History of PRMI
This ministry was founded in 1966 to embody and to nurture the Charismatic move of the Holy Spirit that swept through the world church in the 1960’s to the 1980’s.
Our unique role in this was to place the Charismatic work of the Holy Spirit in our Reformed theological framework and in the understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work that flows from R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody and that great movement of the Holy Spirit. In all this our focus is to glorify Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation and to be faithful to the Bible as the Word of God.
Overall, our focus is on being faithful to the Bible, understanding the Bible from a Reformed theological framework, staying consistent with our historical roots.
Regardless of how we have been identified with the past movements of the Holy Spirit which have enriched the world church, we are committed to relentlessly moving with the Holy Spirit into the future, bringing to whatever new outpourings may be taking place the biblical foundations and decades of practical experiences that we have embodied in the Dunamis teaching and in our style of cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
A short history of the charismatic move of the Holy Spirit and of the founding of PRMI in 1966.
The beginning of the charismatic renewal - 1959
Within the Protestant Church, the charismatic renewal formally began at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California.
While Dennis Bennett was rector in 1959, spiritual gifts, including tongues, began to be manifested in a small prayer group in the church.
From this group, about seventy people began to have similar experiences. But they agreed to keep things quiet for fear that their experience might become divisive.
Eventually the word did get out and Bennett was forced to make a public statement to his denomination of what had happened.
This statement, made in April, 1960, caused great controversy and prompted his subsequent removal by the bishop. Despite the fact that Bennett was "exiled" to a small mission church near Seattle, he continued to write and teach on the Holy Spirit. He was a great encouragement to the many small charismatic prayer groups that were spontaneously springing up in many denominations.
Louis Evans at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles- 1963
In 1963, an outpouring of charismatic renewal took place in the Bel Air Presbyterian Church near Los Angeles.
The pastor, Louis Evans, Jr., led the people into a "...program based on commitment to Jesus Christ, the discipline of studying and obeying the Word of God, and training lay leadership for group study and prayer." (Hummel, p. 46)
This led first to effective ministries of evangelism and healing. Later they began to discover that as they were obedient to God, spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12 would manifest.
Though these are just two examples, the charismatic renewal swept over the American church, "setting aflame" Christian groups from every denominational and cultural background.
As these outpourings of the Holy Spirit in non-Pentecostal denominations became public, it caused a great deal of excitement as well as controversy. The excitement was from the blessings, the controversy was from the split churches.
The Founding of the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion (PCC)
In May 1966 a group of Presbyterian pastors who had been touched by the Holy Spirit gathered together at Camp Furthest Out at Lake Murray, Oklahoma and founded the Presbyterian Pastors Charismatic Communion. This group was dedicated to promoting an experience of the Holy Spirit but in terms that were consistent with their Presbyterian theology and style.
Because the movement was spreading like wildfire through Presbyterian churches, many pastors as well as lay people got involved. To reflect the growing number of lay people involved, the name was changed to Presbyterian Charismatic Communion (PCC). Under the able leadership of Brick Bradford, PCC grew to be a nationwide movement. Later in 1984 with the addition of many participants from the Reformed Churches, the name was again changed to be Presbyterian & Reformed Renewal Ministries International.
Following the founding of the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion in 1966, other mainline denominational groups such as the United Church of Christ, the Lutherans, Methodists and the Episcopalians all followed suit with renewal groups of their own. There was also charismatic renewal in the Roman Catholic church. Parallel to these streams of charismatic renewal in the United States and Canada were similar outbreaks around the world.
We believe the charismatic renewal was God's gift to the mainline Protestant Churches. Wherever the movement stayed on track and was received by the church's leadership there was blessing and infusion of new life and vitality.
Recent Waves of the Holy Spirit
In a number of places, the charismatic wave of the Holy Spirit has continued to deepen and to mature. In some places, the movement has fizzled out or lost its vital renewing power. In other cases, those providing leadership had retired or passed away. Other leaders fell into immorality and were removed from leadership. By the mid-eighties, the "charismatic renewal" as a movement was on the wane.
In the mean time there has emerged the "Third Wave of the Holy Spirit," to distinguish it from the first and second waves of the this century which are the Pentecostal and Charismatic.
The pioneers in this third wave of the Holy Spirit have been John Wimber (who taught the class, "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth" at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA), Peter Wagner and Chuck Kraft. Peter Wagner tells of the beginnings of this surprising movement of God as follows.
"Just when things seemed to be settling down, the charismatic renewal [the second wave] came on the scene in the early 1960's. Many Pentecostals regretted this because for one thing they did not know how to relate to Lutherans and Episcopalians who spoke in tongues as well as drank beer; and for another, they could not understand how God could baptize Roman Catholics in the Holy Spirit.
To complicate matters more, the charismatics began giving signs and wonders and slaying in the Spirit the high profile that Pentecostals once did. This upset traditional Christians so much that many church splits occurred through the 1960s and 1970s.
Partly because of the church splits, the boundaries between those who practiced signs and wonders and traditional evangelicals remained distinct enough to tolerate... until John Wimber came along.
John, who worked with me at the Fuller Evangelistic Association, had no background in either the Pentecostal or charismatic movements. He did not have a radical experience of "the baptism." He just started a local church and felt led to take literally the kind of ministry he read about in the Gospels and Acts. The fact that those in what later became the Anaheim Vineyard prayed for the sick did not particularly threaten traditional evangelicals. What really upset many of them was that some were being healed by the direct power of God!
In 1982, John began teaching MC510 "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth" at Fuller Theological Seminary, an institution regarded by some as representative of the very inner circle of traditional evangelicalism. Again, controversy was sparked not so much by John's teaching but by his "ministry times" when sick people were healed and demons were cast out right in the classroom. By then, two Fuller professors, Charles Kraft and I, had become overt proponents of Wimber's teaching and ministry models."
(pg. 16 Forward by Peter Wagner, >The Kingdom and The Power edited by Gary S. Greig and Kevin N. Springer)
Through the ministry of John Wimber, Peter Wagner and Charles Kraft, this movement of the Holy Spirit spread rapidly. It touched many traditional evangelicals bringing the signs and wonders dimension of the faith. For those already touched by the charismatic move of the Holy Spirit, this movement came as an encouragement as well as an expansion of what they had already experienced. It also came clothed in the garments that fit the challenges of these last years of the 20th century.
Where is PRMI at the dawn of the new Millennium?
In 1990, Dr. Zeb Bradford Long (Brad) became Executive Director of PRMI. He came from nine years of missionary service in Taiwan and brought a global vision to PRMI.
PRMI, as an organization and its present leadership have deep roots in the interpretation of the Holy Spirit as found in R. A. Torrey of the 1900 revivals as well as the experience of the charismatic renewal of the 1960s-1980s. In practice and understanding of the Holy Spirit we are most at home in this present movement of the Holy Spirit that Peter Wagner has identified as the "Third Wave." In our theology and grounding in Scripture, we identify strongly with the Presbyterian and Reformed stream of Christianity.
It is our desire to understand and faithfully follow the Holy Spirit, not according to some movement, but according to what we find in Scripture. As we have sought to be faithful to Scripture, our teaching and practice is in dialogue with these renewal movements that provide our context. Our teaching and practice also transcends these movements as it faithfully follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our own unique context.
The fundamental purpose in all these movements if and when they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, is to up build the Church and to equip Christians to witness to Jesus Christ so that the Kingdom of God may advance on earth. That is the purpose of PRMI.
Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International 1966 - 2006
by Rev. R. Carter Blaisdell
Forty years ago, in May 1966, six Presbyterian ministers joined together at a retreat to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Presbyterian churches.
From that humble beginning, today there are more than 13,000 lay and clergy households – 900 from fifty-nine nations outside of the United States – and from each of the U.S. fifty states, Guam and Puerto Rico in the ministry of Presbyterian Reformed-Ministries International (PRMI).
The ministry was led by Rev. Dr. George C. “Brick” Bradford from 1966 to 1989, and since 1990 by Rev. Dr. Zeb Bradford Long.
God raised up many leaders during the early years of this ministry, including Presbyterian pioneers John A. Mackay and James H. Brown. One of the original six pastors, George C. “Brick” Bradford, was the first Board President and eventually was called full-time in 1972 as General Secretary. He and his wife, Marjorie, worked as a team with the office staff until his retirement in December 1989.
Zeb Bradford Long was called by PRMI’s Board of Directors to be the Executive Director, beginning January 1, 1990. He and his wife, Rev. Laura Cole Long, had been Presbyterian Evangelistic and Educational Missionaries from 1980 – 1989 in Taiwan.
Joan Danely was the Executive Secretary from 1967 – 1991.
Dr. Long, Rev. Carter and Anita Blaisdell were the staff that moved the ministry from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Black Mountain, North Carolina in July 1991.
An Ecumenical Community
PRMI was the first of the U.S.A. denominational charismatic fellowships to be established among American Christians.
In the decade to follow Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, American Baptist, Mennonite, Greek Orthodox, United Church of Christ and Methodist fellowships were formed.
The worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the past forty years has brought about a grassroots ecumenicity as expressed in worship, ministry, prayer, Bible study and evangelism.
A Witness to the Church
PRMI has been committed to working, often as a prophetic voice, within the Presbyterian and Reformed denominations.
Representatives have been present at PC(USA) General Assemblies, usually with a booth of literature, and since 1974 have sponsored a charismatic worship service. Prayer vigils were held from 1991 – 2002 at these Assemblies; most of them were led by Rev. Douglas and Carla McMurry.
Representatives have been present at the Reformed Church in America’s General Synod and at each of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s General Assemblies since its formation 26 years ago. In the past ten years the ministry has worked with pastors and laity of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom.
We also have growing partnership with Evangelical Presbyterian Church, plus frequent connections of with Reformed Church of America, Christian Reformed Churches, Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, and various different denominations in the Reformed stream of the body of Christ.