Speaking in Tongues: Alternative Voices in Faith

Many see the controversial practice as a 'gift from God.'

ByABC News
March 8, 2007, 5:37 PM

March 20, 2007— -- Speaking in tongues is a controversial practice to many Christians, but others consider it a gift from God.

And many people who attend the Freedom Valley Worship Center in Gettysburg, Pa., pray for that gift.

"For me, it is almost as if I am able to tap into God's heart and what he wants," said Amber Crone, a member of the church. "I don't really know what I am saying, but I know it is what God wants me to say and speak. It is more of an enlightenment -- you can feel him all around you, and you can feel him speaking through the words that you are saying."

Crone's friend, Kelly Chocincky, describes what she says is a feeling of connection to God. "I know some people that get a warm, fuzzy feeling going on inside them. For me, I get goose bumps, actually."

For Senior Pastor Gerry Stoltzfoos, speaking in tongues is a deeply ingrained way of life. He says he has been speaking in tongues since he was a boy growing up in an Amish family, although the Amish frown on the practice.

"The Amish world didn't really address that at all," said Stoltzfoos.

"I didn't think it was wrong," Stoltzfoos said, "but I didn't think it would be exactly encouraged if I tried to explain it, and if I had used any of the vernacular that I was familiar with, like speaking in tongues, I would have been told there wasn't such thing. When I left the Amish Church, I started seeking a church that was really open to outside people coming in."

Stoltzfoos said he encouraged his congregation to speak in tongues. "It settles things in your spirit, and it heals you on the inside."

The origin of the practice is believed to be the miracle of Pentecost -- as told in the New Testament book of Acts -- when Jesus' apostles were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages foreign to themselves. And a gifted few are said to have done it in early Christian congregations. Saint Paul called it "speaking in the tongues of angels."

The practice is widely embraced by Pentecostals but looked at askance by many other Christian denominations. And to outsiders, it can seem downright freakish.