Archive for April, 2007

Howard Goss: Pentecostal Pioneer and Founding Father

5 April, 2007

In 1883, Howard A. Goss was born to a poor Missouri homesteader. Life was difficult for the Gosses, and a young Howard struggled to continue his education while working as a miner to make ends meet at home. The family was not religious, and Howard had no knowledge of the Bible. His brother, John, was an avowed atheist and encouraged Howard to adopt the same attitude.

In 1902, Bro. Charles Fox Parham, founder of the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, where the Holy Ghost first fell on January 1, 1901, began tent meetings in Galena, Kansas. Howard began attending the curious meetings after hearing reports from classmates of divine miracles, deliverance, and speaking in tongues. Several townspeople were filled with the baptism of the Spirit, and many lost their ability to speak in English for several consecutive days. This evidence was a strong factor in Howard Goss’ decision to join the Pentecostals:

I feel that I owe my conversion to Christianity to hearing people speak in other tongues. The 14th Chapter of I Corinthians tells us that tongues are a sign to the “unbelievers.” Today, I still thank God that I heard and saw His own sign from heaven. (Goss 37)

During the winter, Howard was baptized in Jesus’ Name in the icy Spring River. Even before the Oneness revelation, Bro. Parham had begun exclusively baptizing converts with the singular invocation of the Name of Jesus rather than the trinitarian titles (Parham 4-5).

Bro. Goss devoted himself wholeheartedly to the Christian life. He gave up a voracious interest in athletics, renounced membership in two lodges, and read only the Bible for two full years. He finished high school while continuing work in the mines, but he faithfully attended services at the Third Street Mission, the permanent Pentecostal work that grew out of the Galena tent revivals.

While he felt drawn to do a greater work for the Lord, he believed himself inadequate and resisted the call. After being kicked in the face by a horse and being warned by the Lord: “This is your last chance”, Bro. Goss yielded himself to God’s will and joined a band of Pentecostal workers bound for Texas (Goss 58-59). In Texas, Bro. Goss was trained in preaching and general evangelistic work. In Houston, the Apostolic workers would do whatever was necessary to draw crowds. They often dressed in Palestinian costumes and marched in the streets, carrying banners reading “Apostolic Faith Movement” (Goss 69).

Remarkably, Bro. Goss still had not received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He earnestly sought to be filled, however; on April 16, 1906 during a train ride from Orchard to Angleton, Texas, a prayer meeting broke out amongst the band of travelling saints. Bro. Goss was overcome by the Spirit and finally began speaking in other tongues. Similar baptisms took place in other coaches, and the workers left the train in a Pentecostal stupor, which drew intrigued crowds to the nightly meetings.

Through this early training and powerful anointing, Bro. Goss became instrumental in organizing the Pentecostal Movement. In 1910, he received credentials from C.H. Mason’s Church of God in Christ. But, there was growing dissatisfaction with the arrangement, and plans were made to form another Pentecostal organization.

On December 20, 1913, a call was issued in The Word and Witness for a convention of Pentecostal saints desiring greater unity. Signed by Bro. Goss along with M.M. Pinson, A.P Collins, D.C.O. Opperman, and E.N. Bell, this general invitation resulted in the formation of the Assemblies of God in 1914 (Tyson 155). Bro. Goss was an appointed member of the executive board and served in that organization until 1916, when he resigned his position with the expulsion of the Oneness faction of believers.

In 1916, he became treasure of the tenuous General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies, the first Oneness body to organize after the schism. When the body merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1918, Bro. Goss retained the office of treasurer (Tyson 191). In 1924, Bro. Goss became the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, which reorganized in 1932 as the Pentecostal Church, Inc. Bro. Goss was the superintendent of this group.

In 1945, the Pentecostal Church, Inc. merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ to form the United Pentecostal Church, and Bro. Howard Goss was named General Superintendent of the newly-organized body, a fitting position for a man with such rich pioneering experience in the Pentecostal Movement.

Bro. Richard Martin, Bishop Emeritus of River of Life in Muncie, Indiana, vividly recalls Bro. Goss as a kind and portly man, who traveled alone by rail preaching the Gospel. According to Bro. Martin, Bro. Goss held strong convictions and even refused to drink soda from a bottle in order to “shun the very appearance of evil”, a common maxim among early Pentecostals that summed up their rejection of carnality.

The legacy of Bro. Goss is enduring. His strong influence in the fledgling Pentecostal Movement was instrumental in restoring and propagating full Apostolic truth, and he consistently played a central role in guiding the saints of God into a greater unity of fellowship and service to Jesus Christ. The United Pentecostal Church International is the product of unshakeable leaders like Bro. Goss, whose commitment to the message of Pentecost continues to inspire a new generation of Apostolic believers to “earnestly contend for the faith.”

Goss, Ethel E. The Winds of God. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1958.

Parham, Charles Fox. “Baptism.” The Apostolic Faith. October 1912, pp. 4-5.

Tyson, James L. The Early Pentecostal Revival. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1992.