Don Miller, CRCC’s executive director, delivered a paper titled “Where the Spirit Leads: Pentecostalism and Freedom” in Rome at a conference co-sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion and the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.
Miller reaches four main conclusions about the current growth of Pentecostalism: First, assuming that competition is fundamentally healthy for the creative evolution of religion, Pentecostalism potentially fulfills a positive function, both for the health of Christianity and as an alternative to the dominant traditions in places where Christianity occupies a minority status. Second, there is a definite fit between the DNA of Pentecostalism and democratic values, since Pentecostalism challenges hierarchical, authoritarian structures, empowering laity and promoting the priesthood of all believers. Third, despite the perception of many mainline Protestants that Pentecostals are “primitive,” Pentecostalism is actually often a modernizing influence in developing societies and a source of innovation in the worship cultures of churches in the developed world. And finally, Pentecostalism is providing a response to the post-modern, “disenchanted” world in a way that declining Protestant denominations clearly are not.
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Donald E. Miller is the director of strategic initiatives with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.