by Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D., March 11, 2014
The Friday morning before I left for Springfield, Missouri, I had opportunity to meet with one of my favorite leaders who is incredibly inaccessible. The trouble was that the meeting time would have overlapped with our family worship Friday mornings at Destiny House which I did not want to miss. I chose family first and that Friday morning at Destiny House was powerful.
There was a new release of speaking in tongues. A friend and regular worship leader there, Cornelius Quek, gave a challenge to practice speaking in tongues more regularly and make it a discipline in the same way of fasting or reading the Bible. It was a beautiful time singing together in a heavenly language with the Destiny House family. Thankfully and miraculously, I was able to meet this leader later that day after hearing a talk at the conference about the importance of family. A few days after this, I headed on my next adventure to Springfield, Missouri.
There was something unique and powerful about the 43rd Annual Meeting for the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Springfield March 6-8, 2014 that I will never forget. I have been to these annual conferences since I started my Ph.D. in England in 2007 but this was the most memorable one to date. I believe that what happened with this community of over 300 scholars of Pentecostalism from around the world is a foretaste of what God is going to continue to do within the church.
I flew out a day early so I could go on the tour of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center led by archivist, Darrin Rodgers. It was very exciting for me to learn about some of the history within Pentecostalism and see the way they set up their museum and are releasing the power of the testimony. I also got to go inside the vault where they keep the very special materials. I was surprised, excited, and honored to see my book about Carrie Judd Montgomery on their shelves!
Following this, Glenn Gohr helped me in the research room to look at actual photographs of Carrie Judd from years ago. After that, he gave me box of Smith Wigglesworth’s writings to feast upon. I had the opportunity to look through original sermon notes, journal scribbles, and other valuable primary sources. I was like a child in a candy shop with all of these precious and powerful testimonies. I am so thankful to the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for digitizing so many resources I have used for my own research.
One of my personal highlights of the conference was the special session for the history interest group that took place on Thursday afternoon. I was honored to participate in a session to review and discuss my book entitled Life on Wings: The Forgotten Life and Theology of Carrie Judd Montgomerywith Biblical scholar Craig Keener, Pentecostal scholar and advocate for women Kimberly E. Alexander, Christian and Missionary Alliance historian Paul L. King, former Provost of Fuller Seminary and Vanguard University Russ Spittler. I started the session with a short PowerPoint presentation of Carrie’s healing testimony and life story. Following this, Craig Keener shared how Life on Wings opened him up to understand healing in a new way and “come to grips better with the question of healing in the atonement.” Russ Spittler commented on it’s importance for the future, Kimberly E. Alexander shared how it was one of the best biographical studies on a person in early Pentecostal history, and Paul King was thankful for the contribution.
Following some questions and response in relation to the development of healing homes and such, I read an encounter that Carrie had following her Pentecostal Spirit Baptism encounter where she experienced God in a greater level than she ever had before. I then read one of my all time favorite prayers by Carrie Judd Montgomery taken from her “Life on Wings” sermon. I read this same prayer a year ago in a session and it was used as confirmation and inspiration to my friend Alicia Jackson to move forward to pursue her Ph.D. You can see her testimony from the year before in the video below.
Then in this academic setting, everyone stood up to receive a blessing and we opened up the session to pray for healing. It was such wonderful, honoring, and humbling time for me to be surrounded by all of these incredible, powerful, and legendary scholars commenting on my work and to see God move in the room.
Tongues and Interpretation
On Thursday night, we had a plenary session. Towards the end of worship, someone broke out in tongues in the congregation of scholars. Following this, someone else gave an interpretation. I could feel the presence of God powerfully when this happened. I remember hearing people speak in tongues and then waiting for the interpretation when I grew up in John Wimber’s church at the Anaheim Vineyard. However, for the past several years in my church circles, for whatever reason, I have not witnessed this happening much at all. I believe that what happened that night is a sign of more to come.
Spirit Break Out
The following day, our society was forever marked. It all began when Kimberly E. Alexander had to switch sessions to do a plenary address alongside powerful scholar at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Cheryl Bridges Johns. That pairing was divine. After Cheryl gave a moving plenary address, Kimberly followed it up with a talk based on the research from her latest book What Women Want: Pentecostal Women Ministers Speak for Themselves. The Holy Spirit was brooding in the room over this topic of women in the ministry. Rather than closing the session himself which was the original plan, Kenneth J. Archer, the active S.P.S. vice president at the time, felt led to give space to Cheryl to close with a prayer.
With the conviction of a lifetime of paving the way for women in the academy and in the church, Cheryl was vulnerable in front of an audience of academics. Against all odds, she has pioneered the way for many when she was the very first woman to join this society years ago. She admitted that she was tired of having to continually contend in relation to the issue of women in ministry. Then, with tears in her eyes, she prayed in tongues over the whole group. When that happened, the presence of God fell powerfully in the room. I could feel the weight of His presence upon me.
The sound of one weeping could be heard in the audience. Women who have fought so long to have a voice, who were tired of being put on the sidelines because of their gender, were experiencing a release of that pain. Archer followed Cheryl’s prayer by inviting young women to stand who are called to the academy or to ministry. I responded. Through their tears, I saw the deep pain these women scholars had to endure for so long. Knowing the price they paid for me to have a place broke my heart. When I saw Kimberly pray for my friend Aliciaacross the room, I saw this as a passing of the torch.
I felt the power of God in that room more heavily than I ever expected to experience Him at an academic conference. Baptist minister and colleague from England, Tim Welch, offered to pray for me. I couldn’t stay standing. Tears streamed down my face. I could feel the burden being released and healing flood that room. Estrelda Alexander, one who has pioneered on behalf of women and the marginalized, came to pray for me as well. The transference that occurred between these legendary women scholars to the newer generation, along with the beautiful space shared between men and women in that room, stripped us all of our armor in the form of titles, letters, and Ph.D.’s and reminded us what it is like to be family.
As people started to clear out of the room, I could still feel the presence of God powerfully upon me. I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to leave that atmosphere. This was a holy moment and I didn’t want His presence to lift. I found myself alone in the hall. In a busy world where we have to fight for pockets of silence, He gave me a chance to linger with Him a little longer. I felt tingling on my whole body. Even as I write this now I can feel His presence upon me as I did in that moment. He came and I was undone. It was a sacred time.
Giving Space to the Anointing
Upon reflection, I recognize that it was moment Archer stepped back to share his platform with Cheryl that the Spirit broke out powerfully. He created space for one who was under great conviction and anointing to release the kingdom. In a similar way that A.B. Simpson created space for early Divine Healing Movement leader and Pentecostal pioneer Carrie Judd Montgomery to soar, Archer did the same for Cheryl. I praise and thank God for Archer’s sensitivity to the Spirit. If he did not yield to the Spirit right then, I feel our society as a whole may have missed out on what God wanted to release. This divine moment became the tipping point for the whole conference and maybe even the society as a whole.
This precious moment also moved our community from simply being members of a society to being a family in a greater way. Academics who sometimes don’t quite fit in the world or even in Christian institutions or the church, found comfort, understanding, and love amongst other forerunners, pioneers, prophetic voices for the church. The men in that room loved, honored, and gave space to the women. They sought understanding and stepped into our pain with us. This act alone brought such healing. Since I believe that artists, musicians, creatives, entrepreneurs, and even academics are prophetic voices for the church, I believe that what happened to us there is also a sign of what’s about to break out at in unprecedented measure within the church. See my article “Coloring Outside the Lines: Pentecostal Parallels with Expressionism. The Work of the Spirit in Place, Time, and Secular Society?” in The Journal of Pentecostal Theology for more on this.
During the conference, I was also blessed with the opportunity to see many friends and colleagues who never get the credit they deserve for the incredible contribution they are to the Body of Christ and to the church. I was happy to see people like Azusa Street Revival historian, Cecil M. Robeck Jr., who shares a similar passion for Carrie Judd and was my external examiner for my thesis, Dr. Mark Cartledge, my friend and advisor from England who gave a wonderful plenary, Stanley Horton, who is nearly 98 years old and has contributed greatly to Biblical scholarship. Whenever I spoke with Horton, he regularly ended our conversations with “Praise the Lord!” He is such a powerful example of what it can look like to follow God even into our 90s. I, too, want to be full of the Spirit and saying “Praise the Lord” at every turn even as I near 100 years of age!
While there are many more highlights to share including Lee Roy Martin’s presidential address on Psalm 107 beginning with a video of Martin Luther King Jr., I will close with a connection I had with Craig Keener. He is one of the foremost Biblical scholars in the world and does his work in such excellence that the glory of God is magnified just by him simply being a scholar as unto the Lord. He is also one of the most humble men I have met. I was very honored and humbled to have him be a part of the discussion on my book. Even more, after the final banquet for the conference, my friend Alicia and I shared a time of blessing, praying, and honoring Craig followed by him blessing us with an impartation of his writing gift. I am privileged to know a few people who after I spend time with them, I feel like I have just spent time with Jesus because the purity, humility, and glory of God in their lives. Craig has recently become one of these. This was a beautiful way to end this most memorable of conferences for the Society for Pentecostal Studies.
I am proud to be a part of a society that marries both the academy and spirituality and allows freedom and inspiration to not only love the Lord our God will all our hearts but also all our minds. With mixed views, denominations, genders, races, and other diversities, the society thrives because it is a family of believers who loves God first and foremost. When a bond of love is created within any community, love supersedes disagreements and also provides a safe environment for stimulating conversation to take place. Everything changes when a society, church, or community becomes family. This is my testimony of what happened when the Spirit broke out this year at the Society for Pentecostal Studies conference. I pray it blesses you and inspires you to speak in tongues more, give space to who the anointing is on regardless of gender or age, and invites you to move beyond structural barriers to become family with those in your circles.
I now leave you with my favorite prayer that Carrie Judd Montgomery released in Chicago in 1910. May her words inspire us all to rise above all circumstances and to soar with wings like eagles.
“Now, who is going to trust God for the winged life? You can crawl instead if you wish. God will even bless you if you crawl; He will do the best He can for you, but oh how much better to avail ourselves of our wonderful privileges in Christ and to ‘mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.’ O beloved friends, there is a life on wings. I feel the streams of His life fill me and permeate my mortal frame from my head to my feet, until no words are adequate to describe it. I can only make a few bungling attempts to tell you what it is like and ask the Lord to reveal to you the rest. May He reveal to you your inheritance in Christ Jesus so that you will press on and get all that He has for you.”
I want to thank everyone who prayed or sowed into my trip. Your support has made such a difference!
See also another view of this account I wrote that got published in Ministry Today.
See also article I wrote about my time in Toronto entitled "There's a Tidal Wave of Revival on the Horizon." To learn more about Carrie Judd Montgomery, check out the CJM Project, or to learn more about Destiny House, see video below. Thanks for joining me on this journey. Many blessings and impartation of God's love and presence to you!