Archive for May, 2008

“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. 

Advertisements

Azusa in the News: Early Pentecostals Make Headlines

21 May, 2008

In April 1906, a small group of newly-baptized Pentecostals began meetings at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. Moving meetings from a small, private cottage on Bonnie Brae Street, these zealous saints led by Bro. William Joseph Seymour could not have possibly anticipated their place in Pentecostal history. The revival that burgeoned in the humble mission at Azusa Street was destined to reach millions around the world, and Los Angeles became the veritable birthplace of all modern Pentecostal groups.

Worshippers at the Azusa Street Mission were determined to be led by the Holy Ghost, laying aside the structural trappings of orthodoxy. The meetings were largely unorganized guided by the supernatural spontaneity of inspiration and anointing. The rediscovered power of the baptism of the Holy Ghost had a completely democratizing effect on the saints, and these early Pentecostals recognized God’s sovereignty in ordering songs, testimonies, exhortations, and sermons. No vessel was too humble, and social class and ethnic distinctions dissipated in the egalitarian atmosphere. Bro. Frank Bartleman, a journalist from Los Angeles, reported: “The color line is washed away in the blood.” Azusa Street epitomized Paul’s declaration to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

The raucous, all-night gatherings brought complaints from local residents, and the police were dispatched on more than one occasion to break up the meetings held at the mission. The media reports in the Los Angeles Times throughout much of 1906 offer uncharitable depictions of the Pentecostals, criticizing their spirited worship, incessant preaching, and intermingling of class, race, and gender. The century-old newspaper stories represent the unfortunate prejudices of turn-of-the-century America and reveal a great deal about the unflappability of the Pentecostal pioneers who defied cultural norms to create a New Testament Christian community of believers.

In April, shortly after opening meetings at the converted stable on Azusa Street, the Times printed its first article on the revival: “Weird Babel of Tongues: New Sect of Fanatics is Breaking Loose.” The story notes the noise created by the saints: “. . . night is made hideous by the howlings of the worshipers who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve-racking attitude of prayer and supplication.” The piece caricatures Bro. William J. Seymour, calling him “an old colored exhorter, blind in one eye.” While Bro. Seymour was, in truth, blind in one eye, the newspaper derides the fact, adding: “With his stony optic fixed on some luckless unbeliever, the old man yells his defiance and challenges an answer.” The congregation is described as largely “colored” with only a “sprinkling of whites.” Furthermore, the article pejoratively satirizes an African American sister speaking in tongues and questions the credentials of a Jewish rabbi who had been converted through the meetings (“Weird Babel . . .”).

In June, the LA Times wrote about the “rolling”, “diving” and “jumping” at Azusa Street. Patrolmen responded to complaints from vicinity residents about the late-night meetings and watched from outside the mission. A clear picture of Azusa’s demographics emerges in the article. The congregation is estimated at about 700 people again “mostly colored men and women with a sprinkling of whites” and is made up of a “queer mixture of rich and poor . . . all afflicted alike-with some peculiar impulse to perform astonishing gymnastic feats and shout so they may be heard for blocks.” A wealthy mining tycoon wearing diamonds that “would have attracted attention in the lobby of the swellest [sic] hostelry in town” is described in detail with obvious surprise at his attendance and greater surprise at his confession of conversion a “few nights ago” (“Rolling and Diving Fanatics . . . “).

In July, the newspaper’s new epithet for Azusa worshippers was “Holy Kickers”: ” . . . all the time the kickers who are ‘coming through’ and are about to be sanctified beat a tattoo on the floor with their heels.” Police finally caused several of the sisters to desist, which made them “wildly hysterical.” Ultimately, law enforcement officials were completely unsure about how to handle the phenomenon at Azusa Street:

The ‘holy kickers’ present a problem which the local police department has not as yet been able to solve. Every night worn-out kickers and shouters are seen stretched out on the dirty floor of the meeting room apparently unconscious and the meeting goes on just the same, those who still have breath jumping, kicking and making the night hideous with their yells and squeals. (“‘Holy Kickers’ Baffle Police”)

In August, police responded to a different kind of problem at Azusa Street. A meeting was held to protest the trial of Charles H. Moyer, the president of the Western Federation of Miners (“Police Asked to Raid Reds”). The case in question surrounded the murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenburg. The man who carried out the murder implicated the mining union officials who were arrested and tried for the crime (“Who Planned the Steunenburg Murder?”). The trial caused a national outrage, and the United States government was keenly alerted to the threat of the growing labor movement. According to the LA Times, a fervent protest was held on the night of 5 August 1906, and Azusa saints threatened to join a flash mob rebellion intent on freeing Moyer if he was convicted. Neighbors reported the incident to police but no arrests were made (“Police Asked to Raid Reds”). This is an interesting interlude because it demonstrates both the social awareness of Azusa attendees and an apparent departure from the usual holiness line that opposed organized unions.

Later in the month, two evangelists from the mission were taken down to Central Station by police for holding street meetings. Mrs. J. Wiley and C. Woodside were conducting curbside evangelism. Apparently, their fervency had “so disturbed the neighborhood that the police were forced to take up the permit allowing them to preach” (“‘Holy Roller’ Has It Bad”). Sis. Wiley, undeterred, continued to preach and sing to the patrolmen on her way to the police station.

The following months brought further criticism from reporters. An article entitled “Women with Men Embrace” vilifies the Azusa Street saints and includes the subtitles: “Whites and Blacks Mix in a Religious Frenzy” and “Disgusting Scenes at Azusa Street Church.” Perhaps more than any other, this piece evidences the revolutionary commitment of the Pentecostals to create interracial unity: “Whites and negroes clasped hands and sang together.” The paper decries the racial integration of the meetings, concluding: “The surprise is that any respectable white person would attend such meetings as are being conducted on Azusa street [sic]” (“Women With Men . . .”). Police were dispatched to monitor the actions of the Black participants.

Ultimately, the news stories spawned by the occurrences at Azusa Street Mission provide modern readers with a sense of Pentecostal tenacity. These empowered believers were unmoved by criticism or police harassment. They willingly bore the reproaches and continued preaching, singing, and shouting their way through to revival. The meetings at Azusa Street continued for nearly seven years, leaving behind a beautiful legacy of religious fervor and social and racial unity in the Family of God. The accounts in the LA Times provide us with a colorful picture of the genuine spirituality of our ancestors and encourage us to go forward with this faith, undaunted by the mocking of an on-looking world.

Sources:

“‘Holy Kickers’ Baffle Police: Hold High Carnival in Azusa Street Until Midnight.” Los Angeles Times. 12 July 1906.

“‘Holy Roller'” Has It Bad.” Los Angeles Times. 14 August 1906.

“Police Asked to Raid Reds: Azusa Street Residents are Annoyed by Anarchists.” Los Angeles Times. 6 August 1906.

“Rolling and Diving Fanatics ‘Confess’.” Los Angeles Times. 23 June 1906.

“Weird Babel of Tongues: New Sect of Fanatics is Breaking Loose.” Los Angeles Times. 18 April 1906.

“Who Planned the Steunenburg Murder?” New York Times. 29 April 1906.

“Women with Men Embrace: Whites and Blacks Mix in a Religious Frenzy.” Los Angeles Times. 3 September 1906.

“Shall We Dance?” A Historical Christian Perspective on Dancing

21 May, 2008

The Bible makes a plain case against worldly dancing. The Scripture contrasts the dance of holy worship and joy with the foolish activity of idolaters and the immortalized daughter of Herodias, whose lascivious dancing led to the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Throughout the centuries, Christians have grappled with the issue of dancing, and history preserves a consistent record of religious stricture against popular and social dancing, exposing the amusement as a carnal counterfeit for the sacred dancing of Ancient Israel.

In 1632, William Prynne, a Puritan who graduated from Oxford University and became a barrister, published Historio-Mastix. The work focuses primarily on the evil of stage plays, but Prynne heavily interpolates his disapproval of theater-going with invectives against other worldly amusement, chiefly dancing. He presents a comprehensive catalogue of early Church councils, many of which forbade dancing. In 364 AD, the Concilium Laodicenum, which was attended by most of the bishops in Asia declared: “Christians going to weddings ought neither wantonly to sing, nor yet to dance; but to suppe or dine soberly as become Christians” (Prynne 572-573). In 401 AD, the Concilium Carthaginense anathematized ministers who “delight in filthy jests, or sing or dance pubclikely” (Prynne 574). In 408 AD, the Concilium Africanum, whose auspicious attendees included St. Augustine, warned against “wicked dances” on the Christian feast days, citing the fact that “the modesty of innumerable women devoutly coming to the most holy day, is assaulted with lascivious injuries . . .” (Prynne 575-576). Another council, which convened at Carthage in 419 AD, enjoined presbyters, deacons, and subdeacons to avoid marriage feasts where “amorous and filthy things are sung, or where obscene motions of the body are expressed in rounds or dances” (Prynne 578). Histrio-Mastix is a compendium of such examples, but these selections suffice to establish the most primitive repudiation of Christianity against dancing as a lustful and precarious practice.

Many other works were published throughout the centuries that included strong warnings against the evils of dancing. In Destructorium Vitiorum (1429), Alexander Fabritius denounces liturgical dancing as an offense against Christian baptism: “. . . . but when they enter into the Dance, they go into the Pompous Procession of the Devil.” The Waldenses published Censure of Dancing, forbidding Christians of that sect to dance. Francesco Petrarch (1304-74) posited that dancing induced immoral conduct. Juan Luis Vives (1492-1540) wrote Instruction of a Christian Woman, dedicated to Catherine of Aragon, the ill-fated Catholic wife of England’s Henry VIII, in which he taught that even watching dancing compromised the chastity of both mind and body (Wagner 9-13).

In 1577, John Northbrooke published A Treatise Against Dicing, Dancing, Plays and Other Idle Pastimes. He boldly exposes dancing as a Satanic device designed to draw Christians into foolishness and impurity:

Dauncing is the vilest vice of all, and truly it cannot easily be saide what mischiefes the sight and the hearing do recieue hereby . . . They daunce with disordinate gestures, and with monstrous thumping of the feet, to pleasant soundes, to wanton songs, to dishonest verses: maydens and matrones are groped and handled with unchast handes, and kissed and dishonestly embraced . . . [dancing is] an exercise not descended from heaven, but by the deuilles of hell deuised to the iniuire of the Diuinitie. (Northbrooke 171)

In America, this attitude toward dancing was sustained by Northbrooke’s Puritan brethren, namely Increase and Cotton Mather, and became a consistent opinion amongst the growing Evangelical Church in the New World.
In 1867, Dr. Hiram Mattison published Popular Amusements: an Appeal to Methodists, in Regard to the Evils of Card-Playing, Billiards, Dancing, Theater-Going, etc. This little volume is packed with powerful convictions against dancing. Mattison moves from practical objections about the needless of waste of time spent at balls and money for expensive dancing lessons and ballroom regalia to dancing’s diametric opposition to moral purity and true spirituality. He describes the worldly environment of these social gatherings thusly:

The fact is, both ladies and gentlemen drink at balls, and both get heated with wine and inflamed by passion. The atmosphere of the ball-room is deadly to modesty. It smothers it, murders it, and leaves the robbed victim polluted by the image of sin and the breath of the destroyer, Intemperance. (Mattison 12)

Mattison also includes a broad survey of contemporary churchmen’s opinions against the evils of dancing, providing the modern reader with an unshakeable sense of the Christian consensus against dancing:

  • Bishop Pierce of the Methodist Episcopal Church South:
    . . . Dancing Methodists, without prompt confession of wrong, deep humiliation, and solemn pledges never to repeat, will be-or ought to be-cut off” (55).
  • Bishops of the Southern Methodist Church:
    This is no time to abate our testimony against worldliness in all its forms. Our Church has never faltered in its teaching or modified its tone in relation to dancing . . . we renew our warning (55).
  • General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (1818):
    It [dancing] steals away precious time, dissipates religious impressions, and harden the heart (61).
  • Central Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York (1867)
    We desire to give our solemn testimony against such practices on the part of professing Christians, as card-playing, theatre-going, and dancing. We regard these things as unedifying, as giving offence to pious minds, as dissipating serious thoughts, as leading to practices that are very reprehensible, and as presenting an example unwholesome to the world (61).
  • Young Men’s Christian Association, Albany, NY (1866)
    Resolved, That we bear our energetic testimony against dancing, card and billiard-playing as so distinctively worldly in their associations and unspiritual in their influences as to be utterly inconsistent with our profession as the disciples of Christ (65).
  • Plenary Council of the Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore, MD (1867)
    We consider it to be our duty to warn our people against those amusements which may easily become to them an occasion of sin, and especially against those fashionable dances, which, as at present carried on, are revolting to every feeling of delicacy and propriety, and are fraught with the greatest danger to morality (66).

Dancing, in all its worldly forms, is a vice. If the practice provoked such ire in Christianity’s forebears, imagine their utter condemnation of today’s wicked dancers, whose sole aim seems to be the excitement of sensuality. Sadly, dancing has gained wide social and spiritual acceptance, and parents and pastors alike seem unacquainted with the historical testimony against it. Even in churches, dancers employ carnal choreography in mimicked “worship,” and so-called “praise dancing” has replaced the fervent and sacred holy dances of shouting saints! As Apostolic Christians, we cannot afford to ignore history and desensitize ourselves to the onslaught of worldly dancing. We must assume an adversarial stance where worldly dancing is concerned and dedicate ourselves to a Biblical model of worship and true spiritual dancing, rejoicing in the presence of God and the power of the Holy Ghost!

Sources:

Mattison, Hiram. Popular Amusements: an Appeal to Methodists, in Regard to the Evils of Card-Playing, Billiards, Dancing, Theatre-Going, Etc. Carlton & Porter. New York: 1867.

Northbrooke, John. A Treatise Against Dicing, Dancing, Plays and Other Idle Pasttimes. Shakespeare Society. London: 1843.

Prynne, William. Histrio-Mastix; the Players Scovrge, or Actors Tragaedie. E.A. and W.I. for Michael Sparke, London: 1633.

Wagner, Ann. Adversaries of Dance from the Puritans to the Present. Unversity of Illinois Press. Urbana & Chicago: 1997.

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.

Circle of Fire: Early Pentecostal Revival in Indianapolis

12 May, 2008

Indianapolis, Indiana was the epicenter of Pentecostal revival east of the Mississippi River. Bro. Glenn Cook, one of the elders from William J. Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, arrived in the city in January of 1907 with the Pentecostal message. Revival meetings were conducted at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Gospel Tabernacle, and several were filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The assembly’s pastor, Dr. G.N. Eldridge, who was out of town, sent a telegram refusing his pulpit to Cook, and an alternate location had to be secured for continued meetings. Ironically, Eldridge later joined the Pentecostal movement (Tyson EPR 129-130). In March 1907, Bro. Cook published a good report of the burgeoning revival in Indianapolis in The Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the Azusa Mission:

The Lord gave us a gracious time of Pentecostal power at Indianapolis, Ind. Many received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and are speaking with tongues. They came from different parts of Indiana and are now going forth to spread the good news. This will be a center of power, being an interurban railway center like Los Angeles. (Cook 3)

The group had rented a “nice hall and chairs to seat it” at 1111½ Shelby Street in Fountain Square, marking the formation of the first Pentecostal congregation in Indianapolis (Cook 3).
When Bro. Cook returned to Los Angeles in March 1907, another party of Azusa Pentecostal workers came to Indianapolis, including: Thomas Hezmalhalch, Fred Dexheimer, Celia Smock, and Lenora Hall. As crowds grew, the fledgling congregation had to move to larger facilities, securing a vacant spiritualist church called Murphy Hall at the corner of New York and Alabama Streets. Pentecostal revival continued to grow, and many were healed and filled at the mission. J. Roswell Flower, the first General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, and his future wife, Alice Reynolds both received the Holy Ghost in these early meetings (Flower 5-6). In 1908, Flower began publishing The Pentecost, a monthly newsletter detailing the spread of the Pentecostal message.

Garfield Thomas Haywood was filled with the Holy Ghost in February 1908 in a converted tin shop on West Michigan Street in a small work led by Henry Prentice, who had received his Pentecost in Los Angeles (Tyson, EPR 10). This mission grew, and the congregation moved to an empty storeroom on the corner of Michigan and Minverva Streets (Tyson BIS 16).

G.T. Haywood soon felt called to the ministry and began his pastorate of a small work in February 1909 located in a downtown storeroom at 12th and Lafayette Streets. The assembly also held meetings for a short time at West 13th and Canal before moving to a more permanent home at 12th and Missouri (Dugas 12-13; Tyson BIS 16-17). Eventually, the congregation relocated to 11th and Senate before constructing the beautiful building, Christ Temple, on Fall Creek Boulevard in 1924, an extant landmark of Apostolic heritage. Haywood and his interracial congregation were instrumental in the Indianapolis work, and he began publication in 1910 of The Voice in the Wilderness, an important Pentecostal periodical that became the official organ of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1918 (Tyson BIS 16).

L.V. Roberts was also an early influence in the Pentecostal movement in Indianapolis. He assumed leadership of the original Indianapolis Assembly from Murphy Hall in February 1913. Meetings were moved to No. 9 New Jersey Avenue and later to Roosevelt Avenue under the name Oak Hill Tabernacle. His church began holding an annual camp meeting that attracted Pentecostals from the Midwest (Roberts 3).

In October 1914, Lena Spillman visited Roberts’ church and was converted and physically healed of a life-threatening heart condition (Foley 203). Early in her Pentecostal experience, she recognized God’s call to the ministry. In 1929, she began holding revival meetings at Thirty-Fourth and Orchard Streets, and the assembly grew into a thriving work eventually became Christian Tabernacle at 28th and Sherman Streets (Foley 208).

In March 1915, Bro. Glenn Cook returned from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. Bro. Cook had accepted the message of the mighty God in Christ and was rebaptized in Jesus’ Name. This man, who had been so instrumental in the spread of the Pentecostal message in the Midwest, now returned preaching Oneness doctrine. Indianapolis, which had experienced growing Apostolic revival, was ripe to receive the revelatory teaching; and on 6 March 1915, L.V. Roberts and his congregation were immersed in Eagle Creek in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as Pentecostal leaders G.T. Haywood and Samuel N. Hancock (French 65). On Easter Sunday, 4 April 1915, Haywood preached Oneness truth to his growing congregation at 11th and Senate. At the conclusion of the sermon, G.T. Haywood baptized 456 members of his congregation in Jesus’ Name (Tyson BIS 36). The conversion of Haywood and his congregation from Trinitarianism was instrumental in bringing the fledgling Pentecostal Assemblies of the World into the Oneness camp.

Indianapolis continued to be a center of Apostolic revival, and many other missions and churches were formed in the next few decades. Today, Indianapolis has scores of Apostolic Faith assemblies, and many of these revival churches were either formed or led by some of the most renowned names in Hoosier Pentecostal history including: G.T. Haywood, L.V. Roberts, Oscar Hughes, Raymond Hoekstra, Nathaniel A. Urshan, Paul Jordan, James E. Simison, Morris E. Golder, and James Tyson. The seeds of truth fell on fertile ground in the heart of Indiana, and the Indianapolis became the strong root system of many Oneness works around the Midwest, the nation, and the globe as concentric waves of true Apostolic revival emanated from the Circle City.

Sources:

Cook, Glenn. “Revival in Indianpolis.” Apostolic Faith March 1907, p. 3. 

Dugas, Paul D. The Life and Writings of G.T. Haywood. Stockton, CA: Apostolic
Press, 1968.

Flower, Alice Reynolds. “When Pentecost Came to Indianapolis, a First-Hand Report of
the Revival which Began in 1907.” Heritage 5 (4) Winter 1985/1986, pp. 5-6.

Foley, Bertha L. “Lena Spillman.” Pioneer Pentecostal Women, Volume II. Mary H. Wallace, ed. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1981, pp. 201-212.

French, Talmadge. Our God is One: the Story of Oneness Pentecostals. Indianapolis:
Voice & Vision Publications, 1999.

Roberts, L.V. “More Blessed Revival Fires: Fresh Blaze in Indianapolis.” Word and
Witness 9 (2) 20 February 1913, p. 3.

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

—. Early Pentecostal Revival. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1992.

 

Marching to Zion: Pentecostal Revival in Dowie’s Utopia

6 May, 2008

In the early summer of 1906, Charles Fox Parham received a vision of Zion City, Illinois, and the voice of the Lord said:  “‘Arise and go to Zion and take up the burden of an oppressed people'” (“Kingdom Come” . . . ).  In late September, Bro. Parham entered the troubled city with the message of the baptism of the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues.  As the self-proclaimed “Projector” of the pneteocstal message, Parham saw a clear opportunity to win converts among the dissillusioned followers of John Alexander Dowie, the deposed leader of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church.  Parham’s presence in the city and some high-profile conversions caused a firestorm of controversy and a showdown with Wilbur Glenn Voliva, the newly-appointed overseers of Zion’s official and only church.

Zion City was the utopian experiment of John Alexander Dowie, an evangelist from Australia.  Dowie began meetings in Chicago and attracted widespread media attention with his open denouncement of medical practitioners and corrupt city leaders.  His sermons were filled with overt invectives and dire warnings to unrepentant sinners.  In response to the social degeneracy of metropolitan Chicago, Dowie announced in 1900 a new venture, the establishment of a city where the faithful could live out the simple message of their church:  salvation, healing, and holy living.  In 1902, when the city incorporated, over 5,000 believers claimed residency in Zion (Cook 135.).

Initially, Zion seemed to be the anticipated haven promised by Dowie.  The city prospered as a “theocracy” and developed industries, manufacturing products as diverse as lace, fig bars, and chocolate.  The city formed a bank, a school, and band, and there were no doctors, druggists, or dance halls.  Dowie and his followers were trusting God in their veritable Promised Land, and citizens worshipped in the Shiloh Tabernacle, one in faith, doctrine, and love.

Unfortunately, Dowie himself became progressively corrupt, mismanaging church funds, living opulently, and forming a cult of personality.  In 1904, Dowie presumptuously styled himself Elijah the Restorer and First Apostle of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church and began dressing in liturgical robes modeled after the Levitical high priest’s garment.  Dowie’s excesses and doctrinal eccentricities increased; and in the end, he was replaced by Wilbur Glenn Voliva, a convert who had overseen Zion’s work in Australia.  Feeble and marginalized, Dowie retained only a small following as Voliva attempted to stabilize the crumbling church and financially-devastated city.

It was in this state of turmoil and confusion that Charles Parham entered Zion.  He rented schoolhouses and the main tabernacle and defiantly announced to a furious Voliva his full intention to remain in Zion “till Kingdom Come [sic]” (“New Prophet” . . .).  In a short time, Voliva closed the doors of the city buildings to Parham, and meetings were moved to private homes.  At the revival’s peak, Bro. Parham was holding five meetings each evening, traveling to each location to preach (Parham 157).  Voliva issued a burning ultimatum to his church:  “You must choose either me or this intruder . . . You can not [sic] have two leaders” (“Kingdom come” . . . ).  Escalating the controversy, Voliva erected a printed billboard declaring his city to be “established by Zion people and for Zion people only.”  The sign orders Parham to leave Zion and establish his own settlement, calling his faith “an ecclesiastical ‘goat-house'” or “garbage dump” and threatening:  “The war is on RED HOT . . .” (“Zion Signs”).

In addition, Dowie himself spoke out against Bro. Parham’s growing influence over his flock, and a confident Parham rebutted that “Dowie was not in his right mind but if placed under his care would soon be restored to his former self” (Parham 160).

Within a week, Bro. Parham had attracted hundreds of followers.  Zion City was home to many who would become influential workers in the Pentecostal Movement.  Dowie’s own restorationist doctrine had prepared Zion’s denizens to receive the message of the Apostolic Faith.  Like their leader, they fully anticipated the full recovery of the New Testament Church, and Bro. Parham’s experiential message of speaking in tongues was certainly a credible corollary, supported by the Scriptures.  Among those converted under Bro. Parham were F.F. Bosworth, director of the city band, E.N. Richey, Zion’s mayor, John G. Lake, a deacon in Zion’s church, and D.C.O. Opperman, who later became an influential leader in the Oneness movement (Blumhofer 4).  By New Year’s Eve 1906, 2,000 were attending Parham’s meetings, and hundreds had been filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Parham 172). 

While faithful Zionites viewed Bro. Charles Parham as an opportunist and proselytizer, his unflagging commitment to the Apostolic Faith empowered him to endure the persecutions and personal attacks wielded by the spiritual leaders of Zion.  Though Dowie and his successor never accepted Parham’s message, their watchwords of salvation, healing, and holy living are still meaningful to modern Pentecostals, complemented by the baptism of the Holy Ghost.  Despite Zion’s troubles and ultimate degeneration from its original ideals, the city proved to be a fertile seedbed for Pentecostal revival in the Midwest, and many of the workers were instrumental in propelling the Pentecostal Movement around the globe and completely restoring the original message of the New Testament Apostolic Church.

Sources:

Blumhofer, Edith. “A Pentecostal Branch Grows in Dowie’s Zion.”  Heritage.  Fall 1986, 3-9.

Cook, Philip Lee.  Zion City, Illinois:  Twentieth Century Utopia Thes. U of Colorado, 1965.

“Kingdome Come:  Parham Makes Big Convernts.” Waukegan Daily Sun 26 Sept 1906.

“New Prophet in Zion Defies Voliva.” Waukegan Daily Sun 21 Sept 1906.

Parham, Sarah E.  The Life of Charles F. Parham:  Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement.  New York:  Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

Zion Signs.  Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.