On March 28, the Lewis Wilson Institute (LWI) hosted the director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC), Darrin Rodgers, M.A., J.D., for a seminar on the history of ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Assemblies of God (AG).
Students, faculty, staff and notable community members attended the seminar. Dr. Lewis Wilson and many of his family members were in attendance. Before retiring at the end of the 1994-95 academic year, Dr. Wilson had been a professor of history at Vanguard University and a Pentecostal educator for more than 40 years.
In the seminar, Rodgers focused on the topic of racial and ethnic diversity growing in the U.S. and, even more so, in the AG. “In ten years, there will likely be no majority group in the assemblies,” Rodgers said. “I find this to be a great opportunity, and yes, a challenge,” he added.
Throughout the lecture, Rodgers shared examples from his own experience to illustrate and support his ideas regarding the importance and opportunity in the continued diversification of the AG. At home, Rodgers attends a Russian/Slavic community church. He described the differences between the ethnic backgrounds of these individuals, having been under the hardship of Communism and other oppression, in comparison to the average American Christian.
The different life experiences from both ethnic backgrounds could have important truths to share with one another, he said. After describing the blessed life experience most American Christians have in comparison to the oppressive experience that many Russian immigrant church members have had, Rodgers said: “maybe we need to be blessed by people who haven’t been blessed.”
In a time of question and answer, Rodgers described his heart for racial reconciliation. He desires to see the AG take advantage of the opportunity that it has to encourage Christians with different racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds to learn from one another. When describing his role in this process, Rodgers said: “I love working to build bridges.”
Reflecting on the seminar, LWI Director Derrick Rosenior, Ph.D., said, in regards to the Vanguard University community, “we want to reflect the diversity that we are seeing in the movement overall.” Being an AG school, it is important that Vanguard find ways to be encompassing of all people like the assemblies is doing as a whole, he said. He went on to say that in order to play its part, the Vanguard community must ask the question: “How can we reach people who are not like us?”
Overall, the seminar was very informative. Rodgers presented many statistics and historical accounts to provide a foundation for attendees to understand what has shaped the AG’s racial and ethnic makeup up to this point and how the assemblies can move forward in the opportunities presented by the ever-diversifying Pentecostal movement.
As the director for the FPHC, Rodgers works to collect and preserve the history of Pentecostalism. The FPHC is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. In his role, Rodgers searches for historical treasures to continue to unwrap more of the history of the Pentecostal movement that led to the formation of the AG today. Find out more about the FPHC by clicking here.