From Azusa to Apostasy: the Father Divine Story


1fdhat.jpgGeorge Baker received the baptism of the Holy Ghost at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in April 1906. But this participant in the birth of the Pentecostal Movement was not destined to become a powerful evangelist, anointed missionary, or even faithful saint, rather George Baker became the delusional false messiah of the Peace Mission Movement, a spiritual cult that claimed “millions” of adherents from around the world. Amongst the movement’s members, Baker was known only as Father Divine and was hailed as an incarnation of God.

Father Divine was a blatant blasphemer. In 1940, he described the Pentecostal meetings in Los Angeles in his official organ entitled New Day, believing the experience deified him: “I recall many years ago shortly after the HOLY GHOST fell in the demonstration or came into expression in My light of understanding, but when I say fell in the demonstration of speaking in tongues in Los Angeles in nineteen six and after then spread throughout the country” (qtd. in Watts 191). For Baker, the baptism of the Holy Ghost was to become distorted by layers of bad, even weird, theology.

In 1907, George Baker was drastically influenced by a traveling evangelist from Pennsylvania named Samuel Morris. Morris claimed to be the “Father Eternal” and styled himself “Father Jehovia.” Baker, his student, became “The Messenger, God in the Sonship degree”, second in power to Morris. The trinity was completed by the addition of Reverend Bishop Saint John the Vine, formerly John Hickerson of Alexandria, Virginia. Inevitable disagreement led to the dissolution of the group in 1912, and Baker set out on his own (Watts 27-30).

Baker attempted to develop an itinerant evangelistic ministry, but many ministers and churches objected strongly to Baker’s claims that he was God. In 1914, he was ejected from a black Holiness church in Valdosta, Georgia after informing congregants that he was the messiah and was soon to destroy the world. Amazingly, a number of female members believed Baker, and he was installed in a member’s home where he continued to teach his damnable doctrine. The controversial leader was arrested in Valdosta in February and tried for lunacy. Despite his impressive calm during the proceedings, Baker was found guilty of insanity and ordered to leave Valdosta. Through the publicity, however, he gained several more supporters, including some Whites (Watts 38).

Baker had limited success travelling the American South with a few vagabond disciples, but his following grew steadily after setting up a permanent home in New York City in 1917. The group lived communally and pooled their resources. Baker found jobs for his disciples and offered an alternative to the poverty that surrounded them in Harlem.

At this time, Baker adopted the name Reverend Major Jealous Divine, combining the strange elements of his self-perception as the embodiment of God in ecclesiastical, military, and ontological terms. Amongst the devotees, he was simply Father Divine, and the “children” of his family sang: “God is here on earth today. Father Divine is his name” (Watts 47-48).

The Peace Movement grew and developed a strong financial base. In 1919, Father Divine and his wife, Peninniah, known as Mother Divine signed the deed for a property in the resort town of Sayville, Long Island. The small cult was tolerated by its White middle-class neighbors until its swollen numbers coupled with rumors of free love and suspicions about the source of Father Divine’s growing wealth led to complaints. Father Divine was arrested in May 1931 for creating a public nuisance. Four days after his sentencing, the judge died of a heart attack. Vindicated, Father Divine hubristically said: “I hated to do it!” (“Father Divine, Cult Leader, Dies . . . ” 12).

Despite accusations and speculation, Father Divine maintained a strong sense of morality in the home at Sayville. Members were enjoined to abstain from smoking, liquor, cursing, all sexual activity and cosmetics were disallowed. The lavish “Holy Communion” banquets held each evening included a sermon from Father Divine and a pseudo-Pentecostal worship style with dancing, shouting, and speaking in tongues (Watts 64, 72).

The publicity increased awareness of the cult, and many White, educated people began to join the group, accepting Father Divine’s claim to divinity and ascribing to his “New Thought” teachings about visualization, materialization, and the power of positive thinking.
The Kingdom of Peace Movement expanded to include communal properties in many major American cities and branches in Europe, Africa, and Australia. When Father Divine died in 1965, he lived in a lavish 32-room mansion on a 72-acre estate in Gladwyn, Pennsylvania. He held no property in his name and had no “personal” wealth, but lived in opulence. Followers, who believed Father Divine was immortal, posited that he had only “discarded” his body but was still spiritually present with the movement (“Father Divine, Cult Leader, Dies” 12). Father Divine’s many good works and timely message of racial equality and social justice are irreversibly blotched by his Luciferian claims of divinity. Like Simon, the sorcerer of Samaria, Father Divine bewitched people, trading the gift of God that he received at Azusa Street Mission for filthy lucre. What might have been a dynamic Pentecostal ministry degenerated into abysmal abomination, and George Baker’s so-called Kingdom of Peace shall one day be cast into outer darkness by the real Father Divine, Jesus Christ, the Righteous.

Sources:

“Father Divine, Cult Leader, Dies; Disciples Considered Him God.” New York Times (11 Sept 1965), pp. 1; 12.

Watts, Jill. God, Harlem U.S.A.: the Father Divine Story. Berekeley: Univ of Cal Press, 1992. 

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11 Responses to “From Azusa to Apostasy: the Father Divine Story”

  1. John the Vine Says:

    I give thanks and praise to the Living God for appearing in the United States. Father Divine is GOD Almighty, author and finisher of all things.

  2. jun rubin Says:

    pls. read 1 john 4:1-2.

  3. Michael Adcock Says:

    I agree with John the Vine, Father Divine was beyond human. A super being. Who else has succeed in almost thing he set out to do.

  4. ken Says:

    Interesting stories regarding George Baker. I have been reading up on this guy since I moved to philly and got all asorbed into the old Divine Loraine Hotel. Why that name can anyone answer?

    I come from memphis, tn and am blown away from the coincidence regarding the fact that he was a large civil rights / equal rights mover and how MLK was murdered at the Loraine Motel, one of the “modern” day civil rights movers (of course not today as in modern day).

    So does anyone know, why the “divine loraine hotel”?

  5. SAINT BLAIR Says:

    I LOVE GOD FATHER DIVINE

  6. voodooplaya37 Says:

    i find it interesting that this article quotes a great deal of speculation regarding father divine only quoting his material to link him with pentecostalism through azusa street mission. the truth is azusa street was not a purely pentecostal phenomena. there were as many spiritualist who participated in azusa as what would be called pentecostals.
    azusa phenomena occured around the time that fundementalist christianity was setting itself up in tennessee to distinguish the mainline demoninations (baptist and methodist) from the many spiritualist, new thought, theosophical, jehovahs witness, holiness and pentecostal movements flourishing during the time. many of these groups did not identify with fundementalist doctrine in their belief systems.
    father divine embraced all of them new thought being the most prominent element in his thinking. he admited that his movement “was not orthodox but unorthodox”. the auther here seeks to cast a dispersion on father divines memory, he claims father divine is luciferic that he is a false prophet. false according to what criteria? the bible? the very thing divine taught lived and demonstrated was precisely what jesus taught his followers. divine spoke of god in the angel degree, god in the sonship degree and god in the father degree. he was god in the same sense that jesus was god. while jesus never ascended beyond the sonship degree father divine ascended to the father degree. his teaching are very plain, there nothing luciferic or devilish about it. it is truth.
    father major j. divine accomplished in his life what jesus attempted to accomplish in his. father divine demonstrated what jesus taught, jesus failed and his followers like wise failed and allowed his movement to be coopted by an outsider (paul) and corrupted. father fed the starving masses and demonstrated the kingdom of god in earth. the church of jesus miserably failed but succeeded in becoming everything that it was against. a political empire the same thing that jesus opposed and died for. the author hints at financial misgivings on divines part yet he admits that “He held no property in his name and had no “personal” wealth, but lived in opulence”. divine lived in a house in sayville long island wiht his followers during his early days and at the divine lorain hotel during the height of his career along with his followers, he move to the mount towards the later years of his life along with some of his followers.
    the author laments that divine somehow was a wayward talent lost in pentecostalism. as i said azusa street attractive more than what would be pentecostals. there were a large number of spiritualist churches born also from azusa. azusa was phenomena not a denomination. consider father divine did what christ’s mandates for his church were, the orthodox went on to become pimps robbers and theives. few ever understanding the real mandate of jesus.
    it is a wonderful thing that “the oldland mark” (a masonic term by the way, so much for luciferianism) doesnt have a heaven or hell to place anyone in but him/herself. we would all be doom!

  7. voodooplaya37 Says:

    side note father divine said in the new day and in other occassions that he was never at any time in his life known as george baker, he said that his name was bishop major john divine god in the father degree. others often say bishop major just divine. if you understand “new thought” and hermeticism then you understand that concept. if not then anything said about father divine especially from black churches and ministers (who hated him)is a lot of foolish speculation. father divine was light years ahead of figures like sweetdaddy grace, and prohet jones. modern preachers especially of the pentecostal charismatic variety are in the line of characters like sweet daddy grace and more often than not prophet jones even if they’ve never heard of him. divine presented the idea of god in person and this extended to all of his followers to varying degrees. “you are my followers to the degree that you follow”. bishop m.j. divine.

  8. Israel Says:

    This is one of the worse articles of untruths and bias opinions I have ever read. You know NOTHING about Father Divine. He did more with the HOLY GHOST than ANY of those who ever attended those meetings. While you were rolling around on the floor, George Baker went back and fed people, started businesses, built hotels and was a blessing to thousands who were hungry during the depression. I will be so glad when people start telling the truth about this man and give him the credit due. Just because he did not believe as you does not give you the right to smear his name to folks who have no clue. HE WAS A NEW THOUGHT CHRISTIAN. He became a student of TRUTH! That is what New Thought is; TRUTH! Many people who come here will go away with this vicious hearsay never knowing the truth. This is ALL LIES and I am angry as hell that an article like this exist….but not surprise from the hateful Christians who love to smear those who do not believe as they!

  9. askaraboz Says:

    If you are interested in learning more about Father Divine and his International Peace Mission Movement you can visit http://www.peacemission.info or http://www.fatherdivine.info.

    Thank you.

  10. Trinity 3p=1G Says:

    This Guy George Baker, was nothing more than another false wanna be god. if he claimed to be God, then he is clearly nothing more than crap and his theology is way off, and those who still think him god. “little g” then you should study your apologetics a little more perhaps World Views. There is only one God, who always was and always will be, and there will be none other. This means no man, woman or other will ever become god. Come on people, lets put on our thinking caps now, the bible says, My people die of lack of knowledge… Sometimes I wonder if people are really that stupid, to follow George Baker and profess him god. nuts

  11. Bereangirl Says:

    This guy was nuts! All who followed him and continue to do so are at worst nuts or at best Bible ignorant, especially of the O.T. which is the foundation of the N.T. When Jesus, and the Apostles quoted scripture, and they did often, where do you think they were quoting from? – They quoted from the Tanak, or the Law and the Prophets, or as we know it the O.T. If a teaching is not anchored in the sound bedrock of the O.T. then it doesn’t belong in the N.T. that is how the Bereans felt and they were commended by God for it in Acts 17. Oh yes, this guy was nuts! How can I say that?- very easily! I was once a pentacostal weirdo for 20 years before God saved me by His grace. I attended the white magic madness of the 100 year Azusa St. anniversary, so lost was I. For two long years I searched for the TRUTH day and night while my mom was sick and dying of breast cancer, suffering great pain and humilliation, refusing sound medicine for holistic witchcraft and instead of sound Biblical doctrine, New Thought lunacy a.k.a. the penticostal movement. I searched the face of God for answers, and even still I bawlked at the truth He showed me from His word, but I would not let go of God, I knew He was my answer, not my problem and praise His Holy Name He did not give up on me! He promises that those who diligently seek Him will find Him! So, I continued to ask Him for answers these wierdos could not give me. They only met me with shame, guilt and haughtiness, you know the drill -“Have you robbed God, have you paid your tithes?”, “you don’t have enough faith” or my personal favorite, “watch what you say!”. New Thought is the same old thought from Gen 3. “you can be just like God” hissed the snake. Oh really? If Adam and Eve were already created by God Almighty to be “little gods” then how could satan tempt them with what they already had? How gullible were they? That just prooves these false teachers are like their master satan who takes scripture out of context and twists it then gives it back to gullible, lazy, greedy for easy gain, loaded down with sins, men and women. Are you angry right now, about as angry as a Pharisee or Sadfucees? Good! Then prove me wrong with scripture in its correct context, not the twisted weirdo pentacostal verson, been there done that! Oy vey people, I beg you, please read your Bibles for yourselves before it is too late and you accept the mark of the beast in the upcomming “falling away” spoken of in 2 Thes. 2. Start in Genesis, I know I know Leviticus is so hard to read, and Numbers is so full of, well – Numbers! Don’t worry Deuteronomy is a recap, if you don’t read anything else at least please read Deuteronony! Oh and the Prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah are so good, they deal with false prophets, it is so good! Read little lambs, grow up, or stay a spiritual weirdo tied to nothing more than “Kenneth Copeland said” rather than “Jesus said, ‘It is written…'” BTW Ken Copeland is a mormon freemason. All of you are worshiping a god these false prophets made up, not the God of the Bible, not even close! Do you want to listen to a true man of God preach the true gospel then look up Leonard Ravenhill and if his preaching doesn’t set your heart on fire then you are dead, and may the God of the Bible have mercy on you!

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