An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Alexander Boddy by Gavin Wakefield

Alexander Boddy:
Pentecostal Pioneer
(Studies in Pentecostal and Charismatic Issues)
Gavin Wakefield
Foreword by N T Wright
Paternoster Press, Milton Keynes, 2007
ISBN 978-1-84227-346-3; pbk; 245 + xiv pp; £17.99

Revd Alexander Boddy is a shadow in the history of Pentecostalism. This may be because his Anglicanism was embarrassing to the Pentecostals and his Pentecostalism embarrassing to the Anglicans. In the most of the histories of the pentecostal movement he sometimes get a sentence or two, a few paragraphs or even a few pages and yet he remains largely enigmatic. Until now - at last we have a book-length biography. Boddy was a pioneer in a number of senses: travel writing and pentecostalism.

His By Ocean, Prairie, And Peak: Some Gleanings From An Emigrant Chaplain’s Log, On Journeys To British Columbia, Manitoba And Eastern Canada is still available now as print-on-demand book by Kessinger Press, and To Kairwan the Holy was republished in 1985 and is still available from Darf Press.

It was his travels that opened him up to other Christian traditions and a willingness to learn from others. As regards his Pentecostalism most know of him through Smith Wigglesworth. It was to Boddy and his wife Mary that the Bradford plumber went to to receive a pentecostal experience. Boddy through his travels had been in touch with Thomas Ball Barrett - another early key Pentecostal figure that deserves more attention. Barrett came to Sunderland in 1907 at Boddy's request. This resulted in a pentecostal experience for Boddy and his wife and as a result many others came to seek the same experience. Not least, Smith Wigglesworth. Boddy launched a magazine Confidence that provided an overview of the movement (these have now been released on CD) and ran the Sunderland Conferences from 1908-1914. It was these and Boddy's leadership that provided the foundation of the British Pentecostal movement.

Wakefield takes a broadly topical view rather than a strict chronological perspective on Boddy, this is helpful in evaluating different aspects. A useful time line is provided to help keen an eye on dates and the succession of events.

The book sets Boddy in his geographical and cultural context, Wakefield makes extensive use of Boddy's writings so that Boddy is able to 'speak for himself'. I would have liked to have seen more analysis of Boddy's worldview and an examination of nature/ grace groundmotive that characterises much of early Pentecostalism. Suprisingly, Boddy seems to avoid the dualistic tendencies that characteristed a lot of early Pentecostalism and that despite the early influence of the Keswick theology upon him.

Wakefield obviously has a high regard for Boddy as one who combined Anglicanism with Pentecostalism. Boddy wasn't as extreme as some that came after him. This may be due in part to his travels, his was no narrow perspective, he was able to observe different cultures and appreciate what was good in them and in part to his Anglicanism and his desire not to see a separate movement emerge, he had a deep 'catholicity of Spirit' that wanted to combine the best of different traditions.

There has been very little written about Boddy. We have Peter Lavin's Alexander Boddy - Pastor and Prophet: Vicar of All Saints' Sunderland 1886-1922 (Wearside Historic Churches Group for All Saints’ PCC, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. 1986) and Edith Blumhofer's "Alexander Boddy and the Rise of Pentecostalism in Great Britain." Pneuma 8 (Spring, 1986): 314 ff as well as Wakefield's brief Grove Booklet. This then is a welcome and substantial addition to the literature. It is useful not only for understanding the place of Boddy but for the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement in Britain. A ten-page bibliography is an excellent resource for further study.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Hi Steve,
I'm trying to find a copy of Peter Lavin's Alexander Boddy - Pastor and Prophet: Vicar of All Saints' Sunderland 1886-1922 (Wearside Historic Churches Group for All Saints’ PCC, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. 1986). Can you tell me where I can buy one?