The Pentecostal Missionary Union (PMU), a case study exploring the missiological roots of early British Pentecostalism (1909-1925)
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AbstractThe Pentecostal Missionary Union (PMU) commenced in 1909 as a non-sectarian Pentecostal faith mission with many similarities to the China Inland Mission (CIM), influenced by the links of its President, Cecil Polhill, as one of the illustrious Cambridge Seven missionaries. In 1924 it amalgamated into the newly formed British Assemblies of God (AOG), with a full merger in 1925. This thesis reconstructs the historical narrative of the PMU examining its theology and praxis. This thesis is not a descriptive biographical narrative of the PMU’s leaders and missionaries but a historiography exploring the PMU’s development in its original context based on information provided by primary sources. Other than one 1995 Masters dissertation, no research has been conducted specifically on the PMU. This research seeks to recover the lost voice of early British non-sectarian Pentecostal missiology marginalized by Protestant mission historiography and overlooked by Pentecostal historiographers focused on American or later periods of Pentecostalism. Pentecostal historiographies have interpreted the twentieth century global revival movement largely through the ‘latter rain’ motif as an eschatologically providential event, discontinuous with previous ecclesiastical history. Pentecostal mission historiography is still developmental, especially in the employment of an historical roots methodology as opposed to traditional providential approaches. This thesis argues that early British Pentecostalism, before the Great War, originated as a non-sectarian mission movement strongly linked to antecedent faith mission roots, demonstrating the necessity for Pentecostals to engage with broader research methodologies that challenge traditional perceptions of the emergence and development of Pentecostalism. The Great War was interpreted with an apocalyptic lens that increasingly shifted Pentecostal eschatological emphasis away from missional urgency towards speculative application of Biblical prophecy with early twentieth century events. The severing of the PMU from its faith mission roots during the Great War, through CIM policy averse to Pentecostalism, reinforced Pentecostal perceptions of eschatological discontinuity and the need of a distinctive denominational identity in the uncertainty of the inter-war period. The lifespan of the world’s first modern Pentecostal missionary organisation was relatively short but it encompassed three specific periods of British history: prior to the Great War, the Great War years and the inter-War years This thesis utilises these three distinct periods to provide a progressive narrative highlighting the challenges within the PMU’s developmental history from non-sectarian faith mission to denominational mission department. The missiological emphasis of early Pentecostalism, as exemplified by the PMU, provides an understanding of the Pentecostal global phenomena a century later. Early 20th century Pentecostal revivals occurring in various places could have resulted in Pentecostalism remaining a localised sect but its significance grew through its emphasis on missiological urgency with pneumatological empowerment. Contemporary British and global Pentecostalism cannot be explained without historiographical reference to its earliest missiological roots including the PMU.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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