Archive for the ‘Holiness Movement’ Category

Glenn Cook: Oneness Apostle

19 October, 2010

As the Azusa Street meetings began to produce concentric waves of revival throughout Los Angeles and Southern California, many holiness ministers visited the mission at 312 Azusa Street to contend with William Seymour, the African American leader of the burgeoning Pentecostal group, concerning his strange new doctrine of speaking in tongues.  One of the early preachers to withstand Bro. Seymour was Glenn A. Cook, who was conducting holiness tent meetings at Seventh and Spring Streets in Los Angeles.  Cook was deeply impressed by Seymour’s humility and patience and began to attend the Pentecostal meetings.  He eventually apologized to Bro. Seymour for his “hard sayings” and spent five weeks in heartfelt repentance and spiritual agony before receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost: 

I felt that I was really lost and unless I received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues I would miss all.  When I had just about given up all hope, the Holy Ghost fell on me as I lay in bed at home.  I seemed to be in a trance for about twenty-four hours and the next day in the meeting began to speak in tongues.

Bro. Cook proved to be an important asset to the work of the Azusa Mission and was soon ordained an elder by Bro. Seymour.  A former news reporter and a printer by trade, Cook assisted with the publication of The Apostolic Faith, the mission’s international publication, answered correspondence, and handled the mission’s finances. 

            In December 1906, Bro. Cook began an effective evangelistic campaign throughout the West, Midwest and South, spreading the Pentecostal message.  He arrived in Lamont, Oklahoma where “quite a number were tarrying and waiting for Pentecost.”  Hungry souls traveled to his meetings from over 100 miles away.  Heading eastward, he delivered the doctrine to Mother Mary Moise in St. Louis then on to Chicago.  In Indianapolis, he held powerful meetings, where several members of the Christian Missionary Alliance received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, including the Flower family, defectors from Dowie’s Zion who later became influential leaders in the Assemblies of God.  In an Apostolic Faith report, Cook accurately predicted that Indianapolis would become “a center of power, being an inter-urban railway center like Los Angeles.”  Cook was gladly received by a number of Church of God in Christ adherents in the South, while their bishop, Charles H. Mason, was on site at Azusa receiving the Holy Ghost. 

            In 1914, Cook was evangelizing in the east when he received a letter from Frank Ewart, who was conducting meetings in Los Angeles “stating that he and a number of my friends had started a tent meeting and were baptizing people in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ewart invited Cook to return to Los Angeles to assist in the work.  He accepted Ewart’s scriptural message, and he and Bro. Ewart rebaptized one another in a rented trough.  “During the following months,” wrote Bro. Cook, “the great revival broke out, many hundreds being baptized in the Name of Jesus.” 

            Bro. Cook’s acceptance of the doctrine of the mighty God in Christ placed him in the ranks of the Oneness Pentecostals, who were transforming the movement with a deeper revelation of Jesus Christ.  As a church planter, Cook took up the burden to revisit the works he had helped to found in 1906 and 1907 with the Oneness message:

During the spring of 1915, the call came to me from the Lord to go back East and carry the message to the places where several years before I had carried the message of the Holy Ghost baptism with speaking in tongues.  My first stop was St. Louis, where I visited the Rescue Home of Mother Moise . . . Before leaving St. Louis, Mother Moise, Ben Pemberton, and about forty others were baptized in the Name of Jesus in the Mississippi River.

Afterward, he traveled on to Indianapolis where:

. . . the saints were prepared and hungry for the new message.  Great crowds turned out from the beginning, people coming in from different points in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.  During the thirty days of the meeting, I was informed by those who kept a record that some 469 were baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Among those baptized were G.T. Haywood, L.V. Roberts, the new Bishop [Samuel N.] Hancock, Brother [T.C.] Davis, and about all the leaders of that day.  The Lord made a clean sweep, leaving few Pentecostal people in te city who were not baptized in the Name of Jesus.

Throughout his lifetime, Cook continued to promote the powerful message of baptism in the Name of Jesus and the fullness of the Godhead in Christ.  He contributed articles to a number of Apostolic circulars including The Blessed Truth, The Herald of Truth, and Meat in Due Season.  He continued a deep friendship with Bro. Frank Ewart, who introduced him to the Oneness truths, and worked alongside him in Pentecostal ministry in Los Angeles, where he pastored a work in Belvedere.  When he died in 1948, Bro. Glenn A. Cook was memorialized as a trailblazer.  The seeds of truth that he scattered throughout the United States as an apostle of the Faith continue to bring forth a mighty harvest.

 

 

Man with a Mission: Frank Bartleman at Eighth & Maple

2 July, 2010

Frank Bartleman, who was so instrumental in the advent of Pentecost in Los Angeles, was an itinerant in spirit. He was possessed of a mild but mercurial nature, which led him hither and yon working for the cause of the Kingdom. Bro. Bartleman seemed always to be looking for the next deeper move, a sincere body of Christians that would pray, fast, and worship with his same level of intensity and desire. Ultimately, he was often disappointed in those who began in spiritual fervency but dulled to secular formalism. He was terrified of denominationalism; and once he discovered Pentecostal practitioners, Frank Bartleman was even more determined to follow the Spirit, wherever He might lead.

Bro. Bartleman was an early and enthusiastic participant in the Azusa Street Revival. Inspired by reports of the Welsh renewal, led by Evan Roberts, Bartleman had joined prayer bands throughout Los Angeles to seek a Pentecostal outpouring in the city. He prayed diligently, though he had little notion of what Pentecost might look like when it arrived. When William Seymour brought the newly-articulated Apostolic Faith doctrine to a small Holiness mission, it did not take long for word to reach Frank Bartleman, who began attending cottage prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, where some of the first seekers in Los Angeles were filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

But, somewhat characteristically, Frank Bartleman became disenchanted with the Azusa Mission. According to him, the Spirit revealed a dangerous pitfall for the mission—the “party” spirit, which was Bartleman’s euphemism for denominational sectarianism. He delivered a message at Azusa, warning the saints to avoid becoming “entangled again in a yoke of (ecclesiastical) bondage.” He firmly believed that sectarianism had “been the curse and death of every revival body sooner or later.” If Azusa was to succeed where others had failed, she would have to contend for unity and resist organization and formalism.

Bartleman’s worst fears for the mission were realized when the day after he delivered his portentous sermon to the Azusa congregation, the words “Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission” were crudely painted on the building’s clapboard side. According to Bartleman, the Lord said to him: “This is what I told you.” This was enough for Bartleman to declare: “They had done it.” There is a sense of grave disappointment in Bartleman’s record of the change, which seemed so significant to him. He even declared: “The truth must be told. ‘Azusa’ began to fail the Lord also, early in her history.”

Disillusioned by the move, Bartleman began his own Pentecostal mission in an old German Church at Eighth and Maple about a mile from Azusa in August 1906. The Lord had led him to the building back in February of 1906, two months prior to the commencement of meetings at Azusa, but it had been occupied by the Pillar of Fire, a Holiness group led by Alma White, a fierce opponent of the spreading Pentecostal revival. However, by August, Bro. Bartleman says “The ‘Pillar of Fire’ had gone up in smoke, not able to raise the rent.” Bro. Fred Shephard provided Bartleman with the $50.00 for the first month’s rent, and the first service was held on 12 August.

Eighth and Maple, as the mission continued to be generically known, became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. Bro. Bartleman described mighty outpourings in the church: “The atmosphere was almost too sacred and holy to attempt to minister in. Like the priests in the Tabernacle of old we could not minister for the glory.” Many were converted, and Bartleman said that the “atmosphere was terrible for sinners and backsliders. One had to get right in order to remain at Eighth and Maple.”

Frank Bartleman craved Spirit control. He had no tolerance for fleshly interruptions or the trappings of order. In his view, a Pentecostal service constituted hours of prayer, inspired exhortations, groaning and travail, and spontaneous manifestations of humility and ecstasy. He often remained prone on the floor throughout the services “while God ran the meetings.”

Though he had many times felt the control of the Spirit during his Christian experience, Bro. Bartleman received the Holy Ghost on 16 August 1906, while pastoring a Pentecostal work. Like Seymour, who received his own baptism after preaching it to others, Bartleman had witnessed several seekers filled at Eighth and Maple in the first few days of services when he had yet to acquire the Spirit himself.

In September, Eighth and Maple grew exponentially when an entire Holiness congregation of about 40 members merged with Bartleman’s mission after their pastor, William Pendleton, was excommunicated from the Holiness group for speaking in tongues. Shortly after this merger, Bro. Bartleman turned the mission over to Bro. Pendleton and resumed evangelization throughout southern California. Eighth and Maple continued to be a significant participant in the Apostolic Faith movement in Los Angeles and worked in good fellowship with Azusa and other Pentecostal works to spread the fires of revival that emanated from Los Angeles throughout the world.

Source:

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

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.

Frank W. Sandford and the Holy Ghost and Us Society

8 April, 2010

In the summer of 1900, Charles Fox Parham, founder of the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal Movement, journeyed throughout the United States visiting various Christian utopias and Bible centers in an effort to identify a community which replicated the Apostolic experience of the New Testament Church. One stop on this spiritual odyssey was Frank Sandford’s commune in Durham, Maine called Holy Ghost and Us Society. Sandford’s work, which he founded in the 1894, emphasized missionary work, sanctification, divine healing, and eschatology, which must have resonated deeply with Charles Parham, who had left the Methodist Episcopal Church to pursue these selfsame teachings. Ultimately, Frank Sandford, like so many other utopian leaders, turned out to be a religious megalomaniac and a dogmatic despot. His Holy Ghost and Us Society was embroiled in deep controversy, and Rev. Sandford was eventually imprisoned for his radical abuse of power and people.

Frank Weston Sandford, who was born in Bowdoinham, Maine on 2 October 1862, graduated from Bates College and attended seminary at Cobb Divinity School, a Freewill Baptist institution. He was ordained and assumed the pastorate at the Baptist Church in Topsham, Maine. He also became the principal of the Topsham schools (Fogarty 88).

Despite his Baptist training, Rev. Sandford became greatly interested in the Higher Life Christian movement and eventually embraced the Holiness teaching of Dwight Moody, founder of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and A.B. Simpson, organizer of the Christian Missionary Alliance. Sandford became a confirmed premillennialist and adopted an impassioned vision of end-time missionary evangelism. In 1893, Sandford claims to have received a brief directive from God: “Go!” In response, he resigned his position at the Baptist Church and organized the Holy Ghost and Us Bible School. In 1894, Sandford and his associate Charles E. Holland broke ground in rural Durham, Maine for the headquarters of his commune, which Sandford claimed as ground zero for the “World’s Evangelicazation [sic] Crusade on Apostolic Principles.” (“Holy Ghosters . . .” 11).

In 1896, Sandford completed the centerpiece of the Holy Ghost and Us compound, the Temple of Truth. The magnificent buildings were constructed by students at the commune at a price of $100,000. Above the Temple flew the flags of the United States and Britain, along with a third banner representing Israel (Fogarty 88). These standards symbolized Sandford’s acceptance of the notion of British Israelism, or the belief that Anglo-Saxons are the direct descendants of the Jewish diaspora and are the rightful heirs of God’s promises. Interestingly, Charles Parham also embraced this idea and was an avowed Zionist.

At the time of Parham’s visit to Sandford’s work, the commune was in its heyday with over 600 residents. Eventually, branch missionary centers were established in New York and Jerusalem, Palestine. But as the intensity of the work increased, so did Sandford’s hubris. One detractor listed Sandford’s outrageous self-assignations as:

Apostle, prophet, overseers of the world’s evangelization, baptizer of all God’s true sheep . . . Elijah—the restorer of all things; and forerunner of the Messiah’s second advent; David, who is to rule the whole earth and prepare the throne for the Messiah; the ‘Branch’; High Priest of the Melchisedech priesthood; and first and chief of the two witnesses . . . (qtd. in Fogarty 91-92)

Conditions in the Holy Ghost and Us Society greatly deteriorated after 1900. Sandford began requiring frequent extended fasts from both food and drink, generally lasting 72 hours. Only pregnant mothers and the sick were permitted to break declared fasts after 36 hours. Even babies were denied food or drink during periods of abstinence (Fogarty 90-91).

In 1904, Sandford was indicted after the death of Leander A. Bartlett, a fourteen-year-old boy who died on 25 January 1903 of diptheria while being forced to fast. According to court records, Bartlett was also denied medical attention because of Sandford’s belief in divine healing (“State of Maine v. Frank W. Sandford”). Ultimately, Sandford was acquitted of manslaughter charges, but he was fined $100 for cruelty to his son, John, who was also forced to participate in communal fasts (Fogarty 92).

Sandford’s most serious trouble involved missionary excursions on the opulent yachts owned by the Holy Ghost and Us Society, aptly named Kingdom, a sobriquet for the Durham community, and Coronet, taken from one translation of Revelation 6:2: “ . . . and a coronet was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” In July 1910, the captain of the Kingdom, A.K. Perry, was arrested after a civil suit was brought against Perry and Sandford by Mrs. Florence Whittaker, wife of one of Sandford’s missionaries, who claimed that she and her four children were detained on the yacht against their will after returning to the United States from a missionary trip to Palestine. (“Special to the NYT” 7 ).

In October 1911, Sandford’s demise was sealed when the Coronet arrived in Portland, Maine after several months at sea with a starving crew and passengers. According to reports, all were reduced to a skeletal state by starvation. Six died and were buried at sea during the voyage, and Rev. Sandford was arrested for the death of one Charles Hughey. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in the federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia. At his sentencing, the delusional Sandford reportedly smiled and said: “I am glad to be just where I am. I am still in His work, and as soon as I reach my new level I shall begin to dig in. In fact, I am even now engaged in my work” (“Sandford to Serve . . . “ 5).

Frank Weston Sandford was released from prison in 1918 and died in 1948 in relative obscurity. His missionary society waned considerably following his arrest, but the church continues today as Shiloh Church in Durham, Maine. Sandford’s vision of worldwide evangelism was never fully realized by the group he formed. But, Charles Fox Parham, who may have adapted some of Sandford’s earlier ideas in the establishment of his own Bible school in Topeka was instrumental in igniting and stoking the missionary fire that spread the Pentecostal message around the globe. Though Parham admired Sandford’s efforts, he returned to Kansas persuaded that Sandford’s work was about to be eclipsed by an even greater Apostolic restoration. On 1 January 1901, the Spirit fell at Bethel Bible College, and the Holy Ghost and Us was indeed superceded by God’s greatest end-time work—the Holy Ghost in Us!

Sources:

Fogarty, Robert S. All Things New: American Communes and Utopian Movements, 1860-1914. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1990.

“HOLY GHOSTERS STARVING :Red Star Liner Lapland Sends a Boatload of Food to the Coronet.. ” New York Times (1857-1922) 2 October 1911 ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006), ProQuest. Web. 12 Dec. 2009.

“SANDFORD TO SERVE TEN YEARS IN PRISON :Shilch Leader Smiles as He Is Sentenced for Causing Six Deaths on Yacht Coronet. STARTS FOR ATLANTA, GA. Gets Maximum Imprisonment on One Count, Five Others Continued -Crowd Bids Him Good-Bye.. ” New York Times (1857-Current file) 19 December 1911 ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006), ProQuest. Web. 12 Dec. 2009.

Special to The New York Times.. “HOLY GHOSTER ARRESTED :Master of Sanford’s Barkentine Kingdom Under Bonds on Mrs. Whittaker’s Suit.. ” New York Times (1857-1922) 26 July 1910 ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006), ProQuest. Web. 12 Dec. 2009.

STATE OF MAINE v. FRANK W. SANDFORD. SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT OF MAINE, FRANKLIN 99 Me. 441; 59 A. 597; 1905 Me. 3 January 3, 1905, Decided.

John Wesley: He Being Dead Yet Speaketh

22 March, 2010

It is a notable fact that throughout history, sincere Christians who would attempt to divest themselves of tradition and rediscover the model of New Testament Christianity have adopted various restrictions on dress and adornment. There is an incontrovertible continuum of such regulation in the historical record from the apostolic age to the modern era, fully demonstrating that our Pentecostal standard of righteous living is not legalistic innovation but has undeniable historical precedent amongst various groups of seekers and pilgrims who based their directives for Christian modesty on the same Scriptural passages that inspire us to distinguish ourselves in fashion from the world.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was very clear on the subject of dress and made a plain address on the subject entitled “Advice to the People Called Methodists, with Regard to Dress.” His movement, which was rooted in Anglicanism, was fundamentally dedicated to reform and a return to Biblical practice and piety and included strong teaching on how the Christian should pursue holiness in dress and adornment.

Wesley provides clear criterion for Methodist plainness—thrift and gravity. Firstly, he argues, that the Christian’s apparel should be “ . . . cheap, not expensive; far cheaper than others in your circumstances wear, or than you would wear if you knew not God.” Secondly, he cautions that modesty is not compatible with superfluity, asking Methodists to select clothing that is “grave, not gay, airy, showy; not in the point of the fashion.”

John Wesley also warns the Methodists against a catalog of ornaments and vanities:

Wear no gold . . . no pearls or precious stones; use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of a glaring colour, or which is any kind gay, glistening, or showy; nothing made in the very height of fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of by-standers.

He further forbids the wearing of necklaces, ear-rings, finger rings, and extravagant lace and advises men against “coloured waist-coats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons” and any other “expensive perukes.”

John Wesley concludes with a passionate plea that should yet ring from our Pentecostal pulpits: “Let our seriousness ‘shine before men,’ not our dress. Let all who see us know that we are not of this world. Let our adorning be that which fadeth not away; even righteousness and true holiness.” Ultimately, his message is an indictment against those modern Pentecostals who have transformed the church aisle into a runway! It is high time for the Dagon of fleshly fashion and carnal clothing to fall, crumbling, before the presence of God. More than ever before, let us adopt a simple modesty rooted in heartfelt observance of God’s word and prayerful, personal piety.

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

3 November, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Rollerism

7 October, 2008

Holy Roller was an early assignation to Pentecostals, but the term is an Americanism that has existed since the mid-nineteenth century. In 1842, Holy Rollers were identified in the Southern Quarterly Review, published in New Orleans, as a “new species of religion,” and was loosely used for decades to refer to any Christian religions characterized by extreme emotionalism or physical manifestations. Many “sanctified” Wesleyan and Methodist groups fell into this category. Speaking of one Mr. Cummings in his memoirs, published in 1894, Charles Godfrey Leland says:

He was a Methodist . . . “They say he is a Jumper, but others think he has gone over to the Holy Rollers.” The Jumpers were a sect whose members, when the Holy Spirit seized them, jumped up and down, while the Holy Rollers under such circumstances rolled over and over on the floor. (216)

Holy Roller was not solidly considered a euphemism for Pentecostalism until the 1920s. In the 1925-1928 Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, anyone searching for “Pentecostal Movement” found the reference: “See Holy Rollers.” In time, Holy Roller became synonymous with Pentecostal and was sometimes considered a pejorative term.

In the popular press, Holy Roller was initially used to describe any extreme sect. The term made its unfortunate debut in the New York Times in April 1904, when a crazed mother from Oil City, Pennsylvania burned her 8-month-old daughter and cut off the child’s hand. The woman was identified as a Holy Roller (“Cut Her Child’s . . . ” 5). In March 1905, the term was included in the headline of a New York Times article: “Bearded Angel Leads Holy Rollers Here,” an interesting piece about a small group of millennial cultists led by a couple who claimed to be angels guiding the remnant of the Lost Tribe of Israel to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where they awaited the imminent coming of Christ (“Bearded Angel . . . ” 16).

Mostly, Holy Rollers made their way into newspapers through their boisterous services. What all Holy Rollers have in common is the fact that they are historically a rowdy bunch. Holy Rollers, whether simply sanctified or positively Pentecostal, had regular run-ins with neighbors, police and judges. Before the days or hermetical faith, sealed inside the well-insulated walls and double pane windows of our contemporary climate-controlled cathedrals, the saints of God worshipped often in the open air, homes, tents, or buildings with doors and windows open to the world, and their nightly meetings could extend for hours into the night, disrupting sleep for blocks around!

All over the nation, Holy Rollers were repeatedly enjoined, fined, and even jailed for their raucous religion! While the term Holy Roller was never applied to the saints of Azusa Street Mission, police did raid their meetings, and they were popularly called “Holy Kickers” and “Holy Jumpers” in the Los Angeles Times. In August 1909, a Cleveland, Tennessee group of Holy Rollers were issued an order against “making loud and unusual noises” after they marched throughout the town singing and praying (“Holy Rollers Enjoined”). In March 1917, a “white man” named Barnes was arrested in Sherman, Texas for conducting all night “Holy Roller” meetings (“Holy Rollers Arrested” 9). Holy Rollers in Evanston, Illinois made front page news in Chicago in June 1919 when they ran into trouble with neighbors, who “appealed to police to quiet the religious acrobats” (“Police Clamp Lid . . .” 1). In St. Louis, a local “Holy Roller” group was turned over to Prosecuting Attorney F. Ralph by neighbors who charged that the church “creates loud and unnecessary noises, tears their clothing and rolls upon the ground until late in the night” (“Holy Roller Sect . . . “1). In Philadelphia, an entire Holy Roller congregation, including “several young women”, was arrested on 29 October 1921 and held for $600 bail for disorderly conduct (“Policeman Break Up . . . ” 1). A York, Pennsylvania pastor and his followers were also taken into custody in September 1931. The fervent worshippers continued their shouting and dancing at the police station, and the city mayor was called from bed and sternly warned the group: “Now understand you can’t have any more such performances here. You had those people in a frenzy tonight; you might have driven them crazy. They did not even know who they were or what they were doing. No more of it.” The congregation lifted an offering to cover their pastor’s fine and was released (“Old Time Back Rolling Religion . . . ” 3).

In 1931, Rev A. O. Bell, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey, complained to police about the “Holy Rollers of the Church of God” across the street from his assembly, complaining that his sermon could not be heard over the din of their worship. Bell staged a revival of his own, and police refused to get involved (“Holy Rollers Win . . . ” 11).

Carter G. Woodson, a renowned African American historian and the initiator of Black History Month, countered the criticism of Clarence Darrow, famed “Monkey Trial” attorney, who said that “the Negro emphasizes ‘narcotics’ or religion” by highlighting examples of the high-spirited Holy Rollerism of white “Holiness” churches. Woodson used the example of a white Church of God congregation in Huntington, West Virginia, “where they daily indulge in such whooping and screaming in ‘unknown tongues’ that the Negroes have had to report them to the police as a nuisance.” Woodson concludes: “I have made a carefully study of the Negro church, but I have never known Negroes to do anything to surpass this performance of these white heathen” (“The Negro Emphasizes . . . ” 9).

Today, the term Holy Roller is a veritable euphemism for Pentecostals. It is still primarily derogatory, implying all of the ugliness of religious extremism and fanaticism and has been widely applied in recent media to vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. Despite its unbecoming origins and its consistent usage as a slur, it does characterize the emotive and powerful response of revival-minded Christians, recalling the days when Sanctified people did, in fact, roll on the floor. While we may not wear Holy Roller as a badge of honor, as Apostolics, we remain inextricably connected to the fiery faith attributed to earlier generations of Holiness and Pentecostal people who chose a passionate personal experience over dreary dogmatism and changed the face of worldwide Christianity with the power of Pentecost. We are still Holy Rollers!

Sources:

“Bearded Angel Leads the Holy Rollers Here.” New York Times, 24 March 1905, pg. 16.

“Cut Her Child’s Hand Off. Act of a Mother Insane on Religion Victim May Recover.” New York Times, 12 April 1904, pg. 5.

“Holy Roller Sect Disturbers of Peace.” Chicago Defender, 27 September 1919, pg. 1.

“Holy Rollers Arrested.” Chicago Defender, 17 March 1917, pg. 9.

“Holy Rollers Enjoined.” New York Times, 9 Aug 1909, pg. 3.

“Holy Rollers Win in N.J. Noisefest, Police Hands Off.” Afro-American, 8 Aug 1931, pg. 11.

Leland, Charles G. Memoirs. London: William Heinemann, 1894. Pg. 216.

“The Negro Emphasizes ‘Narcotics’ of Religion. Whites as Emotional in Field of Religion as Negroes, Says Writer.” Philadelphia Tribune, 18 Jun 1931, pg. 9.

“Old Time Back Rolling Religion Irks York Cops.” Afro-American, 19 Sep 1931, pg. 3.

“Policemen Break Up Holy Roller Meeting. Chicago Defender, 30 Oct 1920, pg. 1.

“Bishop” Alma White: Pillar of Fire and Pedestal of Folly

7 October, 2007

Every authentic move of God meets with opposition; and when the experience of the Pentecostal baptism evidenced by speaking in other tongues began to spread, there were many detractors. Some of the most active opponents of the new message came from within the Holiness Movement. Theologically, they equated the Pentecostal baptism with the crisis of sanctification. The notion of a “third blessing” seemed absurd and even heretical to many within the Holiness camp. One of the most prolific and vocal adversaries of Pentecostalism was Bishop Alma White, founder of the Pillar of Fire Church.
White began preaching in the Methodist Church, occasionally occupying the pulpit of her husband, Kent White. In 1902, she founded the sect that became the Pillar of Fire and was consecrated as “Bishop” of the church in 1918, a flagrant violation of scriptural teaching on church leadership (“Bishop Alma White . . . 21). White split with the Methodists because of their progressive “loosening up.” The Pillar of Fire was pejoratively known as “Holy Jumpers” and was described in the New York Times as ” . . . pretty much like the Methodists except that they are more in the habit of working themselves up to a state of religious frenzy which calls for groans and dancing and laughing and shouts to give it adequate vent” (“‘Holy Jumpers’ . . .” SM7). Interestingly, one follower, William Werner, met his death when he was jumping on the roof of one of the commune’s buildings in New Jersey. He lost his balance and fell thirty feet to his death (“Fall Kills a ‘Holy Jumper'” 2).
Despite their zealous worship, which bears some similarity to Pentecostal enthusiasm, Alma White outright rejected the Pentecostal message and authored Demons and Tongues, an extended refutation of Pentecostal theology and practice. In the book, she describes her encounter with William Joseph Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission. En route to Los Angeles, Bro. Seymour stopped at White’s Bible School in Denver, Colorado. According to Mrs. White, Seymour introduced himself as a “man of God,” and she asked him to lead a prayer at the close of a meal: “He responded with a good deal of fervor, but before he had finished I felt that serpents and other slimy creatures were creeping all around me. After he had left the room, a number of the students said they felt he was devil possessed” (White, D&T 67). Certainly Alma White could not have sensed Seymour’s Pentecostal experience as he had not yet received the baptism of the Holy Ghost when he went to Los Angeles (Sanders 87).
White recorded her “impressions” of Seymour:

He was very untidy in his appearance, wearing no collar, and had a greenish-looking brass button exposed in the band of his shirt. In my evangelistic and missionary tours I had met all kinds of religious fakirs and tramps, but I felt that he excelled them all. There was a cause for this. The Lord knew that Satan was going to use him the outbreaking of the so-called “Pentecostal” movement with the baptism of unknown tongues, on the Pacific coast; and permitted me to see the person that the devil was going to use, before the winds of perdition began to blow. (White, D&T 68)

White should hardly have been surprised at Seymour’s disheveled appearance considering the strict transportation laws that separated the races and disallowed African Americans from occupying berth or parlor cars (Stephenson 193). Certainly, when he boarded the train in Houston, where Jim Crow laws were fully enforced, he would have had inferior accommodation, and interstate rail travel was not particularly easy or posh for anyone at the turn of the century.
White even suspects that Seymour was chosen by Satan because of his race: ” . . . I must say that it is very fitting that the devil should choose on of the sons of Ham to launch out the Tongues or so-called Pentecostal movement in which the works of the flesh are so plainly manifest” (White, D&T 100-101).
Despite repeated claims that she was interested in the spiritual welfare and enlightenment of African Americans, White was a confirmed racist and a member of, or at least a sympathizer with, the Ku Klux Klan. She toured rallies and viewed the supremacists as the true salvation of America. She repeatedly extolled the hateful society and published a book entitled The Ku Klux Klan in Prophecy, in which she clearly reveals the depths of her own demonic possession with her false and evil prophecies:

Klansmen, with their undying principles, will yet be promoted to the highest offices of the country and will hold the reins of government, as truly as Omnipotence rules. They will see the time when their enemies will be humbled in the dust for ever having raised the religious issue, making it necessary for them to rise up on defense of Americanism. (White, KKK 78-79)

Further, she writes:

The Klansmen are the prophets of a new and better age . . . These men with the banner of truth and the tenets of the Christian religion are now running before the Chariot of State, trying in every way possible to arouse the sleeping multitudes. Their program must be carried out if the country is saved from moral, social, and political ruin. (White, KKK 78-79)

Her passionate support of the Klan explains her condescending attitude toward William Seymour and her uncharitable description of the humble preacher.
Her publication, The Pillar of Fire, satirized Pentecostals and railed against the “Tongues Movement,” with tirades and cartoons. Ironically, her own husband deserted the Pillar of Fire sect and converted to the Pentecostal Movement in 1909, and the two separated. Kent White associated himself with the Apostolic Faith movement and moved to England in 1922, where he served as a pastor and teacher until 1939 (Burgess & McGee 883).
Alma White died in 1946, convinced that the Pentecostal Movement was “one of the worst abominations yet known” (White, D&T 45). Despite her venomous attacks against Pentecostals, the Apostolic Faith continued to grow. “Bishop” White continued in the gross error and foul folly. She would have benefited from the wise counsel of Gamaliel, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5.38-39). Her fervent efforts could not derail God’s work. Ultimately her criticism of Pentecostalism had no real impact on the movement and her grand predictions about the future glory of the Klan never materialized. Seymour went on to lead a mighty revival that brought together every creed and color in the humble Azusa Street Mission. The Pillar of Fire has been reduced to a veritable column of smoke with only a small number of adherents and only 6 congregations in the United States while Pentecostalism has become the fastest growing form of Christianity worldwide!

Sources:

Burgess, Stanley M. and Gary B. McGee. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic
Movements
. Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1988.

“Fall Kills ‘Holy Jumper.'” New York Times. 14 Mar 1907, p. 2.

“‘Holy Jumpers’: an Old Religion Headed by a Woman.” New York Times 11 Dec
1910, SM 7.

Sanders, Rufus G.W. William Joseph Seymour: Black Father of the Twentieth Century
Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement
. Sandusky, OH: Aldexandria Press, 2000.

Stephenson, Gilbert Thomas. “The Separation of the Races in Public Conveyances.”
The American Political Science Review 3(2) May 1909, pp. 180-204.

White, Alma. Demons and Tongues. Zarephath, NJ: Pillar of Fire Publishers, 1936.

—. The Ku Klux Klan in Prophecy. Zarephath, JN: Pillar of Fire Publishers, 1925.

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.

Camp Meeting Days: our Summertime Heritage

7 June, 2007

     The American camp meeting was born in the revival fires of the Second Great Awakening (1800-1805). Early camp meetings drew thousands of believers and became extremely popular on the American frontier. Settlers would gather for extended meetings, often characterized by ceaseless praying, fervent preaching, and wild scenes of emotional response. Methodist encampments were extremely spiritual, and hundreds and sometimes thousands of attendees would flood the encampments with canvas tents, prepared for days of communion with God and His people. Attendance at some camp meetings is estimated at 20,000 (Johnson 51). In 1811, Bishop Francis Asbury, the first American Methodist bishop, declared: “Camp-Meetings! Camp-Meetings! The Battle axe and weapon of war-it will break down the walls of wickedness, forts of hell” (qtd. in Johnson 99). From its inception, the camp meeting was designed to steel saints against the devil and convert sinners from their error.
     The first recorded camp meeting in Indiana was held during the summer of 1807 in Clark County, near Grant, Indiana. In 1810, two separate meetings were conducted in Indiana on the Methodist Whitewater Circuit. At one such meeting, the wife of a preacher named Jeremiah Meek became “ecstatic” and scarcely ate, drank, or slept for three weeks following (Sweet 24).
     Undoubtedly, these Hoosier camps were proportionally similar to other Wesleyan open-air convocations held in the East. The typical day at camp began with prayer at daybreak followed by an 8:00 a.m. devotional service with singing and an address. At 11 o’clock, the main morning service would be held, with a full-fledged sermon. The noon meal was followed by private prayer meetings before afternoon services resumed, and evening services followed supper (Johnson 123-30). The evening services often resulted in raucous altar invitations, where penitents would gather at the mourner’s bench or congregate in mourner’s tents, where heartfelt repentance and fervent prayer and supplication could extend into the wee hours (Johnson 133).
When the Pentecostal movement began, many followers emerged from Wesleyan and Holiness faiths, and the Pentecostal camp meeting was a natural continuation of the earlier traditions of revivalistic Christians. Many of the larger meetings included some of the most prominent Pentecostal evangelists of the day such as Maria Woodworth-Etter, Smith Wigglesworth, Howard Goss, D.C.O. Opperman and A.A. Boddy.
     Camp meetings were widely publicized and attended, and announcements regularly appeared in issues of Pentecostal publications and circulars. In May 1907, The Apostolic Faith, Azusa’s newspaper, advertised the first ever Apostolic Faith Camp to be held in Los Angeles, “beginning June 1, and continuing about four months” (“Los Angeles Campmeeting” 1). Interestingly, most of the earliest advertisements for camp meetings establish only an opening date. Notices like the one for a July 1914 meeting in Seattle, Washington, which read: “Pentecostal Camp Meeting begins July 15th and continues one month or longer” were not unusual (“Pentecostal Camp Meetings”). Open-ended meetings demonstrate early Pentecostal reluctance to regulate God’s work.
      Like their pioneer predecessors, many camp meeting attendees camped in canvas tents and cooked meals over open fires. Freewill offerings were solicited from participating churches to support the care of the saints during the meetings. An invitation to the Fourth Interstate Encampment of the Apostolic Faith Movement in June 1913 offered generous, if primitive, accommodation:

 

As usual a large dining tent will be erected and meals served free to all who [sic] attend the meeting. Tents and cots will also be free. No charges will be made for supplies of any kind. We shall endeavor to supply tents and cots for all come, but no bedding will be furnished. We will not be prepared to furnish it. Every one should bring with him a comfort to lay upon his cot as much bedding as he will require. He should also have his own pillow, lamp, washpan, soap, towel, comb, songbook, and Bible, etc. (“The Fourth Interstate . . .” 1)
Provisional shelter and food were often provided free of charge on the “faith line”-dependent totally on God’s supply. A 1914 notice for the Churches of God in Christ Camp in Semmes, Alabama promised: “Tents and meals free as God provides” (“Pentecostal Camp Meetings” 2).

     Interstate and “World-Wide” camp meetings played a significant role in creating a network of fellowships that matured into organization and provided Pentecostals with a spiritual environment for developing a degree of doctrinal and practical cohesiveness. The World-Wide Apostolic Faith Camp held in Arroyo Seco, California in April 1913 marks the beginning of the Apostolic rediscovery of the doctrines of baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ and the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ. At a baptismal service held during the camp, R.E. McAlister posited that the “words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used by the early church in Christian baptism” (Ewart 106). Bro. John Schaeppe, an attendee at the camp, spent that entire night in prayer and received a revelation of the power of the Name of Jesus. The baptismal sermon and Schaeppe’s revelation contributed to restoration of the fullness of New Testament Christianity.
     As Hoosier saints gather this year at the campground in Fortville, we will be continuing a rich tradition of revivalism. While improvements like air conditioning and padded seating have made the campground a more comfortable place to enjoy the annual meetings, we cannot forget the powerful heritage passed to us from over two centuries of Christian predecessors whose souls were alight when the Spirit’s fire fell in cruder commorancies. The old-fashioned camp meeting may be refitted with contemporary conveniences, but the same power of God that visited the primitive pioneer woodland camp and the turn-of-the-century Apostolic Faith meetings will fall wherever saints are gathered in Jesus’ Name to seek greater unity, faith, and revival. This season, let us come believing God for a spiritual increase; as Bishop Asbury said in 1809: “attend to camp-meetings, they make our harvest times” (Asbury 316).

 

 

Sources:

Asbury, Francis. Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury: Bishop of the Methodist Church. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1821.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Houston: Herald Publishing House, 1947.

“Fourth Interstate Encampment of the Apostolic Faith Movement Held This Year in Meridian, Miss. June 18 to 30, 1913.” Word and Witness 9 (5). 20 May 1913, 1.

Johnson, Charles A. The Frontier Camp Meeting: Religion’s Harvest Time. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press: 1955.

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