Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism
By: Maranatha Gannon
“Perhaps the least known chapter in the history of American Pentecostalism is that of early Oneness Pentecostalism,” according to renowned author, Rev. Talmadge French, who chose to focus his PhD work on this very topic. After six years of dedicated research, the University of Birmingham in England encouraged the publishing of his work. His book, entitled Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism, became one of the first Oneness books published by Wipf and Stock, a major Christian publisher in Oregon.
Bro. French’s work includes many of the great discoveries made in his research. He shared that an overarching theme was that, “the early Oneness movement reached over 30 million people worldwide. This movement became the foundation of what Oneness Pentecostalism is today. The knowledge of our history is vital because if one abandons his roots, he abandons the hope of the future.
“The life of G.T. Haywood played an integral part in the early movement; however, the breadth of the movement was even greater. Regardless, it is undeniable that the tunes of G.T. Haywood’s influence on the early Pentecostal movement still ring to this day. A talented painter, poet and songwriter, Haywood’s work captured the very essence of slavery in sin and freedom in the precious name of Jesus. With the backdrop of his parents’ slavery and the onslaught of racism in the 1900s, it is no wonder that the early Pentecostal movement was strongly influenced by the ‘Black Experience.’
“This ‘Black Experience’ gave the black community its thrust into the Pentecostal faith. I would never argue that Pentecostalism is black, since it is for all people, but Pentecostalism was no doubt influenced by the black culture. Most of our exuberant worship such as dancing and shouting was influenced by this experience.”
Bro. French came upon many other intriguing discoveries in his work. “This early movement set a precedent in strong contrast to the racism of the 1900s. Pentecost demanded that all people be viewed equally: Asian, white, black. It was understood in this movement that everybody had the ability to speak in tongues and was viewed equal in the sight of God. A 30-year, interracial organization that worked in harmony and reached over a quarter of a million people in only fifteen years even caught the attention of the FBI.”
FBI files were discovered in Bro. French’s research and reveal that this movement had caught the interest of many. Even today, Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing Christian movements. It is outgrowing all Trinitarian groups, and interest has been piqued around the globe.
In his book, Bro. French seeks to help the reader learn from this early movement and help define how we in the 21st century can “eradicate racism and formulate a biblical basis for becoming interracially united in both worship and organization. Pentecostalism is the only organization to have roots which began in interracial unity.” We need not just work in harmony but as a unified symphony.
Order the book through Pentecostal Publishing House or through his church website: aptabupc.com. Also, it can be ordered as an e-book from Wipf & Stock Publishers. To contact Bro. French with any questions, send a request through the church website listed above.