The Erie Canal district of the Charismatic Renewal Church (CRC) was meeting for one of their twice yearly district conclaves. One of the items on the docket was to ordain a youth minister for the “Flowing River of the Spirit Church.” The “Flowing River of the Spirit Church” was one of the flagship churches for the CRC in the Erie Canal district. Ezekiel L. Bolton was the Pastor of the “Flowing River of the Spirit” Church. Old Zeke, as he was affectionately called, was one of the old war horses of the CRC and generally Old Zeke got what he wanted because people didn’t like to cross Old Zeke because Zeke had a way of making life miserable for those who crossed him.
Because of this everyone believed that the ordination of Zeke’s new Youth Pastor was a foregone conclusion. The ordination process was supposed to consist of the usual softball questions that one finds in Pentecostal denominations where experience, emotion, and the “feeling of the Spirit,” was more important than articulated doctrine.
However, this ordination was to be different. One of the members of the district who had been an outlaw since his arrival had determined that there had been far too many non-Pentecostals sliding into the denomination. Carl Davidson had converted to Pentecostal theology from dishwater Baptist 25 years ago and he was one of the few true believers in the Erie Canal district. Carl had, for years, been seeing the District ordain non-Pentecostals posing as Pentecostals. He had tried to hint at this problem by asking questions of candidates that exposed their lack of understanding of glorious Pentecostalism in hopes that some of the other Pentecostals might see the problem. This tactic hadn’t worked and Carl was becoming convinced that not even the Pentecostal ministers of Erie Canal District cared about Pentecostalism.
Carl decided to ask the candidate the most rudimentary question of Pentecostal belief. When the proper time came Carl rose on the floor and asked the earnest young candidate, ”Could you elaborate for us the three different works of grace that the Charismatic Renewal Church looks for in people?”
The whole reason for the existence of the CRC was to insist upon this doctrine in distinction from other denominations that did not hold to it. Carl believed that if a candidate for ordination unto the least of all offices in the CRC could not answer this most basic of questions to the life of the denomination then it would be clear that there were clearly problems in the District.
The candidate looked like he had been just asked to undress in public.
His first search for time tactic was to ask for the question again. The second delay tactic was to try to get Carl to give him hints. The third avoidance tactic came from the floor as a murmur of ministers began to audibly complain about how unfair it was of Carl to ask this question of such a young minister when they themselves didn’t know the answer.
The candidate, to his credit, eventually dove into the answer giving a fairly involved and complex answer to a question that had nothing to do with what Carl asked. Instead of giving the simple answer of “the work of grace in salvation, the work of grace in cleansing, and the work of grace in empowerment, “ instead the candidate went into a long monologue on the three persons of the Trinity.
The candidate was then excused so that executive session could be held to discuss whether or not the candidate should be ordained.
Carl was on his feet immediately, observing that while he wouldn’t vote against this candidate he was hopeful that somebody at Old Zeke’s Church would mentor Clay (the candidate) in the basic doctrines of the Charismatic Renewal Church. Carl also mentioned that he believed that the Erie Canal District was getting loose on the exam process for all candidates, allowing non Pentecostals into the denomination.
No sooner did Carl sit down then “Old Zeke” was on his feet. Ezekiel had been a mover and shaker in the CRC for decades and he did not appreciate someone exposing the soft under-belly of his low standards as Carl had done with his question. Zeke began to lecture Carl but he learned again, what he should have already known, and that was that Carl was nonplussed over Zeke’s huffing and puffing. Zeke went on and on about how unfair the question was. Zeke insisted that 50% of the ministers who belonged to the district couldn’t answer Carl’s question. Zeke said that this wasn’t about whether there were two works of grace or three works of grace. What Zeke seemed to be intimating is that this ordination process was about getting his youth director confirmed so that Clay could lead the youth in pizza parties and fun vacations that could be sold as “mission trips” to the unsuspecting parents.
Finally, the vote was called for and Clay was confirmed unanimously as a Minister associate, but Carl, with his question, had once again left a bad taste in the mouth of the fellow ministers in the denomination who thought that Carl was far too theologically oriented to be any good to the Christian faith. “Why couldn’t Carl learn,” the thinking seemed to be, “that Christianity was just about getting people to get along, and not about centuries of theology for which the saints had bled and died.”
And Naturally Carl believed that these fellow ministers practiced Christianity the same way that a tailor practices sewing who has no idea what needle and thread are.