The Twentieth-Century Pentecostal Revival (Entire Article)

By David K. Bernard

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With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2, 3


In December 1900, Charles Fox Parham, the founder and leader of Bethel Bible College, asked the approximately forty students to search the Bible to determine the sign or evidence that occurs when a person receives the Holy Ghost. After three days, the students assembled with their answer: the initial evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost is speaking with other languages as the Spirit gives the utterance.


Parham was surprised by the answer, and he was also surprised when on January 1, 1901, one student, Agnes N. Ozman, began speaking with tongues when he laid hands on her in prayer. Two days later, on January 3, 1901, Parham found twelve other students, including his wife, praying and speaking with tongues. Parham, sensing a holy presence, knelt in prayer and soon received the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with tongues.


During the next few weeks, the experience spread among the other students and into the community. On January 21, Parham and some of the students held their first public evangelistic service in Kansas City. Newspapers in Topeka and Kansas City reported on the “new sect,” with front page coverage in Kansas City.


Revival in Texas


In the spring of 1905, Parham held a meeting in Orchard, Texas, a small community about forty miles west of Houston. Parham stated that before he arrived only a few people in Orchard professed to be Christians, but before the meeting ended almost the entire community was converted. In July Parham moved his group of workers into Houston, holding meetings in the Brunner Holiness Church and in Bryant Hall. W. F. Carothers, the pastor of Brunner Holiness Church, accepted the Pentecostal experience as did his congregation.


In the fall of 1905, Parham opened a short-term Bible school in the downtown area of Houston. About twenty-five workers from Kansas came to help him in Texas, most of whom attended the Bible school. Howard Goss was among these workers.


Azusa Street Mission


One student who attended the Bible school in Houston, William J. Seymour, a black Holiness minister living in Houston, went to Los Angeles, California, to preach in a Holiness church on Santa Fe Street. Although Seymour had not received the Holy Ghost, his sermon on the first Sunday morning, February 24, was taken from Acts 2:4. He preached that the initial sign of receiving the Holy Ghost is speaking with tongues.


The pastor, Julia Hutchins, did not agree with his doctrine, so she locked the door to keep him from preaching in the church. A family from the church, however, invited Seymour to stay at their house, and another family opened their home on Bonnie Brae Street for prayer meetings.


On April 9, Jeannie Moore, a young lady who later married Seymour, and several other people received the Holy Ghost during the prayer meeting. Three days later, on April 12, Seymour was filled with the Holy Ghost. On April 15, Miss Moore gave her testimony at a local church, and soon large crowds filled the house and overflowed into the yard and street.


By April 18, the group moved to an old two-story building on Azusa Street in the downtown industrial area of Los Angeles. By the end of that summer, hundreds of people had been filled with the Spirit, and the Azusa Street revival was ready to spread across North America and around the world.


Holiness ministers who came to the Azusa Street Mission to receive the Holy Ghost returned to proclaim the Pentecostal experience to their churches, cities, and communities. Many church congregations and several entire Holiness organizations came into the Pentecostal movement. Pentecostals became missionaries to Africa, India, China, the Mideast, South America, and Europe. Several missionaries from other church organizations visited Azusa Street to receive the Holy Ghost, and they took the news back to their fields of ministry.


Early Pentecostal Leadership


From 1901 to 1907, the Pentecostal movement, known at the time as the Apostolic Faith Movement, was led in a general way by Parham. Seymour was the recognized leader of the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, and for a brief moment he enjoyed widespread influence. One of the earliest leaders whose influence continued for several decades was Howard A. Goss.


After Goss received the Holy Ghost in the spring of 1906, Parham appointed him to be the field supervisor of the work in Texas. Parham also appointed W. F. Carothers to be the general field supervisor, and Carothers signed Goss’s first ministerial license, issued on August 26, 1906. Parham’s effort to organize the Pentecostal movement in Texas crumbled in 1907.


Goss, however, remained a leader among the Pentecostals in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and other midwestern states. During the years from 1907 to 1914, he established Pentecostal churches in Texas and Arkansas, and he evangelized in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa. He met William H. Durham and preached at the church he pastored in Chicago. In 1908, he met E. N. Bell, to whom he turned the pastorate of the large church he had pioneered in Malvern, Arkansas. He also turned the paper he edited, The Apostolic Faith, to Bell, who merged it with the Word and Witness in 1910.


Goss was the prime individual behind the organization of the Assemblies of God in 1914. Earlier, in 1910, he worked out a temporary arrangement with C. H. Mason to obtain and issue license in the name of the black organization Mason founded, the Church of God in Christ. In 1912, Goss became acquainted with H. G. Rodgers and his group in Alabama and solicited his support. In late 1913, he persuaded Bell, D. C. 0. Opperman, and others to sponsor a call for an organizing conference of interested Pentecostal ministers. The conference, meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Goss was the host pastor, formed the Assemblies of God. Goss, Bell, and Opperman were among those chosen to be top officials in the new organization.


Doctrinal Issues


The first doctrinal division in the Pentecostal movement came from the teachings of William H. Durham. Although Durham earlier embraced the Holiness doctrine on sanctification, soon after he received the Holy Ghost he began preaching that sanctification is not a second work of grace but is accomplished at the time of conversion and continues to move a person toward perfection throughout his Christian life. By 1912, his doctrine, which became known as “The Finished Work of Calvary,” had been accepted by most of the independent Pentecostal ministers.


The second doctrinal issue to divide the Pentecostal movement had its beginnings in 1913 during the Arroyo Seco camp meeting held near Los Angeles. Ministering at a baptismal service, R. E. McAlister noted that the church in the Book of Acts always baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and not in the traditional formula of “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” His observation immediately stirred interest.


One minister, Frank J. Ewart, studied the Bible for several months in search for the answer to the supposed conflict between Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 and the formula used by the church in the Book of Acts. By the spring of 1914, Ewart had reached the conclusion that the singular name in Matthew 28:19 was Jesus Christ. To support this view he pointed to the baptismal accounts in Acts and to the references in the Epistles, but he also noted the full deity of Jesus Christ: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).


Ewart explained his understanding of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ to several other Pentecostal ministers. Some rejected his teaching but others enthusiastically embraced it. On April 15, 1914, Ewart rebaptized Glenn Cook in the name of Jesus Christ, and Cook rebaptized him. This decision to rebaptize Pentecostals set in motion an issue that soon divided the Pentecostal movement between the trinitarians and the Jesus Name believers.


After Cook’s successful preaching tour of the Midwest, several leaders of the newly organized Assemblies of God, including Goss, Bell, and J. R. Flower, denounced the “new issue.” Writing in the Word and Witness in the July 17, 1915, issue, Flower stated his opinion that the matter was only a fad and would soon fade away on its own.


An event that shocked the trinitarians was Bell’s baptism in the name of Jesus Christ during a camp meeting in Jackson, Tennessee, in August 1915. Joining him were many other ministers, including H. G. Rodgers, and hundreds of laymen. Later that same summer, Bell baptized Goss at a camp meeting in Arkansas.


By the time the General Council convened in St. Louis in October 1915, it appeared that the Assemblies of God organization would embrace water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. A list of prominent Pentecostal leaders who had accepted Jesus Name baptism included not only Bell, Goss, Ewart, Cook, Roberts, Haywood, and Rodgers, but also It E. McAlister, D. C. 0. Opperman, George T. Studd, Harvey Shearer, L. C. Hall, B. F. Lawrence, Harry Van Loon, Frank Small, A. H. Argue, W. E. Booth-Clibborn, R. J. Scott, Elmer K. Fisher, and Robert L. LaFleur.


The “new issue” was debated at the General Council with E. N. Bell and G. T. Haywood presenting the case for water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and A. P. Collins and Jacob Miller presenting the traditional formula, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The issue was not settled at the Council, but the ministers agreed to pray and to study the matter during the coming year.


By the time the General Council convened in St. Louis in October 1916, the trinitarian majority had organized to force the Oneness ministers to accept the trinitarian formula or to leave the organization. A committee of trinitarians, appointed by the trinitarian leadership, drew up a “Statement of Fundamental Truths” and presented it to the Council. The Statement embraced the trinitarian formula and made the doctrine of the trinity a basis for membership.


Between sixty and eighty ministers attended the General Council, of whom about fifteen or twenty were committed to the Oneness message. Many others were undecided or sympathetic toward the Oneness view, but most of them voted with the trinitarian majority in favor of the Statement.


The adoption of the Statement of Fundamental Truths forced the withdrawal of about one fourth of the ministers from the Council. After the General Council in 1916, the list of ordained ministers in the Assemblies of God fell from 585 to 429.


The Oneness Ministers Organize


In January 1917, a group of Oneness Pentecostal ministers met in St. Louis to form the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies. The officers chosen were: D. C. 0. Opperman, general chairman; Lee Floyd, secretary; Howard Goss, credential committee; and H. G. Rodgers, member of credential committee. This organization lasted only one year, however, since the government would not grant military exemption or railroad discount fares to the ministers in the young organization.


In January 1918, the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.), a Pentecostal organization that apparently began in Los Angeles in 1907. The merger reorganized the P.A.W. with new officers: J. J. Frazee, general chairman; D. C. 0. Opperman, secretary; Howard Goss, treasurer. By its next conference in October 1918, Edward W. Doak had become general chairman, and W. E. Booth-Clibborn had become the secretary. In January 1919, the headquarters of the P.A.W. was moved from Portland, Oregon, to Indianapolis, Indiana, and the organization was incorporated in the state of Indiana. E. W. Doak remained as general overseer and G. T. Haywood became the general secretary.


For the first few years, this racially integrated organization functioned smoothly, but by 1921 racial tension was felt and exhibited. In this year a Southern Bible Conference of white ministers was held in Little Rock, Arkansas. This conference had an emotional impact on those in attendance, and it became the seed of the later split in the organization.


Division and Mergers


In spite of efforts by leaders of both races to maintain unity, misunderstanding continued to grow until in the fall of 1924 a division came on racial lines. Most of the white ministers withdrew to create a white organization, but by the end of 1925 they had created three white organizations.


In February 1925, a group of white ministers met in Jackson, Tennessee, to form the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance (P.M.A.). They chose L C Hall as general chairman and Howard Goss as secretary-treasurer. Later, in 1932, the name of this organization was changed to Pentecostal Church Incorporated.


Many of the white ministers who felt that the P.M.A. was only a ministerial organization and that it did not properly recognize churches met in Houston, Texas, in October to organize the Emmanuel’s Church in Jesus Christ (E.C. in J.C.), with W. T. Lyons as chairman and G. C. Stroud as secretary. 0. F. Fauss was the third member of the Board.


Between February and November of this same year, a third group organized under the name of the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ (A.C. of J.C.), under the leadership of W. H. Whittington, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. This group held its first conference to draw up a statement of doctrine during April 1926.


Most of the ministers were not satisfied to have organizational divisions among the Oneness Pentecostals. From the outset, leaders sought to find ways to bring the groups together again in one organization. Many attempts failed, but successes also came. The first merger occurred in 1928 when the Emmanuel’s Church in Jesus Christ merged with the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, using the latter’s name. 0. F. Fauss was chosen as chairman, W. H. Whittington as secretary, and E. D. Browning as treasurer.


The next merger took place in 1932. The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, creating a racially inte-grated organization once again. The new organization took its name, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, from the names of the two former organizations. This merger was not accepted by all the black ministers, however, and they continued the charter of the P.A.W.


This second attempt to integrate the races eventually failed for the same reasons the first attempt failed, racial prejudice in society and by both races. When the white majority voted to hold the General Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1937, many of the black ministers felt that the whites had violated the merger agreement, and most of them soon drifted back to the P.A.W.


The United Pentecostal Church


From our point in history, the most important merger took place in 1945 when the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ merged with the Pentecostal Church Incorporated to form the United Pentecostal Church. The word international was added December 14, 1972.


In the spring of 1945, a committee composed of members from both organizations met twice in St. Louis to work toward an agreement for the merger. The leaders carefully explored various potential problems and found acceptable solutions. The most difficult question had to do with the new birth. While most Oneness ministers identified the new birth with Acts 2:38, others did not take such a firm view.


The solution came when W. T. Witherspoon retired to a private room where he wrote the Fundamental Doctrine Statement that was readily accepted by all. The statement reads: “The basic and fundamental doctrine of this organization shall be the Bible standard of full salvation, which is repentante, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body.”


At the merger conference, the following officers were elected: Howard Goss as the general superintendent; W. T. Witherspoon as the assistant general superintendent; Stanley W. Chambers as the secretary-treasurer; T. R. Dungan as assistant secretary-treasurer; and Wynn T. Stairs as Foreign Missions secretary. Brother M. J. Wolff became the editor of the Pentecostal Herald, the official organ of the organization. The united organization had 1833 ministers and from 700 to 900 churches.


In 1989 the United Pentecostal Church International reported more than 3,600 churches and over 7,300 ministers in the United States and Canada, with an approximate Sunday attendance of 350,000; it is estimated that the number of people in North America identifying with the United Pentecostal Church exceeds 500,000. Missionary work is promoted in more than 120 nations with a foreign constituency of more than 875,000.


Test Your Knowledge


  1. In what year did the Pentecostal revival of this century begin?


  1. What is the significance of the Azusa Street revival?


  1. In what year was the Assemblies of God organized?


  1. In what year and in what camp meeting was baptism in the name of Jesus first mentioned?


  1. Name some of the Pentecostal leaders who were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.


  1. In what year did the trinitarians force the Oneness ministers out of the Assemblies of God?


  1. What was the first racially integrated Oneness organization? Why did division come?


  1. What three white organizations were formed in 1925?


  1. In what year was the United Pentecostal Church formed?


  1. What is the fundamental doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church?


Apply Your Knowledge


Write a history of the local church. You may find the events and people to be enlightening and inspiring. Your work will also help others to understand the dedication and commitment of those who pioneered the church.


Expand Your Knowledge


Two books on the history of the United Pentecostal Church are most valuable: United We Stand by Arthur L. Clanton and Twentieth-Century Pentecostals by Fred J. Foster. An excellent reference book on Pentecostals in general is Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements edited by Stanley Burgess and Gary McGee. Biographies include What God Hath Wrought by 0. F. Fauss, The Winds of God by Ethel Goss, and The Phenomenon of Pentecost by Frank Ewart. Other historical books include The Life of Andrew D. Urshan an autobiography, Pentecostal Pioneer Women Volumes I and II and Profiles of Pentecostal Preachers Volumes I and II compiled by Mary Wallace.


This article “The Twentieth-Century Pentecostal Revival” by various authors was excerpted from: Meet the United Pentecostal Church International by David Bernard, J. L. Hall, C.A. Brewer, T. M. Jackson, P. D. Buford, Edwin Judd, Dan Butler, Ralph Reynolds, Gary Erickson, & Dan Segraves.


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