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Anglicans Ablaze

4 October 2012

As part of my research into the history of the charismatic renewal movement, I visited the Anglicans Ablaze conference in Bryanston today.

Iy seems that the charismatic renewal is having a revival, among Anglicans at least. It was quite strong in the 1970s, and seemed to disintegrate in the 1980s, but a couple of years ago a group of Anglican renewal organisations, including IViyo  loFakazi bakaKristu (the oldest), New Wine, Soul Survivor, and Growing the Church held a joint conference and decided to work together more closely. This was the second joint conference, and it was attended by over 1000 people.


Anglicans Ablaze conference in Bryanston, Johannesburg


It was interesting to see some of the differences from the renewal of the 1980s. Back then there were only fleeting and almost accidental contacts between the black and white branches of the Anglican charismatic renewal, but here they were all obviously together.

Bishop Graham Cray from the Church of England, speaking on Fresh Expressions of Church

Back then there were also no all-Anglican charismatic conferences. Yes, there were IViyo conferences, but they were nearly all black, and only involved a few dioceses. White Anglicans mostly went to ecumenical conferences, and many were sucked off into Neopentecostal denominations, some of which started off as ecumenical organisations, and then formed their own denominations. This one was an all-Anglican (apart from the odd visitor, like me) and included people from Namibia to northern Mocambique.

But the biggest difference was perhaps that expressed by Bishop Graham Cray, from England, speaking on Transformed by the Holy Spirit, when he said that Christians are being called out of “consumer Christianity which exists to bless me, to a missional Christianity which is called to bless others”.

And that difference was seen in this conference too. There was almost traditional charismatic worship and ministry, but a lot of the workshops dealt with the nitty-gritty of ministry in places like the slums of Nairobi, excoriating the handout culture of foreign NGOs, which paid people to attend workshops, and rather encouraging the local churches in the slums to develop their own community development ministries.

In almost every way I thought it looked better and more hopeful than the charismatic renewal of the 1970s, with only one exception — the English songs didn’t seem nearly as good as the ones we sang back then. Perhaps it was just that I didn’t know any of them, but the ones in Zulu and Sotho seemed as good, even though I didn’t know any of them either.

I’ll be going back tomorrow, God willing, and will perhaps have a fuller picture then but it seems that something is still happening among the Anglicans. It mainly seems to be the Methodists that are so secretive.

Bishop Martin Breytenbach and the music group



6 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 October 2012 2:23 am

    This news is wonderful, Steve. Particularly the fact that apartheid is truly dead in its ranks and there is social thought and organisation gaining its rightful place in our discourse of faith. I am looking forward to the next post. If I had been in your shoes, I would have been looking for religious, social, and political influence from the conservative end of the USA scene. My experience here in Oz has been mega-churches forging such links and translating their ideas into Australia – instead of tapping into Australian culture, history and context.

    • 8 October 2012 5:19 am

      I saw signs of Neopentecostal megachurch influence (apart from the fact that it was held in a building belonging to such a church) — mainly in that what, when I was involved in the Anglican charismatic renewal 30 years ago, was called “praise” is now called “worship”. Back then “praise” was one aspect of worship, now it seems to be the whole of it.

      I think it was partly “religious, social, and political influence from the conservative end of the USA scene” that caused the charismatic renewal movement in southern Africa to go into decline in the 1980s, whereas now it seems to be reviving somewhat.

  2. John permalink
    4 January 2013 8:09 am

    Dear Steve, are you an Orthodox Priest? and if you are why the charismatic renewal ?
    Kind Regards
    Orthodox John.

    • 4 January 2013 8:32 am

      No, I’m not an Orthodox priest, I’m an Orthodox deacon. I’m also a church historian and missiologist, and the charismatic renewal had a significant effect on Christianity in South Africa in a period when the Orthodox were firmly entrenched in their ethnic ghettos. It could be said that the Orthodox Church was like a ladder with the bottom four rungs missing, and quite a number of people left the Orthodox Church back then to join Neopentecostal megachurches. Some of them, when they reached the fourth rung, and found that there was nothing else to do but go back to the bottom and climb them again, and came to realise that what they were looking for had been in Orthodoxy all along, only they hadn’t been able to see it, and they returned.


  1. Anglicans Ablaze, Part II « Khanya
  2. Communication without community: American religion and the world « Khanya

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