Pentecostalism: Advanced Information

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Pentecostalism is an evangelical charismatic reformation movement which usually traces its roots to an outbreak of tongue – speaking in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901 under the leadership of Charles Fox Parham, a former Methodist preacher. It was Parham who formulated the basic Pentecostal doctrine of “initial evidence” after a student in his Bethel Bible School, Agnes Ozman, experienced glossolalia in January, 1901.

Basically Pentecostals believe that the experience of the 120 on the day of Pentecost, known as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” should be normative for all Christians. Most Pentecostals believe, furthermore, that the first sign of “initial evidence” of this second baptism is speaking in a language unknown to the speaker.

Although speaking in tongues had appeared in the nineteenth century in both England and America, it had never assumed the importance attributed to it by the later Pentecostals. For instance, glossolalia occurred in the 1830s under the ministry of Presbyterian Edward Irving in London, in the services of Mother Ann Lee’s Shaker movement, and among Joseph Smith’s Mormon followers in New York, Missouri, and Utah. The Pentecostals, however, were the first to give doctrinal primacy to the practice.

Though Pentecostals recognize such sporadic instances of tongue – speaking and other charismatic phenomena throughout the Christian era, they stress the special importance of the Azusa Street revival, which occurred in an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal church in downtown Los Angeles from 1906 to 1909 and which launched Pentecostalism as a worldwide movement. The Azusa Street services were led by William J Seymour, a black Holiness preacher from Houston, Texas, and a student of Parham.

The Topeka and Los Angeles events took place in a turn – of – the – century religious environment that encouraged the appearance of such a Pentecostal movement. The major milieu out of which Pentecostalism sprang was the worldwide Holiness movement, which had developed out of nineteenth century American Methodism. Leaders in this movement were Phoebe Palmer and John Inskip, who emphasized a “second blessing” crisis of sanctification through the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” English evangelicals also stressed a separate Holy Spirit experience in the Keswick Conventions beginning in 1874.

From America and England “higher life” Holiness movements spread to many nations of the world, usually under the auspices of Methodist missionaries and traveling evangelists. Although these revivalist did not stress charismatic phenomena, they emphasized a conscious experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit and an expectancy of a restoration of the NT church as a sign of the end of the church age. Other teachings that became prominent in this period were the possibility of miraculous divine healing in answer to prayer and the expectation of the imminent premillennial second coming of Christ. A great interest in the person and work of the Holy Spirit elicited the publication of many books and periodicals devoted to teaching seekers how to receive an “enduement of power” through an experience in the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion.

In the quest to be filled with the Holy Spirit, many testimonies were given concerning emotional experiences which accompanied the “second blessing,” as it was called. In the tradition of the American frontier some received the experience with eruptions of joy or shouting, while others wept or spoke of surpassing peace and quietness.

By 1895 a further movement was begun in Iowa which stressed a third blessing called “the fire,” which followed the conversion and sanctification experiences already taught by the Holiness movement. The leader of this movement was Benjamin Hardin Irwin from Lincoln, Nebraska, who named his new group the Fire – Baptized Holiness Church. Other “fire – baptized” groups formed during this period included the Pillar of Fire Church of Denver, Colorado, and the Burning Bush of Minneapolis, Minn.

Not only did such Holiness teachers emphasize conscious religious experiences; they tended to encourage persons to seek for them as “crisis” experiences that could be received in an instant of time through prayer and faith. By 1900 the Holiness movement had begun to think of religious experiences more in terms of crises than in gradual categories. Thus the Fire – Baptized Holiness Church taught instant conversion through the new birth, instant sanctification as a second blessing, instant baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, instant divine healing through prayer, and the instant premillennial second coming of Christ.

Those teachers of the Keswick persuasion tended to speak of the four cardinal doctrines of the movement. This way of thinking was formalized in A B Simpson’s four basic doctrines of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which stressed instant salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit, divine healing, and the second coming of Christ.

Thus, when tongue – speaking occurred in Topeka in 1901, the only significant addition to the foregoing was to insist that tongue – speaking was the biblical evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit baptism. All the other teachings and practices of Pentecostalism were adopted whole cloth from the Holiness milieu in which it was born, including its style of worship, its hymnody, and its basic theology.

After 1906 Pentecostalism spread rapidly in the United States and around the world. Despite its origins in the Holiness movement, the majority of Holiness leaders rejected Pentecostalism, and there were occasional charges of demon possession and mental instability. Leaders of the older Holiness denominations rejected Pentecostal teachings outright. These included the Church of the Nazarene, the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), and the Salvation Army.

Other Holiness groups, however, were Pentecostalized rapidly as leaders went to Azusa Street to investigate the phenomena in evidence there. Among the Azusa Street “pilgrims” were G B Cashwell (North Carolina), C H Mason (Tennessee), Glen Cook (California), A G Argue (Canada), and W H Durham (Chicago). Within a year from the opening of the Azusa Street meeting (April, 1906), these and many others spread the Pentecostal message around the nation. Sharp controversies and divisions ensured in several Holiness denominations. The first Pentecostal denominations emerged from these struggles from 1906 to 1908.

This first wave of Holiness – Pentecostal groups included the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the Apostolic Faith (Portland, Oregon), the United Holy Church. Most of Pentecostal Free – Will Baptist Church. Most of these churches were located in the southern states and experienced rapid growth after their Pentecostal renewal began. Two of these, the Church of God in Christ and the United Holy Church, were predominantly black.

Pentecostalism also spread rapidly around the world after 1906. The leading European pioneer was Thomas Ball Barratt, a Norwegian Methodist pastor who founded flourishing Pentecostal movements in Norway, Sweden, and England. The German pioneer was the Holiness leader Jonathan Paul. Lewi Pethrus, a convert of Barratt’s, began a significant Pentecostal movement in Sweden which originated among Baptists. A strong Pentecostal movement reached Italy through relatives of American immigrants of Italian extraction.

Pentecostalism was introduced to Russia and other Slavic nations through the efforts of Ivan Voronaev, a Russian – born American immigrant from New York City who established the first Russian – language Pentecostal church in Manhattan in 1919. In 1920 he began a ministry in Odessa, Russia, which was the origin of the movement in the Slavic nations. Voronaev founded over 350 congregations in Russia, Poland, and Bulgaria before being arrested by the Soviet police in 1929. He died in prison.

Pentecostalism reached Chile in 1909 under the leadership of an American Methodist missionary, Willis C Hoover. When the Methodist Church rejected Pentecostal manifestations, a schism occurred which resulted in the organization of the Methodist Pentecostal Church. Extremely rapid growth after 1909 made Pentecostalism the predominant form of Protestantism in Chile.

The Pentecostal movement in Brazil began in 1910 under the leadership of two American Swedish immigrant, Daniel Berg and Gunnar Vingren, who began Pentecostal services in a Baptist church in Belem, Para. A schism soon followed, resulting in the first Pentecostal congregation in the nation which took the name Assemblies of God. Phenomenal growth also caused Pentecostalism to be the major Protestant force in Brazil.

Successful Pentecostal missions were also begun by 1910 in China, Africa, and many other nations of the world. The missionary enterprise accelerated rapidly after the formation of major missions – oriented Pentecostal denominations in the United States after 1910.

It was inevitable that such a vigorous movement would suffer controversy and division in its formative stages. Though the movement has been noted for its many submovements, only two divisions have been considered major. These involved teachings concerning sanctification and the Trinity.

The sanctification controversy grew out of the Holiness theology held by most of the first Pentecostals, including Parham and Seymour. Having taught that sanctification was a “second work of grace” prior to their Pentecostal experiences, they simply added the baptism of the Holy Spirit with glossolalia as a “third blessing.” In 1910 William H Durham of Chicago began teaching his “finished work” theory, which emphasized sanctification as a progressive work following conversion with baptism in the Holy Spirit following as the second blessing.

The Assemblies of God, which was formed in 1914, based its theology on Durham’s teachings and soon became the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. Most of the Pentecostal groups that began after 1914 were based on the model of the Assemblies of God. They include the Pentecostal Church of God, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (founded in 1927 by Aimee Semple McPherson), and the Open Bible Standard Church.

A more serious schism grew out of the “oneness” or “Jesus only” controversy, which began in 1911 in Los Angeles. Led by Glen Cook and Frank Ewart, this movement rejected the teaching of the Trinity and taught that Jesus Christ was at the same time Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that the only biblical mode of water baptism was administered in Jesus’ name and then was valid only if accompanied with glossolalia. This movement spread rapidly in the infant Assemblies of God after 1914 and resulted in a schism in 1916, which later produced the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the United Pentecostal Church.

Through the years other schisms occurred over lesser doctrinal disputes and personality clashes, producing such movements as the Church of God of Prophecy and the Congregational Holiness Church. The large number of Pentecostal sects in America and the world, however, did not result from controversy or schism. In most cases Pentecostal denominations developed out of separate indigenous churches originating in different areas of the world with little or no contact with other organized bodies.

The greatest growth for Pentecostal churches came after World War II. With more mobility and greater prosperity, Pentecostals began to move into the middle class and to lose their image of being disinherited members of the lower classes. The emergence of healing evangelists such as Oral Roberts and Jack Coe in the 1950s brought greater interest and acceptance to the movement. The TV ministry of Roberts also brought Pentecostalism into the homes of the average American. The founding of the Full Gospel Business Men in 1948 brought the Pentecostal message to a whole new class of middleclass professional and business men, helping further to change the image of the movement.

In the post – World War II period the Pentecostals also began to emerge from their isolation, not only from each other but from other Christian groups as well. In 1943 the Assemblies of God, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church became charter members of the National Association of Evangelicals, thus clearly disassociating themselves from the organized fundamentalist groups which had disfellowshiped the Pentecostals in 1928. They thus became part of the moderate evangelical camp that grew to prominence by the 1970s.

Intrapentecostal ecumenism began to flourish also during the late 1940s both in the United States and elsewhere. In 1947 the first World Pentecostal Conference met in Zurich, Switzerland, and has since met triennially. The next year the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was formed in Des Moines, Iowa, and has met annually since then.

Pentecostalism entered a new phase in 1960 with the appearance of “neo – Pentecostalism” in the traditional churches in the United States. The first well – known person to openly experience glossolalia and remain within his church was Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest in Van Nuys, California. Although forced to leave his parish in Van Nuys because of controversy over his experience, Bennett was invited to pastor an innercity Episcopal parish in Seattle, Wash. The church in Seattle experienced rapid growth after the introduction of Pentecostal worship, becoming a center of neo – Pentecostalism in the northwestern United States.

This new wave of Pentecostalism soon spread to other denominations in the United States and also to many other nations. Other well – known neo – Pentecostal leaders were Brick Bradford and James Brown (Presbyterian); John Osteen and Howard Irvin (Baptist); Gerald Derstine and Bishop Nelson Litwiler (Mennonite); Larry Christenson (Lutheran); and Ross Whetstone (United Methodist).

In 1966 Pentecostalism entered the Roman Catholic Church as the result of a weekend retreat at Duquesne University led by theology professors Ralph Keiffer and Bill Story. As glossolalia and other charismatic gifts were experienced, other Catholic prayer groups were formed at Notre Dame University and the University of Michigan. By 1973 the movement had spread so rapidly that thirty thousand Catholic Pentecostals gathered at Notre Dame for a national conference. The movement had spread to Catholic churches in over a hundred nations by 1980. Other prominent Catholic Pentecostal leaders were Kevin Ranaghan, Steve Clark, and Ralph Martin. The most prominent leader among Catholics, however, was Joseph Leon Cardinal Suenens, who was named by popes Paul VI and John Paul II as episcopal adviser to the renewal.

In order to distinguish these newer Pentecostals from the older Pentecostal denominations, the word “charismatic” began to be used widely around 1973 to designate the movement in the mainline churches. The older Pentecostals were called “classical Pentecostals.” By 1980 the term “neo – Pentecostal” had been universally abandoned in favor of “charismatic renewal.”

Unlike the rejection of the earlier Pentecostals, the charismatic renewal was generally allowed to remain within the mainline churches. Favorable study reports by the Episcopalians (1963), Roman Catholics (1969, 1974), and the Presbyterians (1970), while pointing out possible excesses, generally were tolerant and open to the existence of a Pentecostal spirituality as a renewal movement within the traditional churches.

By 1980 the classical Pentecostals had grown to be the largest family of Protestants in the world, according to The World Christian Encyclopedia. The 51 million figure attributed to the traditional Pentecostals did not include the 11 million charismatic Pentecostals in the traditional mainline churches. Thus, seventy – five years after the opening of the Azusa Street meeting there were 62 million Pentecostals in over a hundred nations of the world.

V Synan
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

M Poloma, The Charismatic Movement; K McDonnell, ed., Presence, Power, Praise; J R Williams, The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today; K / D Ranaghan, Catholic Pentecostals; V Synan, ed., Aspects of Pentecostal – Charismatic Origins; J T Nichol, Pentecostalism; M P Hamilton, ed., The Charismatic Movement; S D Glazier, Perspective on Pentecostalism.


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