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In scholarship and ministry, he argued for an expansive and expanding Spirit-filled Christianity across traditions.Vinson Synan, one of the first historians of Pentecostalism and a powerful advocate for the breadth and depth of the Pentecostal movement, died on Sunday. He was 85.Synan was a professionally trained historian with a doctorate from the University of Georgia and the son of a Pentecostal pastor, who himself became a Pentecostal pastor and eventually the assistant general superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC).He sometimes experienced a “tug of war” between his scholarly and religious commitments, Synan wrote in his 2010 memoir. But in both roles, he helped people understand Pentecostalism as a tradition with deep Protestant roots and as an ongoing movement that was expanding to include Christians in all denominations and all over the world.Born in 1934 and raised in the Pentecostal Holiness church, some of Synan’s earliest memories were listening to his father and uncle preach to poor white people during the Great Depression in small Virginia churches and revivals.“People would be up on their feet ‘shouting the victory,’” he wrote. “The altar calls were a sight to behold and sometimes painful to hear. People crowded the front of the church seeking salvation, sanctification, baptism in the Holy Spirit, or divine healing. Often the roar of concert prayer was deafening.”These people were known derogatively as “holy rollers.” Synan found the term offensive and grew interested in the history of Pentecostalism. He was surprised to find that the elders in his church knew little of the Pentecostal past.His father Joseph Synan didn’t know anything about Charles Fox Parham, for example, the original proponent of the decisive Pentecostal ...Continue reading...
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