After being canceled in 2020, and being held online in 2021, the Society for Pentecostal Studies annual conference was finally able to meet in person once again in March of 2022. It was held at Vanguard during the week of spring break with about four hundred people attending from all over the world.
This year’s theme was Advancing the Study of Pentecostalism: New Directions & Future Possibilities. The breadth of the topic allowed for a whole range of papers to be presented in the areas of Biblical Studies, Christian Ethics, Ecumenical Studies, History, Intercultural Studies & Missions, Philosophy, Practical Theology & Christian Formation, Religion & Culture, Theology, and Theological Education.
Due to the conference being held at Vanguard, I was responsible for more than I would have been if it were at another institution. I was the respondent to a book presentation by Dr. Antipas Harris, Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion? I presented on my own recent book, Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Praxis. I chaired a session on Religion and Culture in which multiple papers were presented with responses. And I responded to a paper delivered by a Vanguard alumnus (Philip Struyk), entitled “The Work of the Spirit and the Work of the People: Pneumatology, Liturgy, and Public Theology in Mutual Dialogue.”
With Pentecostalism being the fastest growing segment of global Christianity, this conference served to highlight a broad range of topics associated with the growth of the movement and the challenges that it faces. It offered Pentecostal Scholars the opportunity to dialogue around specific issues, while also opening up space for collaboration in research and writing.
One of the highlights of the event for me was a plenary session by Dr. Loida Martell from Lexington Theological Seminary. She spoke on “Emergent Diseases in a Globalized World: The Virtual Nature of Racism.” It was a profound presentation which discussed the “links between emergent viral diseases, climate change, and globalization”, while noting that the “same patterns of exploitation and indifference to created life that contribute to emergent diseases are the ones that have contributed to the anti-Asian violence, racial violence, and health disparities among communities of color.”
Just as George Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe”, so the Earth is also crying out. The question becomes, how can we engage in Sabbatical living which recalls the Jubilee as a framework for proper living, which might ultimately serve as a “soteriological ‘Vaccine’”? This was a challenge for all who attended the conference.