All Manner Of Evil Spoken Falsely

All Manner Of Evil Spoken Falsely

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PNEUMA 41 (2019) 31–49

All Manner of Evil Spoken Falsely

Acts of Sodomy, the Pentecostal Presses, and the Narrative of Charles Fox Parham

Andrea S. Johnson

California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, California


This article uses archival sources and secondary sources to argue that narratives from various pentecostal church presses reflected shifts in the broader understanding of homosexuality when discussing the 1907 arrest of pentecostal founder Charles Fox Parham for “unnatural offenses.” In the early 1900s, gay men were free to pursue other men in separate spaces of towns and were generally left alone as long as they did not attract attention. Although there was growing recognition that homosexuality might be a matter of biology, the more popular literature on the topic through the 1920s proclaimed that homosexuality was a choice, influenced by environmental factors. Pentecostalism was then in its infancy, and two schools of thought became prevalent regarding Parham’s arrest: there were those like his wife, who denied the truth of the matter, and those like his protégé Howard Goss, who believed that the behavior was a temporary failing, not a permanent tendency. During World War II and the Cold War, beliefs about the causes of homosexuality shifted again, and as the gay rights move- ments flourished and the field of pentecostal history became professionalized, authors tended to examine the details of the incident rather than draw conclusions about the accusations. This examination of pentecostal narratives demonstrates the power that narrators have either to emphasize or to minimize certain details, allowing them to shape the reputations of leaders of the movement.


Pentecostal movement – Charles Fox Parham – homosexuality – Cold War – social hygiene – James Goff

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/15700747-04101033




1 Introduction

In July 1907, San Antonio, Texas, law enforcement officers arrested Charles Fox Parham (the leader of the Kansas Bible school where speaking in tonguesbegan to be practiced in 1901) and twenty-two-year-old J.J. Jourdan for “the commis- sion of an unnatural offense.” The “unnatural offense” has been widely, but not entirely,understoodtobean arrestforsodomy.1Jourdan’sidentityis unclear.He had one previous charge of theft two months prior to this arrest, a charge that had not been brought to trial.2If it had not been for Parham’s reputation in pen- tecostal circles, it is unlikely that Jourdan would ever have been remembered for this arrest at all, and there is no indication of his fate after this event. We do not know if he was attending the revivals, or if he was someone Parham had encountered in another context.3 What is clear, however, is that this incident shows the power of both the church and state to define masculine sexuality and the attempts of chroniclers of church history to continually redefine Parham’s sexuality as societal norms shifted.

Parham, considered one of the early founders of American Pentecostalism, claimed he was framed; he never stood trial, but the charges had serious conse- quences for him. Pentecostals, both at the time and in later accounts of church history, have had to decide how to address such accusations in their publica- tions. For churches that teach a strict moral code, the moral failings of their leaders past and present is an ever-present problem. For those writing the his- tory of the church, then, the dilemma is to what extent they can discuss his- torical figures with what may be considered by many in their organizations to be moral failings without appearing to excuse or justify the same. In this way, the scholar of church history, who often publishes through a church press, both has and lacks agency.They have the power to emphasize or delete the historical figure in their denomination’s narrative, but they often lack the agency to write as they would wish, knowing that their work must be found acceptable within

1 For a discussion of the rumors that the moral failing was adultery or masturbation, see n. 34

in James R. Goff, Jr., Fields White unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins

of Pentecostalism(Fayetteville,AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1988), 223.

2 Goff, Fields White unto Harvest, 137.

3 Goff, Fields White unto Harvest, 136–139. Little is known about J.J. Jourdan. As Goff has found,

most newspaper accounts at the time delivered to their readers a mixture of fact and specu-

lation regarding the arrest. While some news accounts removed from the region labeled him

a hymn singer and others Jewish, those descriptions did not originate in San Antonio papers,

and court records in the case no longer exist. It is therefore impossible to know under what

circumstances Parham encountered Jourdan or much of anything at all about Jourdan him-

self, who has disappeared from historical record.

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all manner of evil spoken falsely


their ranks to be published through the church press. Authors’ struggles to cre- ate an accurate version of the past but to frame it in a way that press editors will accept has been never more apparent than when they examine the ways in which they have written about the role of Charles Fox Parham in the early days of the pentecostal movement.

Some authors have chosen to ignore the allegations, mentioning Parham’s role in establishing the religious movement but letting him fade from the story at an early point. Some have written the history of Pentecostals without dis- cussing Parham at all. Others have mentioned an arrest but not given a cause for the arrest. More recently, authors have admitted to the arrest and attempted to contextualize it. However, the impact of contemporary understandings of homosexuality on these writings is clear. Writers of pentecostal origin from Parham’s time to our own have written about the arrest in ways that reflect the ever-changing discourses on both masculinity and homosexuality in society, discourses that often reflect the efforts to control men’s bodies for the greater common good. The story of Parham’s role in church histories then serves to illustrate the potential for even fundamentalist religious groups to shift their views on the nature of homosexuality and reminds us that even as conserva- tive Pentecostal Kim Davis refused to issue licenses to gay couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, on the basis of religious freedom, Pentecostals as a whole were experiencing a shift in how their church presses have adapted to new views on homosexuality.

2 Parham’s Contemporaries Respond

Although historians have debated and will continue to debate the various fac- tors that led to Parham’s decline in influence, it is clear that early pentecostal ministers found Parham’s sexual behavior problematic and had moved to reign him in even before his San Antonio arrest. In January 1907, Howard Goss, a student of Parham’s who was later influential in both the development of the Assemblies of God (AG) and the division of the non-Trinitarian Apostolics from the mainstream pentecostal movement, recorded in his diary that he and W.F. Carothers, another of the Texas field workers, had met during the Texas revival to discuss Charles Parham.4 In April 1907, Goss wrote that Parham had been found guilty in what the modern reader can surmise was a ministerial

4 Howard Goss, diary, January 31, 1907, in the holdings of the Center for the Study of Oneness

Pentecostalism, Florissant, Missouri.

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trial, which Goss noted was a “sad day for me.”5 Although Goss did not spec- ify the content of these meetings, and may not have attended the trial since he wrote that it was “said to have found him guilty,” a little more than a month later Goss would write that he had resigned his business with the Apostolic Faith Movement, Parham’s somewhat loose-knit organization.6Meanwhile, Parham, either unaware that his protégé had concerns or attempting to keep Goss on his side, wrote a series of letters to Goss in which he complained that Carothers was using slander to wrest control of the Texas churches and had distributed a private letter to others. The nature of this slander was obviously sexual, as Parham fought against these charges, claiming that the corrupt one was instead Carothers, who had confessed to being unable to sit alone with a woman with- out committing adultery in his heart. Parham later claimed that the conflicts were drawing people closer to him and were indeed a blessing. Even in April, near the date of the ministerial trial, Parham wrote to Goss in a friendly man- ner, calling himself Daddy as he often did in letters to Goss. It seems that at least until the trial Goss had tried to stay somewhat above the fray.7In an entry in July 1907, Goss noted Parham’s arrest, writing first that Parham is “caught,” then adding an additional indented line almost as an afterthought, “in act of sodomy.”8 Goss wrote with clarity on the nature of these charges but did not elaborate further, and he expressed no surprise or sorrow in the way he did in the earlier entry.The exact nature of the earlier concerns about Parham’s moral failings is unclear, but it is clear that the movement had failed to bring him to what they would have considered an acceptable state, as Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement lost many of its key members at that time.

While historical records left by Goss might reveal serious contemporary con- cerns about Parham’s sexual activities, the record left by Parham’s wife, Sarah, paints Charles as a faithful husband. The Parhams would claim publicly that his enemies were behind such charges. Sarah, who generally did not travel with

5 Howard Goss, diary, April 6, 1907, in the holdings of the Center for the Study of Oneness Pen-

tecostalism, Florissant, Missouri.

6 Howard Goss, diary, May 9, 1907, in the holdings of the Center for the Study of Oneness Pen-

tecostalism, Florissant, Missouri.

7 Charles Parham to Howard Goss, Canada, January 31, 1907; Charles Parham to Howard Goss,

Chelsea, Massachusetts, February 13, 1907; Charles Parham to Howard and Millicent Goss,

Chelsea, Massachusetts, February 24, 1907; Charles Parham to Howard Goss, Orchard, Texas,

April 5, 1907, all letters from the Howard Goss Correspondence Folder at the Center for the

Study of Oneness Pentecostalism, Florissant, Missouri. There are, however, some who claim

that Goss was behind the prosecution of Parham. See Goff, FieldsWhite unto Harvest, 227. 8 Howard Goss, diary, July 18, 1907, in the holdings of the Center for the Study of Oneness Pen-

tecostalism, Florissant, Missouri.

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Charles, and who had been in Kansas during his time in Zion City, Illinois, and in the Texas revival that followed, was his most public defender. In her 1930 biography of him, in which she listed the author’s name merely as “His Wife,” she proclaimed that, “we kept our marriage vows, and were true to each other.”9 She also described the attacks on Parham after his outreach to John Alexander Dowie’s faithful at Zion City and acknowledged that she had received a letter with accusations and an offer to support herself and the children so that they did not suffer. She said that she wondered at the meaning and that “I could not understand it, as I did later,” and seemed to be surprised that the correspon- dents did not understand that she would gladly suffer deprivations alongside of her husband.10She did not respond to the letter, and does not list the author, but her inability to understand the meaning indicates some level of Victorian morality or shame embraced by either the letter writer, herself, or both.

This was not to be the last time Sarah Parham and other Parham defend- ers would deal with the question of her husband’s alleged sexual misconduct. Of Parham’s arrest, she said true friends had bailed him out so that he could continue theTexas revival meetings, and that the city attorney had told her hus- band that the case would not be called to trial because “it was all spite work.” She further proclaimed that the prosecutor said there was “no evidence that merited any legal recognition.” Although the distinction between legally rele- vant evidence and evidence seems to be lost on her, she saved her wrath for the preachers who continued to spread rumors and who brought her the news of the “vile stuff.”11 At a later revival meeting, a woman in the crowd, not rec- ognizing Sarah to be the famous evangelist’s wife, told her that she was glad to see Parham had come back to God after leaving his family. Sarah Parham revealed her identity to the person and told her the rumors were untrue, but proclaimed that she was thankful for the opportunity to correct the woman.12 Parham’s later supporters adopted a similar strategy of defense in their writ- ings. In a 1910 newsletter Gospel of the Kingdom, published in Alvin, Texas, by J.G. Campbell, the editor defended Parham as the founder of the pentecostal movement, claiming that many had never heard of him due to the scandal asso- ciated with his arrest and because of his teachings that were opposed by others who wanted to control the movement.13 Although the Parhams may not have


10 11 12 13

Sarah Parham, The Life of Charles F. Parham: Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement (Joplin,MO: The Tri-State Printing Company, 1930), 29.

Parham,The Life of Charles F. Parham, 186.

Parham,The Life of Charles F. Parham, 198–199.

Parham,The Life of Charles F. Parham, 200–201.

J.G. Campbell, “Pentecostal Papers Section,” The Apostolic Teachings of the Gospel of the

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been successful in saving his place as leader of the Apostolic Faith Movement, Sarah Parham seems to have been successful in saving his reputation among his children and those who later joined their cause, a number of whom were unaware that such events had occurred.14If the pentecostal movement had not been able to control Parham’s sexual activities before, Sarah, in publishing her husband’s biography in the year after his death, would attempt to rescue his reputation for all eternity, essentially claiming, as a wife with intimate knowl- edge of him, that she knew of no such failings.

Sarah Parham and Howard Goss represent the two major early arguments over Parham’s alleged acts of sodomy. Goss believed the rumors, but he also believed that this failing had been temporary. In Goss’s 1958 biography, his wife, Ethel, wrote that in the spring of 1907 workers in the Texas revival had become discouraged and left when a leader sinned. The leader and the sin are left unnamed, their shame hidden, but given the content of Goss’s 1907 diary, it is clear this was Parham. Goss did not believe that this sin continued, pro- claiming that the leader “afterward lived an exemplary life.”15 Sarah Parham claimed that such activities never occurred, her husband had been faithful, and the arrest had occurred out of spite. These views have been influential in shap- ing the historical discussion over the matter and reflect an essential question for historians in debate over matters moral:Who is to be believed in such cases? In this case, we have Goss, who would become a well-respected leader in the movement and who knew Parham’s reputation among workers, Sarah Parham, the wife, who although not always present knew him intimately, and the state, as represented by the officers of the law who arrested Parham based on their observations or the evidence they had received. Although the accounts by Goss and Sarah Parham are at odds over the facts in this matter, the end result of their narratives is the same; both well-known figures in the movement create a story of pentecostal leadership in which Parham is not bound forever in his alleged sin and in which he can take his place in the hierarchy of leaders.

3 Shifting Sexuality from the Victorian Era to the Second World War

The discussion of events has also been shaped by shifting views about mas- culinity and sexuality. The 1907 arrest came at a time when Victorian moral

14 15

Kingdom and Herald of Jesus’ Coming to Occupy the Throne, and Wield the Scepter of Israel, and to Reign King of Kings, April 1910, 2.

Goff, Fields White unto Harvest, 226–227.

Ethel E. Goss and Howard Goss,The Winds of God (New York: Coment Press, 1958), 78–79.

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values still had some influence, but in which the Edwardian concerns with mas- culinity were apparent. Men of good character in nineteenth-century America were to be self-made men and “Christian Gentlemen.” Part of being a man of character was that one could control his sexual urges. If a man could not, a visit to a prostitute might be considered a tolerable but not respectable course of action. Urban leaders often allowed the development of vice districts, hoping that they could limit the immorality to one section of town, and middle-class young people were often attracted to the entertainment opportunities in these regions. While men were expected to control their sexual urges, in the early twentieth century men were encouraged to embrace what Teddy Roosevelt called the “strenuous life,” one of hard work and the pursuit of masculine sports such as boxing. Writers such as Jack London and Frank Norris created strong masculine characters who were the antithesis of the self-controlled Christian Gentleman of theVictorian era. By 1910 it was clear that American morality had changed; instant gratification, whether in purchasing mass-produced goods from new department stores or pursuing sexual pleasures, was the way of the day.16 Following WWI and into the 1920s, the middle class had more access to sexualized material through confession magazines, nude magazines that pur- ported to be artistic works, and other erotic publications. Two forms of sexu- ality were still portrayed negatively: masturbation and homosexuality.17In this new economic and moral climate, religion, too, would have to change, and reli- gious Americans embraced an image of Jesus as a strong reformer, a carpenter, a man’s man, and eventually, as the 1920s wore on, as a strong leader of men, such as in advertising executive Bruce Barton’s book The Man Nobody Knows, which portrays Jesus as a very masculine, driven, business-executive type.18

Contemporary understandings of homosexuality were also undergoing a gradual shift. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the work of Sigmund Freud was still highly influential internationally. Freud had surmised that homosexuality occurred at particular life stages and was the result of arrested development, but his work would be supplanted in the academic world by that of Karl Ulrichs and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who decided that homosexuals could be identi-


17 18

KevinWhite,The First Sexual Revolution:The Emergenceof Male Heterosexuality in Modern America(New York: New York University Press, 1993), 2–4, 11–15; Peter N. Stearns,Sexuality in World History(London: Routledge, 2009), 98–99.

White,The First Sexual Revolution, 62–64.

Susan Curtis, “The Son of Man and God the Father: The Social Gospel and Victorian Mas- culinity,” in Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Victorian America, ed. Mark C. Carnes and Clyde Griffen (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 67–78; Bruce Barton,The Man Nobody Knows(Indianapolis,IN: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1925).

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fied as a distinct group and that homosexuality had biological causes, and again in 1898 by Havelock Ellis’s highly influential work on Sexual Inversion, which argues that there are different types of homosexuals. As these views developed, homosexuality became not just a sin that any man could commit, but instead a particular problematic personal identity.19 In the early 1900s, gay men were free to be so in separate spaces of towns such as Greenwich Village in NewYork, and were generally left alone as long as they did not attract attention.20Some- times they even shared the same spaces with straight couples; one bar in New York, for instance, had two rooms, one for straight couples and another for gay men.21 During the First World War, American military doctors were supposed to reject as unfit for service candidates who did not have a typically male devel- oped physique, seeing it as a predictor of homosexual tendencies. Instead, they often inducted less than perfect specimens, as they came to believe that homo- sexuality was a result of mental processes rather than physical ones.22 In this case, views about homosexuality changed as the government needed to draft men’s bodies for war.

Although there was growing recognition among scholars that homosexual- ity might be a matter of biology and might not be easily visible in the human form, the more popular literature on the topic through the 1920s proclaimed that homosexuality was a choice, influenced by environmental factors.23 Pop- ular literature such as Joseph Collins’s sex manualThe Doctor Looks at Love and Lifeproclaimed that homosexuals were not all effeminate and indeed could be anyone, even a fellow congregant.24 In the 1930s, German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld published a work on sexuality and the First World War in which he argued that the gay men had made good soldiers and kind officers, but had been the victims of propaganda campaigns by the military and moral societies.25 It was understood then that someone who committed homosexual acts might still be masculine, and in the early twentieth century a man could commit homosexual acts without being seen as homosexual, particularly if he avoided


20 21 22


24 25

Neil Miller, Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (New York: Alyson Books, 2006), 23–25; White,The First Sexual Revolution, 64–65.

Miller,Out of the Past, 132–135.

White,The First Sexual Revolution, 94–95.

Margot Canaday,The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century Amer- ica(Princeton,NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 62–65.

Christopher E. Forth, Masculinity in the Modern West: Gender, Civilization, and the Body (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2008), 100–101.

White,The First Sexual Revolution, 68–69.

Magnus Hirschfeld, The Sexual History of the World War (New York: Cadillac Publishing, 1941 edition), 133.

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taking on effeminate mannerisms.26It might then be easy to believe that a mar- ried man, often away from his wife, would fall into a temporary temptation, however sincere and righteous he might be elsewise.

It is in this context that the pentecostal movement was born, and this is why Charles Parham’s moral life, or the moral life of any preacher, mattered. In looking at Parham’s work, Leslie Callahan writes that Parham “seemed con- scious of the ways in which his marital and family life were a public perfor- mance intended to advance the Apostolic Faith.”27 If the state could coopt men’s bodies for the Great War, then the church could coopt them for the war against sin. As American society became more sexually open, pentecostal lead- ers were determined to show the possibility that one could maintain a holy standard of living, but questions arose as to exactly how physical purity was to be maintained. A debate among ministerial leaders developed over the con- cepts of the social purity doctrine. A doctrine that had its roots in the moral reforms of late 1800s England, in Progressive Era America it would be more commonly known as the social hygiene movement. Advocates of this move- ment often focused on prostitution reform, and, with a growing recognition that women were sexual creatures, they placed greater emphasis on the sex- ual purity of both sexes, with some advocating such morality classes in the schools.28

Pentecostals were concerned less with clearing up moral vice and more with preventing it at all by defining appropriate sexual relations, assumed to be only between a husband and a wife. It was important to the ministers that their mar- riages and relationships reflect appropriate sexual behavior, and their biogra- phies and writing often reflected such testimonies, as they clearly rejected pre- marital sex, homosexual acts, and the social purity doctrine. Here, the writings of Andrew D. Urshan, the Persian evangelist who was influential in the forma- tion of several early pentecostal groups, are revealing. Urshan, who described in his 1918 biography being “shocked and astonished” when he discovered that a coworker at a boarding house had “in him the sin of Sodom,” obviously did not approve of homosexuality, but he described this coworker as a “demon- possessed man” who threatened to kill Urshan, a recent immigrant, and who




George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940(New York: Basic Books, 1994), 47–98.

Leslie Dawn Callahan,Fleshly Manifestations: Charles Fox Parham’s Quest for the Sanctified Body: A Dissertation Presented to the Princeton Department of Religion(Princeton, New Jer- sey, 2002), 143.

John C. Burnham, “The Progressive Era Revolution in American Attitudes toward Sex,” Journal of American History59, no. 4 (1973): 885–908.

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made him do more drudge work.29 The extent of this coworker’s unwanted advances are unclear; at the very least, they took the form of what today we would call workplace sexual harassment, but in this recollection, Urshan seems first surprised that his coworker desired him and also sure that it was poten- tially a temporary condition, brought on by demons. Urshan also opposed the social purity doctrine. Writing for his newsletter The Witness of God in 1924, Urshan delivered a nearly eight-page argument against this trend. On the first page, he testifies to having enjoyed “a clean and undefiled moral life for 33 years before he consented to a marriage life,” thus establishing for his readers that men could remain pure before marriage. He spends much of the rest of the article discussing the various failings of social purity doctrine, claiming that to instruct husbands and wives to practice celibacy would lead husbands to adul- tery. Although it is clear that Urshan believes it is mostly women who are the practitioners of social purity, he does acknowledge having received letters from a woman whose husband had decided to become at least a spiritual eunuch.30

While Pentecostals such as Urshan still portrayed men as having a stronger sexual drive, they expressed a beginning sense of recognition that women, too, desired sex. Olive Haney, wife of the pastor and founder of what would even- tually become Christian Life College in Stockton, California, a key ministerial training institute for the non-Trinitarian Pentecostals, reports that when they first married, she was an adherent of the social purity doctrine until her hus- band Clyde “kidnapped” her from the Bible school she was attending. She later wrote that as a young woman she had thought celibacy was a great sacrifice and that she had failed to understand “the complex sexual nature of God’s cre- ation.”31For one to believe that celibacy was a sacrifice, one had to believe that women found value in sex. In her biography, the conflict over the social purity doctrine is for them as a couple rather than for her husband alone. In this con- text, Parham’s alleged moral failings mattered. As society was becoming more sexually open, ministers felt the need to establish strong sexual boundaries for the movement. A desire for sex was normal, not shameful; after all, they had to acknowledge that humans were sexual beings, but sex should be only between a husband and a wife. In this context, Parham’s alleged acts of sodomy were problematic not just because the behavior challenged some perceived natural




Andrew Urshan, Story of Andrew Bar-David Urshan (U.S.A.: Apostolic Book Publishers, 1918), 26–27.

Andrew David Urshan, “The Bible Truth versus Social Purity Doctrine,” in The Witness of God (Chicago,IL, September 1924).

Olive F. Haney, The Man of the Hills Served in the Valley: The Biography of Clyde J. Haney (Stockton,CA, 1985) 102–108.

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order in which Pentecostals may have believed, but also because these acts, assumed to be temporary failings, were sexual acts that indicated a lack of self- control and failure to maintain healthy sexual relationships with one’s spouse.

4 Parham in the Cold War Narratives

The discourse on both Parham and sexuality shifted in the post-World War II era. In the 1940s, psychoanalyst Sandor Rado began to argue that the cause of homosexuality was environmental, and that the choice to be homosexual came about due to fears of aspects of a heterosexual life. In the 1950s, Irving Bieber, influenced by Rado, began to argue that problematic parent-child rela- tionships were responsible for homosexual tendencies in young men.32During the Second World War, the military had attempted to retain men by developing rapidly changing definitions of homosexuality, which implied that some men might be latent homosexuals who only acted upon it during their time in the service, but who elsewise were straight. Gradually, however, some but not all men who engaged in homosexual acts were classified as truly homosexual, and it was assumed that this was a permanent trait. Those men, at least early in the war, were often dismissed from service, while other men with similar sexual choices were not deemed truly homosexual and were retained.33 In this case, the state, again moved by a desire to retain draftees for the war effort, was will- ing to accept rapidly changing ways of framing men’s sexuality.

Control of men’s sexuality continued after the war.When the Kinsey Reports were released after the war, the American public, stunned to find homosexual thoughts and acts more common than it realized, began to worry about homo- sexual behavior as a threat to the nation; a high number of them wrote letters to the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy to complain not about communists, but about homosexuals.34The governmentlabeled homosexualsa security risk. American society could be saved from this threat with strong families. Elaine Tyler May describes sexual containment ideologies that developed. Couples were expected to find sexual fulfillment in marriage. Discontented, unsatisfied mothers, it was believed, would produce gay sons who might become commu-




Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer- sity Press, 1987), 28–31.

Allan Berube, Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World WarII (ebrary (ProQuest), [1991] 2010).

Neil Miller, Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (New York: Alyson Books, 2006), 230–241.

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nists.35Church leaders held similar views on the role of the family in American society. Oscar Vouga wrote for the Pentecostal Herald in 1949 that “God’s plan for normal human life is based upon the home as the foundation of society and that everything which pertains to this life should center about the home.”36 If home was the foundation of society, then of course the men and women who comprised that home had to find sexual fulfillment within marriage. To find sexual fulfillment elsewhere would destroy the home, the foundation of soci- ety.

To deal with the Cold War challenges, homosexuals began to form organiza- tions of support. Probably the best known of these was the Mattachine Society, which came out of Los Angeles and gained popularity when members fought entrapment charges and lost popularity when its leaders were labeled com- munists.37 By the 1960s, gay rights protests became more visible. Although the Stonewall uprising of 1969 is probably the most memorable, protests against the police had been numerous before that. In 1959, gay patrons at a donut shop in Los Angeles had thrown donuts and more at police during an attempted raid.38 Churches in America did not always support the state’s view of the necessity of traditional families and sometimes made alliances with homosex- ual groups. In 1964 religious leaders in San Francisco started the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in hopes that the religious community would influence law enforcement to be more tolerant, and four years later, in 1968, former Church of God of Prophecy pastor Troy Perry founded the Metropoli- tan Community Church to serve gay parishioners in the Los Angeles area.39 As Americans were coming to see homosexual behavior as a permanent and threatening condition, homosexuals were beginning to form visible support organizations, some with religious overtones. If they could not harness the power of the state in support of their cause, it might be possible to harness the power of the church.

For pentecostal authors, then, Parham’s alleged acts became more problem- atic. In his lifetime, it had been possible to believe that the scandal was either an invented one or the result of a temporary behavior, and thus the power to




38 39

Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

Oscar Vouga, “The Way to Health and Happiness: Love and Marriage,”Pentecostal Herald (St. Louis,MO, April 1949), 5.

Lillian Faderman, and Stuart Timmons, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Poli- tics, and Lipstick Lesbians(New York: Basic Books, 2006), 112–113.

Faderman and Timmons,Gay L.A., 1–2.

Faderman and Timmons,Gay L.A., 162–165.

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preserve the church’s reputation on moral matters continued, as one could eas- ily argue either that he had never committed such acts, or that he had, but he had quickly come to repentance and gone on to live a pure life. However, in Cold War America, if one believed the latest research, it was increasingly hard to believe homosexual tendencies were only temporary. This left individ- ual authors to determine how to handle Parham’s arrest. In addition, there were now churches, some of them even pentecostal, who were becoming more tol- erant of a wider variety of sexual choices. From the 1950s through the 1980s, pentecostal denominations published short histories and biographies meant to glorify both God and the movement. These were often published at the behest of church leadership and usually through church presses such as the Gospel Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Assemblies of God (AG), or Word Aflame Press, the publishing house of the United Pentecostal Church Interna- tional (UPCI). Parham’s arrest posed a problem for church historians who could no longer responsibly dismiss the accusations as a temporary failing and who were caught between two broader possible views of the laity. Some would have feared the potential of homosexuals to wreak havoc on society, and others may have been more sympathetic to the cause.

Faced with this conundrum, authors in this era often failed to mention Parham’s arrest at all, usually under the guise of saving the reputation of one who might have repented. Ethel Goss’s aforementioned 1958 biography of her husband, Howard, avoids naming Parham or his “sin” directly, thereby allow- ing Parham’s reputation to escape blemish, although Goss clearly believed, as a man of an earlier time, that it was a temporary behavior.40Carl Brumback’s 1961 work Suddenly … From Heaven was printed by Gospel Publishing House and had a foreword byAGleader J. Roswell Flower. The author challenges Parham’s significance but concludes that although many mentioned in the book had significant moral failures, he had decided not to delve into them because we lackedboththecompletestoryandinfalliblejudgment.Heremindedhisreader that “while the prurient curiosity of some will not be satisfied, it would be a mis- take for anyone to think that the entire lives of all who appeared in this book are fully endorsed by the Assemblies of God.”41A decade later, theAGcommis- sioned William Menzies to do a study of the pioneers of the movement. While MenziesseesParhamasmoreof akeyleaderthanBrumbackdoes,bothauthors organized their work to cover pentecostal history one geographical area after another. In this way, Parham’s disappearance from the story is hardly noticeable

40 41

Goss and Goss,The Winds of God.

Carl Brumback, Suddenly … From Heaven: A History of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), 30–60, 113–114.

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and no further discussion necessary.42In 1985, EdithWaldvogelBlumhofer pub- lished a popular history of theAGauthorized by their Board of Publication. In it she argues vaguely that “Parham’s leadership was rejected by his most capable associates because of persistentchargesof sexualwrongdoing.Doctrinal issues had also been raised.” She fails to specify any details of those charges, and then quickly abandons Parham and moves to a discussion of the Hot Springs Gen- eral Council that occurred some years after the arrest. No further discussion of the charges is given.43 Cold War pentecostal histories such as these avoided the issue entirely rather than admitting that one of the leading founders had possibly committed acts of sodomy. Unlike the early attempts to tell Parham’s story, which focused on the possibility of maintaining a pure life, these authors erased the conflict altogether rather than including in the church narrative a man who might have been classified by the modern reader as homosexual and therefore a threat to a stable society.

5 After the Cold War

In the later years of the Cold War, fear of communists and of homosexuals dwindled. Also, Pentecostals (and those raised in the church who might main- tain cultural pentecostal roots) had moved into the middle class, often embrac- ing higher education as they went. James Goff’s 1988 biography of Parham demonstrates a shift in the discussion of the sodomy charges. Goff was not the first to discuss Parham’s sodomy charges from an academic perspective. Robert Mapes Anderson’s 1979 work, originally published through Oxford University Press, acknowledges that Parham faced charges relating to an “awful sin,” but he saves discussion of the charges for his footnotes.44 Goff, who has a pente- costal background, conducted extensive research on the charges and related rumors. In the manner of an academic historian, Goff is concerned less about whether or not the charges were true, and more about the way in which the charges were discussed and the impact they had on the man and the move- ment. For Goff, this is the story of an arrest never brought to trial that was later unreliably retold in religious papers of the day. Goff spends a fair amount of




William M. Menzies, Anointed to Serve:The Story of the Assemblies of God(Springfield,MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1971).

Edith Waldvogel Blumhofer, The Assemblies of God: A Popular History (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1985), 8, 34.

Robert M. Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (Peabody,MA: Hendrickson, [1979] 1992), 140, 272–273.

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time discussing the way such papers, particularly Wilbur Voliva’s Zion Herald, treated the incident, although he makes a convincing argument that such a scheme was probably not entirely of Voliva’s making; rather, Voliva, the succes- sor to John Alexander Dowie in Zion City, seems to have taken advantage of the opportunity the event afforded him to bolster his position in the religious utopia. Goff also claims that some members of Parham’s family had made the unlikely claim that W.F. Carothers created the scandal, charges Goff finds unre- alistic, since by the time of the arrest, Carothers and Parham had already parted ways.45Goff’s significant contribution here is that he makes a strong argument that while the truth of these charges cannot be known, the arrest was probably not the result of a religious conspiracy designed by other pentecostal leaders.

Goff’s work came as the gay rights movement shifted from localized protests to more national ones. One of the issues at hand was the slow but eventually successful process of removing homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statisti- cal Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This American Psychiatric Association (APA) publication serves to define mental health disorders for professionals. In early versions of the DSM, homosexuality was listed as a sociopathic personal- ity disturbance. By 1968, that had become somewhat controversial, and theAPA reclassified homosexuality as a form of sexual deviance. By 1970, the gay rights movement had begun to focus on the problems of the DSM, protested at the APA’s annual meeting held in San Francisco that year, and for the next three years maintained an organized protest against the classification of homosex- uality as a disorder. Although the APA decided to declassify homosexuality in 1974,newdiagnosticcategorieswerecreated;firstforSexualOrientationDistur- bance and then in 1980 for ego-dystonic homosexuality. Both diagnoses were essentially for homosexuals who wanted to experience heterosexual lives. That diagnostic category was also controversial and was removed in 1986.46

While much of the American public would have been unaware of power struggles in professional academies, they would have known about both an increasingly visible presence of gays in politics and the AIDS crisis. The first openly gay candidate to win public office, Kathy Kozschenko, did so in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1974, the same year that the APA declassified homosexu- ality. In 1977, Harvey Milk of San Francisco launched an ultimately successful campaign for the seat of city supervisor. These elections came as the laws gov- erning homosexual behavior and rights shifted. While some states decriminal- ized homosexual acts, in many cases they failed to protect rights. Gay activists

45 46

Goff, Fields White unto Harvest, 136–143, 222–227.

Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, 39–40, 101–154, 208–218.

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faced fierce opposition from groups who believed that gay rights had to be restricted to protect children and families.47 In the 1980s, as medical profes- sionals scrambled to handle the new medical challenges of what was first called Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), activists in the gay community moved to advocate public policies that protected their rights and funded research on the disease that eventually came to be called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syn- drome (AIDS). As they did so, they faced a fearful public. Evangelical leaders, including Pentecostals, identified AIDS as a consequence of the moral failures of the sexual revolution, and once again the gay body was identified as a dis- eased one.48In October 1987, the firstAIDSmemorial quilt was displayed on the National Mall. Year after year, Americans watched as more panels commemo- rating the lives lost to AIDS were added. Within a decade the quilt covered the Mall, a visible sign of the toll of AIDS.

Whether or not they cared about APA classifications or medical studies, as the AIDS quilt stretched further and further, Pentecostals could not have escaped the growing visibility of gay rights movements. The authors of church publications meant for more popular audiences continually struggled to find a balance in their presentations of the Parham scandal, often acknowledging the arrest and sometimes what it was for, but usually failing to fully analyze the impact. Goff’s work had little influence at this early stage. In 1992 James Tyson, a pastor from a family associated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, published through Word Aflame Press a work on the foundations of early Pen- tecostals and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a predominately black Apostolic group. Although he includes photos of the San Antonio Light stories on Parham’s arrest, and proclaims the need to have an honest history, there is no discussion of events, and Parham’s downfall is blamed on his racial views. Most of the chapter on Parham consists of material reprinted from historical collections, and overall the author avoids giving substantial analysis.49In 1996, J.L. Hall, editor-in-chief of thePentecostal Herald, aUPCIorgan, ran a multiple- part series on Oneness pentecostal history, but mentioned only that Parham was arrested and that it cost him his followers. Hall failed to elaborate on the arrest.50Not all ministers shared Hall’s hesitation. In a 2001 article, TexasUPCI


48 49


Robert O. Self, All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012), 240–247.

Self, Allin the Family, 383–386.

James L. Tyson,The Early Pentecostal Revival: History of the Twentieth-Century Pentecostals and The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, 1901–1930 (Hazelwood, MO: World Aflame Press, 1992), 13, 41, 72–73.

J.L. Hall, “Contending for the Faith: Part 2,”Pentecostal Herald, December 1996.

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Minister L. Ken Gurley acknowledged that Parham’s arrest was for sodomy, although Parham had claimed it was all a slander. Gurley lists this among other explanations for the decline of Parham’s influence.51Gary B. McGee composed yet another authorized history of the AG, People of the Spirit, in 2004. He dates Parham’s decline in importance from the sodomy charges of 1907, but informs the reader that, “the details are sketchy and the debate continues over what really happened,” and that Parham himself had claimed his religious rivals had concocted the charges.52 Most of these authors lack the Victorian modesty displayed in the writings of Howard Goss and Sarah Parham; they are more willing to admit to the nature of the arrest. However, they generally avoid using Parham’s failure to discuss their views on homosexuality, and one reading these works would hardly be able to surmise whether they, like Goss, perceived this as a temporary failing or, like Brumback, might feel it necessary to define them- selves as opposed to the “sinful” and thus threatening lives of their subject. While they may mention the cause of the arrest, as in the case of Gurley and McGee, they still take care to point out that it might all be a malicious false charge brought on by rivals, an argument that James Goff had successfully chal- lenged in 1988.

In this way, they maintained control over the popular narrative of the church. While Goss and Sarah Parham had, in their own ways, upheld the idea that a pure life was possible, and authors in the Cold War had purified the church narrative with the erasure of the conflict, authors in the post-Cold War era seemed to feel that they had both to acknowledge the scandal and to dismiss its importance. Unfettered by McCarthy-era fears of homosexuals as communists or fellow travelers, the authors in this era did not fear the scandal itself, but did express a reluctance to see the charges as based on real evidence and therefore associate the church with someone who knowingly committed homosexual acts. In some ways this version of events is closest to the version that the Parhams promoted, particularly as expressed through Sarah’s biogra- phy. By using his own arguments, these authors have allowed Parham more agency over his own narrative here than he had at any time since his death. Of course, historians such as Goff must balance the need to give Parham a voice in his own story with the reminder that he used his version of family life as a performance of the possibilities of conversion, a performance that excluded scenes like the Texas charges.



L. Ken Gurley, “Who Is the Father of the Pentecostal Movement,”Texas District United Pen- tecostal Church Apostolic Sentinel, January 2001, 14–17.

Gary B. McGee, People of the Spirit: The Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO: Gospel Pub- lishing House, 2004), 65–66.

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Despite the failure of more popular religious writers to take into account the more scholarly output, Goff’s work eventually had influence. Robin Johnston’s 2010 book, Howard Goss: A Pentecostal Life, which began as part of his disser- tation at Regent University, largely reflects Goff’s discussion of these events, and indeed cites from it. Johnston, who works as an editor for the UPCI, as an adjunct professor for the organization’s theological graduate school, and as a curator for the Center for the Study of Oneness Pentecostalism, is very much a scholar for the church, but in this work, an academic methodology is clear. He avoids making any claims as to the truth of the charges and does not claim that we can definitively know the content of the rumors, which predated Parham’s being disfellowshipped. Instead he looks at the ways in which the matter lim- ited Parham’s already waning influence and uses the incident to demonstrate the ways in which Pentecostals often reigned in their leaders. Johnston avoids blaming Voliva for the incident or even allowing Parham to do so. While John- ston’s discussion of the scandal is not as in-depth as Goff’s, this is understand- able since his topic is Goss rather than Parham.53 Johnston’s methodology is more scholarly than earlier pentecostal press works, and the arguments of his work are driven by archival sources. Rather than trying to prove or disprove charges for which we lack solid documentation, Johnston uses the story to dis- cuss trends among Pentecostals. Johnston’s work seems to be part of a trend toward an increasingly scholarly approach to pentecostal literature.The editors of Pneuma, the Journal for the Society of Pentecostal Theology, a group largely comprised of those with pentecostal affiliations, recently acknowledged this shift and called for an expansion into further theological discussions and into “theoretical discourses in the social sciences, physical sciences, and compara- tive religion.”54

6 Conclusion: Shifting Attitudes?

An embrace of a more scholarly methodology is not the only shift that will impact the way in which Pentecostals tell the story of Parham’s arrest. While many Pentecostals maintain views on homosexuality similar to those devel- oped during the Cold War, they are not a homogenous group. In the current culture wars, even Apostolics, often some of the more conservative among pen-



Robin Johnston, Howard A. Goss: A Pentecostal Life (Hazelwood, MO: World Aflame Press Academic, 2010), 62–73.

Peter Althouse and Robby Waddell, “The Expansion of Pentecostal Scholarship,”Pneuma: The Journal for the Society for Pentecostal Theology38, no. 3 (2016): 245–248.

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tecostal groups, have ended up on different sides of the gay marriage debate. In 2015, Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or allow her deputies to issue them with a form issued under her authority, bearing her name. Davis claimed that due to her religious beliefs she could not issue or allow to be issued licenses to gay cou- ples and requested that her name be removed from the documents. During the legal proceedings that followed, Davis did a brief stint in jail, and her Apostolic or non-Trinitarian pentecostal views were examined in the press and discussed nationally.55 However, in California, Tim Grayson, former mayor of Concord, CA, and a licensed minister in one of the more conservative districts of the UPCI, ran for and successfully captured a seat in California’s 14th Assembly dis- trict, campaigning with a website that not only identified him as somewhat pro-choice but also, in a section of the site titled “Women’s Rights,LGBTCom- munity and Individual Rights,” stated his belief that “EVERY PERSONhas a right to make choices about their faith, personal health decisions, and who they choose to marry.”56 Grayson’s willingness to take this public stance here may be indicative of shifting pentecostal attitudes toward homosexuality or at least toward gay marriage. On the other hand, it may also parallel the shift toward a more secular approach in pentecostal scholarship, here manifested as a will- ingness to separate personal piety from politics. If those attitudes are shifting, it is possible that more popular versions of the Parham story will come to mirror the more academic ones. The discussion of Parham may become less centered on the truth or fiction of the charges, and more on the impact of those charges on the church at large and on the subject himself. Regardless, the historiogra- phy here stands to remind us that those who create and publish the narratives of the pentecostal movement have long held power over the reputations of the church and its leaders and will continue to do so.



Cristian Farias, “This May Be the LastWe See of Kim Davis’ LegalTroubles,”HuffingtonPost, 2016,‑davis‑contempt‑appeal_us_577d15e5e4 b04164641149ba.

Tim Grayson for Assembly, “Women’s Rights, LGBT Community, and Individual Rights,” 2016,‑rights‑and‑lgbt‑equality/. The web- site is no longer available.

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