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17 December 2015

Welsh Pentecostalism debated in the Welsh Assembly

Welsh Pentecostalism debated in the Welsh Assembly

A short debate was held recently in the Senedd on the topic of Welsh pentecostalism: why Wales should do more to celebrate its rich pentecostal heritage. It had been chosen by Darren Millar, Assembly Member for Clwyd West who earlier this year was himself ordained as a minister by the Assemblies of God.

It came during a period of time in which the three main branches of the Pentecostal Church in the UK - the Assemblies of God, Elim Pentecostal Church and the Apostolic Church - have been or will be marking their centenaries (in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively). Although the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906 is credited with being the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement - which, if combines with the Charismatic movement, now makes up 8% of the world's population - the Welsh revival of 1904 was most certainly a precursor. The conversions during the revival in Wales of DP Williams and George and Stephen Jeffries alone all had a significant impact on the leadership of three main branches mentioned above.

The debate was also placed in a context in which Welsh Government has been promoting its Faith Tourism Action Plan. Although the pentecostal movement does not boast fine cathedrals in Wales, it's spiritual legacy lives on and hundreds of Christians come to Wales every year to visit places associated with the 1904 Revival and the pentecostal movement. This is something that Welsh Government is keen to develop.

Perhaps a further aspect of pentecostalism that has not been fully acknowledged is the movement's focus on missionary activism and adventure that has resulted in so much spiritual and social change for good in the world. When contrasted with current Islamic extremism - which also appeals to people's sense of adventure but which has caused so much destruction and resulted in the etymology of the word 'radical' becoming something negative - there are perhaps insights that people involved in counter-extremism could glean.

Among the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Wales there have also been many who are pentecostal. Of note are the many Eritrean pentecostals who started to arrive in significant numbers around seven years ago, due to their government's clampdown on the pentecostal church. Many have since had their applications for asylum accepted and have made Wales their home. Some have started their own fellowships but many also attend English-language churches where their presence and contribution is much valued.

A transcript of the Welsh Assembly debate can be read here (Item 9) - http://www.assembly.wales/en/bus-home/pages/rop.aspx?meetingid=3489&language=en&assembly=4&c=Record%20of%20Proceedings