Archive for the ‘Azusa Street’ Category

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.

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.

 

Unto to You and to Your Children: a Historical Survey of Speaking in Tongues

8 January, 2008

The theological centerpiece of the modern Pentecostal movement is the belief that speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is evidential of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and replicates the experience of the Apostolic Church on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. While the New Testament is replete with examples of the miracle of speaking in unknown tongues, history includes infrequent accounts of the phenomenon.

Irenaeus, a 2nd century bishop in Gaul, makes clear references to the practice:

When the Apostle says “We speak wisdom among the perfect,” by the “perfect” he means those who had received the Spirit of God, and in all tongues speak through the Spirit of God, as he himself also spake. As also we now hear many brethren in the Church having prophetic gifts, and speaking in all sorts of languages through the Spirit . . . (qtd. Cutten 33)

Irenaeus also went to Rome to defend the Montanist sectarians against excommunication in 177. Montanus spoke in tongues at his baptism and promoted the prophetic gifts and glossolalic utterances of two prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla (Latourette 128).

Origen (185-254 A.D), a Greek apologist, records the comments of Celsus, an ancient pagan philosopher who opposed Christianity. Celsus describes Christian prophets who utter prophecies to which “are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning” (Origen vii. 9).

By the time of Chrysostom (345-407 AD), speaking in tongues seems to have completely disappeared from the nascent Catholic Church. Writing of Paul’s treatment on tongues to the Corinthians, he concludes: “The whole passage is exceedingly obscure; and the obscurity is occasioned by our ignorance of the facts and the cessation of happenings which were common in those days but unexampled in our own” (qtd. in Cutten, 37).

There are numerous descriptions of tongues or similar glossolalic “miracles” throughout the Middle Ages, but they lack apostolic authenticity and are primarily the stuff of ecclesiastical hagiography. In his La Mystique Divine, Naturelle, et Diabolique, Joseph Gorres offers a lengthy catalog of Catholic saints who were apparently gifted with “tongues.” Among these were St. Pachomius (292-348), St. Hildegard (1098-1179), St. Vincent Ferrier (1357-1419) and St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552). It is, in fact, possible that many of the Catholic examples are demonic, as various saints preached to the heathen to bring them into popery. In one case, Jeanne of the Cross ecstatically spoke Arabic to “two Mohammadeans” who demanded baptism. Later, she instructed them “in tongues” concerning the tenets of the Catholic faith (Gorres 451). Undoubtedly, the true Holy Spirit of God would not inspire utterances in any language that would bring the hearers into the bondage of false doctrine, and such outlandish tales can only be considered fiction or lying signs and wonders.

Outside the Roman communion, tongues and other ecstatic speech were attributed to a number of religious sects. Between 1688 and 1701, the Huguenots of Southern France under heavy persecution from Louis XIV began to experience glossalia amongst children, who would prophesy and preach in various languages (Cutten 51). The Jansenists experienced tongues in France in 1731; and during Protestant revivals in Norway and Sweden from 1841-1843, young people experienced what became known as “sermon sickness” in which they uttered unintelligible words and sang hymns in other languages (Cutten 67).

Mormons regularly “spoke in tongues”, and both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young claimed the experience (Bugress & McGee 339). Again, it seems unlikely that Mormonism, which is so theologically antichrist, could produce a manifestation that is authentically Christian.

Perhaps the most complete and convincing documentation of speaking in tongues comes from the Irvingite revivals in England during the 19th Century. Edward Irving was a Presbyterian minister who gained a great and wealthy following in England, opening a church in Regent Square. In October 1831, a lady named Miss Hall began speaking in tongues (Allen 75). Irving had, in fact, encountered the manifestation at a church in Rhu, Scotland where his friend, John Macleod Campbell, served as pastor (Brown). But, Irving, like modern Pentecostals, hailed speaking in tongues as evidential of Spirit baptism: “We shall ere long have lifted up amongst us the full manifestation of the Holy Ghost, which is already present in the speaking with tongues . . . ” (Irving 109).

It was, however, not until Charles Parham and the students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas claimed to replicate the Pentecostal experience in Acts 2 by receiving the Holy Ghost with speaking in tongues that the practice became the central tenet of a theological movement. Purportedly, Parham set his students on a “Berean” search for the Bible evidence of Spirit baptism, and they “all had the same story, that while there were different things which occurred when the Pentecostal blessing fell, that the indisputable proof on each occasion was, that they spake with other tongues” (Parham 52). Modern Classical Pentecostalists, universally trace their “initial evidence” perspective on glossolalia to Parham and believe that the outpouring in Topeka marks an important watershed in the restoration of Apostolic truth.

Today, the Pentecostal experience along with its correct soteriological centrality has been fully realized by the contemporary Apostolic Pentecostal Church. Speaking in tongues is no longer an infrequent, undocumented, or abnormal experience but a powerfully recognized source of spiritual renewal for over 400 million Pentecostals worldwide (Gonzales 1). Considering the historical and ancient eminence of the Roman Church and the oppression of those who opposed catholic dogma, it is not surprising that we lack clear documentation of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost, for surely His divine work was alien to the apostate. While history does not offer us a recorded continuum of tongue speaking from the time of Apostles until now, it is certain that the gift of the Spirit was bestowed throughout generations upon those who sought the Lord with sincerity and with careful attention to the enduring promise of God’s Word: “For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).

Sources:

Allen, David. “Regent Square Revisited: Edward Irving, Precursor of the Pentecostal Movement.” Evangel. Autumn 2004, 22 (3), pp. 75-80.

Brown, Stewart J. “Irving, Edward (1792-1834″‘, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14473, accessed 31 Dec 2007].

Cutten, George Barton. Speaking with Tongues, Historically and Psychologically Considered. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927.

Gonzales, David. “A Sliver of a Storefront, a Faith on the Rise.” New York Times. 14 Jan 2007, p. 1.

Gorres, Joseph von. La Mystique Divine, Naturelle, et Diabolique. Paris: Poussilque-Rousand, 1861.

Irving, Edward. The Day of Pentecost, or the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. London: Baldwin and Craddock, 1831.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity, Volume I Beginnings to 1500. San
Francisco: Harper, 1975.

Origen. Chadwick, Henry trans. Contra Celsum. Cambridge: University Press, 1980.

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

‘Til Death Do Us Part: Early Pentecostals on Divorce and Remarriage

2 September, 2007

In August 2007, high-profile “Pentecostal” evangelists Juanita Bynum and Paula White announced that they are leaving their husbands.    While these tele-evangelists are not Apostolic and are not representative of the Pentecostal norm, it is troubling that their decisions have had little impact on their respective ministries.  The Church is always vulnerable to cultural influences, and the divorce and remarriage question, which is thoroughly treated by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, continues to be interpreted and reinterpreted in the modern Church.  Early twentieth century Pentecostals (both Oneness and Trinitarian) were vehemently opposed to Christian divorce, and their writings reveal the honest and sometimes controversial struggles to deter marital dissolution, to define the conditions for sanctioned separation, and to provide for spiritual reconciliation. 

In The Apostolic Faith, William Joseph Seymour, leader of the Los Angeles Azusa Street Mission, describes new converts to the Pentecostal faith who believed that God’s call superseded their commitment to family and home:  “Many homes today have been wrecked and brought to naught through false teaching.  Wives have left husbands and gone off claiming that the Lord has called her to do mission work, and to leave the little children at home to fare the best they can” (Seymour, “Bible Teaching . . .” 3).  He also admonishes others who “have come to think that it is a sin for them to live as husband and wife,” concluding, “It is no sin to marry” (Seymour 3).  Incidentally, Seymour’s own 1908 marriage to Jennie Evans Moore, a fellow worker at Azusa, precipitated the exodus of some workers, including Florence Crawford and Clara Lum who began a mission in Portland, Oregon (Sanders 110-113). 

In an effort to clarify Azusa’s stand on the issues of divorce and remarriage, Seymour took a catechetical approach in a January 1908 article.  “On what grounds did the Lord Jesus teach that a man and wife could separate?” Seymour’s response admits that fornication constitutes biblical justification for divorce, however he posits:  ” . . . but he has no right to marry another according to the Scripture, while she lives” (Seymour, “Questions . . . ” 2).  In answer to the question:  “Do you have preachers and evangelists of the Apostolic Faith that have two wives or two husbands?” Seymour acknowledges a transition in his understanding of the issue.  Initially, the mission did ordain converts who were divorced and remarried before their conversion, “thinking that everything was under the Blood.”  However, he concludes:  “But after searching the Scriptures, we found it was wrong; that the widow was to be the wife of one man and the bishop was to be the husband of one wife” (Seymour, “Questions . . . ” 2). 

Charles H. Mason, original presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, shared Seymour’s view that conversion did not release a saint from marital entanglements before regeneration.  In fact, Mason openly criticized “Elder C” [Bro. Glenn Cook], who was teaching that baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ remitted sins, including divorce and adultery:

. . . the anti-Christ also put into Elder C. to say that those who had other men and women’s husbands and wives before they came to light that they did not have to leave them that [sic] the water washed it all away, he would put before them 1 Cor. 6:9-11.  But ye are washed now.  That meant to him, any man that had another man’s wife or another woman’s husband before they got washed, that the washing made it all right to stay on, one with another and go on doing the same things that they did before only the washing made it so they could do it and it would not [sic] longer be a sin.  (Mason 81)

Here we have evidence of the primitive Pentecostal idea that divorce and remarriage could only be corrected by divorcing the subsequent spouse and returning to the first.  Bro. Cook clearly opposed this interpretation for those who had so sinned before their baptism.

            Like C.H. Mason, G.T. Haywood initially taught that converts to the Apostolic Faith must make restitution by returning to his or her original spouse, but he recognized the error of this teaching and is in agreement with Bro. Cook’s assessment:  ” . . .when a man repents and is baptized in ‘water and the Spirit’ he is a new creature in Christ, which is the church, his body.  The fact that God sets him in the body is a proof that God has judged his case and exonerated him from all sins and mistakes of the past . . .” (Haywood 116). 

            While most Pentecostals believed that divorce was allowable in the case of fornication, there was a universal rejection of remarriage.  Discussing the “exception clause” from Matthew 19.9, Seymour wrote:  “Jesus makes it very plain.  If the innocent party marries, they are living in adultery” (Seymour, “The Marriage Tie” 3).  Andrew Fraser, an Assemblies of God pastor from Chicago, wrote a very plain treatment of the issue in 1915:

The Bible then grants no permission to marry again while one’s companion is living. But some one asks, What about Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19 :9? Doesn’t it say “except for fornication?” Yes, but the “except for fornication” pertains to the putting away and has absolutely nothing to do with any permission for the parties to marry again. We yield the point as to the putting away, but this fact stands forth clear and unquestioned that there was absolutely no permission given for re-marriage during the life-time of either party. No one can violate this express command without becoming an adulterer in the sight of God. (9)

Stanley Frodsham, another early AG pastor and historian, wrote similarly: 

There is however a basis for the inference that adultery is a legitimate ground for divorce in Jer. 3:8 in which Jehovah says, “When for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce.” But there is clearly no ground for remarriage given in this scripture. God kept the door of repentance always open.  (9)

Bishop Haywood declares: “In the church if a brother and sister, being married separate and marry another while either of the other is living, they are living in adultery . . . When such as this takes place then it is time for the church to act.  We could not stand clear before God and permit such to be carried on in the House of God” (Haywood 118).  Yet more plainly, he writes:  “In the church of God, there is to be no divorcing to remarry.  In the world it is bad enough, but when we come into the Body of Christ, (I Cor. 12.12-13) such practices are no longer to be tolerated” (Haywood 123).

These early Pentecostals conscientiously divided the Scriptures, protecting both the souls of the flock from the stain of sin and the Body of Christ from reproach.  While there are points of contention and disagreement in their writings, Pentecostal pioneers universally agreed that Scripture forbade divorced believers from remarrying during the lifetime of their first spouse.  Despite their rigidity on the subject, all agreed that God’s mercy was extended to all transgressors, and the blood of Christ was powerful to save and cleanse.  Stanley Frodsham wrote:  “Is there no hope for the adulterer?  Yes there is hope” (9).  While the Church must combat the worldly paradigm of dissolving flawed relationships, we must also extend to those without and within the Body of Christ heartfelt mercy as conduits of God’s healing and compassion, tempering the letter of the Law with the Spirit of Jesus Christ who absolved the sinful woman at the well saying, “Neither do I condemn thee:  go and sin no more” (Jn. 8.11).

Works Cited

 

Fraser, Andrew.  “Marriage and Divorce:  “But from the beginning it was not so.”  Latter Rain Evangel.  8 (1) Oct 1915, pp. 6-14.Frodsham, Stanley H.  “Marriage and Divorce.”  The Pentecostal Evangel.  No. 707 23 July 1927, p. 9.

Haywood, Garfield T.  God’s Word Exhorted, Revealed, and Prophesied.  Indianapolis:  Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Church, 1990.

Mason, Mary.  The History and Life Work of Elder C.H. Mason Chief Apostle and His Co-Laborers.  Memphis:  Church of God in Christ, 1924.

Sanders, Rufus G.W.  William Joseph Seymour:  Black Father of the Twentieth Century Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement.  Sandusky, OH:  Alexandria Publications, 2001.

Seymour, William J.  “Bible Teaching on Marriage and Divorce.”  The Apostolic Faith 1 (5) Jan 1907, p. 3.

—.  “The Marriage Tie.”  The Apostolic Faith 1 (10) Sep 1907, p. 3.

—.  “Questions Answered.”  The Apostolic Faith 1(11) Oct-Jan 1908, p. 2.

 

Humble and Holy: the Ministry of W.J. Seymour

8 August, 2007

The Azusa Street revival is perhaps the most famed event in modern Christian history. Nearly every Pentecostal and Charismatic sect traces its roots to the ramshackle Los Angeles stable and livery converted into a house of worship by a small group of newly-filled Pentecostals. The humble work, which birthed global Pentecostalism, was directed by an equally humble man, William Joseph Seymour. His remarkable life of ministry was an undeniable catalyst in the development and spread of the Apostolic Faith, and his unassuming personality and Christian character made him an ideal servant of God to advance the Pentecostal Movement.

William Seymour was born to freed slaves in Louisiana and was baptized at the Church of the Assumption in Franklin, Louisiana on 4 September 1870 (Martin 53-54). While the family had a long Catholic heritage, Seymour’s childhood was not particularly religious, and he was 25 years old when he joined the Simpson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church at Eleventh and Missouri Streets in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here Seymour began his spiritual odyssey toward Pentecost. In Indianapolis, he associated with the Evening Light Saints, an egalitarian Holiness group that formed the Church of God headquartered in Anderson, Indiana. The Church of God was irrevocably committed to inter-racial fellowship, a principle of unity that would play a key role in Seymour’s ministry in Los Angeles. Some historians suppose the Seymour moved to Cincinnati for a time where he was influenced by the Wesleyan Holiness teachings of Martin Wells Knapp (Sanders 50-51; Martin 79-80).

In 1903, Seymour journeyed to Houston, Texas to search for relatives that left Louisiana after Emancipation (Sanders 55). It was there that Seymour began attending the Holiness Church pastor by Lucy Farrow. In 1905, Farrow traveled to Kansas where she encountered the teachings of Charles Fox Parham and received the baptism of the Holy Ghost in one of Parham’s meetings. Seymour was reluctant to embrace Farrow’s newfound experience but was eventually persuaded and joined himself to Parham’s Apostolic Faith ministry when Parham moved operations to Houston later in 1905 (Martin 89-91).

William Seymour demonstrated a passionate hunger to learn more about the Pentecostal experience. Jim Crow was fully enforced in Texas, and Seymour willingly listened outside of the classrooms at Parham’s school, absorbing the theology of the Apostolic Faith (From Tragedy . . . ). Parham’s own racial views were complex, but he was committed to evangelizing blacks in the Houston area with the Pentecostal message and believed that Seymour would be a powerful influence on other African Americans to join the revival (Goff 108).

In February 1906, William Seymour received an invitation to assume the pastorate of a small Holiness work in Los Angeles. Even though he had not received the baptism of the Holy Ghost himself, Seymour felt led of God to answer the call and arrived on the 22nd of February in the bustling metropolis (Martin 139). The interim leader of the group, Julia Hutchins, did not accept Seymour’s ideas on speaking in tongues and locked the mission on Sante Fe Street against him. Sympathetic members of the congregation, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Asbury, took Seymour into their home, and prayer meetings ensued. On 9 April 1906, “Brother Lee” became the first to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and scores were filled thereafter, including William Seymour (Sanders 84-86).
The burgeoning group moved to Azusa Street and began round-the-clock services. In September, Seymour began publishing The Apostolic Faith, a monthly periodical that spread the news of the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles, and thousands arrived to receive their own Pentecost. Despite much criticism from the religious and secular press, Seymour proved a capable and humble leader. A truly spiritual man, William Seymour was afraid to grieve the Spirit and allowed the saints to freely operate under the anointing, believing God would deal with excesses.

His humility has become legendary and is probably best revealed in those who wrote about him. Bro. Frank Ewart describes the pastor with his face hidden in stacked shoe boxes in deep prayer (175). Seymour lifted no offerings and did not schedule himself or others to preach, allowing God to move in true sovereignty (Sanders 97). Bro. William Durham, who led a Pentecostal mission in Chicago wrote:

He is the meekest man I ever met. He walks and talks with God. His power is in his weakness. He seems to maintain a helpless dependence on God and is as simple-hearted as a little child, and at the same time is so filled with God that you feel the love and power every time you get near him. (“A Chicago Evangelist’s Pentecost”)

Another account by A.S. Worrell reads:

The writer has not a single doubt that Brother Seymour has more power with God, and more power from God, than all his critics in and out of the city. His strength is in his conscious weakness, and lowliness before God; and so long as he maintains this attitude, the power of God will, no doubt, continue to flow through him. (“Work Increases”)

Despite his lack of formal training, Seymour was a powerful preacher and exhorter. C.H. Mason, first presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, received his Pentecost at Azusa in 1907 and remarked: “I also thank God for Elder Seymore [sic] who came and preached a wonderful sermon. His words were sweet and powerful . . .” (Mason 26). He longed for revival and not fame, declaring:

The first thing in every assembly is to see that He, the Holy Ghost, is installed as the chairman. The reason why we have so many dired up missions and churches today, is because they have not the Holy Ghost as the chairman. They have some man in His place . . . Jesus Christ, is the archbishop of these [Apostolic] assemblies, and He must be recognized. (“The Holy Spirit Bishop of the Church”).

Seymour died on 28 September 1922. His last words, aptly spoken, were, “I love my Jesus so.” The mission that had been a hotbed of revival had declined in its latter years, and Seymour’s ministry had become peripheral when he did not accept the revelations of the Finished Work of Calvary or the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ. Despite their theological differences, Bishop G.T. Haywood wrote: “Though he did not agree with the brethren in many things yet he was loved and respected” (“Death of W.J. Seymour”). Ultimately, Seymour served as an important catalyst in the fledgling Pentecostal Movement. He never assumed or coveted a position of ecclesiastical authority and has only recently been recognized in scholarship for his monumental contributions to the Apostolic Faith, but surely the great Azusa revival can only have been possible under such surrendered, servant leadership, a powerful ministry model for today’s Church.

Sources:

Durham, William. “A Chicago Evangelist’s Pentecost.” The Apostolic Faith 1(6) Feb-
Mar 1907, p. 4.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press,
1975.

From Tragedy to Triumph, the William Joseph Seymour Story. Dir. Tim Storey and
Leon Isaac Kennedy. 1992. VHS. CTL Productions, 1992.

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

Haywood, G.T. “Death of W.J. Seymour.” The Voice in the Wilderness 2(13), p. 7.

Martin, Larry. The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour: and a history of the Azusa
Street Revival.
Joplin, MO: Christian Life Books, 1999.

Mason, Charles H. The History and Life Work of Elder C.H. Mason, Chief Apostle and
His Co-Laborers.
Memphis: Church of God in Christ, 1924.

Sanders, Rufus G.W. William Joseph Seymour: black father of the twentieth century
Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.
Sandusky, OH: Alexandria Publications, 2001.

Seymour, William J. “The Holy Spirit Bishop of the Church.” The Apostolic Faith 1(9)
Jun-Sep 1907, p. 3.

Worrell, A.S. “Work Increasing.” The Apostolic Faith 1(6) Feb-Mar 1907, p. 5.

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

5 May, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“General Council Minutes”, 1914.

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

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

Healing and Health: Early Apostolic Accounts of Divine Miracles

5 March, 2007

Divine healing has always been a central component of Pentecostalism. The revelation of Christ as Healer was strongly realized in earlier ministries, many associated with the Holiness Movement. A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, was healed of heart disease and began preaching divine healing as a core component of the Gospel (Simpson 158). John Alexander Dowie’s Zion, Illinois disallowed doctors and drugs, and his influential publication Leaves of Healing was filled with teaching and testimony about God’s healing power. Mariah Woodworth-Etter’s crusades focused on the healing power of the Name of Jesus and drew thousands of believers nationwide. Even before the students at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible School articulated the “initial evidence” theology that marked the rebirth of New Testament Pentecostalism, they were involved in Parham’s “healing home”, a faith-healing endeavor connected to the school that offered short-term residence to those seeking a divine cure for their ailments. A banner reading “Health” is carried by one of Parham’s workers in an early photo taken at Bryan Hall in Houston, Texas. It is not surprising, then, that divine healing was a core belief and practice in the earliest iterations of Pentecostal revival.

Divine healing was practiced at the Azusa Street Mission and promoted in The Apostolic Faith. In the first issue of the periodical, William Joseph Seymour, who led the mission and edited the paper, published a lengthy and passionate theology of healing as a byproduct of Christ’s atonement:

Sickness and disease are destroyed through the precious atonement of Jesus. O how we ought to honor the stripes of Jesus, for “with his stripes we are healed.” . . . He [Jesus Christ] was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Every sickness is of the devil. (“The Precious Atonment” 2).

Seymour recognizes human disease a curse of the Fall and calls healing a component of “full salvation” (The Precious Atonement 2).

Reports of healing in The Apostolic Faith were nearly as common as reports of Holy Ghost baptism. God’s healing power operated at Azusa Street, and healings were front-page news in the first issue: “Many have laid aside their glasses and had their eye sight [sic] restored. The deaf have had their hearing restored. A man was healed of asthma of twenty years standing. Many have been healed of heart trouble and lung trouble” (“The Old-Time Pentecost” 1).

Testimonies of healing at Azusa and around the globe filled column after column as God confirmed the Gospel miraculously delivering the diseased and afflicted. Even a century later, the accounts of miracles build faith:

–“A sister was healed of consumption when she had but part of a lung left” (Sept 1906)

–“Sister Lemon of Whittier [California], who had been a sufferer for eighteen years and could receive no help from physicians and had been bed-ridden for fourteen years of that time has been marvelously healed by the Lord through the laying on of hands and the prayer of faith. She has been walking to meetings.” (Nov 1906)

–“A young man saved from the morphine habit has no more desire for the stuff and gave up his instruments.” (Nov 1906)

–“In Denver, Colorado, in Bro. Fink’s home, a woman was brought in that was hurt in falling from a wagon. She had been a cripple for thirty-two years and unable to walk. Her toes were drawn up under her feet and could not be straightened. She was unsaved. The next morning, as she was sitting in the front room alone, a little six year old girl, who has received the baptism and speaks with tongues, walked in and put her hand on the woman and said, “Jesus wants to heal you, the Spirit has sent me to put my hands on you.” Instantly, those toes on the woman’s feet straightened and she arose and walked.” (Dec 1906)

–“A baby that accidentally took poison that it found in a bottle in a closet was healed in answer to prayer. The mother held to God in agonizing prayer, ‘Lord, save my baby.’ The little thing was cold, but the Lord healed it completely” (Jan 1907)

–“Miss Eula Wilson, a girl of fifteen in Wichita, Kans., had been given up to die by the doctors. She seemed to die and was laid out for burial. Hours afterward she suddenly raised up and said, ‘O Mamma I have been in heaven and Jesus has healed me and told me to eat, drink, and walk.’ She was completely healed and has not been sick at all since.” (Sept 1907)

–[Khassia Hills, India] “. . . Then follows account of the healing of a poor heathen woman of a most loathsome skin disease, because of which the heathen had thrust her form the village to die in the jungle. While on the roadside she stood listening to the preaching of the gospel and suddenly exclaimed, ‘God has given me medicine. He will heal me with this medicine,’ and began rubbing her body with her hands when she exclaimed, ‘I am well!’ It was so. The heathen around saw and were filled with awe.” (May 1908)

It is difficult in today’s world of advanced medical technology and simple surgical solutions to recapture the unwavering faith in Jesus Christ that produced miracles of this magnitude! Modern miracles are often unrealized because we turn first to doctors and drugs for relief from sickness and suffering rather than relying on Christ the Healer. The stripes of Jesus still heal and, like our Pentecostal predecessors, we must only believe in order to receive health and wholeness from Heaven!

Sources:

“The Old-Time Pentecost.” The Apostolic Faith 1:1 (September 1906), p. 1.

“The Precious Atonement.” The Apostolic Faith 1:1 (September 1906), p. 2.

Simpson, A.B. “Divine Healing” Word, Work, and the World 7 (September 1886), p. 158.