Beginnings In Oneness Organizational Efforts
By Fred J. Foster
The Assemblies of God rejection left a large number of Oneness ministers without a church to unify their efforts. The issuing of credentials and a unified missionary effort had to be considered, so steps were immediately initiated to organize.
It must not be assumed, though, that all the Oneness ministers were in the Assemblies of God, as many had never joined this church group. Such men as Frank J. Ewart and Harry Van Loon had not, but were in close fellowship with the others.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE APOSTOLIC ASSEMBLIES
“During the Christmas Holidays of 1916, saints and ministers were arriving in Eureka Springs, Arkansas by great numbers. Rev. Daniel C. O. Opperman and Mother Barnes had already opened a Faith Bible School in a sixty-one room hotel building on Spring Street.” (7)
The need for an organization was so urgent that one was formulated at this time, which began issuing credentials immediately. Samuel C. McClain’s credentials were dated January 26, 1916. The name decided upon was the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies. Opperman became the General Chairman and Goss was made the Secretary.
The war clouds of World War One were hanging low, and steps were initiated to provide proper recognition for the ministers of military age. To their astonishment, they found they had organized too late for this recognition. This was to be the impetus for the next move in Oneness organizational historical structure.
THE PENTECOSTAL ASSEMBLIES OF THE WORLD
On the west coast a minister by the name of Frazier organized a group of Oneness people under the name of Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, in late 1914. This was a small group, and confined mostly to the coast, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon. (2)
The significant happening at this time in this group was the acquiring of the proper recognition by the government for its military-age ministers. This was what the new organization, The General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies lacked, and casting about, they found this small group and their highly-valued prize. Immediately negotiations were initiated for some kind of workable agreement.
These negotiations were diligently pursued, and a merger of the two groups was adopted in late 1917. C. W. Doak was chosen to be the General Chairman, with G. T. Haywood becoming the Secretary-Treasurer. The new organization chose to continue the name of the Frazier group, The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.
A UNIQUE FELLOWSHIP
This was to prove a unique fellowship for several years, because both white and black were members. Doak was a white man and Haywood was black.` Haywood had been an influential man for years first among the Trinitarians, and after seeing the light on the Oneness message, he was greatly respected among Oneness people.
He pastored one of the largest Pentecostal churches in the world, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through his ministry, hundreds, both white and black, had been won to the Oneness truth and baptized in Jesus’ name. His influence as one of the top leaders in the church helped to unite the races in this great effort.
McClain speaks of this fellowship thus, “Throughout the north and east there seemed to be very little, if any, race prejudice. I, being southern born, thought it a miracle that I could sit in a service by a black saint of God and worship, or eat at a great camp table, and forget I was eating beside a black saint, but in spirit and truth God was worshiped in love and harmony.” (3)
For several years this. worked very well, with a considerable growth and a wonderful unity, but in later years dissatisfaction began to rise between the two races, seemingly over misunderstanding by the younger northern black ministers of the question of segregation in the South.
“While all Spirit-filled ministers agreed that with God there is not a color line and in the hearts of the people of God there should be none, yet ministers laboring in the South had to conform to laws and customs.” (4)
All the conventions of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World were held in the North, due to segregation in the South, and it was only natural, due to long distances of travel in that era especially, that not nearly as many Southerners were in attendance as Northerners. When legislation to be considered would arise that was very vital to the church as a whole, the southerners were usually outnumbered. A goodly number of the northern ministers were black, so, unfortunately, a spirit of agitation began to arise, pitting, to a degree, the races against one another. The Southerners wanted a convention closer to their area, but this could not be done because of the racial feeling in the South toward integration. All these things began working against the structure of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.
The Assemblies of God were not having this trouble because they, at this time, were made up primarily of white people. The Trinitarian Church of God in Christ also avoided this, because they were primarily black. This would, in time, be the pattern among the Oneness movement also.
There was also another problem during the above crisis, that caused considerable agitation. On a larger scale, the Oneness people have always held high standards of holiness, and the latter part of the name of their church disturbed them. The Apostle John had said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” (5) and constantly preachers of the gospel were hammering away at the love for worldly accumulation. The “Of the World” part of the name caused great dissatisfaction, with many claiming “that a church organization should not be called ‘Of the World.’ “6
THE SOUTHERN BIBLE CONFERENCE
S. C. McClain was pastoring in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and W. A. Mulford was conducting him a revival. “They felt the need of a great spiritual gathering, where all could worship and draw near to God in spiritual fellowship. These two sent out a call for such a gathering, and called it the ‘Southern Bible Conference.’ This conference was held in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1921, in an old Presbyterian Church near the State Capitol, on the corner of Fifth and Victory Streets.” (7) Until recently, there was a thriving Oneness Church at this location, which the late G. H. Brown pastured for many years. R. G. Cook, who was to become one of the Assistant General Superintendents of the United Pentecostal Church, was pastor at the time in the city.
“Daniel C. O. Opperman, who had served as President of the Ozark Bible and Literary School, was chosen Chairman and Moderator of the Bible Conference. The response was great, with ministers and saints from many states coming, and the spiritual uplift was beyond expectation. “There were no business sessions, as they had met for spiritual food, and God had not failed them, as a rich spiritual table was spread. The fellowship and worship was so wonderful that some sent telegrams to other ministers, who soon joined the people that know the joyful sound (Psalm 89:15). Mulford wired E. W. Doak, then presiding Chairman Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, who took the next train to Little Rock.
“The fellowship and spiritual uplift was so great, along with deep consecration, that William E. Booth-Clibborn printed a booklet called ‘Dust and Ashes,’ giving a fine account of this glorious gathering. Many healings were manifest. Seekers for the Holy Ghost baptism prayed through. There were no certain speakers, yet God used Booth-Clibborn in a mighty way, and Opperman presided under the leadership of the Spirit.” (8)
This convention was to be remembered a long time, and its tremendous blessing would play a prominent part in the future of the Oneness movement. The strength derived from its unity had not been enjoyed in any recent conference, and this was to have its far-reaching repercussions.
THE ST. LOUIS CONFERENCE, 1922
“Because of the sweet spirit of uplifting fellowship in the Southern Bible Conference, it was suggested, and E. W. Doak agreed, that the first part of the next conference of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World be given entirely to worship and consecration. This was to be a time of digging deep and seeking God for more love and unity. But someone made the mistake of designating those days as a continuation of the Southern Bible Conference.
This did not work, for naturally the black brethren had had nothing to do with that part of the services, and the conference was nothing like in spirit as it was hoped to be.” (9)
This is readily understandable, because tension would naturally be created in such an atmosphere as existed there. The wedge was being driven deeper, and soon it would break the organization into several parts.
It was at this convention that many of the white leaders decided that peace and fellowship would be God’s will for them, and gradually thoughts began settling upon leaving the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World for the black, and founding a new organization. The general feeling was that under the present setup a spirit of discouragement was received, instead of the inspiration so needed in propagating the gospel of salvation.
In 1924 in St. Louis, at the General Conference, it was decided the time had come. Hungry to have love and unity prevailing, and to be a looked-for ingredient in their conventions, a group of the leading white ministers met in the basement of the conference building to discuss plans for the future.
“Thus came plans in a basement gathering of white ministers to let the black brethren, under the able leadership of Elder Haywood, carry on with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, while all the white ministers would organize another association to meet the needs of the South.” (10)
I McClain, “Notes,” p. 17,18
2 Ibid., p. 18.
3 McClain, “Notes,” p. 18,19.
4 McClain, “Notes,” p. 21.
5 I John 2:15
6 McClain, “Notes,” p. 21.
7 Ibid., p. 22.
8 Ibid., p. 22, 23.
9 Ibid., p. 24.
10 McClain, “Notes,” p. 24, 25.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM 20th CENTURY PENTECOSTALS AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1980, PAGES 123-130. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.