When I was assigned to a helicopter carrier preparing to go to Vietnam in 1968 I had not resolved an inner conflict regarding a doctrinal position regarding evidential tongues that I had come to see as extremely divisive. In my wider association with Christians of all stripes I observed those who gave clear evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit yet had not spoken in tongues. I began to examine Scripture carefully, looking for a solid biblical foundation for our denominational position. As a result of thorough examination and exegesis of pertinent passages I discovered our tradition on tongues was based on invalid assumptions and a valid spiritual experience whose purpose was significantly misinterpreted as a result of adhering to the invalid assumptions.
While in Vietnam I resolved the inner conflict and acknowledged to myself that I could no longer affirm my belief in our Pentecostal tradition. The uncertainty of life in Vietnam was a reminder that I should be prepared to meet God with a clear conscience. The Holy Spirit prodded me to reveal my change of belief to my denomination. I knew that serious consequences might follow and it would put my chaplaincy career in jeopardy. Nevertheless, I pledged to be honest with my church when I arrived back in America regardless of consequences.
And there were consequences. The Rocky Mountain District officials recommended that I be immediately dismissed. National Headquarters overruled the District and gave me a year to reconsider my position.
Providentially, Superintendent Joe Gerhart of N. Calif/Nevada District heard of my plight and gave me hearty welcome into his district in 1970. For forty years I enjoyed the fellowship of this district although officials knew my apposing position. However, I refrained from going public with my position for two reasons. (1) Although I had clearly seen no biblical foundation for our position I also clearly saw that supernatural tongues had accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit at Jerusalem to the Jews; to pagan Roman Gentile converts at Caesarea; to Asian Gentile converts in Ephesus. However, I had not yet discovered from Scripture what the purpose of those accompanying tongues was. I did not want to publicly oppose the assumed purpose my church insisted on unless I had a clear revelation from the Bible of a superior and different purpose. (2) A second reason I did not go public was that I did not consider it proper to do so while I was officially representing my church as Chaplain or Pastor. After I retired I began to see the majestic and lofty purpose the Bible assigned to tongues that accompanied these outpourings of the Spirit. Only then was I ready to make my research public. In 2009, before publishing the manuscript of my first book, I offered to resign from the Assemblies of God. My District Superintendent requested that I not resign and stated that members of our church needed to read what I had written. I honored his request and remained.
When PENTECOST REVISITED was published in 2009 General Superintendent George Wood began to get complaints from members who resented my public declaration of error in the Pentecostal tradition. I was told confidentially that General Superintendent Wood had considerable sympathy for my position and held to one not greatly different. However, he quickly succumbed to public pressure and wrote my District Superintendent requesting that Jim no longer support my retention by the Assemblies of God. When I received a copy of his letter I quickly submitted another letter of resignation (my second). In mid 2010 I received a gracious letter from James T. Bradford, General Secretary of the Assemblies of God acknowledging my resignation. He thanked me for my years of service and wished me God’s best. Thus ended fifty-two years of ordained ministry with the Assemblies of God. I left with my integrity intact and my commitment to biblical truth uncompromised. I was immediately issued Ministerial Credentials by Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, an endorsing agency for active and retired chaplains with the military, hospitals, prisons, industry, sports teams and the like across America.
In future blogs I will present and discuss the Bible passages that freed me from a tradition that needlessly brings divisive and confusing elements into the body of Christ. The tongues of Pentecost were meant to promote unity, racial harmony and evangelism across international barriers.
Published on on September 24th, 2014