the text is active in and among community members. This continuity between the community and the Bible therefore creates a common narrative through the community's engagement with the Spirit. The Christian experience is formed through this encounter between the Biblical narrative and the lived narratives of the community (ECFL 26). The Spirit thereby becomes central to the church's engagement with Scripture. The dialogue also notes how the Reformed tradition engages Scripture through its prophetic dimension. Because Scripture addresses the world in addition to the church, proclamation serves a prophetic function (WSCW 34). In this way, the public kerygmatic calling of the church includes social reform in accordance with the Word.[24] The community’s engagement with the world is part of its engagement with Scripture, and it is the Spirit who teaches the community how to proclaim the Word and serve God through utilizing various cultural resources (WSCW 23).

This engagement with Scripture naturally leads to the edification of the Christian community. The first report describes the Spirit’s leading of the community in its confession of faith and edification. This thought is continued in the second report, where it is stated that the Spirit “inspires, instructs, and sends the community;” within the Reformed tradition, this is understood as occurring in the Spirit’s illumination of worshipers to receive Scripture and the divine presence within the sacraments (ECFL 32). Part of this instruction is the formation of creedal statements. The Spirit leads the community in making confessions and creeds in order to address the church’s current context in fidelity to Scripture (WSCW 43). “Growing in the Life of Christian Faith,” one such Presbyterian statement read in the dialogue’s second round, discusses the practices that are constitutive of and build up the church.[25] Though Pentecostal communities compose few such statements, their Spirit-led confessions of faith occur within the practices of testimony and worship (WSCW 45). These Spirit-inspired statements edify the community, thereby building up the church for service. While the processes and forms of confession occur differently between the two traditions, the two still see the Spirit as playing a vital role in the church's confession and edification.

The dialogue also stresses that this formation must occur within community. Such “communities of discipleship” (ECFL 72) form Christians individually and corporately under the leading of the Spirit. Discipleship therefore “becomes manifest in spiritual practices, mutual responsibility, and mutual accountability” (ECFL 51). The community instills these spiritual practices within believers which in turn build the community and support its unity (ECFL 133). Communal practices such as studying Scripture, worship, testimony, acts of service, sharing meals, and corporate prayer form members of the community in a way that they could not be formed individually. Though the dialogue should further explore these practices in future rounds,[26] it still reveals their importance in Christian formation. This formation under the Spirit simultaneously integrates Christians within the church and prepares them for service inside and outside the church. Members are thereby equipped to serve the community as they grow into it. This paper will now examine how the Spirit equips members of the community through its various gifts.

Spiritual Gifts within the Community

The dialogue identifies the necessity of spiritual gifts for the Christian community, for “the church is the community of the Spirit’s gifts” (WSCW 36), and these gifts are “constitutive of ecclesial life” (WSCW 50). These gifts are essential because they build up the community, equip members for ministry, and help members to grow in the knowledge of God (ECFL 61). Hyun traces the Reformed view of spiritual gifts to Calvin, who claims that Christ’s “whole strength, power, and majesty is here made to consist in the gifts of the Spirit;” spiritual gifts therefore manifest and reveal Christ’s presence and reign in the church.[27] Because of the integral function of spiritual gifts in the church’s life, the church community itself is seen as a gift of the Spirit. The Pentecostal delegates claim a similar importance for spiritual gifts, saying that they “enhance the faith of believers, deepen their fellowship with God, edify the church, and empower mission in the world” (WSCW 51). Spiritual gifts are therefore considered normative for ecclesial life. Frank Macchia explains how Pentecostals understand spiritual gifts in light of their own experience therein,[28] and Sang Hwan Lee describes how Pentecostal practice reveals both the need for spiritual gifts and for further theological reflection thereon.[29] The dialogue therefore seeks to develop this much-needed theological reflection.

The discussion of spiritual gifts naturally leads the dialogue to the discussion of charismata and their role within the contemporary church. Charismata have served as a focal point of tension between the two communities because of their diverging views on spiritual gifts, as can be seen in the final reports. Aside from a common affirmation that no gift or set of gifts is normative for everyone everywhere (WSCW 54), there is little common ground reached concerning charismata. This is largely due to the variety of views held within the Reformed tradition on the practice of charismata within the contemporary church.[30] Calvin himself held what could be called a general cessationist view, though he believed the Spirit could sovereignly restore the charismata within the church.[31] The Reformed tradition today ranges widely on its valuing of charismata within the community, from modern cessationists to the Korean Reformed church which was “pentecostalistic” before the arrival of the Classical Pentecostal tradition.[32] The dialogue notes that Reformed churches are increasingly abandoning cessationism because they see no place for it within Scripture and define miracles as including social justice accomplishments (WSCW 32). The dialogue also challenges the Reformed tradition to create more space for inspired speech from the congregation beyond the ordained offices of elders and deacons (ECFL 112); though these offices are meant to enhance the priesthood of believers, they have at times stifled the prophethood of believers. Macchia reflects that the Reformed refusal to focus on any particular list of charismata in Scripture has inadvertently caused many Reformed churches to neglect every list altogether.[33]

On the other hand, Pentecostals view the charismata as a necessary part of the proclamation of God’s power (WSCW 24) that edifies the community (WSCW 51). Pentecostal churches are consequently known for their exercise of charismata within communal settings. Rather than classifying charismatic experiences as practices solely for individual or small group settings, Pentecostalism has held them to be a normative aspect of Christian practice. Even when Pentecostals disagree amongst themselves on the proper exercise of particular gifts or the expectations of particular manifestations, they regard these gifts and manifestations as an integral part of the community’s engagement with the Spirit. Such demonstrations of the Spirit’s power are meant to point the community to God and empower the community for mission, discussed further below. The dialogue thus reveals the changing views within and tension between the two communities.

This tension leads to what the participants note is the most contentious topic of the dialogue’s second round: the Spirit’s role in the community’s discernment (ECFL 11). The dialogue understands discernment as the process of hearing and acting upon God’s voice (ECFL 77); both Pentecostal and Reformed groups stress that they expect to hear from God in their worship communities and take seriously what is heard (ECFL 86). The community therefore plays a vital role in discernment because it is the primary context in which one hears God speak (ECFL 107). This discernment is analyzed by the dialogue within two forms: the interpretation of revelation and the community’s action thereon. The delegates note that usually, while the Reformed view discernment as a matter of ecclesiastical decision-making, Pentecostals view discernment as a matter of understanding charismata (ECFL 85). Cecil Robeck in an earlier article lists a number of biblical criteria used by Pentecostals in the discernment of whether a “prophetic” word is indeed from God;[34] the second report lists several of these criteria, including the speaker’s submission to the community and the consistency of the prophetic word with the gospel (ECFL 91). Because Pentecostals believe that all within the community are gifted by the Spirit, all are responsible for discernment and are accountable to the community (WSCW 49). The dialogue goes on to challenge the Pentecostal community to be more discerning in its listening to prophetic words from those who do not live righteously (ECFL 114).

The two communities also affirm the need for discernment in acting on revelation. They identify the place for discernment within the community in responding to societal changes as new needs arise (WSCW 48). While the reports describe little concerning how the Reformed discern charismata, they describe in depth how the tradition discerns proper action. The Reformed tradition seeks to reach a consensus in its reading of Scripture through the discernment of the Word and Spirit (WSCW 44). Through the church’s various committees and synods, the church discerns the Spirit’s will to know how to act in accordance with the Word. This discernment also occurs in the church’s prophetic denunciation of social ills, including systemic oppression and moral corruption of society (ECFL 88). Discernment is additionally considered on a personal level, where the discernment of areas of repentance and growth is seen as a component of the believer’s constant reformation and sanctification (ECFL 105). Pentecostals will often speak of discernment in religious and social structures to liberate others from the demonic (WSCW 70, 73). Though the language employed is frequently more mystical or even apocalyptic, Pentecostals have a similar concern for addressing social ills; they discern both the demonic origins of these ills and how the Spirit wishes to correct them. Both communities therefore see discernment as a pneumatic process that is vital for the church’s growth, function, and unity (Eph 4:15-16; ECFL 116). In this way, the church’s exercise of spiritual gifts and discernment becomes a critical element in how the church fulfills its calling, a theme in the dialogue that will now be further examined.

Missiological Implications

The chief implication of the dialogue’s analysis of the community of the Spirit is the way the Reformed and Pentecostal traditions carry out the church’s mission. If, as described above, the Spirit dwells in the mutual sharing of community identities, and if the Spirit through the Word transforms the community for its calling, then only in community can Christians fulfill the Great Commission (ECFL 108). The encounter with the Spirit in worship and the encounter with other Christians in dialogue is oriented outside the church towards serving the world as the community participates in God’s mission (WSCW 64). This dialogue therefore presents itself as a part of that mission. The Christian community’s mission in this way becomes a topic that deserves further attention, which is why the ongoing third round of dialogue is devoted to the topic of “Ministering to the Needs of the World.”

Because the final report of the third round of dialogue has not yet been released as of this article’s publication, I will only survey the claims made in previous reports and papers in order to identify key questions and subjects that ought to be addressed by the ongoing round and future rounds of the dialogue. The first such subject is the nature of the church’s relation to mission. The dialogue adopts contemporary missiological language in saying that the church participates in God’s mission in the world (WSCW 64). God is therefore seen as the primary agent and basis for the church’s missiological actions; mission begins not with the church or even the world’s needs but with God.[35] Because of this, both Reformed and Pentecostal delegates claim that the Spirit goes before the church in preparing others to receive the gospel (WSCW 67). Such a focus on mission has been embodied throughout the history of the Pentecostal tradition; many Pentecostal churches and fellowships were even founded as missions organizations.[36] An important question pertaining to the present study is how the Spirit connects the Christian community to God’s mission. Nadia Marais here offers an insight: for the Reformed tradition, as the community is reconciled with Christ through the Spirit, the community participates in God’s acts in the world. As the Spirit creates community through giving life, this gift of life flows from the community to the world.[37] The Reformed thus profess that the gift of grace bestowed to Christians empowers them to be coworkers of God (1 Cor 3:9; WSCW 65). The third round’s final report should further explore this pneumatic connection between the church and mission.

The Spirit’s gifts are another relevant subject that deserves attention in the third round of dialogue. In a previous round, Wonsuk and Julie Ma noted the connection between charismatic experiences in prayer services and dedication to service.[38] Macchia also notes that, for Pentecostals, mission life is the proper locus for the exercise of spiritual gifts in the community.[39] This reveals the innate connection that Pentecostals see between spiritual gifts in general and the charismata in particular to their mission in the world. Spiritual gifts are seen as an innate part of Pentecostal mission because of their kerygmatic function in displaying supernatural power.[40] Spirit baptism, often called the “crown jewel” of Pentecostal pneumatology, is understood first and foremost as empowerment for mission because it enhances the Spirit’s gifts in the believer for the sake of the church’s mission (WSCW 66). The Reformed tradition has also noted a similar connection between spiritual gifts and mission. The gifts that the Spirit bestows on the believer at his or her baptism enable the believer to live and work within the community.[41] This election by God into the community leads to the community’s actions in accordance with God’s will. The third round should therefore explore how the Spirit bestows these gifts and how these gifts should be employed by the community for the sake of God’s mission.

Evangelism and salvation are integral to any discussion of mission. The church’s call to evangelize is an inherent part of the community’s own self-understanding, for “circles of Christian communion are never closed circles.”[42] The two previous final reports discuss this element of mission little. Walter Hollenweger, noted scholar of Pentecostalism and ordained member of the Reformed tradition, criticizes the first report in saying that the supposedly common theology of the two communities within the report lacks implications for common witness.[43] The third report should therefore seek to fill this neglected gap of previous rounds. Salvation is also frequently intertwined with discussions of evangelism. While most Pentecostals deny salvific elements in other religions, the Reformed are generally more open to the possibility of such elements (WSCW 72-3).[44] The question then becomes what specifically are people “saved from” when responding to evangelism, and how is the Spirit involved within the act of evangelism in both the evangelizer and the evangelized? This question could prove fruitful for the third report to address.

A final subject which the third report should further explore is that of social reform. The dialogue has studied this aspect of mission previously, particularly in the second round where the delegates affirmed the church’s obligation towards pursuing righteousness and justice within society (ECFL 152). The second report notes the struggle historically for both traditions to theologize on the church’s social obligations (ECFL 144-5). Such neglect has caused both Pentecostals and Reformed to tolerate social evils, such as the complicity of both in apartheid in South Africa (ECFL 165).[45] The dialogue therefore seeks ways that the two can together repent of their past and grow in their understanding of the church’s mission. Pentecostal churches typically see social engagement as a result of the gospel’s liberating power and as a matter of local action stemming from a pastoral concern for society that extends to a transformation of social structures (WSCW 62, 70). The Reformed tradition has come to see social reform as status confessionis, as an innate element of the Christian’s confession of faith.[46] The dialogue should therefore provide an opportunity for the two communities to explore their common confession in terms of their obligation towards society. As discussed above, such obligation involves the discernment of the Spirit’s will and the empowerment of the Spirit for the community’s participation in God’s mission. The topic would therefore be a practical application of the dialogue for the Christian community’s life in the Spirit.


Much of the dialogue’s value is in the wealth of theological content and questions it has produced. This can be seen perhaps nowhere more clearly than in the dialogue’s discussion of the community of the Spirit. By bringing the two traditions together, the dialogue has revealed areas of convergence and divergence in theology and praxis. My only critique of the final reports released so far is the change in format between the first and second. While the first intentionally reached a differentiated consensus through highlighting convergences and divergences between the two traditions, the second chose to focus primarily on convergences so as to encourage interconfessional communion and cooperation (ECFL 173). However, though this may encourage joint action, it does not do the same for further theological exploration. As the second report itself states, differences between traditions challenge Christians to engage each other and to seek understanding (ECFL 174). By not accentuating these differences as clearly, the dialogue does not encourage such engagement as much as it could have. Even if the dialogue evidences an ecumenism of a “common aporia,” to borrow Hollenweger’s language,[47] it will encourage theological discourse between members of the two traditions on levels beyond that of the formal bilateral dialogue.

The international Reformed–Pentecostal dialogue through examining the community of the Spirit has brought together two global traditions of the church that have frequently been estranged and embittered. Pneumatic ecclesiology serves therefore as a focal point for discussion and synthesis between the two. By examining the church community, the two traditions participate in each other’s communities and grow in their common ecclesial identity. By examining the Spirit, the two traditions are further united with one another and with the Spirit. By examining the community of the Spirit, the two traditions are brought together into one community under the guidance and in the power of the Spirit.



[1] “Word and Spirit, Church and World: Final Report of the International Dialogue between Representatives of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders 1996-2000,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 9-43. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches has since then merged into the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

[2] “Experience in Christian Faith and Life—Worship, Discipleship, Discernment, Community, and Justice: The Report of the International Dialogue between Representatives of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders 2001-2011,” Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 21 (2012), accessed October 16, 2017,

[3] Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “The Church as the Fellowship of Persons: An Emerging Pentecostal Ecclesiology of Koinōnia” (paper presented at the fourth session of the second round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Louisville, KY, May 17-24, 2006), 2.

[4] Ibid., 5, 8, 11.

[5] Ibid., 13. Cephas Omenyo, another participant of the dialogue, elsewhere notes that for African Instituted Churches, koinōnia  is expressed in the belief that humans are meant for community. Cephas N. Omenyo, “Essential Aspects of African Ecclesiology: The Case of the African Independent Churches,” Pneuma 22, no. 2 (2000): 235.

[6] Theology and Worship Ministry Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Growing in the Life of Christian Faith (Louisville, KY: Theology and Worship Ministry Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1989), 13. This document was shared in the second session of the second round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 5-11, 2003.

[7] Julie Ma and Wonsuk Ma, “An Immanent Encounter with the Transcendental: Proclamation and Manifestation in Pentecostal Worship” (paper presented at the second session of the first round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Chicago, May 11-15, 1997), 6.

[8] Dutch Reformed Mission Church, “Belhar Confession,” 1986.

[9] Inst. IV.1.2, cited in Joseph D. Small, Committed Conversation, OTWCI 2 (Louisville, KY: Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1999), 1.

[10] Douglas Jacobsen, “United Church of Christ Response,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 92.

[11] WARC General Secretary Milan Opočenský and Theology Secretary Henry Wilson eventually contacted Cecil Robeck to informally establish the dialogue. Frank D. Macchia, “Dialogue, Reformed–Pentecostal,” in The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Revised and Expanded Edition, ed. Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 575.

[12] Paul A. Haidostian, “Church Communion in the Middle East: An Armenian Evangelical Perspective,” Reformed World 56, no. 2 (2006): 215.

[13] Ma and Ma, “Immanent Encounter,” 15.

[14] Jean-Daniel Plüss, “Religious Experience in Worship: A Pentecostal Perspective” (paper presented at the first session of the second round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Amsterdam, May 16-23, 2002), 2.

[15] Peter Kuzmic and Miroslav Volf, “Communio Sanctorum: Toward a Theology of the Church as a Fellowship of Persons” (paper presented at the first meeting of the third quinquennium of the International Roman Catholic–Pentecostal Dialogue, Riano, Italy, May 21-26, 1985); cited in Kärkkäinen, “The Church,” 2.

[16] Sang Hwan Lee, “Korean Pentecostal Response,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 65. Though Lee does not name the Reformed tradition in his description, this identification can easily be inferred from the surrounding discussion.

[17] Yohan Hyun, “The Holy Spirit, Charism, and the Kingdom of God from the Reformed Perspective,” in Spirit’s Gifts—God’s Reign, Theology & Worship Occasional Paper 11 (Louisville, KY: Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1999), 51.

[18] Macchia here dialogues with Hendrikus Berkhof in claiming that the Spirit speaks cum Verbo (alongside the Word) by speaking through numerous forms of the Word, including through inspired utterances. Frank D. Macchia, “Spirit, Word, and Kingdom: Theological Reflections on the Reformed/Pentecostal Dialogue” in Theology Between East and West: A Radical Heritage—Essays in Honor of Jan Milič Lochman, ed. Frank D. Macchia and Paul S. Chung (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2002) 83; cf. Hendrikus Berkhof, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1976).

[19] Daniel E. Albrecht, “Pentecostal Spirituality: Ecumenical Potential and Challenge,” Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 2 (1997), accessed October 16, 2017,

[20] Ma and Ma, “Immanent Encounter,” 7.

[21] Albrecht, “Pentecostal Spirituality.”

[22] Paul N. van der Laan, “Dutch Pentecostal Response,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 80.

[23] Richard D. Israel, “Pentecostal Spirituality and the Use of Scripture,” Pentecostal-Charismatic Theological Inquiry International, 1996, accessed October 16, 2017,

[24] Frank D. Macchia, “Karl Barth Meets David Du Plessis: A New Pentecost or a Theater of the Absurd?” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 8.

[25] Theology and Worship Ministry Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Growing, 28.

[26] Both Walter Hollenweger and Paul Chung note this lack of discussion in the first report on sacraments and their role in Reformed and Pentecostal theology and praxis. Such discussion could reveal areas of difference concerning how the Spirit is present in the community’s sacramental practices, a highly practical topic of discussion for the dialogue to examine. Walter Hollenweger, “Swiss Reformed Response,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 46. Paul Chung, “Korean Reformed Response,” Pneuma 23, no. 1 (2001): 57.

[27] Hyun, “The Holy Spirit,” 37; cf. Comm. on Isa. 11:2.

[28] Frank D. Macchia, “The Struggle for the Spirit in the Church: The Gifts of the Spirit and the Kingdom of God in Pentecostal Perspective,” in Spirit’s Gifts—God’s Reign, 11.

[29] Lee, “Korean Pentecostal Response,” 65.

[30] Such variety of views was not uncommon among Reformed delegates of the dialogue due to the array of traditions represented within the Reformed stream of Christianity, from Waldensian to Presbyterian to United churches. Henry Wilson, “Dialogue with the Pentecostals,” WARC Update 6, no. 2 (June 1996).

[31] Hyun, “The Holy Spirit,” 39, 40; cf. Comm. on Acts 2:17; Inst. IV.3.4.

[32] Hyun, “The Holy Spirit,” 52, 53.

[33] Macchia, “Spirit, Word, and Kingdom,” 86-7.

[34] Robeck shared this previously-published article at the third session of the second round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Detmold, Germany, May 25-31, 2005. Cecil M. Robeck, “Discerning the Spirit in the Life of the Church,” in The Church in the Movement of the Spirit, ed. William R. Barr and Rena M. Yocom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 36-45.

[35] Douwe Visser, “Ministering to the Needs of the World: Mission as Evangelisation and Diaconate” (paper presented at the first session of the third round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Berekfürdő, Hungary, November 17-21, 2014), 11.

[36] Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “Mission and Salvation: A Pentecostal Perspective” (paper presented at the second session of the third round of the International Reformed–Pentecostal Dialogue, Antalya, Turkey, December 1-7, 2015), 2.

[37] Nadia Marais, “‘Our Lord and Giver of Life?’: A Reformed Perspective on Pneumatology and Mission,” Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 24 (2017), accessed December 14, 2017,

[38] Ma and Ma, “Immanent Encounter,” 12.

[39] Macchia, “The Struggle,” 27.

[40] Byron Klaus, “The Holy Spirit and Mission in Eschatological Perspective: A Pentecostal Viewpoint,” Pneuma 27, no. 2 (2005): 336.

[41] Marais, “Our Lord.”

[42] Haidostian, “Church Communion,” 218.

[43] Hollenweger, “Swiss,” 47.

[44] Kärkkäinen describes Pentecostal views on salvation in other religions in his paper. Kärkkäinen, “Mission and Salvation,” 12.

[45] While the involvement of the Dutch Reformed Church in apartheid is much more well-known, the Apostolic Faith Mission was also complicit in the systemic segregation and oppression of the country. For more, see J. Nico Horn, “South African Pentecostals and Apartheid: A Short Case Study of the Apostolic Faith Mission,” in Pentecost, Mission, and Ecumenism: Essays on Intercultural Theology—Festschrift in Honour of Professor Walter J. Hollenweger, ed. Jan A. B. Jongeneel (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang, 1992), 157–67.

[46] The General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 1982 affirmed this. Hyun, “The Holy Spirit,” 56.

[47] Hollenweger, “Swiss,” 44.