Archive for the ‘Sanctification’ Category

“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.


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.


“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!


Burgess, Stanley M. and Gary B. McGee. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic
. 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.

William H. Durham and the Beginnings of the Finished Work

5 December, 2006

Pentecostalism is a restorationist movement, and early Pentecostals were committed to the full recovery of New Testament, Apostolic truth. The rediscovery of the blessed doctrines of speaking in tongues as the evidence of baptism in the Spirit and the revelation of the mighty God in Christ are well-known episodes in the annals of Apostolic history. Less infamous is the original doctrinal schism in the fledgling movement, the “Finished Work of Calvary” and its inceptor, Bro. William H. Durham, pastor of the influential North Avenue Mission, an early Pentecostal work in Chicago.

Bro. Durham had originally rejected the notion of speaking in tongues as evidential of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, writing: “I understood exactly what such a teaching implied and just how widely it reflected on all Christian experience” (Durham, “What is the Evidence . . .” 4). However, he was eventually persuaded to visit the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, where he received his Pentecost on 2 March 1907 (Blumhofer 129). According to Bro. Durham, the experience transformed the North Avenue Mission into a powerful center of Apostolic Faith revival in the Midwest:

People began to come in considerable numbers. Soon our little place would not hold them. Best of all God met those who came. We had meetings that ran on through the night and most of them half the night. It was impossible to close them . . . God would pour His Spirit upon them. One after another God met the seekers. It was nothing unusual to hear people at all hours of the night speaking in tongues and singing in the Spirit. (qtd. in Ewart 87)

Many who were destined to become influential leaders in the Pentecostal movement received the Holy Ghost at the mission, including Eudorus N. Bell, a future general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, and A.H. Argue, who carried Pentecostal revival to Winnipeg, Canada (Ewart 87).

After receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost in 1907, Durham became increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of sanctification as a second spiritual crisis following conversion, a core tenet of the Holiness movement, from which many early Pentecostals emerged. Rather, he became persuaded that Christ sanctified the believer at conversion. Using the term “the finished work of Calvary”, Durham maintained that “when God saves a man, He makes him clean . . . Christ has finished the work in our behalf” (Durham “The Great Battle of 1911” 7). He declared it impossible that salvation could leave a man filled with sin until he was sanctified.

The doctrine, which he propagated in his publication The Pentecostal Testimony, created a firestorm of disagreement amongst Pentecostal leaders that eventually developed into the first major rupture of the movement. Charles Parham denounced Durham’s views, but the doctrine won popular support amongst many of those who had distanced themselves from Parham after charges of immorality were brought against the leader in 1907. In 1910, Bro. Bell invited Bro. Durham to preach a camp meeting in Malvern, Arkansas, and many there were persuaded of the Finished Work doctrine (Blumhofer 132). The penetration of the message grew, and the names of those who accepted the scriptural truth of the new position read like a veritable roll of early founders of Pentecostal faith, including such prestigious pioneers as: Howard Goss, William Carothers, George B. Studd, D.C.O. Opperman, A.H. Argue, E.N. Bell, Harry VanLoon, and Lemuel C. Hall.

Bro. Durham returned to Los Angeles in 1911 hoping to spread the doctrine but found most of the city’s Pentecostal missions closed to his message. For a short time, he gained access to Azusa Street Mission, but Bro. William J. Seymour eventually locked the mission doors against Bro. Durham (Ewart 90). Undaunted, Durham opened a work known as Seventh Street Mission and successfully broadcast the Finished Work in the birthplace of modern Pentecostalism.

In 1912, Bro. William H. Durham died at the untimely age of 39. His funeral was held in the Seventh Street Mission and was purportedly attended by Pentecostals from across the United States (Ewart 91). The doctrine he championed continued to spread after his death and was officially adopted by the early organizers of the Assemblies of God in 1914 (Ewart 91). While it was rejected by Charles Mason, presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, who retained the original Holiness view of sanctification, the majority of Pentecostals accepted Durham’s perspective. When the Assemblies of God divided over the issue of Oneness, Apostolic organizers retained the finished work doctrine; and today, a majority of trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostals hold Durham’s view.

William Durham did not live to receive the message of baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ and the Oneness of God, but he articulated and published a powerful truth that was seminal in restoring Pentecostalism to its primitive, New Testament roots. The message, soundly resting on God’s Word, glorifies Jesus Christ and realizes the full capacity of His sacrificial cross to empower the believer to live above the beggarly elements of sin. William H. Durham would surely rejoice to see those who have accepted the overcoming and sanctifying power of Christ’s blood when the reverberating efficaciousness of the Finished Work of Calvary is told in bright eternity where the saints of God shall stand before His throne wholly sanctified and free from sin!


Blumhofer, Edith L. The Assemblies of God: a chapter in the story of American Pentecostalism Volume 1-to 1941. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1989.

Durham, William H. “What Is the Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost?” Pentecostal Testimony 2 (1), 4.

Durham, William H. “The Great Battle of 1911” Pentecostal Testimony 2 (1), 7.

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

The Sanctified Church: the Holiness Movement & Pentecostalism

3 August, 2006

American Pentecostalism is deeply rooted in the Holiness Movement that swept the United States during the 1860s and 1870s.  The Holiness Movement evolved out of the theological ideas of John Wesley, whose sweeping spiritual reformation in England, developed into a full-blown revival in America.  Wesley’s belief that converted Christians need not commit sin, known as Christian Perfectionism, was refined into a doctrine of “Entire Sanctification” after his death.  American Wesleyans believed that salvation was followed by a “Second Blessing” of sanctification in which the desire for sin was uprooted and replaced by purity and piety.  Many within the Holiness Movement held that the “Second Work of Grace” constituted the Pentecostal baptism.  The movement was fueled by fervent commitment to prayer, the literal interpretation of Scripture and a broad vision of evangelism and social transformation through the power of the Spirit of God.  Holiness camp meetings were often emotional with zealous preaching and pre-Pentecostal manifestations of the Spirit, which included shouting, dancing, running and shaking.  While many Methodists embraced the tenets, over 100 denominations emerged from the Holiness Movement.  In 1867, the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness was organized in Vineland, New Jersey, followed by innumerable State and regional fellowships who promoted their message of salvation and sanctification through printed tracts, camp meetings and missions work (Mapes 29).  With its core of restorationist zeal and the belief in a palpable experience with God, the movement spread city to city and had a popular appeal on the American frontier.Charles Fox Parham, the young Holiness evangelist who founded Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, where the Holy Ghost first fell on January 1, 1901, had emerged from the Methodist Episcopal Church.  As a Methodist, he believed in the doctrine of the “Second Blessing”, but he became increasingly convinced that sanctification was not the Pentecostal baptism.  He visited Christian communes and healing homes around the nation and was persuaded that there remained an experience beyond sanctification that would restore New Testament power to the Church.  To this end, he commissioned a study at the Bethel Bible College of the biblical model and evidence of the Holy Ghost baptism.  By some accounts, the student body unanimously concluded that speaking in tongues was the consistent manifestation accompanying Spirit baptism in the Book of Acts.  Earnest prayer meetings ensued, and on New Year’s Day 1901, Agnes Ozman, a young pupil from Wisconsin, received the baptism speaking fluently in other tongues, an experience that soon replicated throughout the school.

Despite early evangelistic efforts and some attention in the Topeka press, Parham and his small band of Pentecostals did not meet with immediate success in spreading their message. In 1905, Parham relocated his ministry headquarters to Houston, Texas, and there encountered greater reception of the Pentecostal message as large crowds began attending services and receiving their Pentecost.  Parham’s message did not conflict with the Holiness teaching of salvation and sanctification, but offered believers a “Third Blessing”, a spiritual empowerment for service.  The triplet cliché from the period is still sometimes heard in Pentecostal circles:  “I’m saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost!”  While some Holiness teachers opposed Parham’s new doctrine, many adherents were swept up in the current of revival, looking for a renewal of the fervor that had begun to wane in the movement with the crisis of the Social Gospel in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

In 1910, William Durham, who had received the Holy Ghost at Azusa Street, championed the doctrine of the “Finished Work at Calvary”, which collapsed sanctification into the salvation experience.  Many Pentecostals became convinced of Durham’s doctrine, and Pentecostalism can still be divided into Wesleyan and non-Wesleyan camps.  Despite the controversy over the role, validity and distinction of sanctification, the Holiness Movement provided a strong, spiritual infrastructure upon which Pentecostal doctrine could be easily superimposed, and modern Pentecostals owe a great debt to the Holiness predecessors whose focus on prayer, personal piety and the power of the Spirit created the atmosphere that birthed the fiery Pentecostal revival that continues to burn brightly a century later.

Works Cited:

Anderson, Robert Mapes.  Vision of the Disinherited:  the Making of American Pentecostalism. New York:  Oxford University Press.  1979, p. 29.

Power & Revelation: Cane Ridge & the Theology of Rev. Barton Stone

3 October, 2005

In August 1801, a four-day communion service in Cane Ridge, Kentucky that included Methodist, Presbyterians, Baptists and other Christians turned into a raucous frontier revival. The meetings attracted an estimated 20,000 believers, and the fervent preaching and spiritual manifestations are unequaled in the history of early American revivalism. Repentance gripped the congregation, and the meetings lasted well into each night. Fields and forests were filled with makeshift camps where Christians spent hours in prayer and exhortation. Gripped by conviction, congregants shook, swooned, laughed, leaped, ran, and jerked. Those present believed passionately that Pentecostal power had come; and though there is no direct historical reference to speaking in tongues, modern Apostolics cannot doubt that God was certainly visiting these humble frontiersman with the power of the Holy Ghost.
Perhaps even more interesting for Oneness Pentecostals are the unique beliefs of Rev. Barton Stone, the host pastor of the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting. A sometime Presbyterian, Stone proved to be a freethinker, rejecting doctrines and creeds that he could not validate with the Scriptures. As a young convert to Presbyterianism under the dynamic ministry of Rev. James McGready, Stone began studying theology and was soon discouraged by the inconsistencies between his exegetical textbooks and the Bible. He was particularly mystified by the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, he became so disillusioned while reading Witsius on the Trinity that he nearly gave up hopes of the ministry and struggled with worship: “. . . it was idolatry to worship more Gods than one, and yet equal worship must be given to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He [Witsius] wound up all in incomprehensible mystery. My mind became confused, so much confused that I knew not how to pray” (Thompson 43).
In summating his own view of the Godhead, Barton Stone is almost indistinguishable from Oneness apologists. He rejects outright the trinitarian insistence upon persons in the Godhead and declares: ” . . . there is but one only living and true God, without parts” (Stone 9). Concerning the divinity of Christ, Stone references a retinue of traditionally Oneness verses (i.e., Jn. 14.8-10, Jn. 10.38, & I Tm. 3.16), concluding most positively that: “In him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth, not a part, but all the fullness of God-head or divinity, bodily. The Father, the undivided God dwelt in Him” (Stone 12). Furthermore, Stone makes a clear distinction between the mingled divine and human natures of Christ arguing: ” . . . as Son, he knew not when would be the day of judgment-could do nothing-and was at last to be subject to the Father; but as God, he knew all things-could do all things” (Stone 20). While he believed that the Son as Logos existed in the bosom of the Father in eternity, he also repudiated the notion of the eternal Sonship and plainly contends: “From what I have said, it may be inferred that Jesus Christ was not eternally begotten of the Father-The notion of being begotten from eternity appears absurd.” (Stone 19).
Though Barton Stone’s revelation of God is perhaps imperfectly articulated with esoteric references to the soul of Jesus, which he may have equated with the Word, his theological resemblance to so many core tenets of Oneness Pentecostal theology evidences his penetration into the deeper truths of the Scriptures. Is it any wonder then that God sent such a magnificent revival to Cane Ridge, a frontier flame of supernatural power and consecration? Cane Ridge marked a historical moment in the march toward Apostolic restoration; and though Rev. Barton Stone is not often touted as a great reformer, his theological position proves that God’s illuminating Word & Spirit have, throughout history, beckoned men toward the fullness of New Testament Christianity.


Stone, Barton. An Address to the Christian churches in Kentucky, Tennessee, & Ohio on several important doctrines of religion. C.V.M & J. Norvell, Nashville: 1814.

Thompson, Rhoes, ed. Voices from Cane Ridge. Bethany Press, St. Louis: 1954.