by John Yocum
In 1975, the charismatic renewal was booming. Hundreds of thousands of people had experienced what came to be known as “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” and exercised the spiritual gifts evident in The Acts of the Apostles and in St Paul’s letters. Eventually the numbers would swell to tens of millions. The tone of the movement was enthusiastic, at times even triumphalist. In a gathering of ten thousand Catholic charismatics in St. Peter’s Basilica, Ralph Martin, and then Bruce Yocum prophesied from the high altar of “days of darkness,” of a new age of difficulty and hardship for the Christian people.
Within a short time, civil war broke out in Lebanon, the first harbinger of the war and political instability that have led to dramatically shrinking Christian populations in the Middle East. Widespread and ugly scandals have rocked the churches. Divisions and confusion within and pressures without have been constant in the last 45 years.
Prophecy was the gifted, but unruly and difficult child of the charismatic movement. On the one hand, direct divine guidance had played a crucial role in the history of Church movements, not only in inspiring individuals like Francis of Assisi or founders of missionary movements, but giving vision and coherence to those movements. The re-emergence of such gifts in the charismatic movement had great potential for good. On the other hand, there was confusion and uncertainty about how to use and govern the gift, and embarrassing and unedifying examples of its misuse were not hard to find.
Bruce Yocum’s book, Prophecy: Exercising the Prophetic Gifts of the Spirit in the Church Today, brought a measure of peace and good order to the exercise of prophetic gifts in the charismatic renewal. It was full of faith in and gratitude for the living presence and voice of the Lord in the life of the church, but seasoned with prudence and good sense informed by Scripture and the experience of the early church.
The original manuscript published in 1976 and the lightly revised edition of 1993 have been the surest guide to “exercising the prophetic gifts of the Spirit in the church today.”
John Yocum is one of Bruce’s brother. He has a Doctorate in Theology from The University of Oxford. He has taught Theology at Oxford, at Loyola School of Theology in Manila, and currently teaches at the Catholic seminary in Detroit, Michigan. John also serves as the Regional Elder for the North American region of the brotherhood.