The World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Ambassador Brian Stiller who I’ve known since the 1990s when I was an evangelical myself and working at the Canadian public broadcaster as a television producer. Brian was then president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and a great communicator who knew how to get across a positive message about the Christian faith in broadcast media. So, consequently, I often booked him as a guest to participate in programs I produced.
It was through Brian’s Facebook page and seeing pictures of a lunch he and other charismatic evangelicals from Canada and the United States had with Pope Francis two years ago that I broke the story of the meeting. However, my story only got picked up in Canada.
Brian now travels around the world in his role as WEA Global Ambassador and posts accounts of his journeys. Here’s a fascinating account of the rise of charismatic Protestant faith in Argentina.
This land, founded mostly by Italian and Spanish conquerors, has had embedded in its culture a European Roman Catholicism, dominant and unrepentant in its use of power. Faith and national identity were inseparable. As Protestant missionaries arrived in the late 1800s, it was not surprising that they faced hostility from their Catholic counterparts. After all, why convert those who already call themselves Christians?
Then came 1954: Evangelist Tommy Hicks. His meetings, though Pentecostal in organization and manner astounded Argentinians, including missionaries. The story of how it came about is one for the books.
An American, Tommy was a fill-in for another in a planned for series of public meetings in Buenos Aries. He suggested they rent a 25,000-seat stadium, which to the locals seemed loco. A guard at the stadium queried Hicks about healing since he was suffering from pain. Hicks laid hands on him and the man reported instant healing. This opened the door to a possible meeting with President Perón. In requesting the private meeting, Hicks said what he had in mind. When they met, he learned Perón was suffering from a disfiguring skin disease. As he took hold of the president’s hand and prayed, reports say the skin cleared. Hicks got his stadium.
But a 25,000-seat auditorium was not enough. So they moved to the Hurricane Football Stadium seating 110,000. It too overflowed. It was reported that in two months some 3 million attended and 300,000 made public confessions of faith in Christ, with many, many reports of healings.
That triggered the first wave of today’s Christian witness in Argentina. I was introduced to an acronym, used to date evangelical awakening: “BA” or “AA,” – meaning “before Annacondia” or “after Annacondia.”
There’s a lot more, including a mention of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.
Why weren’t supernatural healings and demonic deliverance taking place among Catholics? Could strains of Liberation Theology tainted by Marxism and the loss of supernatural faith have anything to do with it?
Anyway, one thing I have observed over the years. There’s a great deal of willingness for Catholics to learn from Protestants when it comes to these charismatic so-called waves of the Holy Spirit that bring supernatural gifts of healing, and gifts such as words of knowledge and words of healing, and so on. But unfortunately, I have not witnessed much desire on the part of the Protestants to learn from the Catholics. When they see Catholics adapting to more Protestantized forms of worship and even belief, they’re happy, but they seem totally uninterested in sacramental theology or a proper understanding of Catholic devotion to Our Lady.
It can also be easy to dismiss with a sneer supernatural gifts because of the grotesque way they are exhibited on crass American televangelist programs and sometimes the big group charismatic meetings in stadiums etc. can look like there’s a whole lotta hypnotic suggestion going on. But I have also encountered many from the charismatic renewal, both Catholic and Protestant, who are the real deal, who operate in supernatural giftings with no fanfare, no tricks, no bedazzling and beguiling, but with genuine humility and holy love.
One of the concerns I have is indifferentism.
The Holy Spirit led me into the Catholic Church. Thanks be to God.