Archive for November, 2008

Frank J. Ewart, Pentecostal Pioneer

9 November, 2008

On April 15, 1914, Frank J. Ewart delivered his first public sermon on Acts 2:38 in a tent on East First Street in Belvedere, California. Bro. Ewart’s decision to preach the message was the culmination of nearly a year of prayer and study and expressed the full salvation message taught by the New Testament Church. With this great conviction, Frank Ewart counted the cost and began teaching and preaching the wonderful doctrine of the Mighty God in Christ, baptizing converts in the Name of the Lord Jesus! What began that spring was a miraculous revival of truth, and Bro. Ewart’s obedience to the Word of God and the direction of the Holy Ghost sparked the modern Apostolic revival!Frank J. Ewart was born in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia in 1876. As a young man, he worked in the lumber industry and had aspirations to become a professional cricket player. In the midst of this pursuit, the young Ewart was arrested by a supernatural vision of the crucifixion of Jesus. He saw Christ upon the cross and lost all “ambition for worldly fame and popularity.” Ewart aligned himself with the Baptists and was appointed a “bush missionary” (Ewart 10). The Bush Missionary Society was founded in 1856 to minister to small communities in the remote outposts of the Australian frontier (Burgess 237). Ewart would travel to remote areas and begin a Baptist revival. Once a stable group was established a pastor would be sent, and Bro. Ewart would move on to a new location (Ewart 10).

In 1903, after a break in his health, Frank Ewart emigrated to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. He became a Baptist pastor there and married. He and his wife were desperate for a deeper move of God and prayed continually for the effectiveness of their ministry. Bro. Ewart’s health continued to deteriorate; and in 1908, he was given a furlough from the Baptist Church.

During this time, he traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend a Pentecostal camp meeting and became convinced that the experience was real. He received an “insatiable hunger” for the baptism of the Spirit and tarried twenty-one days before receiving a glorious Pentecost:

I received a mighty infilling with the Holy Ghost. God left no room for doubt. I spoke in several known languages that I knew nothing about, and some of them were interpreted that night. I had asked the lord to let all diseases go out of my body when the Holy Spirit came in. He took me at my word and answered my prayer. (Ewart 12)

Returning to Canada, Bro. Ewart was defrocked by the Baptist Church for his insistence that speaking in tongues was the evidence of Holy Ghost baptism, but he remained strong in his persuasion that the Pentecostal experience was real.

In 1911, Bro. Ewart came to Los Angeles and participated in the great revival in that city. In 1912, he assumed the pastorate of William Durham’s Seventh Street Mission in Los Angeles after Durham’s untimely death. The mission was a center of Pentecostal revival where Durham taught and preached the “Finished Work of Calvary,” and Ewart continued his ministry there until April 1913, when he went to the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting “ready for God’s new move” (Ewart 90, 13).

The interstate camp meeting of 1913 is the stuff of Pentecostal legend. When Evangelist R.E. McAlister emphatically stated: ” . . . that the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ, that the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism”, some of the hearers, including Ewart, were inspired to research the claim (qtd. in Ewart 94). At the close of the camp meeting, R.E. McAlister, Glenn Cook, and Ewart began a Pentecostal mission on Main Street. After several months, the mission unified with Pastor Elmer K. Fisher’s Victoria Hall on Spring Street, and much emphasis was given to preaching and praying in the Name of Jesus. Still, baptism was administered according to the regular Trinitarian formula.

In the spring of 1914, Ewart became determined that “the only way to get apostolic results was to adopt apostolic methods and obey their precepts” and branched out from Victoria Hall (Ewart 96). Pastor Fisher, who did not initially accept Bro. Ewart’s message of baptism solely in the Name of Christ, helped him secure a tent, and meetings began in Belvedere. Glenn Cook came out the first night to hear Bro. Ewart preached, and the two secured a baptismal tank and rebaptized one another invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ewart 96).

The results of preaching and baptizing in the Name of Jesus were incredible, and the tent filled completely:

One of the greatest, most startling characteristics of that great revival was that the vast majority of the new converts were filled with the holy Ghost after coming up out of the water. They would leave the tank speaking in other tongues. Many were healed when they were baptized. (Ewart 98)

God confirmed the pioneer’s obedience with remarkable results and dynamic conversions. The leader of the Owl Gang, who harassed Bro. & Sis. Ewart and had burned down the revival tent, was baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost; the Baptist Sunday School Superintendent was saved, and Sgt. J.D. Cornwall of the city police force was converted (Ewart 99, 104).

Bro. Ewart published Meat in Due Season, an influential Oneness periodical that spread the Apostolic truth far and wide. Through his ministry, writing, and the evangelism of Bro. Cook, who received Ewart’s message, many prominent Pentecostals became persuaded of the efficacy of baptism in the Name of Jesus, including Lemuel C. Hall, William Booth-Clibborn, A.H. Argue, Frank Small, George B. Studd, Elmer K. Fisher, R.J. Scott, Garfield T. Haywood, W.T. Witherspoon, E.G. Lowe, Raymond Hoekstra, W.L. Stallones, and Harry Morse (Ewart 101).

Bro. Frank J. Ewart died in 1947. He established and led a thriving church in Belvedere and authored several books. He was ordained with the United Pentecostal Church before his death. This man’s powerful revelation and Bible conviction was seminal in producing the modern Oneness Pentecostal Church, the true iteration of Apostolic Christianity. A great debt is owed to this faithful pioneer who sacrificed precious fellowship and his own good name to publish Acts 2:38 salvation and stand for the only name “given under heaven whereby we must be saved.”

Sources:

Burgess, H.T. John Howard Angas, Pioneer, Pastoralist, Politician and Philanthropist. Adelaide, Australia: Vardon & Pritchard, 1905.

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

“The Lady Evangelist”: Maria Woodworth-Etter and the Pentecostals

3 November, 2008

In 1912, Maria Woodworth-Etter burst on the Pentecostal scene, holding meetings at F.F. Bosworth’s influential church in Dallas, Texas (Bosworth, “Pentecostal . . . ” 10). Fred Bosworth, who was an early convert of Charles Parham in the failed utopian community of John Alexander Dowie’s Zion, Illinois, invited Woodworth-Etter to Dallas after hearing her speak in Indianapolis. A five-month campaign ensued in the city, and reports of the meetings were publicized in Word and Witness and the Latter Rain Evangel, which held wide circulation amongst Pentecostals. One such article describes a veritable heaven on earth:

The lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the palsied, the paralytic, cancers, those suffering from operations, and others dying with incurable diseases, have been wonderfully converted and healed by the power of God. Sinners are converted and flock to Jesus for salvation; and Christians are baptized with the Holy Ghost. This meeting is nothing to what it shall be by the grace of God. Sister Etter will remain here for some months. (Bosworth, “Wonders of God . . . ” 3)

During her sojourn at Bosworth’s thriving work, Woodworth-Etter ingratiated herself to many Pentecostal audiences with her flamboyant and zealous preaching and her emphasis on holiness, healing, the power of the Spirit, and the preeminence of the Name of Jesus.

Maria Woodworth-Etter had a patchwork theological history. Her family joined the Disciples of Christ Church when she was a girl. She felt called to the ministry as a teenager, but Disciples of Christ disallowed female preachers. When she married Philo Harrison Woodworth, a Civil War veteran with little spiritual inclination, she resigned herself to the daily grind of agrarian life; but after the death of five of her six children, she began to yield herself to the calling. Despite opposition from her remaining daughter and husband, Woodworth-Etter could not resist the overpowering burden for souls that seemed to transfix her. She experienced a series of visions, including the suffering of souls in hell and unharvested fields of wheat. At last, her will was broken, and she answered “Yes, Lord; I will go” (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 25-28). She attended several Quaker meetings, where she testified, but her preaching ministry began under the auspices of the United Brethren in 1880. In 1884, she received licensure with the Churches of God (Anderson, Indiana) as “Eldership Evangelist” (Warner 4, 30).

It is not at all clear when Maria Woodworth-Etter received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, but she seems to have accepted the sign of the baptism, though she had no direct association with the Pentecostal Movement before the protracted revival in Dallas in 1912. She often referred to the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” in her journalistic books, but she never explicitly mentions speaking in tongues in any of her early writings, though her language is “Pentecostal”:

The power of the Holy Ghost came down as a cloud. It was brighter than the sun. I was covered and wrapped up in it. My body was light as the air. It seemed that heaven came down. I was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and fire, and power which has never left me. Oh, Praise the Lord! There was liquid fire, and the angels were all around in the fire and glory. (Woodworth-Etter 28)

Maria Woodworth-Etter was undoubtedly the most successful female evangelist of the early 20th Century. She attracted as many as 25,000 to a single service, and she crossed the country filling churches, halls, and tents with seeking souls (Warner 30). Her meetings were marked by the manifestations that many associated with frontier revivals of the early 19th Century, and her pulpit persona was commanding. A front-page New York Times article from January 1885, detailed some of the “strange scenes” at meetings held in Hartford City, Indiana: “Scores have been stricken down at these meetings, and whatever forms the limbs or body chance to assume in that position, immovable as a statue, they remained . . . ” Further, the newspaper described the revival’s charismatic leader: “The lady evangelist, Mrs. Woodworth, is a lady of fine physique, comely, and of a commanding appearance, and while not highly cultured and refined yet she is an impressive speaker, and when speaking keeps her hands in constant motion.” During the meeting, she was also subject to the ecstatic catalepsy and trances, which became a trademark of her campaigns (“Said to Be Religion . . . ” 1).

Her ministry was marked by controversy. Detractors often accused her of hypnotizing audiences. In 1890, Dr. Wellington Adams and Dr. Theodore Driller led a campaign in St. Louis to have Woodworth-Etter committed to an insane asylum (Warner 214). Dr. Arthur C. Bell, Dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, came to Woodworth-Etter’s defense in Dallas, praising the woman of faith and authenticating physical healings that he personally observed. He offers a catalog of miracles, concluding: “Mrs. Etter wants your soul saved, and then she will pray for your bodily healing. Both were provided for on the cross.” He also acknowledges the ferocious opposition of many medical physicians to Woodworth-Etter’s healing campaigns: “I have seen the doctors enraged over these healings. I have known that they called meeting after meeting of the Medical Association to discuss steps of suppressing her work. One would naturally ask why? The only reason I can imagine is that Jesus healed them after they had failed, and it reflected their ability” (Woodworth-Etter AHG, 119). Certainly, her ministry provoked both interest and awe.

Following the 1912 revival in Dallas, Wordworth-Etter included a number of Pentecostal churches, missions, and camp meetings in her evangelistic itinerary. Revival reports continued to appear in many Pentecostal circulars. She received accolades from very prominent early Pentecostal ministers including Stanley Frodsham, A.A. Boddy, George B. Studd, A.H. Argue, and G.T. Haywood.

In April 1913, Woodworth-Etter was invited to be the morning speaker at the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting in Arroyo Seco, California. Woodworth-Etter’s presence was an important boon to the convocation; though according to Frank J. Ewart, who attended the gathering: “Early in the meetings the preachers rebelled against turning the meetings over to Mrs. Woodworth Etter. There was a great desire to hear other of God’s servants, who might have a new message that would take us forward to the glory and power of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints'” (Ewart 93). Despite the apparent controversy, G.T. Haywood wrote of the camp meeting, offering a glowing description of the Woodworth-Etter services:

The power of God to heal was miraculous. Sick were brought from far and near, and multitudes were touched by the power of God through the instrumentality of His humble servant, Sister Etter, whose simple faith brought deliverance to many. The lame walked, the blind received their sight, the deaf heard, CANCERS were cured, TUMORS and TAPE WORMS passed away and dropsy and CONSUMPTIVES healed.
While there were many whose lack of faith hindered them from being healed, yet those who were healed were most re-remarkable [sic]. On one occasion many were healed as Sister Etter raised her hands toward heaven, while she was leaving the tent.

One afternoon such conviction fell on the sinners that many ran to the platform and were saved at once. It was a scene seldom, if ever, witnessed anywhere. There were times that the big tent resembled a battlefield on account of the many that were slain by the power of God. At times the power fell like rain, and the heavenly anthems filled the atmosphere (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 253).

The Apostolic World Wide Camp Meeting is best remembered for the baptismal sermon delivered by R.E. McAlister that ignited the Oneness Pentecostal Movement. Before immersing a number of converts, McAlister noted that “the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ, that the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism” (Ewart 93-94). The question of Apostolic baptism spawned prayerful study of the Scriptures concerning the Godhead, and Ewart and others received the full revelation of the Mighty God in Christ. Despite Woodworth-Etter’s Christ-centered preaching and elevation of the Name of Jesus for healing and deliverance, she utterly rejected the Oneness revelation, which she seems to have sadly misunderstood. She called the doctrine “the biggest delusion the devil ever invented” and accused Oneness proponents of “denying the existence of the Father” (Liardon 856-857).

Maria Woodworth-Etter never became exclusively Pentecostal, but she continued to enjoy fellowship and popularity with Trinitarian Pentecostals throughout the remainder of her life. Her ministry continued to focus on divine healing and the Coming of Christ. She founded Woodworth-Etter Tabernacle in 1918 in Indianapolis, Indiana, which she led until her death in 1924 (Warner 277). A brief notice of her death appeared in The Pentecostal Evangel in September 1924, noting: “She has been the means of blessing to hundreds of thousands and many will rise up to call her blessed” (“Sister Etter with the Lord” 9). In many ways unorthodox, Woodworth-Etter never embraced the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, but her ministry was contributive. Her acceptance amongst Pentecostals paved the way for other women evangelists and Christian workers, and her acceptance of Pentecostals undoubtedly garnered greater respect for the fledgling movement as a valid expression of Christianity.

Sources:

Bosworth, Fred F. “Pentecostal Outpouring in Dallas, Texas.” Latter Rain Evangel, 10 July 1912, p. 10.

Bosworth, Fred F. “The Wonders of God in Dallas.” Word and Witness. 20 August 1912, p. 3.

Ewart, Frank J. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. (Hazelwood, MO: 1947), 93.

Liardon, Roberts. Maria Woodworth-Etter: The Complete Collection of Her Life Teachings. (Tulsa: Albury Publishing, 2000), 856-857.

“Said to Be Religion: Strange Scenes at ‘Revival Meetings’ Held in Indiana.” New York Times. 24 January 1885, 1.

“Sister Etter with the Lord.” Pentecostal Evangel, 27 September 1924, p. 9.

Warner, Wayne. The Healing & Evangelizing Ministry of Maria Woodworth-Etter. (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), 4; 30.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. Acts of the Holy Ghost, or the Life, Work, and Experience of Mrs. M.B. Woodworth-Etter, Evangelist. (Dallas: John F. Worley Printing Co.), 1912.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. A Diary of Signs and Wonders. (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1916), 25-28.