Archive for the ‘Bethel Bible College’ Category

Agnes Ozman and the Topeka Outpouring

27 April, 2010

On January 1, 1901, Agnes Nevada Ozman became the first member of the student body at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues. Her experience historically marks the beginning of modern Pentecostalism and becomes a significant flashpoint from which the initial revival spread through the school, which produced the first band of Pentecostal workers, who spread their message throughout Kansas to Texas and beyond.

According to her autobiography, What God Hath Wrought, Agnes Ozman was thirty years old when she received the Holy Ghost. In many ways, her experience at Bethel was the culmination of a lifetime of spiritual seeking. As a girl, she had attended a Methodist Church with her family and appreciated “the joy, rejoicing and shouts of victory.”

At the age of 20, Agnes Ozman became very ill with La Grippe (influenza) and pneumonia. At the worst point of her illness, Ozman believes that she “traveled the way to heaven” but was sent back on the strength of her Methodist pastor’s prayers, who believed God had more in store for this young Christian woman. After much prayer, Agnes did miraculously recover. Fully convinced that God had spared her to accomplish a greater purpose in her life, Agnes centered her life on her faith. She joined the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and participated in a Bible study group where she learned the “Bible teachings” on water baptism, the Second Coming of Christ, and divine healing.

In 1892, she joined Thomas Corwin Horton’s Bible school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Horton was a Presbyterian, who was deeply involved in the work of the YMCA. Horton was also strongly fundamentalist, and his school was permeated with his dispensational premillennialist ideas, which must have greatly inculcated Ozman.

In fall of 1894, Horton announced his intention to take up evangelism, and Ozman again began looking for another Bible school to attend. She settled on Albert B. Simpson’s Bible School in Nyack, New York. Simpson was the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance and maintained a strong position on Wesleyan holiness, teaching students that after conversion there remained a second crisis of sanctification that removed the carnal nature and which he equated with the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Eventually, Agnes returned to her family in Nebraska. On her way West, she stopped at John Alexander Dowie’s Chicago work and received prayer and healing from “chills and night sweats.” In Nebraska, Agnes Ozman continued the type of mission work that she had done in New York and encountered Charles Fox Parham, who was holding meetings in Kansas City. Parham, a former Methodist Episcopal minister who stressed divine healing, planned to open a Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. Ozman fleeced the Lord for her fare and received two separate donations of $5.00 from “one sister.” Certain that God was directing her to Topeka, she purchased train tickets and arrived at Bethel Bible College, along with some other Kansas City companions, in October 1900.

At Bethel, Ozman achieved the zenith of her spiritual experience, receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost during a late-night tarrying service at the school. In a 1922 letter to Eudorus N. Bell, Ozman claims that she did not understand tongues to be the evidence of the Spirit prior to her infilling: “Before receiving the Comforter, I did not know that I would speak in tongues when I received the Holy Ghost for I did not know it was Bible. But after I received the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues it was revealed to me that I had the promise of the Father as it is written and as Jesus said.” She continues:

The next morning after receiving this mighty gift, I was accosted with questions about my experience the night before . . . I pointed out Bible references to show that I had received the Baptism as Acts 2.4 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance . . .

Agnes Ozman’s initial experience was particularly unique in the annals of early Pentecostalism. Even after a night’s sleep, Ozman was unable to speak English the following morning. According to Parham, her speaking in tongues continued for three days. Attempting to communicate with the inquisitive students, she says that she motioned for a pencil: “When I began to write, I wrote characters of other languages and joyed [sic] with the Lord talking in tongues. Some of the writing has been interpreted and is a wonderful message.” Parham believed the characters to be Chinese. In an interview with The Kansas City Times, Parham also claimed that other Spirit-filled students were now able “to write by inspiration.”

The night after commencing speaking in tongues, Ozman’s utterances were understood by a Bohemian, who heard her speaking in a service at the school’s mission in downtown Topeka. This incident confirmed to the Parham and his students that at least some of the tongue-speaking were intelligible foreign languages. Certainly, Parham believed that this was the method by which the Spirit would aid the Church in the evangelization of the earth.

When the Bethel school disbanded, Agnes Ozman continued Gospel Missions work. Later, she met and married Philemon M. LaBerge, and both were ordained ministers of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Like so many early pioneers of Pentecostalism, she consistently demonstrated an insatiable hunger for God and a desire to be completely surrendered to the work of His Kingdom. Her experience at Bethel became a powerful precedent for the fledgling Apostolic Faith movement and encouraged many others to wade into the deeper waters of Spirit-filled revival. Despite the fact that she never received the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ, Agnes Ozman’s role as a key player in the recovery of the apostolic teaching of tongues as the Bible evidence of Holy Spirit baptism should not be forgotten. The cloven flames of Pentecost have spread from the Bethel’s turrets in Topeka to a global wildfire, and the power of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues, which first ignited in the soul of a thirty-year-old pioneer of the plains, now burns in the hearts of multiplied millions.


“And They Heard Them Speak with Tongues”

27 May, 2008

When the Pentecostal baptism first fell in 1901, the students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas were unsure of the deeper meanings of their experience. Agnes Ozman first received the Holy Ghost on 1 January 1901, and Bro. Charles Parham, founder of the Bible college, quickly identified her speaking in tongues as “Chinese” (Blumhofer 83). Bro. Parham became increasingly convinced that Spirit-filled tongues were always identifiable human languages and were given expressly for the final evangelization of the world before Christ’s return:

We have for long believe that the power of the Lord would be manifested in our midst, and that power would be give us to speak other languages, and that the time will come when we will be sent to go into all the nations and preach the gospel, and that the Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools. (Parham 4)

A.B. Simpson, who founded the Christian Missionary Alliance, held a similar view:  “We are to witness before the Lord’s return real missionary “tongues” like those of Pentecost, through which the heathen world shall hear in their own language ‘the wonderful works of God'” (qtd. in Bartleman 65).

Unfortunately, their understanding of tongues as a mechanism to evangelize the world was somewhat misunderstood, and many missionaries were sent out into the field ill- equipped to overcome the language barriers they faced.

The hypothesis that tongues was intended for this purpose was primarily founded on widespread reports of Pentecostals speaking in human languages understood by their hearers. These miracles were popularly detailed in The Apostolic Faith, official publication of the Azusa Street Mission, and a selection of these testimonies follow:

 On Aug 11th, a man from the central part of Mexico, an Indian was present in the meeting and heard a German sister speaking in his tongue which the Lord had given her. He understood, and through the message that God gave him through her, he was most happily converted so that he could hardly contain his joy. All the English he knew was Jesus Christ and Hallelujah.” (“Untitled”).

 The power of the Holy Spirit was greatly manifested in the meetings by the speakin [sic] in unknown tongues. This was much criticized by the town and vicinity, so that the principal physician, who was familiar with several different languages, was prevailed upon to go to the meetings in order to denounce the whole as a fake. Miss Tuthill, in an unknown language to herself, but known to him as Italian, spoke his full name, which no one in the town knew save himself, telling him things that had happened in his life twenty years ago, and on up to the present time until he cried for mercy and fell on his knees seeking God (“Tongues Convict Sinners”).

 Sister Anna Hall spoke to the Russians in their church in Los Angeles in their own language as the Spirit gave utterance they were so glad to hear the truth that they wept and even kissed her hands . . . The other night, as a company of Russians were present in the meeting, Bro. Lee, a converted Catholic, was permitted to speak their language. As he spoke and sang, one of the Russians came up and embraced him. It was a holy signt, and the Spirit fell upon the Russians, as well as on others, and they glorified God (“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue”).

 A preacher’s wife, who at first opposed Pentecostal truth, went home and read the second chapter of Acts, and while she read, the Spirit fell upon her and she began to speak in tongues . . . As she was on the way to the church she met a brother whom she had been instrumental in leading to the Lord. He is a foreigner and as soo[n] as she saw him, she began to pour out her soul in French. He was amazed and said, “When did you learn French?” “What did I say?” she asked. “You said: “Get ready! Get ready! Jesus is coming soon!” (“The Second Chapter of Acts”).

 Pueblo, Colorado is a city of many nationalities . . . The Lord had opened up a mission there when the Pentecostal Gospel came. The woman in charge of the mission went right to seeking and received the baptism and before she got off her knees, was speaking in Chinese. One day when she was speaking, the Spirit began to speak another language through her. Nobody understood till they saw some uneasiness manifested in the back of the room where some Japanese were sitting. They began to wring their hands and cry and bury their face in their hands. Someone went to them and they said, “Talk my tongue. Tell me all about my God how he died for the Japanese” They had never heard anything like that before (“Japanese Hear in the Their Own Tongue”).

These brief accounts remind us that speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Ghost. A myriad of such stories exist and have been retold in Pentecostal biography, missionary accounts, and circulars. While the early vision of world evangelization through speaking in tongues was largely unrealized, unknown tongues was certainly one method that God used to spread the wonderful message of salvation and the power of the Pentecostal baptism.
Blumhofer, Edith. The Assemblies of God: a Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism. Vol. 1. Springfield: Missouri. Gospel Publishing House, 1989.

Bartleman, Frank. Witness to Pentecost: the Life of Frank Bartleman. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

“Japanese Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 4. Dec. 1906, p. 4.

Parham, Charles F. Topeka Journal 7 (1901), 4.

“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1. September 1906, p. 4).

“The Second Chapter of Acts.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1906, p. 2.

“Tongues Convict Sinners.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1906, p. 4.

“Untitled.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept. 1906, p. 3. 

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).


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 [, 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.

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!


“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.