Saturday, 27 June 2015
Arthur Wallis on the birth of the charismatic Move in the UK
[We are very grateful to Jonathan Wallis, Arthur's son, who has given us permission to reprint this copyrighted article.says the webpage ]
My wife and I now live in beautiful Wharfedale, Yorkshire. One day we decided to trace the Wharfe river to its source. The trouble is that rivers tend to have more than one source. We found ourselves asking, “Which is the river and which is the tributary?’ Looking back over 25 years it is impossible to pinpoint one source, for there were many springs to the Restoration stream. I speak of those that touched my life. There were many others.
First a little about my own background. My parents’ roots were in the Christian Brethren, and when I was a child we worshipped with them as a family. When God called my father into itinerant ministry he broke away from the Brethren, finding their outlook too sectarian and restrictive. For over 15 years he gave himself to evangelism and Bible teaching till laid low with a terminal illness. I was then 17, and deeply devoted to him. His death shook my spiritual life to its foundations. It was then God laid his hand on me, and I knew that somehow I had to step into the breach, though some 5 years of war service in the army was to intervene.
Vision of the Church
In the early days of my ministry my views about the church were unformed. Only the Brethren seemed to have strong convictions about this, and I was not overly impressed with what I had seen of their performance. I guess something of father’s views had rubbed off. He was happy to work with any church or denomination, provided it was not narrow-minded. I felt that all the Brethren talk about ‘assembly life’ was much-ado-about-nothing.
In 1947 I met one of ‘God’s irregulars’, whose writings and teachings were to have a profound influence on me. G. H. Lang must have been in his 70’s. Here was a man who knew God. That impressed me even more than his phenomenal grasp of Scripture. I also liked the fact that, though aligned with the Brethren, he toed no party line. His mind was captive to the Word of God. One of his pamphlets, ‘Church Federation’, shook me out of my complacency and neutrality concerning the church, and convinced me that there were some clear principles laid down in Scripture.
A quiet revolution was taking place in my thinking, and the direction of my ministry was consequently shifting. It was no longer my aim to be a great preacher like father, or to receive, like him, an invitation to address the Keswick Convention. I would still love and respect my many friends in denominational churches, and work with them as far as possible, but my heart was no longer sympathetic to denominational systems. Only in NT settings could I see God’s people coming into personal and corporate maturity. I could not consent to ecclesiastical traditions, however ancient, which made biblical principles of none effect. The first seeds of restoration were sown.
A little later when many of us were being stirred to pray for revival, I could not support the aims of Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and other Revival Fellowships, that seemed to be dedicated to pray for revival in their own denomination. As God had never authorised the sectionising of his church into denominations I could not see that he would be interested in their being perpetuated and revived. In the event most of these organisations petered out.
The Hope of Revival
I cannot recall what triggered it off, but in the second year of our married life (1950/51) Eileen and I began to seek God for revival. Perhaps it was the paper Herald of His Coming that came to us from the U.S.A. In East Devon where we lived the spiritual situation could hardly have been more bleak. Small churches struggling for survival, without life or vision. We began to fast and to pray.
Early in 1951 my colporteur friend, Oscar Penhearow, shared with me his concern for ‘an enduement with power for service’. He had been reading R A. Torrey. We decided that we would each seek God and search the Scriptures. I went right through the NT on this subject, and within 3 weeks we were both filled with the Spirit — for me it came alone on my knees, and without any contact with Pentecostals. The experience was revolutionary. It changed my prayer life, my preaching and my witnessing, though it was not till much later that I was to experience spiritual gifts.
Within a few months a brother from Exeter called on me and made himself known. David Lillie, after receiving the baptism in the Spirit a few years before had had to leave his Brethren assembly, so we had much in common. He and others had commenced a NT type fellowship on the outskirts of Exeter. David had come to his own clear convictions about the church, and God used him to temper the fires of my revivalism with the NT church vision. I also saw that without a widespread restoration of the power and gifts of the Spirit to make it come true, the vision would always remain a vision.
Meanwhile news had come of a spiritual awakening in the Scottish Isle of Lewis through the ministry of Duncan Campbell. Though limited in its scope it was powerful in its effect. The news was fuel to the fires of our revival praying. In the Autumn of that year the way opened for me to visit Lewis, meet Duncan Campbell, and see for myself what God had done.
A Prayer Movement
Following my return I gathered a group of some 8 men together on New Year’s Eve to pray into the new year (1952) for revival. It was revival after the Lewis pattern that we still had in mind at that time. From then on there was a prayer meeting in our home on the first Friday of each month which continued for many years. There was a marked upsurge of expectation and prayer for revival in a number of churches, partly through the ministry of Duncan Campbell and also through news of a revival that had broken out in the Congo as Zaire was then called (1953).
At one of David Lillie’s early conventions at Exeter I first heard tongues, interpretation and prophecy, and had an instinctive witness that they were genuine A speaker that came quite often to those early conventions with a strong message on faith, healing and deliverance, was Cecil Cousen. He had been a pastor in the Apostolic Church. Through the Latter Rain movement in Canada God had touched him, and he came home to bring the blessing he had received to his own denomination but it was not received. Cecil then formed his own undenominational fellowship in Bradford. Edgar Parkyns from Exeter also left the Apostolic Church about that time. He and Cecil brought to those early conventions a charismatic dimension that would otherwise have been lacking.
At the confluence of 2 or 3 streams there is always turbulence. In the movement of the Spirit at this time there were 3 commingling streams. There was a revival emphasis, a NT church emphasis, and a Pentecostal emphasis. The revival emphasis, stimulated by news of what God had done, found expression in prayer movements such as Nights of Prayer for Worldwide Revival and the League of Prayer, as well as through the creation of numerous prayer groups, mostly in homes. My own ministry over those years had a strong revival emphasis. Though I had never written anything before I felt that something on revival was needed, and thought I might manage a 20-page booklet. The writing flowed from the spoken ministry. As the ministry grew, ‘Topsy’ grew too. Three years later (1956) In the Day of Thy Power - the Scriptural Principles of Revival appeared as a 250 page hardback It went into a number of editions before being recently re-written under a new title, Rain from Heaven — Revival in Scripture and History.
Here I must warn exponents of ‘God’s order for the family’ to be prepared to shudder. It was nearly 20 months before our 13 year-old was to see his Dad!
As for the NT church emphasis, David Lillie was the leading protagonist. We called together our first ‘Restoration’ type conference in May 1958. Exmouth was the venue, and the theme was, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ - Its Purity, Power, Pattern and Programme in the Context of Today’. Quite imposing, and not a little ambitious, you may feel, for a 3 day conference! Cecil Cousen was among the speakers. Among the 25 invitees were 2 students whose convictions has led them to leave their Bible College in South Wales. One of these was Graham Perrins, who edits the magazine Fulness.
A second conference was held near Okehampton in 1961 on ‘The Divine Purpose in the Institution of the Church’. Some 40 leaders came to this. In the convening letter we asked where the true church was that could face the challenge of the hour. ‘Must it continue to be obscured and dishonoured by all the impedimenta of denominationalism - its unbelief, its divisions, its worldliness, its apathy? It was our conviction that such a church must arise in this end time, endued with power from on high, equipped with the manifold gifts of the Spirit, and with a much fuller understanding of her proper function and purpose in the divine plan’.
The third in the series came in September the following year at Mamhead Park, near Exeter, attended by 80 or more. The following year was to see the breaking out of the charismatic movement in Britain (1963). No wonder we were led to the theme, ‘The Present Ministry of the Holy Spirit’. There were Bible readings on 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and ministry on the believer’s personal need of the Spirit, and on the Spirit’s power for witnessing. Nearly all were leaders, and many came into the baptism of the Spirit.
Two things in that conference stand out for me. Hearing the exciting news of the outbreak of the Spirit in California that later was recognised as the beginning of the charismatic movement. The other was my first meeting with a young Welsh evangelist whose ministry had brought a touch of revival to a number of villages in the neighbouring county of Cornwall. His boyish appearance made him look even younger than he was. His name - Bryn Jones!
A Little Turbulence
The other stream in the confluence was the Pentecostal. In addition to ministries whom we have mentioned, who brought a distinctly charismatic flavour or faith emphasis to the early conventions, we began to hear of ‘Henry’s Glory Meetings’ being held in a Full Gospel Fellowship at Tatworth (now known as South Chard Fellowship). People said they actually danced! Unheard of. They were only half an hour’s ride away across the Somerset border - much too close to be comfortable. It was some years before I dared investigate and have my fears allayed.
The turbulence I spoke of earlier was not such as to disrupt fellowship, as to prevent a real flowing together. It was getting the emphasis right. People like myself who were strong on the revival message and on the NT church were no doubt over-cautious about Pentecostal extremes and imbalance. We didn’t want to ‘go overboard’, and so prevent others from getting ‘on board’. On the other hand the distinctly Pentecostal brothers could see no point in pleading for the outpouring of the Spirit. ‘He has come, brother. Can’t you see, we’re in revival’ I’m afraid I couldn’t. If that was revival I was a disappointed man. That was not what we had been asking God to give us. Where were the signs and wonders? Where was the powerful impact on the community? Where was the mighty harvest? Where were the awe and majesty of God? I could only say, ‘Brothers, there is more - much more yet to come. This may be starters, but starters doesn’t make a banquet.’
Then some of our brothers found it hard to embrace the vision of the NT church. Sometimes one felt that they acquiesced with what we were saying without being convinced. Were we sometimes guilty of biblical semantics or theological hair-splitting? Were forms and structures so important? Is it not more important to be men of faith and power, moving in the Holy Spirit? David and I felt it was not either or, but both. My own study of the history of revivals had convinced me that their effects were ephemeral unless accompanied by reformation of the church. Concerning the Lewis Revival I wrote in Rain from Heaven, ‘In less than a decade you could visit those very churches where God had worked so powerfully and never suspect that they had ever tasted revival’. The history of the now declining charismatic movement provides further confirmation. The old structures will restrict if not preclude the maturing of the believer and of the body of which he is a part. In the long term the need of the new wineskin is as vital as the need of the new wine.
Towards the close of the 50s there came into our hands a magazine called A Voice in the Wilderness, edited by John Myers. I could not say there was much in the magazine that was new to us, but coming out of the blue, having no connection with ourselves, it was saying the same things. God used it to confirm that he himself had initiated and was controlling the movement towards restoration. ‘To how many others of his servants all over the world was he saying the same thing?’, we wondered. Our confidence was that, if he was initiating the vision, he would also fulfil it.
In the concluding instalment Arthur Wallis recounts the stirrings of the Spirit in New Zealand in 1963/64, the beginnings of the charismatic movement in Britain, and how God brought into covenant relationship men sharing the same Restoration vision.
In the first article Arthur Wallis told the story of how God gave him the vision of a restored church. In those years preceding the charismatic renewal there was a coming together of leaders not only thirsty for the Spirit, but also eager to discover God’s will for his church. In this closing article he tells of the stirring in New Zealand in 1963/4, of the beginnings of the charismatic movement in Britain in the mid 60’s and of how in 1972 God brought into covenant relationship men sharing the same restoration vision. It was first published in the Restoration Magazine September/October 1980.
[We are very grateful to Jonathan Wallis, Arthur's son, who has given us permission to reprint this copyrighted article. He still has a selection of Arthurs out-of-print works available, including the classic and hard-to-find "In the Day of Thy Power" - single edition - imported from the US at £7.50 each. Also there are copies of "Living God's Way" and "On to Maturity" - Arthur's discipleship training material - and these are available at £5 each. Email Jonathan here.]
It was January 1963, the year of the Arctic winter. When at last we were able to get home to Devon through the snow drifts I found an important letter awaiting me. Months before, I had turned down an invitation to an Easter Camp in New Zealand, and here was the same committee of young men from the Brethren writing to inform me that they had had it from God that I was to come to this Camp, and if I was in doubt I should know that my return air ticket to Auckland had been paid! ‘The impertinence! Who do they think they are? And if they are right, why hasn’t God told me?’
There were also practical obstacles to my going, but God shifted these one by one, and by the end of March I was in Auckland. Edgar Trout of Plymouth, a man with a distinctive faith ministry, had written on the eve of my departure. God had shown him that this visit would change the course of my ministry, and so it proved to be.
The Weekend That Got Stretched
My good friend Campbell McAlpine, already out in New Zealand, had been banned from ministering in the Brethren Assemblies with which he was connected because he was known to speak in tongues. When I was first invited, doors of Brethren churches all over the Dominion were open to me. By the time I got there they had all shut. The ‘grape-vine’ had been working overtime! When I flew out for that Easter Camp I little realised how long it would be before I returned. In the event, Eileen joined me for part of the time, which was to bring her into a wonderful release in the Spirit. Here I must warn exponents of ‘God’s order for the family’ to be prepared to shudder. It was nearly 20 months before our 13 year-old was to see his Dad!
On the last night of the Easter Camp God came down on the meeting. From then on there were more open doors than I could enter. I was thrilled to find a revival-consciousness abroad, many inquiring about the Holy Spirit, and much praying for an outpouring on the land. The way of the Lord had been prepared by the ministries of Leonard Ravenhill, Ivor Davies (who had been involved in the Congo Revival) and Campbell McAlpine. The charismatic movement was still future, and even among those who had embraced the Pentecostal message there was as yet little moving in the gifts of the Spirit, and few with any vision for the restoration of the Church.
God taught me much of his ways, especially intercession, through his people in New Zealand. I sought to present to Spirit-filled circles the vision of the church as God saw it, ‘a lampstand all of gold’ (Zech 4:2), not as we saw it, ‘by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed’. I sought also to quicken faith for that vision to become reality. The culmination was a conference in Palmerston North in August 1964 with the theme, ‘The Building of a Spirit-filled New Testament Church’.
Campbell, who by this time had returned to the UK with his family, was back in New Zealand on a short visit and shared in the ministry at the conference. Some 300 attended, and God gave us a tremendous time. Never before had New Zealand seen historic, Pentecostal and undenominational churches joining together in such free and warm fellowship. Never had there been a conference with this kind of emphasis.
New Doors Opened
I returned to my family in England in November 1964, and the ‘grape-vine’ moved smartly into reverse gear. I found on my return that I was responsible for splitting the Brethren churches in New Zealand ‘from Cape to Bluff’, that is, from extreme north to extreme south! So now I had to face doors shutting in the home country. This proved to be something of a relief. I was confident that ‘a great door for effective work’ would open, and I was no longer comfortable ministering in churches who were resistant to a message to which I was wholly committed, and where I had continually to mind my p’s and q’s.
While I had been overseas a young Anglican curate and his wife from ‘the Mecca’ of Evangelical Anglicanism had received the baptism in the Spirit. Michael Harper, one of John Stott’s curates at All Souls, Langham Place, London, resigned his curacy, and founded the Fountain Trust, which was to have a significant part to play in fanning the charismatic flames already beginning to break out in the historic churches. Campbell and I were invited to join their Advisory Council, a link I have maintained until our recent move to Yorkshire.
In the Spring of 1965 David Lillie and I, together with Campbell McAlpine, called together our last and largest conference for leaders. It was held at Herne Bay Court, Kent, and the theme was The Apostolic Commission. Among the 100 or more who came together for that challenging time were some leaders who had not been with us before — W.F.P. Burton of the Congo; an ex-Baptist pastor, G.W. North; an Anglican curate, Norman Meeten; a young Brethren evangelist not long baptised in the Spirit, Hugh Thompson; and a young Baptist pastor from Basingstoke, Barney Coombs. Looking back over those conferences, one recalls a healthy fear lest we should relax into ‘a holy NT huddle’ over the vision of the church to the neglect of the great commission. There was a strong evangelistic emphasis throughout.
Another Restoration Spring
In the pre-charismatic days I had spoken for several years at a tent convention near Dorking, Surrey. It was known as The Abinger Convention and had come into being through the vision and organising ability of Fred Pride. It was a Keswick-type convention, except that it had a distinct ‘Reformed’ emphasis, was patronized by Dr. Lloyd-Jones who usually came down from London to speak at one or two of the meetings, and had a strong emphasis on prayer, revival and the power of the Holy Spirit. It experienced some quite remarkable touches of the Spirit over those years, and God used it to pave the way for what was to come.
When Fred Pride received the baptism in the Spirit he found himself compelled to withdraw from the convention, and within a year or two it had folded up. The ground was now clear for something fresh. Fred called together some key ministers and leaders who were moving in the Spirit to organise a charismatic-type convention at the Elim Bible College, Capel, Surrey. Campbell McAlpine, Denis Clark, Jean Darnall and myself were invited to be the speakers at the first Capel Bible Week. Later Bryn Jones, Em Baxter and others made significant contributions by their ministry, and the convention grew till a marquee seating nearly 2,000 was being filled, It proved to be a significant platform for the restoration emphasis.
After 6 years the organisers came to a unanimous conclusion that the Capel Bible Week should end, at least under its original auspices. The facilities at Capel were no longer adequate for the growing numbers, and every attempt at securing a larger venue had failed. There was also another important factor. The organisers in the nature of the case, could have no ongoing relationship as a body of men, apart from organising the Bible Week. Some were ‘Ephesians 4’ ministries with gifts of insight and direction, some were local pastors, while others were really administrators. With all having a voice into such decisions as who should be invited to speak, it was not easy to get a clear sense of direction. However, God had already initiated the next phase, but to understand that we must retrace our steps for a moment.
A Coming Together, Bone to Bone
By the start of the 70’s a number of us in leadership had come to the same basic convictions as far as the church was concerned. We were convinced that denominationalism was a major barrier to what God was wanting, and that denominational structures not only obscured the vision of the ‘one body’, but could never be a suitable receptacle for all that God was wanting to bestow. Those of us who were committed to that ‘better thing’ we had seen in the Spirit began to find each other in God.
Throughout 1971 I had had a growing conviction that a few of us should come together to study the prophetic scriptures, to see if we could come to a clearer understanding of God’s prophetic programme. Some of us were Pre-millenial, others A-millenial, and the rest Pan-millennial — we believed that it would all pan out alright in the end! Accordingly I invited six brothers to my house in February 1972. None of us really had any inkling of what was in store.
Our discussions on prophetic subjects brought some clarification, but the outstanding feature of the time was the flow of prophesying in which God gave us specific and detailed instruction concerning our relating together as ministries. We were warned not to think of ourselves as ‘special’, We were a ‘workshop’ and ‘a sample’ of what he would do with many such groups all over the world. How true that has proved to be!
Before that year was out we entered into a covenant relationship, agreeing to be committed to each other’s welfare in every way, to ‘cover’ each other by bringing encouragement, direction and where necessary correction to each other’s lives. We had not been this way before and the path was not to prove free of pain and difficulty. Nor were we now immune from making mistakes.
God warned us in prophecy that we were not to enlarge the group of committed men except at his clear direction. In doubling the group the following year, when relationships were still tender, and while seven strong characters had still much to learn of grace and patience in the practicals of relating, we failed to heed God’s warning. The larger numbers compounded our difficulties, and led eventually to a cleavage in 1976, with the two groupings that resulted ceasing to have a working relationship. Since then there have been a number of meetings, expressions of goodwill on both sides, and some ground regained. But there is still a fair way to go.
My own study of the history of revivals had convinced me that their effects were ephemeral unless accompanied by reformation of the church. Concerning the Lewis Revival I wrote in Rain from Heaven, ‘In less than a decade you could visit those very churches where God had worked so powerfully and never suspect that they had ever tasted revival’. The history of the now declining charismatic movement provides further confirmation. The old structures will restrict if not preclude the maturing of the believer and of the body of which he is a part. In the long term the need of the new wineskin is as vital as the need of the new wine.
Chalking Up the Assets
Despite this serious set-back there was no sense that we had made a mistake in entering into this committed relationship. Rather the reverse. Here are some of the benefits we have experienced:
1. A deathblow to the strong independence that had characterised our ministry for years, and to any temptation to become little empire-builders.
2. A new security, authority, and growth in stature through being thus related.
3. Each began to be helped by his brothers to see his strengths and limitations; what he should let go, and what he should hold on to and develop.
4. None felt he had to have it all, or to see his ministry as threatened, but rather strengthened and complemented by his brother’s gift.
5. Our commitment to each other as leaders began to be reflected in a new depth of commitment among the ‘rank and file’ believers.
6. A rapid growth of the work at all levels.
7. United projects were now undertaken on the basis of committed relationship.
That takes us to the point where we left the Capel Bible Week.
Bible Weeks North and South
Just as the Abinger Convention prepared the way for the Capel Bible Week, so in turn did the Capel Bible Week for the Dalesweek in Harrogate. The Capel Bible Week commenced with numbers approximating those of Abinger in its latter days, while in the first year of the Dalesweek numbers had already outstripped the largest crowds ever seen at Capel.
For some time Bryn Jones had had a vision for something like Capel up north, maintaining a strong prophetic emphasis, but with the whole operation under the direction of men of apostolic and prophetic gift, moving in covenant relationship. All those involved in the running of the week in any way would be men and women in committed relationship and sharing the one vision. Each one was to perform the job for which he or she was gifted, and to seek to do it with a spirit of serving and a spirit of excellence. This has produced a great sense of togetherness from the top downwards, and people have been amazed at the smoothness with which the administering of six or seven thousand people under canvas for a week has been performed.
When Dalesweek reached its maximum capacity a couple of years ago it was decided to launch a similar week down south. Last year saw the first ‘Downsweek’ at Plumpton Race Course in Sussex an event which drew nearly 2,000, almost all from the south. This year at the same venue it proved to be a pack-out.
The latest development has been the functioning of itinerant ministries in apostolic teams. The vision of this has been with us for some time, but it is only in the last twelve months that it has begun to be really operational. We are expecting this to provide a new thrust to the work, especially in the realm of evangelistic outreach. It will also provide openings for younger men whom God is raising up with apostolic and prophetic ministry.
May I say in conclusion that I have not written as one who has researched all the facts and covered all the ground in relation to the sources of the restoration movement. Far from it. I have simply written as an eyewitness, and in many cases as a participator in what took place on my small sector of the front. There is much more, I’m sure, that could be written about other springs and other streams, and the end is not yet.
Other related articles about the 1950s and 60s time period
Selwyn Hughes - A Bridging Link
Tommy Hicks Vision of the End Time Church
Prophecy Templates of the last 40-50 years