Archive for the ‘Frank Bartleman’ Category

The Heavenly Anthem

10 May, 2011

In 1906, the Pentecostals in Los Angeles reported singing in tongues. In addition, they experienced a further Pentecostal phenomenon, which they termed the “Heavenly Anthem” which manifested as an ethereal corporate singing, and many participants and observers claimed to hear celestial accompaniment. Though enthusiastic singing was part of Pentecostal worship from the movement’s beginnings, ecstatic singing in tongues seems to have surfaced among those who eventually formed the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission and added a further dimension of deep spirituality to the meetings at the Mission and beyond.

The inaugural September 1906 issue of the Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the Azusa Street Mission reports:

Many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit. The Lord giving new voices, he translates the songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels and has a heavenly choir all singing the same heavenly song in harmony. It is beautiful music, no instruments needed in the meetings.

Chronologically, Sis. Jennie Evans Moore, who later married William Seymour, was the first to experience heavenly singing on April 9, 1906 when she became the first woman to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost at prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, she testified: “I sang under the power of the Spirit in many languages . . . “

One of the clearest descriptions of the “Heavenly Anthem” comes from Bro. Frank Bartleman, an itinerant Holiness evangelist who joined the Pentecostal movement and chronicled the advent of the Apostolic Faith in southern California. On June 15, 1906, Bartleman participated in the inspired singing while attending a service at Azusa:

It [the “Heavenly Anthem”] was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe. In the beginning, this manifestation was wonderfully pure and powerful . . . No one could understand this “gift of song” but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song” in the Spirit.

Bartleman was intrigued by the miraculous melodies :

It was a gift from God of high order, and appeared among us soon after the “Azusa” work began. No one had preached it. The Lord had sovereignly bestowed it with the outpouring of the “reside of oil,” the “Latter Rain” baptism of the Spirit. It was exercised as the Spirit moved the possessors either in solo fashion or by the company. It was sometimes without words, other times in “tongues.” The effect was wonderful on the people. It brought a heavenly atmosphere, as though the angels themselves were present and joining with us. And possibly they were. It seemed to still criticism and opposition, and was hard for even wicked men to gainsay or ridicule.

Missionary George Berg recognized some of the languages used by the singers, including Hindustani and Gujerathi. On Christmas Day 1906, the Azusa saints experienced the phenomenon during an all-day meeting, and the singing was fittingly interpreted: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” According to Bro. Berg, “People are melted to tears in hearing this singing. It is the harmony of heaven and the Holy Ghost puts music in the voices that are untrained.”

Ever critical of the formalization of the developing Pentecostal movement, Bro. Bartleman attributed the demise of the Heavenly Anthem to the assertion of the “human spirit” and claimed that “they drove it out by hymnbooks, and selected songs by leaders.” The Heavenly Anthem seems to be a lost artifact of the earliest days of American Pentecostalism, though singing in tongues does continue with less frequency today. Ultimately, the miraculous musical manifestation brought a glorious power and presence of God and was evidence of the abandoned spirituality of our Apostolic Faith forefathers.

Messages from Azusa Street

29 November, 2010

http://www.azusastreet.org/picts/AFNewspaper.JPGThe Azusa Street Mission is renowned as the epicenter of early Pentecostal revival and as the site of thousands of Spirit baptisms as sinners, Christian pastors, evangelists, workers, and international missionaries flocked to the humble clapboard building in a muddy side street of the teeming city of Los Angeles to take in the Pentecostal outpouring.  In addition to the mighty conversions, healings, and deliverances, Azusa Street also became an auditorium for divine communication as the apostolic gifts of prophecy and tongues and interpretation were restored to the Body of Christ.  Some of these messages were transcribed in The Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the mission published by Elder William Joseph Seymour and were disseminated around the globe through Seymour’s vast mailing list.

In the inaugural issue of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour indicates that “many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit.  The Lord is giving new voices, he translates old songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels.”   The phenomenon of singing in tongues was commonly known amongst the early saints as the “heavenly choir” and was deemed one of the most unusual and stunning manifestations of the Spirit at the mission as the congregation would join in singing in unknown tongues.  One such song was interpreted:

With one accord, all heaven rings
With praises to our God and King;
Let earth join in our song of praise,
And ring it out through all the days.

Another heavenly anthem which was “sung through in the Spirit by all” said:

Jesus Christ is made to me
All I need, all I need; 
He alone is all my plea,
He is all I need.

Wisdom, Righteousness and Power
Holiness forevermore
My Redemption full and sure,
He is all I need.

 The Azusa adherents were strongly convinced that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost signaled the last great revival before the return of Christ, and they valued inspired prophecy and found in utterances, visions, and interpretations divine revelation of unfolding events.  One sister, “who is unlearned and works and [sic] washing and ironing for a living” received a message from the Lord prior to the commencement of the Azusa revival predicting the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War.  One Bro. H.M. Allen uniquely interpreted messages he received in tongues by recording them phonetically and consulting foreign language dictionaries to translate the English meanings.    Bro. Allen’s lexical work revealed “ . . . things that are speedily coming on the whole earth. “  While the Holy Ghost told him that he was “not at liberty to tell all,” he was bound to declare that “if He [God] speaks only two words they are well worth listening to.”  Lillian Keyes, daughter of a Los Angeles physician, gave a stirring message on the coming of the Lord in an African dialect recognized by veteran missionary Sister S.K. Mead:  “Jesus is coming again, coming again so soon . . . Prepare your hearts now, for the Lord is coming soon, and ye know not the hour.” 

Many of the messages glorified Christ and the work of the Holy Ghost.  One transcribed message said:  “The Spirit comes in mighty power upon His people.  Look up unto Jesus now and receive from Him.  O Jesus is my Almighty King . . . God came into the world to see and to save that which was lost. He has redeemed us by His own precious Blood.” 

In several issues of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour made an effort to make important theological clarifications about the gifts of prophecy and tongues.  He appealed to Paul’s writing in I Corinthians 14 to argue that tongues with interpretation is as valuable as prophecy.  Elsewhere, he defends the inclusion of women in the ecstatic gifts, citing I Corinthians 11.  He encourages women to work in humility, admonishing them:  “The more God uses you in the Spirit, the more humbled and meek and tender you are and [t]he more filled with the blessed Holy Spirit.”  To the man, he says:  “We have no right to a lay a straw in her way, but to be men of holiness, purity and virtue, to hold up the standard and encourage the woman in her work . . . It is the same Holy Spirit in the woman as in the man.  When one considers how very new these manifestations were in his church, it is remarkable that he possessed such a mature and orthodox view of the gifts of the Spirit in ecclesiastical context and practical operation.

 In many ways, the freedom of Pentecostals at Azusa to participate in the prophetic established a precedent for the greater movement.  Prophecy and tongues/interpretations remain an integral part of the modern Church.  It is interesting that the messages of the Los Angeles revival were transcribed and preserved, as this publication of interpretation of tongues was not widely continued beyond the first decade or so of the Pentecostal movement.  But, they heard in the inspirative words and songs the voice of the Lord promising revival and His soon return.  Though the utterances recorded in The Apostolic Faith are over a century old, they continue to thrill the soul with their spiritual power and anointed unction.

Man with a Mission: Frank Bartleman at Eighth & Maple

2 July, 2010

Frank Bartleman, who was so instrumental in the advent of Pentecost in Los Angeles, was an itinerant in spirit. He was possessed of a mild but mercurial nature, which led him hither and yon working for the cause of the Kingdom. Bro. Bartleman seemed always to be looking for the next deeper move, a sincere body of Christians that would pray, fast, and worship with his same level of intensity and desire. Ultimately, he was often disappointed in those who began in spiritual fervency but dulled to secular formalism. He was terrified of denominationalism; and once he discovered Pentecostal practitioners, Frank Bartleman was even more determined to follow the Spirit, wherever He might lead.

Bro. Bartleman was an early and enthusiastic participant in the Azusa Street Revival. Inspired by reports of the Welsh renewal, led by Evan Roberts, Bartleman had joined prayer bands throughout Los Angeles to seek a Pentecostal outpouring in the city. He prayed diligently, though he had little notion of what Pentecost might look like when it arrived. When William Seymour brought the newly-articulated Apostolic Faith doctrine to a small Holiness mission, it did not take long for word to reach Frank Bartleman, who began attending cottage prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, where some of the first seekers in Los Angeles were filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

But, somewhat characteristically, Frank Bartleman became disenchanted with the Azusa Mission. According to him, the Spirit revealed a dangerous pitfall for the mission—the “party” spirit, which was Bartleman’s euphemism for denominational sectarianism. He delivered a message at Azusa, warning the saints to avoid becoming “entangled again in a yoke of (ecclesiastical) bondage.” He firmly believed that sectarianism had “been the curse and death of every revival body sooner or later.” If Azusa was to succeed where others had failed, she would have to contend for unity and resist organization and formalism.

Bartleman’s worst fears for the mission were realized when the day after he delivered his portentous sermon to the Azusa congregation, the words “Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission” were crudely painted on the building’s clapboard side. According to Bartleman, the Lord said to him: “This is what I told you.” This was enough for Bartleman to declare: “They had done it.” There is a sense of grave disappointment in Bartleman’s record of the change, which seemed so significant to him. He even declared: “The truth must be told. ‘Azusa’ began to fail the Lord also, early in her history.”

Disillusioned by the move, Bartleman began his own Pentecostal mission in an old German Church at Eighth and Maple about a mile from Azusa in August 1906. The Lord had led him to the building back in February of 1906, two months prior to the commencement of meetings at Azusa, but it had been occupied by the Pillar of Fire, a Holiness group led by Alma White, a fierce opponent of the spreading Pentecostal revival. However, by August, Bro. Bartleman says “The ‘Pillar of Fire’ had gone up in smoke, not able to raise the rent.” Bro. Fred Shephard provided Bartleman with the $50.00 for the first month’s rent, and the first service was held on 12 August.

Eighth and Maple, as the mission continued to be generically known, became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. Bro. Bartleman described mighty outpourings in the church: “The atmosphere was almost too sacred and holy to attempt to minister in. Like the priests in the Tabernacle of old we could not minister for the glory.” Many were converted, and Bartleman said that the “atmosphere was terrible for sinners and backsliders. One had to get right in order to remain at Eighth and Maple.”

Frank Bartleman craved Spirit control. He had no tolerance for fleshly interruptions or the trappings of order. In his view, a Pentecostal service constituted hours of prayer, inspired exhortations, groaning and travail, and spontaneous manifestations of humility and ecstasy. He often remained prone on the floor throughout the services “while God ran the meetings.”

Though he had many times felt the control of the Spirit during his Christian experience, Bro. Bartleman received the Holy Ghost on 16 August 1906, while pastoring a Pentecostal work. Like Seymour, who received his own baptism after preaching it to others, Bartleman had witnessed several seekers filled at Eighth and Maple in the first few days of services when he had yet to acquire the Spirit himself.

In September, Eighth and Maple grew exponentially when an entire Holiness congregation of about 40 members merged with Bartleman’s mission after their pastor, William Pendleton, was excommunicated from the Holiness group for speaking in tongues. Shortly after this merger, Bro. Bartleman turned the mission over to Bro. Pendleton and resumed evangelization throughout southern California. Eighth and Maple continued to be a significant participant in the Apostolic Faith movement in Los Angeles and worked in good fellowship with Azusa and other Pentecostal works to spread the fires of revival that emanated from Los Angeles throughout the world.

Source:

Bartleman, Frank.  Witness to Pentecost:  the Life of Frank Bartleman.  New York:  Garland Publishing Inc., 1985.

God’s Property: a Look at 312 Azusa Street

10 February, 2010

In April 1906, William Joseph Seymour and a small band of newly-baptized Pentecostals moved cottage services from a small bungalow on Bonnie Brae Street to the Azusa Street Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. This humble building was to become the legendary epicenter of the Apostolic Faith movement that emanated in concentric waves of revival from its ramshackle frame structure to the farthest reaches of the world. The story of the building that housed the mighty move of God in the twentieth century is a fascinating chapter in Pentecostal history and reveals God’s penchant for exalting the humble and glorifying the lowly. Azusa Street is a modern euphemism for the boundless faith of our Pentecostal predecessors, who cared nothing for form or fashion but sought the face of God for the mighty revival that we still enjoy today.

Azusa Street was never much more than a rutted alleyway and has never been longer than about one city block. The street was formerly known as Old Second Street. In 1888, the Stevens African American Episcopal Church was constructed on the site. A small house was moved to the back of the lot and served as a parsonage. The Los Angeles City Directory (1898) reveals that the neighborhood included a mix of African Americans, Jews, and immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia, and Japan. Incipient businesses began to fill in the vacant lots near the church. A lumberyard is clearly marked next door to the A.M.E. church (Robeck “Uncovering . . . “ 12).

A single extant photograph of the Stevens African American Episcopal congregation reveals a large staircase in front of the church that ascended to the sanctuary, located on the 2nd floor of the structure. Three gothic windows are visible across the front of the frame church. In 1903, the congregation outgrew their facility and relocated to 8th and Towne and was renamed First African Methodist Episcopal Church (Robeck, “Uncovering . . . “ 14). Today, the First A.M.E. congregation is still the oldest and largest A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.

After the church vacated the property, an arsonist set fire to the building, destroying the roof and damaging its structure. In order to sell the real estate, First A.M.E. elected to remodel the building as tenement housing and partitioned the interior 2nd floor into apartments with a central corridor. The first floor became a stable and housed horses and lumber. This was the condition of the building when William J. Seymour negotiated a lease with purchase option from First A.M.E. (Robeck, “Uncovering . . . “ 15).

The Pentecostal mission at Azusa Street was serviceable but far from sumptuous. Arthur Osterberg organized a work crew that consisted of the interracial converts from Bonnie Brae and some Mexican workers, who worked with Bro. Osterberg at the McNeill Construction Company during the week. Much of the debris was hauled away in a wagon, and straw and sawdust were scattered on the mission floor. The walls, which were eventually painted, were exposed down to the studs in the earliest days. The saints decided to worship on the first floor, which had a low ceiling of only 8 or 9 feet. The assembly room was lit by a single row of incandescent lights. Redwood planks supported by nail kegs made up benches, which were shortly supplemented by an assortment of mismatched chairs, which were arranged in a square around the makeshift pulpit. Mr. McNeill, Osterberg’s employer, donated lumber for a proper altar in the mission despite the fact that he was himself Catholic (Robeck 72-73).

Other interesting fixtures in the building included a mailbox inside the entrance for offerings. Following the precedent of his mentor Charles Parham, Bro. Seymour did not receive offerings in the mission. As miracles began to take place, walls were covered with the leavings of the healed and delivered, including crutches, braces, and smoking pipes. This tradition also had precedent amongst others in the earlier holiness movement.

There was also some signage in the mission. Interestingly, the words of God’s judgment to Belshazzar “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharisin” were displayed in the mission, painted in green (Robeck 74). A sign hung in the upstairs tarrying room where many prayed for Spirit baptism that read: “No talking above a whisper” (Bartleman 62). The most controversial sign at Azusa proved to be the crudely painted name of the mission: “Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission.” Many early Pentecostals were fiercely anti-denominational, and some feared that this nomenclature indicated sectarianism. Bro. Bartleman, who chronicled the early revival in Los Angeles, lamented:

The truth be told, “Azusa” began to fail the Lord also, early in her history. God showed me one day that they were going to organize, though not a word had been said in my hearing about it . . . Sure enough, the next day after I dropped this warning in the meeting, I found a sign outside “Azusa” reading “Apostolic Faith Mission.” The Lord said, “That is what I told you.” They had done it. Surely a “party spirit” cannot be “Pentecostal.” (Bartleman 78-79)

All said, the Azusa Street Mission was never to grow into an ecclesiastical showplace. The people were hungry for God and eschewed the trappings of denominational decorum—no stained glass, organs, or choir robes for these humble people! Money was not used to embellish the edifice but to build the Kingdom of God—to send forth missionaries and to distribute the Apostolic Faith, a free publication that was instrumental in disseminating the Pentecostal message around the world.

 

Despite its initial status as the focus of Pentecostal revivalism, Azusa Street was not destined to remain at the center of the spreading movement. The very evangelistic nature of Pentecostalism meant that revival was carried place to place, and the enthusiasm of Azusa was replicated over and over again around the globe. After 1915, the mission reverted to the home of a small, mainly black congregation led by William J. Seymour. After Seymour’s death in 1922, he was succeeded by his wife, Jennie Evans Moore Seymour, who continued to lead the Apostolic Faith Mission. In 1931, the old mission, which had fallen into greater disrepair, was declared unfit for use as a church by the Building Department of the City of Los Angeles. The small congregation vacated the structure. The property was offered for sale to the Assemblies of God for preservation, but church leaders reportedly said: “We are not interested in relics” (Synan xxxiii). Sadly, only a commemorative plaque marks the spot of the Azusa Street Mission in modern Los Angeles. It is perhaps fitting that God chose this ephemeral edifice as a tinderbox for Pentecostal fire. Christ seems to have a penchant for humble abodes. He, who was born in a stable, returned to a converted stable in Los Angeles, favoring a rundown construction over an opulent cathedral.

Sources:

Bartleman, Frank. Azusa Street, an Eyewitness Account: the Roots of Modern-day Pentecost. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980.

Robeck, Cecil M. “Uncovering the Forgotten Story of the Azusa Street Mission.” Heritage (11 Dec 2005), 12-17.

Robeck, Cecil. Azusa Street Mission and Revival: the Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2006.

Synan, Vinson. Frank Bartleman and Azusa Street. Azusa Street, an Eyewitness Account: the Roots of Modern-day Pentecost. By Frank Bartleman. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980.

First Baptist Church, Anticipators of Pentecostal Revival

4 August, 2008

First Baptist Church of Los Angeles

Bro. Frank Bartleman, a journalist who meticulously documented the spiritual happenings in Los Angeles around the time of the Pentecostal revival, often frequented meetings at First Baptist Church. Bartleman, who was himself given to zealous evangelistic work and much prayer, described the environment at the church:

 

I found this meeting of an exact piece with my own vision, burden, and desire, and spent two hours in the church in prayer, before the evening services. Meetings were being held every day and night there and God was present. (Bartleman 16)
 

This prayerful church began attracting souls from all over the metropolitan area; and in July, Bro. Bartleman published articles in The Way of Faith, The Christian Harvester, and God’s Revivalist publicizing the expectant atmosphere at First Baptist. While the meetings predate William Seymour’s introduction of the Apostolic Faith, God was surely preparing the city for revival. Bartleman wrote: “The fear of God is coming upon the people, a very spirit of burning. Sunday night the meeting ran on until the small hours of the next morning. Pastor Smale is prophesying of wonderful things to come.” He closed the article with the plea: “Pray for a ‘Pentecost.’” (Bartleman 19). Even the secular press accepted Bartleman’s articles on the revival at First Baptist, and his article “What I Saw in a Los Angeles Church” was printed in the Pasadena paper, The Daily News (Bartleman 22-23).

 

In September 1905, First Baptist became embroiled in controversy when some of the church officials presented Smale with an ultimatum: ” . . . either stop the revival, or get out.” Choosing to leave rather than stifle the move of the Spirit, Smale formed the New Testament Church (Bartleman 28-29).
 
The church, which met in Burbank Hall, continued to seek the Lord.

When the Holy Ghost fell in April 1906, Smale was reluctant to receive the manifestation; but by June, he had fully accepted the message. First New Testament became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. A July article in the Los Angeles Times sensationally describes services at Smale’s church much like the meetings at Azusa Street Mission:

Believing they have the “gift of tongues” and are chosen of God to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, members of Pastor Joseph Smale’s First New Testament Church worked themselves into a wild religious frenzy at a meeting last night in Burbank Hall. (“Rolling on Floor” . . . II1)

Saints in the church reportedly rolled on the floor, screamed, screeched, jumped, and spoke in tongues.

While Azusa Street has assumed a central place in the Pentecostal story, the Apostolic revival may owe a great debt to the seeking souls of Pastor Joseph Smale’s assembly whose quest for a spiritual outpouring prefigured the Azusa meetings and certainly prepared the city for the widespread outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire. Revival never comes without prayer and expectation, and Joseph Smale and the First New Testament Church were hungry for the “real Pentecost” that came to Los Angeles in 1906.
 
Sources:
 

 

“Rolling on Floor in Smale’s Church.” Los Angeles Times. July 14, 1906. pg. II1.

 

 “A Wave of Religion Spreads Over Wales.” New York Times. 18 Dec 1904, pg. 4. 

 

 

1924: Redrawing the Color Line

3 June, 2008

Interracial Leadership Group from Azusa StreetIn 1918, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World merged, unifying Oneness Pentecostals into a large, interracial body. After being ousted from the Assemblies of God in 1916, the “Jesus Only” faction soon organized into the GAAA under the leadership of Daniel C. O. Opperman. The organization was destined to last only a short while. When the United States entered World War I on April 16, 1917, the government refused to recognize combat exemption for ministers of the fledgling church. In addition, GAAA ministers did not qualify for clergy train fare rates. For these two reasons, the organization sought a merger with the older Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (Clanton 29-30).

The PAW had a nebulous beginning in Los Angeles in 1906. Initially, few records were kept, which is not surprising considering the reticence of early Pentecostal believers to organize or to model themselves after the traditional denominations from which they had emerged. The alignment of the PAW with the Oneness camp may be historically attributable to the influence of Bishop G.T. Haywood, pastor of the large Pentecostal work at 11th & Senate in Indianapolis. Haywood along with his entire congregation accepted rebaptism in Jesus’ Name and the doctrine of the mighty God in Christ when Glenn Cook, Pentecostal pioneer and evangelist, came through Indiana in 1915 preaching the Oneness revelation.

While the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World was interracial from its inception, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies was essentially a white organization. The merger of these two groups recreated the racial unity that characterized the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. Bro. Frank Bartleman, journalist and chronicler of the Pentecostal movement in Los Angeles, said of Azusa Street: “The color line is washed away in the blood!” The mission, led by Bro. William Joseph Seymour, a black brother, became a bastion of multiracial unity as believers of every race and color gathered in the makeshift mission to experience the democratizing power of the Holy Ghost. When the GAAA joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, retaining the latter name, an initial, conscious effort was made to maintain racial integration.

Unfortunately, the merger was plagued by problems from the beginning. The most critical difficulty seems to have been the location of the annual conference. The South was considered too racially sensitive, and meetings had to be held in the North. At a time when Pentecostals were much less affluent, many Southern ministers could not afford to attend conventions in Northern cities. In 1922, leading white ministers in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World organized the Southern Bible Conference. William Booth-Clibborn’s record of the meeting, A Call to Dust and Ashes, describes a glorious visitation of the Holy Ghost and a prevailing unity and anointing, but the exclusive convention offended many of the black PAW brethren (1).

The following year, the General Conference adopted Resolution 4, with devastating results. The resolution read:

Be it further resolved, that because of conditions now existing in many parts of the country through no fault of the brethren, but rather those that oppose the work of the Lord, it is deemed advisable that two white Presbyters sign the credentials for the white brethren (especially in the southland) and two colored Presbyters sign the papers of the colored brethren. (Golder 78)

While the wording of the resolution seems to suggest the necessity of this measure due to external social forces, it seems likely that the real reason for the policy was racial prejudice. Oneness historians sharply disagree on the meaning and context of Resolution No. 4. White writers like S.C. McClain and Arthur Clanton attribute the adoption to the social mores of the South, repeatedly arguing that racial integration was hindering the work of the Lord, especially below the Mason-Dixon line. Bishop Morris E. Golder, PAW historian, logically asks: “How could any person picking up a credential and looking at the signatures tell who wrote them? Would the ink of the black man be different from that of a white man?” (79). The fissure that began with the passage of Resolution No. 4 broadened over the next year; and at the close of the 1924 General Conference, a majority of the white brethren withdrew and formed the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, electing L.C. Hall as the first chairman (Clanton 46).

While it is difficult to recapture the social context that led our predecessors to divide into essentially white and black organizations, Oneness Pentecostals should work at every level to restore greater interracial fellowship and cooperation. Manmade organizations can never replace the true unity of Apostolic believers and the transcendental power of our common Acts 2:38 salvation. Huge strides in fellowship have been made by both the United Pentecostal Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and we look forward to the day when Christ’s prayer “that they all may be one” (Jn. 17:21) is fully answered when the saints of every color and creed gather at God’s great throne!

Sources:

Clanton, Arthur. United We Stand: a History of Oneness Organizations. Hazelwood: MO: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1970.

Booth-Clibborn, William. A Call to Dust and Ashes. St. Paul, MN: 1924.

Golder, Morris E. History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Indianapolis, 1973.

“And They Heard Them Speak with Tongues”

27 May, 2008

When the Pentecostal baptism first fell in 1901, the students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas were unsure of the deeper meanings of their experience. Agnes Ozman first received the Holy Ghost on 1 January 1901, and Bro. Charles Parham, founder of the Bible college, quickly identified her speaking in tongues as “Chinese” (Blumhofer 83). Bro. Parham became increasingly convinced that Spirit-filled tongues were always identifiable human languages and were given expressly for the final evangelization of the world before Christ’s return:

We have for long believe that the power of the Lord would be manifested in our midst, and that power would be give us to speak other languages, and that the time will come when we will be sent to go into all the nations and preach the gospel, and that the Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools. (Parham 4)

A.B. Simpson, who founded the Christian Missionary Alliance, held a similar view:  “We are to witness before the Lord’s return real missionary “tongues” like those of Pentecost, through which the heathen world shall hear in their own language ‘the wonderful works of God’” (qtd. in Bartleman 65).

Unfortunately, their understanding of tongues as a mechanism to evangelize the world was somewhat misunderstood, and many missionaries were sent out into the field ill- equipped to overcome the language barriers they faced.

The hypothesis that tongues was intended for this purpose was primarily founded on widespread reports of Pentecostals speaking in human languages understood by their hearers. These miracles were popularly detailed in The Apostolic Faith, official publication of the Azusa Street Mission, and a selection of these testimonies follow:

 On Aug 11th, a man from the central part of Mexico, an Indian was present in the meeting and heard a German sister speaking in his tongue which the Lord had given her. He understood, and through the message that God gave him through her, he was most happily converted so that he could hardly contain his joy. All the English he knew was Jesus Christ and Hallelujah.” (“Untitled”).

 The power of the Holy Spirit was greatly manifested in the meetings by the speakin [sic] in unknown tongues. This was much criticized by the town and vicinity, so that the principal physician, who was familiar with several different languages, was prevailed upon to go to the meetings in order to denounce the whole as a fake. Miss Tuthill, in an unknown language to herself, but known to him as Italian, spoke his full name, which no one in the town knew save himself, telling him things that had happened in his life twenty years ago, and on up to the present time until he cried for mercy and fell on his knees seeking God (“Tongues Convict Sinners”).

 Sister Anna Hall spoke to the Russians in their church in Los Angeles in their own language as the Spirit gave utterance they were so glad to hear the truth that they wept and even kissed her hands . . . The other night, as a company of Russians were present in the meeting, Bro. Lee, a converted Catholic, was permitted to speak their language. As he spoke and sang, one of the Russians came up and embraced him. It was a holy signt, and the Spirit fell upon the Russians, as well as on others, and they glorified God (“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue”).

 A preacher’s wife, who at first opposed Pentecostal truth, went home and read the second chapter of Acts, and while she read, the Spirit fell upon her and she began to speak in tongues . . . As she was on the way to the church she met a brother whom she had been instrumental in leading to the Lord. He is a foreigner and as soo[n] as she saw him, she began to pour out her soul in French. He was amazed and said, “When did you learn French?” “What did I say?” she asked. “You said: “Get ready! Get ready! Jesus is coming soon!” (“The Second Chapter of Acts”).

 Pueblo, Colorado is a city of many nationalities . . . The Lord had opened up a mission there when the Pentecostal Gospel came. The woman in charge of the mission went right to seeking and received the baptism and before she got off her knees, was speaking in Chinese. One day when she was speaking, the Spirit began to speak another language through her. Nobody understood till they saw some uneasiness manifested in the back of the room where some Japanese were sitting. They began to wring their hands and cry and bury their face in their hands. Someone went to them and they said, “Talk my tongue. Tell me all about my God how he died for the Japanese” They had never heard anything like that before (“Japanese Hear in the Their Own Tongue”).

These brief accounts remind us that speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Ghost. A myriad of such stories exist and have been retold in Pentecostal biography, missionary accounts, and circulars. While the early vision of world evangelization through speaking in tongues was largely unrealized, unknown tongues was certainly one method that God used to spread the wonderful message of salvation and the power of the Pentecostal baptism.
 
Sources:
Blumhofer, Edith. The Assemblies of God: a Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism. Vol. 1. Springfield: Missouri. Gospel Publishing House, 1989.

Bartleman, Frank. Witness to Pentecost: the Life of Frank Bartleman. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

“Japanese Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 4. Dec. 1906, p. 4.

Parham, Charles F. Topeka Journal 7 (1901), 4.

“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1. September 1906, p. 4).

“The Second Chapter of Acts.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1906, p. 2.

“Tongues Convict Sinners.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1906, p. 4.

“Untitled.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept. 1906, p. 3. 

Without Form and Fashion: the Early Pentecostal Service

20 May, 2008

 When the Holy Ghost baptism was given at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the seekers of the Father’s promise were caught up in a state of spiritual ecstasy. Their Upper Room experiences inspired curiosity and ridicule as onlookers surmised that these passionate Pentecostals were early-morning drunkards (Acts 2). Along with the restoration of Apostolic truth in the early part of the twentieth century came a return to an authentic style of worship and service, driven not by dead liturgy or ritualistic tradition but rather infused with anointing and fresh power. Countless descriptions of early Pentecostal services help us recapture the spiritual spontaneity of our Apostolic ancestors. Universally, the narratives recreate an atmosphere of divine direction unfettered by denominational traditionalism and formality.

Some of the most poignant vignettes of Pentecostal meetings come from Los Angeles, the humble cradle of worldwide Pentecostal revival. Bro. Frank Ewart gives an early description of the earliest Pentecostal baptisms received in the home of one Sister Asbury of 214 Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles:

When Brother Lee walked into the house, he threw up his hands and began to speak in other tongues. Six people were already on their knees praying, and the power fell on them and all six began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This happened on April 9, 1906. This was followed, as at Pentecost, by a great noise that was spread abroad. The new recipients were beside themselves with joy. They shouted and praised God for three days and nights. It was the Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near that house. Those who could gain an entrance would fall under God’s power as they entered and commence to speak in other tongues; and this continued until the whole city of Los Angeles was mightily stirred. (Ewart 66-67)

When services moved to the mission at 312 Azusa Street, the saints operated with great spiritual freedom. Bro. William J. Seymour, the African American leader of the group, assumed no position of direct authority or governance over the proceedings at Azusa. Bro. Frank Bartleman’s early depictions of the Azusa mission demonstrate both Bro. Seymour’s personal humility and the liberty of the Spirit:

Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour, night and day. The place was never closed nor [sic] empty. The people came to meet God. He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. God’s presence became more and more wonderful. In that old building, with its low rafter and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, self-importance and self-esteem, could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly. No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whoever [sic] he might speak. We had no “respect of persons.” The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much hard death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal.” (Bartleman 58-59)

The services at Azusa were truly free, and early practitioners of the Apostolic Faith were afraid to grieve the Spirit or to hinder God’s sovereign work in their midst.

Worship, testimonies, and even preaching were spontaneously conducted. An early issue of The Apostolic Faith, the periodical published by the Azusa Street mission, describes how the saints sang in other tongues:

One of the most remarkable features of this Apostolic Faith movement is what is rightly termed the heavenly anthem. No one but those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost are able to join in-or better, the Holy Ghost only signs through such in that manner. Hallelujah! . . . a beautiful song was sung in tongues: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9) . . . We afterward learned of a remarkable coincidence. The same song was being sung at the Pentecostal Mission at 3271/2 S. Spring St., and was interpreted there the same.” The saints worshiping in these two places were in perfect harmony of spirit, and the Holy Ghost witnessed to it. (“The Heavenly Anthem” 3).

Bro. Bartleman himself experienced this Pentecostal phenomenon:

Friday, June 15 [1906], at “Azusa,” the Spirit dropped the “heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received the supernatural “gift.” It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe . . . In the beginning in “Azusa” we had no musical instruments. In fact we felt no need of them. There was no place for them in our worship. All was spontaneous. (Bartleman 56-57)

Preaching was also impromptu, wholly inspired by the Spirit:

The Lord was liable to burst through any one. We prayed for this continually. Some one would finally get up anointed for the message. All seemed to recognize this and gave way. It might be a child, a woman, or a man. It might be from the back seat, or from the front. It made no difference. We rejoiced that God was working. No one wished to show himself. We thought only of obeying God. (Bartleman 59)

Likewise, the altar invitation was spiritual and spontaneous:

Some one might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over th house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar enmasse [sic] to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees . . . God himself would call them. And the preacher knew when to quit (Bartleman 60).

The space allotted here is not ample enough to depict the composite service enjoyed by early Pentecostals in the glorious days of the Los Angeles outpouring. But the details, fortuitously preserved for us, recapture a time when worship was not synthesized from syncopation, sermons were not recycled from revival to revival, and altars were not gratuitously graced by passionless penitents. We must be careful not to replace spiritual unction with modern function, extinguishing the flames of revival with form and fashion. Rather, we must reserve spacious room in our contemporary worship for a Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Ghost, allowing God’s Spirit to direct and define every service for by His divine power and for His eternal purposes.

Sources:

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: as It was in the Beginning, 2nd. Ed. Los Angeles, 1925.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Word Aflame Press: Hazelwood, MO, 2000.

“The Heavenly Anthem.” The Apostolic Faith 1 (5). January 1907, p. 3.

 

Pentecost in Print: Papers and Tracts from Pentecostal Pioneers

12 May, 2008

Pentecostals have always been prolific, and the turn-of-the-century rediscovery of the New Testament truth of Spirit baptism, evidenced by speaking in tongues at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible College, spawned a plethora of circulars, papers, and tracts. Parham launched The Apostolic Faith in March 1899 and used this publication to promote the activities of his school in Topeka, Kansas. While the initial publication predates the Pentecostal outpouring that took place at Bethel, the name of the periodical evidences his school’s dedication to recreating a New Testament model of Christianity. Before the baptism fell, Parham’s curriculum was mainly focused on healing and prophecy, and the facility included a Healing Home, a spiritual retreat for the physically and spiritually infirmed (Goff 46-7). When Agnes Ozman, one of the Bethel students, received the baptism of the Holy Ghost on 1 January 1901, The Apostolic Faith became the first Pentecostal publication and began promoting Spirit baptism with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.

When the famed Azusa Street revival began, William Joseph Seymour borrowed the name of Parham’s publication and began publishing The Apostolic Faith from Los Angeles in September 1906. The headline of the first issue read boldly: “Pentecost Has Come: Los Angeles Being Visited by a Revival of Bible Salvation and Pentecost as Recorded in the Book of Acts.” This periodical was seminal in promoting the Pentecostal experience. It included a broad spectrum of testimonies, conversion reports, missionary news, and theology. Tens of thousands of copies were soon in circulation, and printed reports of unprecedented revival in Los Angeles brought thousands to the true birthplace of modern Pentecostalism, the mission at 312 Azusa Street.

While the secular press wrote articles criticizing the Azusa Pentecostals as fanatics citing their long, raucous services and mixing of racial and social classes in an environment of unbridled revivalism, The Apostolic Faith provided glowing details of conversions, miracles, and the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, often accompanied by interpretation. A May 1907 article declared: “The interpretation of many of the messages in nearly every language spoken by the Holy Ghost in unknown tongues is that Jesus is coming” (Untitled).

Many missionaries visited Azusa Street filled with hunger or curiosity returning to their labor filled with the Holy Ghost. In October, the paper reported that eight Pentecostal missionaries had been dispatched from Los Angeles (Seymour 1). Hundreds of preachers, mainly from Holiness denominations, received their Pentecostal baptism at Azusa and returned to their churches declaring its truth. The paper also chronicles the Spirit baptisms of a spectrum of immigrants including: Mexicans, Chinese, Russian, Italians, and Japanese, many of whom were converted after hearing messages in tongues delivered in their native languages. Additionally, The Apostolic Faith records the conversions of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to the Pentecostal faith. Racism and bigotry were forgotten in the presence of God, and the Spirit produced a miraculous unity amongst the early Pentecostals.

Bro. Frank Bartleman, a Los Angeles journalist and former Holiness preacher who received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, saturated California with thousands of Pentecostal tracts during the Azusa revival. Before Azusa, Bro. Bartleman and other Christians in Los Angeles, inspired by published accounts of the Welsh Revival led by Evan Roberts, were anticipating another Pentecost and praying fervently to that end. The Azusa revival filled that hunger, and Bro. Bartleman’s writing captures the deep hunger and spiritual zeal of the early Pentecostals and their singular belief in God’s soon coming. Following the San Francisco earthquake, he published a tract called “The Last Call.” In less than three weeks, Bro. Bartleman and his workers distributed over 75,000 of the pamphlets, and the revival at Azusa increased (Bartleman 50-4).

Initially, Bro. Bartleman continued writing articles about the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles for Holiness publications. Gradually, proponents of the Holiness Movement distanced themselves from the Pentecostals, and Bartleman began submitting his work to other exclusively Pentecostal publications including The Way of Faith, Christian Harvester, and Apostolic Light (Bartleman 61). While little is known of these publications, they provide evidence that a growing number of Pentecostal circulars were in existence.
Pentecostal periodicals were influential and provided a rudimentary cohesiveness for the burgeoning movement. In 1914, the newsletter Word & Witness called for a general convention of members of the Church of God in Christ and “all Pentecostal or Apostolic Faith Assemblies who desire with united purpose to co-operate in love and peace to push the interests of the kingdom of God everywhere” (Bell 1). From this advertised meeting emerged the Assemblies of God, one of the earliest and largest Pentecostal organizations.

The restorationism of the early Pentecostal Movement is strongly evidenced in the published writings of early apologists, and periodicals very often included strong, doctrinal defenses. The notion of the “Finished Work of Calvary” championed by Bro. William H. Durham, the well-known pastor of Chicago’s North Avenue Mission, penetrated Pentecostalism through his paper entitled The Pentecostal Testimony (“William Durham” 255). The controversial “New Issue”, the contemporary name for Oneness theology, emerged at the Worldwide Pentecostal Camp Meeting held in Arroyo Seco, California, when Bro. R.E. McAlister, a Canadian evangelist, declared that the Matthew 28:19 formula for baptism was never used by the New Testament Church. Several brethren, including McAlister, Frank Ewart, Glenn Cook, and John Scheppe, became convinced, through prayer and study, that the proper biblical baptismal invocation was “in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This idea spawned an untold number of publications and tracts dedicated to the furtherance of the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ.

A 1913 notice in Word and Witness announced the launch of The Good Report edited by Brothers Ewart and McAlister, the oldest known Oneness periodical (Notice). Bro. Ewart also edited a paper called The Present Truth. Perhaps the three most influential Oneness publications, however, were Bro. Ewart’s Meat in Due Season, Bro. D.C.O. Opperman’s The Blessed Truth, and Elder G.T. Haywood’s The Voice in the Wilderness. These papers were filled with articles about the advancement of the Jesus’ Name message, including international news of rebaptisms in the name of Jesus.

Bishop G.T. Haywood was one of the most prolific and profound Oneness apologists. He wrote: “Much of the early Pentecostal movement was promoted and introduced to various islands, countries, and continents of the world through tracts and periodicals that we published.” His paper, The Voice in the Wilderness, became the official organ of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1918, and Haywood retained editorial responsibility for the publication after he was elevated to presiding bishop in 1925 (Tyson 16). He also wrote a prodigious number of tracts and booklets, including his masterpieces: “The Finest of Wheat” and “The Victim of the Flaming Sword.” His incomparable ability to articulate biblical truth with theological proofs, historical context, and eschatological importance makes him one of the most beloved twentieth century Pentecostal authors.

While Oneness brethren promulgated truth in their periodicals, their detractors were also busy campaigning against the spread of their message. In 1915, J. Roswell Flower, General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, lamented the penetration of the “New Issue” literature in the Assemblies of God’s Weekly Evangel :

Another letter, this very week, tells of the unsettled conditions in an eastern State where the Los Angeles [Oneness] literature has been scattered broadcast [sic] among the Pentecostal Assemblies, and where unstable souls, who know not the Word of God, are being swept off their feet. And that is not all, the new teaching has been carried to the foreign fields, and already hearts that are sore and distressed are writing us stating the awful results and after-effects of this teaching . . .

He further warns: “These workers are scattering over the country, and methinks they drive like Jehu. They are liable to drop in your assembly any day, and the day after, your assembly is possibly on the verge of dissolution” (Flower 1). Clearly, Trinitarians were worried about the wildfires of doctrinal truth ignited worldwide by Oneness Pentecostal publishers and preachers, and the “New Issue” battle was largely fought on front pages of their respective periodicals.

Ultimately, the Pentecostal press was a key component in reshaping the face of twentieth century Christianity. With the ink of inspiration, great Apostolic believers penned, printed, and published the full gospel message; and while thousands of evangelists, missionaries, and Christian workers canvassed the globe with New Testament truth, they were often preceded by or armed with Pentecostal literature. From the writings of our Pentecostal pioneers, we can create a composite picture of the passion and zeal that fueled the fires of revival that made Pentecostalism the fastest growing religion on earth (McClung 1). The yellowed records of our past must inspire us, and their voices urge us on toward increased worldwide evangelism as we carry the blessed truth of the Apostolic faith to a new generation of believers. Founded on our strong Pentecostal heritage of the written word and empowered with modern tools of mass communication, we can publish “The Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”

Sources:

Bartleman, Frank. From Plow to Pulpit: from Maine to California. Los Angeles: 1924.
Bell, E.N. General Convention of Pentecostal Saints and Churches of God in Christ, Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 2 to 12, 1914. Word & Witness 9.12 (1913): 1.

Flower, J. Roswell. Editorial Comment on Issue. Weekly Evangel, 99 (15 July 1915): 1.

Goff, James. Fields White unto Harvest : Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.

McClung, Grant. Pentecostals: the Sequel. Christianity Today. 50.4 (2006): 1-8.

Notice. Word & Witness 9.6 (1913): 8.

Seymour, William J. The Pentecostal Baptism Restored: the Promised Latter Rain Now Being Poured Out on God’s Humble People. The Apostolic Faith. 1.2 (October 1906): 1.

Tyson, James. Before I Sleep. Indianapolis: Pentecostal Publications, 1976.

Untitled. The Apostolic Faith 1.8 (May 1907): 3.

“William Durham.” Dictionary of Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements. Eds. Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.

God’s Organism: Attitudes and Efforts of Early Pentecostals Toward Organization

5 May, 2007

Early Pentecostals recognized their unique position in God’s end-time restoration of New Testament truth and revival. They emphatically believed that the Holy Ghost baptism evidenced by speaking in tongues was a universal experience that would sweep across all denominations, and they had no intentions of creating an exclusively Pentecostal church. In fact, their deep reverence for the sacred nature of the Spirit’s work made them reticent to classify themselves at all. This attitude went a long way to attract Christians from denominational churches. Most of the primitive Pentecostals in Charles Parham’s revivals in Topeka, Kansas and Houston, Texas and William Seymour’s significant work at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, emerged from Wesleyan, Holiness, and Baptist traditions. Such seekers recognized the spiritual decay, and even decadence, of their respective churches and saw the return of Pentecost as a revitalizing force from Heaven. It is perhaps even more accurate to say that the earliest Pentecostals perceived themselves not as Pentecostals but as Spirit-baptized Methodists, Baptists, Nazarenes, etc. While most made an initial effort to return to their churches with the message of the Pentecostal blessing, they often met with disdain or outright expulsion from their former assemblies. It was these sorts of crises that created a class of Pentecostal pariahs, and the earliest fellowships of newly-formed missions and churches were very loosely connected and tenuously structured. Pentecost was a movement and not a denomination, and many primitive practitioners vehemently resisted efforts to name, define, codify or otherwise organize Spirit-filled believers.

Any student of early Pentecostalism has probably noticed the generic names of churches, missions, and works. Parham’s school, Bethel Bible College, in Topeka was popularly known as Stone’s Folly after the mansion where the school was housed. It was customary to call a Pentecostal or Apostolic work only after its address or location, consider William Durham’s North Avenue Mission in Chicago, G.T. Haywood’s 11th & Senate in Indianapolis, and Frank Bartelman’s 8th & Maple Mission in Los Angeles. In my hometown of Muncie, T.J. Miller’s “Block Church” and Bishop Oscar Sanders 3rd and Vine identified the earliest locations of Pentecostal revivals. This nomenclative tradition grew out of Pentecostal suspicions about denominationalism and formal organization. Bro. Bartleman, who carefully recorded the Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles, criticized the Azusa Street Mission for its early appendage of “Apostolic Faith Mission” to its name and zealously spoke and wrote against the move:

The truth must be told. “Azusa” began to fail the Lord also, early in her history. God showed me one day that they were going to organize, though not a word had been said in my hearing about it. The Spirit revealed it to me. He had me get up and warn them against making a “party” spirit of the Pentecostal work. The “baptized” saints were to remain “one body,” even as they had been called, and to be free as His Spirit was free, not “entangled again in a yoke of (ecclesiastical) bondage.” The New Testament Church saints had already arrested the further progress in this way. God wanted a revival company, a channel through whom He could evangelize the world, blessing all people and believers. He could naturally not accomplish this with a sectarian party. The spirit has been the curse and death of every revival body sooner or later. History repeats itself in this matter. Sure enough the very next day after I dropped this warning in the meeting I found a sign outside “Azusa” reading “Apostolic Faith Mission.” The Lord said: “That is what I told you.” They had done it. Surely a “party spirit” cannot be “Pentecostal.” There can be no divisions in a true Pentecost. To formulate a separate body is but to advertise our failure, as a people of God . . . The church is an organism not a human organization. (Bartleman 68-69)

While this attitude was widely held, some more progressive members were willing to entertain the notion of some type of organization. In fact, many ministers had joined Charles H. Mason’s Church of God in Christ, which was begun as a Holiness organization and had come into the Pentecostal movement. Because of this association, Church of God in Christ was one of the earliest prescribed names for Pentecostal or Apostolic assemblies. In 1912, Eudorus N. Bell, editor of the Word and Witness wrote an article appealing to Pentecostal works to use the name “Church of God in Christ” for their churches rather than Apostolic, Pentecostal, or Mission (all of which were popularly employed). He posited: “We believe with all our hearts in the ‘Aposotlic Movement’ not as a name for a church, but as a religious ‘reform movement’ composed of all clean people who will join our battle cry and reform slogan of “Back to the faith once deliver to the saints!” (Bell 2). “Church of God in Christ” was presented by Bell as a biblical alternative.

Bro. Howard Goss was instrumental in identifying the need for organization, but he recognized the independent spirit of many of the brethren: “As our numbers increased, the influx brought with it leaders who did not believe in organization at all; some even preached that anything of that nature (when committed to paper) was of the devil” (Goss 259). While Goss and others proceeded with caution and initially clandestinely, they were persuaded that a broader Pentecostal organization was necessary to sustain the growing work of the movement. While general fellowship had been maintained by announcements of camp meetings, conventions, and revivals in Apostolic periodicals, there was a need to coordinate worldwide evangelism and produce printed literature. Goss noticed the natural cohesiveness of some works and feared that partisan spirits were developing in some areas. Additionally, there was a need for some definition, some criteria of fellowship as many assemblies would receive anyone into their pulpit claiming to be Pentecostal, and the reputation of Spirit-filled works was really at stake.

The result was the formation of the Assemblies of God in 1914. The charter document declared the name to be “GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GOD (which is God’s organism)”. The name was formulated to allay fears about organizational sectarianism, and the document made the new fellowship’s intentions clear:

[Our] purpose is neither to legislate laws of government, nor usurp authority over said various Assemblies of God, nor deprive them of their Scriptural and local rights and privileges, but to recognize Scriptural methods and order for worship, unity, fellowship, work and business for God, and to disapprove of all unscriptural methods, doctrines and conduct, and approve of all Scriptural and conduct . . . (General Council Minutes)

Out of this organization grew the Oneness organizations that eventually formed the United Pentecostal Church in 1945.

While many of our predecessors blatantly opposed efforts of ecclesiastical incorporation, today we benefit from the blessings of Godly organization. Modern United Pentecostal Church adherents have accepted a workable compromise, simultaneously understanding our status as a movement and not a denomination but cooperating in a spirit of unity for the work of evangelism and worldwide revival. The reticence of our forebears reminds us of the true heavenly nature of our beginnings and continues to caution us against degenerating into the spiritual staleness of mere denominationalism. Rather, with these Apostolic ancestors, we must adopt an “all flesh” attitude and spread with urgency the message of salvation and regeneration through the power of the Holy Ghost!

Sources:
Bartleman, Frank. Witness to Pentecost. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

Bell, Eudorus N. “Not Missions, but Churches of God in Christ.” Word & Witness Vol. 8, Is. 6. 20 August 1912, p. 2.

“General Council Minutes”, 1914.

Goss, Ethel. The Winds of God: the Story of the Early Pentecostal Movement (1901-1914 in the Life of Howard A. Goss. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1958.

Word and Witness, 20 March 1914, p. 1.


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