The New WORLD Order Of The Latter Rain

The New WORLD Order Of The Latter Rain

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THE NEW ORDER OF THE LATTER by L. Thomas Holdcroft RAIN century Pentecostal revival The movement that was known as the New Order of the Latter Rain is one of the few elements of the twentieth for which Canada, for better or worse, must accept primary responsi- bility. Not only did the movement Canada specifically. Therefore, and effects is particularly begin in Canada, but in Western backgrounds of the move- a consideration and review of its nature relevant on this occasion of the convening of the Pentecostal World Conference on Canada’s west coast. In this paper we will first review some of the historical ment, and then we will make an attempt to understand it and evaluate its influence upon the thinking and practices In the matter of terminology, from within the movement’s of Pentecostal Christians. the expressions “New Order,” and “Latter Rain,” as well as “New Order of the Latter Rain” were variously applied by the movement to itself in its formative years. Today’s writers ranks now use terms such as “the move,” or “the Move of the Spirit,” or “the move of 1948.” In this paper we will use the older terms. L. Thomas Holdcroft, D.D., is President of Western Canadian Bible College, Clayburn, British Columbia. 46 1 THE ORIGIN OF THE LATTER RAIN MOVEMENT schism emerged as the out- of Bethel Saskatchewan The New Order of the Latter Rain was an organizational before it was a spiritual cause. Its key personnel come of a succession of disputes involving faculty personnel Bible Institute of Saskatoon, Canada, and the sponsoring District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (The P.A.O.C). At the there were charges and countercharges and faculty. But as the months personnel were reconciled and the conflict came to be between outset, between administration Institute the Institute and the District. the necessary national administrators. within the Institute passed, the personel pitted against denomi- Board It could probably be said that the basic issue in much of this early conflict was the unrestrained zeal of Institute conservatism and restraints of responsible A notable event was the launching of construc- tion by the Institute faculty of a six story building on campus to house a high school division, but without approval by either the Institute or the District. Also, at least some outside of the Institute were highly to academic in controversal doctrines. These included a view of that saw demon possession dissatisfied by its casual approach commitment demonology problems within Christian believers, the constituency soundly supported excellence, and by its as the explanation and the encouragement of many of long that the Saskatchewan fasts with forty days as the ultimate ideal. Although much of the conflict on these matters took place in spring of 1947, it was not until its summer conference District of the P.A.O.C. was able to take definitive action. At that time, and vindicated and in effect made final the separation Actually, they had resigned of their own choice earlier in the season, but they apparently hoped that the members of Bethel Bible Institute. Conference might reinstate them. Battleford, northwest Saskatchewan, of Saskatoon. the District officers, of the discontented faculty had moved to North 130 kilometers (80 miles) . By the fall of 1947, the Bethel malcontents a town about In leaving Bethel, they took with them the schools’ essential files and records. The three key men in this move were Hawtin, they joined forces with Rev. Herrick Holt who had Rev. George Hawtin, Rev. Ernest North Battlefield been responsible for the Foursquare laborated and Rev. Percy Hunt. In church there. This quarter col- a in launching an overall operation known as Sharon Children’s s Homes and Schools which included a high school, an orphanage, and a Bible school. technical institute, Although the District continued to operate Bethel Bible Institute with a new administration and teaching staff, the fall of 1947 saw only a – 47- 2 handful of students. faculty to North Battleford. movement began on February began operations. God. In extended students, and what of their former body. after Sharon 11 1 The majority of the returning should have been the incoming class, followed members The nucleus of what was to become the New Order was thus a Bible school student The special spiritual move that became the basis of the New Order 11, 1948, some months This day had been preceeded by considerable emphasis and observance of long fasts as a means of special power with chapel services for four days from February through the 14th, the procedure emerged of calling out members of the audience and imparting a spiritual gift to them by the laying on of hands by a suitable prophecy. The authorization was a series of vocal prophetic accompanied these activities students and their teachers. heartedly featuring the impartation cy took precedence and direction of utterances by both and whole- activities. Other worship and such novelties as the so-called “heavenly were attracted. tion were suspended, conference and camp meeting As the message and practices found other sympathetic costal congregations. in Western Canada, It would appear that the student body enthusiastically entered into these new beliefs and practices. Chapel services of gifts by the laying on of hands with prophe- over all other campus patterns emerged that were somewhat unique in their time, with stress upon the visible manifestation of the charismata, choir.” Before long, large numbers of visitors Ultimately, all efforts to operate an educational institu- and the North Battleford center as it is today. campus became simply a of the New Order were shared, they among existing Pente- churches, primarily followers, particularly For a time, some Pentecostal but in parts of the U.S. as well, became battle- grounds between New Order and Pentecostal denominational factions. A notable church that became Latter Rain was Bethesda Temple of Detroit, Michigan. However, in the U.S., it was not likely the case that churches were lost to their denominationals, some cases churches were noticeably bers to New Order programs. churches to become independent New Order leaders Also, some pastors Missionary but in at least weakened by loss of their mem- resigned from their New Order preachers. suc- Church” that circulated and one in sought for and achieved their greatest cesses in Western Canada. One worker from that era remembers a leaflet entitled: “How to Take a P.A.O.C. among New Order groups. Twelve churches in Saskatchewan British Columbia are known to have left the P.A.O.C., and many others through the loss of a substantial their members. In some cases, churches that espoused New Order views were seriously weakened and practices were independent -48- portion of Pentecostal churches that had been 3 usually quelled all thoughts remain independent to this day. Those who remember very close to affiliation with a denomination. New Order involvement of such affiliation and those churches empha- which became an events of that era place considerable sis upon the influence of the “Feast of Pentecost” annual vent extending over several days at Easter. These days of camp meeting style fervor in Pentecostal Battleford headquarters ment. Traveling evangelistic America, preaching and practice at the North atten- at least as ortho- of followers. In and various novel- basis. . ately or inadvertently touched Meetings under Latter Rain auspices large crowds that were comprised were members of established grounds of sincerely liberately touched large numbers on behalf of the move- teams also attracted considerable tion, often with rather extreme claims and practices, doxy saw things. Their influence was felt in a variety of places in North and here and there they won a company general, during this period, doctrine was syncretistic ties and seeming extremes were heard, at least on a temporary It would appear to affirm that during the 1948-49 era, a sizeable portion of North American Pentecostal Christians were either deliber- by the New Order of the Latter Rain. in major centers typically drew almost entirely of Pentecostals who de- On the ‘ mittee deliberately meeting. Not only the lay membership, national Pentecostalism churches. In some cases, pastors on the seeking whatever God had for their people, turned over their pulpit to Latter Rain preachers. same grounds there were instances in which a denominational com- scheduled a Latter Rain evangelist in their camp but often the clergy of denomi- right to hear assumed it was their inalienable the Latter Rain story firsthand and judge its validity for themselves. autonomy, so characteristic of Pentecostals, This spirit of independent was an important Order of the Latter Rain. factor in assuring a wide-ranging hearing for the New ‘ SIGNIFICANT PRACTICES EARLY-DAY LATTER RAIN BELIEFS AND The aspects founding of New Order believes and practices years drew most debate and attention 1. Their Doctrine of the Charismata that in their included: _ .. – One of the basic ideas behind the gift-giving services was that the charismata reside in human channels (viz. those who comprise the pres- bytery which the New Order defined as two or more elders). Therefore, – 49- 4 was to accom- any conditions of its sought to conform to Biblical the conveying of a spiritual gift involves a physical and outward cere- mony with the laying on of hands. A spoken prophecy pany this event to identify the gift and prescribe New Order workers in their doctrine of gifts, but on occasion they seem to have For instance, one gift that was imparted through the laying on of hands with prophecy was declared to be “the use. In general, principles exceeded Biblical guidelines. gift of division.” first Canadian im- who is believed to be the in the Spirit at Azusa in widely. The booklet, entitled “The Manifestation in the triune humans, but manifested. To refute the claim that New Order workers were personally parting spiritual gifts, Rev. R. E. McAlister, to have received the baptism 1906, wrote a spirited booklet that was circulated of the Spirit” argued that gifts are resident God, and neither received, imparted, nor confirmed in In New Order practice, the gift of prophecy was made to function routinely to identify individuals instruct its subjects by name. It would then proceed regarding personal to and in a detailed manner practical affairs, both in regard to the work of God, and in matters of everyday living. Such prophecies alterable, and above evaluative In some instances, were considered to be certain, un- parties scrutiny.. prophecy was used to pronounce what was said to be the divine choice of marriage partners. into what proved marriage, but they were later divorced and today neither is living for so instructed entered God. In some instances, prophecies stenographically revered messages from God. The response of denominational recorded and later them as unwarranted is to be used with restraint, “Let the prophets In at least one case, the to be an unhappy uttered in New Order meetings were duplicated and circulated as spokesmen, such as Ernest S. Williams, or William T. Taston, to these practices and claims was to see excesses. These writers pointed out that prophecy and that it is to be subject to evaluation: speak two or three, and let the other judge [weigh what is said-Goodspeed]” (1 Corinthians In this earlier era, New Order leaders taught that there is a gift of tongues that by direct and immediate evangelists that time, according cated case of the immediate 14:29). impartation equips the Christian no acceptable authenti- of a language was exhibited. worker to preach to those of another language. Thus God was preparing to fulfill to end time revival. However, in spite of claims at to today’s recollections, impartation One report tells of a young man who was declared to have been given the in street in enthusiastic Chinese language. Thereafter exercised his gift of tongues – 50- meetings in Chinatown, he utterance, but Chinese 5 listeners denied that they understood him. z 3. Their Concept of Religious Authority New Order people certainly thought of themselves as a Bible-based movement. They would have emphatically insisted that they were com- mitted to an infallible Bible, and had the word been known and used popularly in those days, they would surely have voted for total in- errancy. Their writings are studded with proof texts from Bible sources. Nevertheless, in the scale of authority in religious faith and practice, New Order leaders often gave the Bible second place. Even as they used the Bible they made much of the distinction between the letter that kills and the Spirit that gives life. In a choice between the cautious exegesis of the written Scripture, or the excitement and inspiration of an ecstatic prophecy, they would almost surely choose the latter. And when using the Bible, they tended to spiritualize and to ignore contexts. Thus, they found Biblical proof texts for beliefs and practices where such “proofs” were simply not evident to other Chris- tians. . ‘ . In a published article, their writer George Wylie speaks of Events “at the beginning of this move of the Spirit.” He continues “We discarded all our former doctrines, and left ourselves open to be taught by the Holy Spirit, as the streams of revelation flowed from the glory above.” The same writer, in a personal letter, comments: “For many years we printed nothing but the Sharon Star as we felt the revelation was not complete on most issues. But recently we have felt more at liberty to begin to print some books.” Such attitudes clearly favor a mystical subjective inner intuition above the authority of the exegesis of the written Word. ‘ ‘ A widely heard New Order sermon was entitled: “Running Without a Message.” The Biblical basis was the story of the messenger Ahimaaz (2 Samuel 18:19-32) who ran with a report of the battle against Absalom. Unfortunately, upon arrival at David’s court, Ahimaaz could report only: “I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.” In New Order exegesis, this incident was the basis of a scathing attack upon denominational Pentecostal ministers who were compared to Ahimaaz in possessing no meaningful message. Thus, what appeared to be a Bible-based ministry, was actually the presentation of arbitrary personal opinion, with Scripture serving only as a convenient backdrop. ” (New Order preachers are not alone in this procedure.) , . 3. Their Development of Church Polity -51- 6 of men who felt unduly restricted The New Order began as a protest movement by their denomination. apart from spiritual claims, its spokesmen established church and anti-organized militant doctrine was the sovereign auspices. In these outlooks outside of the circle of orthodoxy. by a small company Thus, quite were committed to an anti- church position. They adopted a At one stage, their model and they an- hostilities emerged in relationships vindictive militant denunciations of local church autonomy. local church typical of Scandanavia, nounced that Rev. Lewi Pethrus was coming to Canada under their the New Order was, of course, not really Christendom has agreed to disagree in regard to the Biblical formula for church governance. But conflict and with the New Order because of their of existing denominations policies. Their verbal and even published intendents and other church leaders as “church inevitably offended and hurt. But although denominational own charismatically present day apostles and prophets New Order leaders. and church attacks on respected super- bosses” and “big shots” control by their It was held that spokesmen. precedence control was rejected, chosen leaders was emphasized. were being restored in the person of They came to speak simply of “Ministries” to identify such divinely chosen leaders. These individuals accorded full respect and authority as God’s apostolic instruments That which the ministries over any more democratic decision. Thus, church govern- ance has constituted a major emphasis in the New Order, and to them it is a vital issue and concern. sin, and presumably pronouncing demanding. in Oakland, In California, were to be and or elders ruled was to take of ministries too “It was a case of and the Lord had to remove ‘church bosses’ for ‘church There were reports of New Order leaders receiving confessions absolution. Even the two founding brothers found the vigorous controls of the officiating 1953 Ernest Hawtin left the group to accept a pastorate and in 1960 George Hawtin was officially ex- communicated. A New Order spokesman explained: getting too highly exalted in themselves, them.” An outsider says of New Order church ” policy: “They exchanged It may be noted parenthetically that Rev. Percy Hunt died in 1977 still in good standing in New Order circles. Of the founding quartet, only Rev. Herrick is still active, and dictators.’ although he is based in North Battleford ministry” with no particular authority One of the widely promoted he is described as a “travelling in any one place. was their Global . New Order programs Nlissions plan. This was a strategy for administering missionary pro- missions boards in favor of local church admini- handling of funds by a layman church grams that abolished stration including the no-overhead secretary. A good number of missionary -52- candidates were prophetically 7 designated attempted The Global Missions aries in the traditional not an adequate world. One account reports and at least some facing a complex modern and presumably either . emerged, the Global Missions system. It attempted was already in effect and responsible hundred supporting denominational missionary Missions in the early days of the movement, to serve overseas on these terms. plan as a strategy for sending out mission- manner did not succeed well. The problem was that small local churches with a volunteer secretary handling funds was home base for missionaries a couple sent to the Fiji Islands unex- pectedly facing a lading fee equal to their entire support funds for a year. They were forced to proceed to New Zealand, remained there or returned to Canada. Within the context from which it plan was a competitive to override the P.A.O.C. missionary for supporting missionaries. In cases in which churches that had been plan, the results were distressing THE MOVEMENT ON TODAY’S SCENE and divisive program that approximately one programs embraced the Global and unfortunate. ‘ The New Order of the Latter Rain is no longer an exciting rallying cry among most denominational Pentecostal is the movement dead. In North Battleford acre conference room to feed 1,000, and dormitories approximately Sharon Star still appears radio broadcast months has mentioned (Ontario conferences churches, but by no means it maintains a well kept 70 seating 1,500, a dining several hundred. camp, ‘ The Star over recent – grounds, with an auditorium accommodating Twice a year, at the Feast of Pentecost and at the summer 1,000 people gather for a week or so. Its publication several times a year, and there is a weekly from Price Albert, Saskatchewan. Latter Rain churches in five Canadian provinces and west), and in two states in the U.S. Camp meetings under New Order auspices are reported Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington, are radio broadcasts in the West Indies. plan has now been substantially and there no longer is a program to send resident Indies and in Korea. Also reported Indies and Guyana, and telecasts The original Global Missions modified, aries overseas. Today, Global Missions designated “Ministries” or in: Ontario, North and overseas in the West in the West or elders overseas on preaching trips on a short term basis. Their publication Global Missions “travelling written to explain: ministries,” – 53- mission- concentrates on sending the and teaching lists ten Canada-based and one of these workers has 8 We are not missionaries to any specific part of the world such as Africa or India; we are missionaries to the world. The whole world is our field, wherever there is a need and the Spirit leads. Otherwise, some Global Missions funds are used to support native workers in their own homeland. They list these fields as: Kenya, the West Indies, and Korea. An important change in New Order outlooks that has significantly influenced subsequent development began to occur as long ago as the fall of 1948. At that time citywide rallies were large and growing, and they tell of intentions to build huge arenas to hold the crowds. Their spokesman, George Wylie continues: But it wasn’t long until we found out that this wasn’t what God had in mind at all; that the Body he had spoken to us about, and was going to bring together, was not going to be composed of all believers; but of a certain few chosen ones which he himself would choose…. God brought us to a scripture found in Fer. 3:14, 15. “Return 0 faithless children, (That was us) saith the Lord, for I am your master; and I will take you, one from a city, and two from a family, and will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understandings.” R.S.V…. So after that we did not look for large crowds, but for the ones and the twos that he would bring together. This same claim was expressed otherwise by the declaration that the day of evangelism was now past, and God’s concern was “the sifting of the wheat” to take out those chosen ones who were to comprise the bride of Christ as distinct from rank and rile Christian believers. George Wylie writes: This is hard to explain, but there is a witness in oneness with those who belong to the true Body of Christ, that we do not feel with other Christians. Though all believers are children of God, and we all belong to the same family, there is a closeness and unity and love that exists between the elect of God that we do not feel with other Christians. Defenders of the New Order position have sought to portray their doctrines as a major step in the long term unfolding of Biblical truth. They place themselves on a par with the Reformers, the Puritans, the Wesleyans, and the 19th century evangelical revival. New Order – 54- 9 doctrine, they believe, is the final rung in the ladder whereby God’s people climb upward as they “go on unto perfection.” A. G. Wager writes: Some people are called out of the world but do not believe in any further experience or revelation. Others are called out from those who have embraced salvation to a further experi- ence of sanctification. From the sanctified people are called out a baptized people. From the baptized people are called out a gifted people. From the gifted people are called out a fruitful people. And finally there will be a calling out of those who have reached the maturity of sonship…. From the formal and sectarian ranks and the confusion of Babylon, a church is now coming forth; a church of spiritually endued saints, called out to attain the maturity of sonship … Now a body is being formed by the Spirit of God who will be a firstfruit company, a group of forerunners to live and demonstrate that perfect unity of the Spirit. ‘ : . ‘ . _ The New Order of the Latter Rain has clearly moved all the way from being a militantly proselyting revival mass movement to the present selective and detached, somewhat exclusive elect circle. They project a chosen Body of Christ comprised only of those selected saints who have risen five levels above “mere” salvation. The whole situation has Calvinistic overtones. George Wylie writes: There is really nothing one can do to assure himself a place in the Body…. our choice has nothing to do with it. Paul the apostle is a good example of this. But there is something we can do after we come to realize this calling to make outselves worthy of this calling, as Peter said, “Giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure.” While there was considerable momentum to the New Order move- ment in the fall of 1948, when it departed from aggressive Arminianism, the movement slowed down rather quickly. The biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God, meeting in Seattle in September, 1949, was preceeded by many fearful expressions of a major division in the denomination over the New Order issue. There was a grass-roots move to try to persuade General Superintendent Ernest S. Williams to posepone his announced retirement so that he would be in office to pilot the movement through expected difficult days. As matters turned out, the New Order cause received minimal support, a major resolution – 55- 10 expressing disapproval passed easily, of six major New Order doctrines and Bro. Williams happily handed his office over to the Rev. Wesley Steelberg. site only minutes District of the Assemblies unob- of the Oregon Earl Book writes: “I Today, New Order followers are likely to be comparatively trusive. Although their annual Pacific Regional Conference is held at a away from the Salem headquarters of God, Superintendent know nothing of it … evidently it has created no major problems among us.” The churches listed in New Order publications private residences where occasional Bible study type meetings at the Feast of Pentecost, are likely to be only cottage prayer meetings or home of today’s New Order followers: experiences each spring are held. At least some of their followers seem to manage without the ministry of a family home church. Some- one characterizes a typical experience “They enjoy a few days of intensive Pentecostal and the rest of the year they spend each Sunday out hunting.” In some communities, only because or to a regional conference or camp meeting. recognized Battleford, as Christians New Order followers are of their annual trip to North SOlYIE LESSONS TEACH US THE NEW ORDER EXPERIENCE MIGHT Some insights and reflections that are suggested by our New Order experience might include the following: ‘ 1. The Human Desire for Participatory Worship The particular appeal of New Order Worship in its heyday was in worship services that wholeheartedly were made to be active participants ministering “charismatic those days, but to a considerable or”Latter Rain” denoted just and receiving the gifts of the Spirit. Expressions worship” or “body ministry” were not particularly involved the congregation. People in praying, singing, worshiping, and such as used in degree the expressions “New Order” appeal of public participation such practices. And in the late 1940’s, just as in the time of the rise of the charismatic movement in the 1960’s, the in worship attracted a sizeable following. A common rallying cry in youth meetings in the 1940’s was: “We are second generation Pentecost.” Indeed, by the time of the New to a denomi- Order, there was the transition from a revival movement nation within the Azusa grounded Pentecostal bodies. Institutionalism moving too far and too fast. One of the former was having problems P.A.O.C. general officers, reflecting – 56- on those days has written: “I see a 11 possibility that a slackening in genuine dependence on the Spirit in the worship services, and in the conduct of the work in general, opened the door for some discontent” It would seem valid to affirm that much that many of us do in Pentecostal worship services today is strikingly similar to what was done in New Order meetings. We probably learned considerably more from the charismatic movement than from New Order, but the latter at least deserves credit for having achieved it first. We cannot deny that there was an appeal to the New Order “do-it-yourself” style of Pentecostal worship, and the same basic human desire remains to this day. 2. The Need to Evaluate Charismata From the very beginning of the New Order movement in the prophecy of the coed student on the first day of the February four-day move, prophecy and other charismata were the basis of belief and action. New Order writings, and more especially the recollections of those associated with them, abound with references to the leading, teaching, and direction of God by direct charismatic bestowment. What seems to be conspicuously lacking is any adequate commitment to thoughtful, reflective, evaluative scrutiny of the vocal gifts of the Holy Spirit. They seemingly overlooked the Biblical principles that we have already noted: that prophetic utterances .should be limited and they should be subject to the evaluative judgment of others. New Order worshippers erred in a manner common to many Pente- costals : they gave undue deference to the spectacular and the ecstatic; and not enough to the serious, scholarly, exegetical study of the written Scriptures. The pursuit of signs and wonders is always fraught with dangers, particularly when they’re made to lead instead of following. No group can remain sound in faith and practice if it gives authority to experiences for their own sake, rather than on the ground of the standards of the Word of God. – 3. The Need to Channel Initiative The New Order was launched primarily because men with vision and initiative found themselves frustratingly contained by their de- nomination. For its part, the denomination, through its leaders, was not convinced that what became the North Battleford leadership quartet actually represented a vision that they could support. Once again, the answer would have been proper appraisal and evaluation. Men of vision should be able to submit their ideas to their constituency, and patiently win support by informing and persuading. – -57- 12 Only if they are opportunists are they in an impulsive knowing that time will prove them wrong hurry and unable to engage in cooperative planning. Though the New Order brethren variety of Christian educational established none that survived, school they did operate. 4. The Importance of Our Colleges possessed a vision for a institutions, in their haste they but instead they destroyed the one The New Order story underscores anew the vital role of our educa- tional institutions as seedbeds of the future. It is surely the case that the New Order impact was amplified thoroughly classroom, The group most responsive for the many defections because it originated in a Bible much more of serious learning in the claims. was, of course, the alumni of spected classroom instructors, past spoke loudly. Though lacked somewhat attitudes and winning partisans. college. Just as surely as orthodox views can be imparted and lastingly in an atmosphere so also, errors and misguided to New Order excesses and responsible in Saskatchewan Bethel Bible Institute. The New Order leaders were their former re- and loyalties and sentiments out of the the old Bethel Bible Institute in academic excellence, object lesson establishing participation in the enterprise in spiritual and intellectual In conclusion, may have it succeeded well in molding It’s a sound church support and higher education. It’s a we certainly sovereignty permits. widespread as appropriating Christ our Lord. The course of events in the saga of the New Order is not more en- dorsement of solid Bible-based educational institutions. the need for adequate of Christian poignant call for trained exegetes of the Word of God to take their place leadership. it can be said that the New Order’s goal of a glorious church without spot and wrinkle is indeed a worthy goal. Though we may not agree that the pathway leads us via North Battleford, agree on our destination. But as we would read the Word of God, our place in the Body is not a matter of repudiating move, nor climbing a stairway to perfection The glorious church that Christ will present Himself is imply that body cleansed by His blood, and sanctified by His life and by His indwelling Spirit, and people who so quality are just as faith in the Gospel of grace through Jesus – 58- the circles in which we if and when God in His to 13

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