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Diverse scholars gather to talk of work and faith

When the Society for Pentecostal Studies came to town recently, members gathered to celebrate the faith and the work that inspires them.  by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender

When the Society for Pentecostal Studies came to town recently, members gathered to celebrate the faith and the work that inspires them.

The 40th annual meeting was hosted by Memphis Theological Seminary and All Saints Bible College at the downtown Marriott on March 10-12. It began with a full day of sessions on Thursday and ended on Saturday night with a banquet.

 Dr. David A. Hall Sr., chief executive officer of the Church of God in Christ Publishing House and pastor of Temple Church of God in Christ, was a presenter at the Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting. His topic was “Elements of Peace and Conflict from a Pentecostal Perspective.”  (Photo courtesy of Lois Olena)

Under the theme “Receiving the Future: An Anointed Heritage,” the conference allowed the highly diverse group – crossing regions, cultures, philosophies, curriculums, and beliefs – to pray, sing and break bread together. They are theologians who at a minimum have a graduate degree; a vast number of members either hold PhD’s or are in pursuit of one.

It was no accident the 40-year-old Society, which initially began as a place for seminarians and scholars to network and fellowship, selected Memphis as their meeting place, according to outgoing executive director, Dr. David M. Roebuck, member of the Church of God, a primarily white denomination in East Tennessee.

“It was a strategic move to come to Memphis for this conference,” he said. “I am pleased that my tenure as outgoing executive director is ending in Memphis. Memphis is an extremely important place for the Pentecostal movement—COGIC is located here, the Assemblies of God was born a few miles up the road in Arkansas, and my organization, the Church of God, is headquartered in Tennessee.”

As general manager, marketing strategist, and conference facilitator, Roebuck’s position helps to keep SPS’s mission, vision, and goals before its 500 or so international membership.  

Attendees took time to tour and participate in their opening plenary worship session at COGIC’s historic Mason Temple. Mother Mary P. Patterson (widow of the late Presiding Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr.) also led the group on a tour of other COGIC holy sites in Lexington, Miss., and Memphis.

There was immense diversity in topics, presenters, and respondents. These intellectuals, a virtual Who’s Who of Pentecostal scholars, represented religious and secular institutions. Among the many notable presenters were Erica Ramirez, Wheaton College Graduate School chair; Michael Postlethwait, Oral Roberts University; respondents Fredrick L. Ware, Howard University; Michele Jacques Early, Virginia Union University; facilitator and immediate past president, Estrelda Alexander and keynote speaker, outgoing president, Kimberly Ervin Alexander.

SPS’s incoming president happens to be conference host and Memphis Theological Seminary professor, Jeffrey Gros, who will serve a one year term.

Incoming executive director, Dr. Lois Olena, who will serve five years, summed up SPS’s breadth and purpose, which is to “stimulate, encourage, recognize, and publicize the work of Pentecostal and charismatic scholars.

“SPS has provided a breath of fresh air to me in the last several years as I’ve attended as a member, served as a presenter, session chair, and respondent, and now as I take on the role of executive director,” said Olena.

“It is one of the few places where Pentecostal and charismatic scholars, as well as non-renewal scholars of renewal Christianity, can come together as a diverse body—ethnically, denominationally, and as men and women together to enjoy a collegial environment of academic discovery regarding the person and work of the Spirit.”

(For membership or additional information on the Society for Pentecostal Studies, visit at www.sps-usa.org.)

(Dorothy Bracy Alston is a consultant, adjunct English professor, author and freelance writer. Visit Dorothy’s blog at http://www.CisbaAssociates.blogspot.com; join her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dorothybracyalston, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 901-570-3923.)

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