The Origins Of American Pentecostalism

The Origins Of American Pentecostalism

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77

The

Origins

of American Pentecostalism

Augustus Cerillo,

Jr.*

A Review

Essay

of James R.

Goff, Jr.,

Fields White Unto Harvest:

and the

Missionary Origins of

Pentecostalism

of Arkansas

Charles F. Parham

(Fayetteville:

The

University $12.00

paper.

historian Klaude Kendrick

Press, 1988).

263

pp.

to the

As best I can

remember,

I first heard about Charles F. Parham and his role in the

beginnings

of American Pentecostalism sometime

during the school

year

1959-60 when

listening

to a lecture on Parham

given by

(then

Dean of

Evangel College) history

club at

Evangel,

of which I was

president

and

responsible

for the

program.

At that time I did not realize that Marie

Burgess Brown, my

home church

pastor,

whom I had listened to

preach

countless

times, had

begun

her Pentecostal

ministry

under this same

Parham; although

I recalled “Sister Brown”

referring

to her Wisconsin

roots, Moody

Bible

experiences,

name,

nor did his name ever

appear

in the

Institute,

and

early

Pentecostal ever

mentioning

Parham’s biographical

sketches in Glad

“evangelist,”

I did not remember her

Tidings

Tabernacle’s

anniversary

origins

as I

though my

Northwestern

booklets. In one such account reference was made to an unnamed

whom I later discovered was none other than Parham.

I did not think much about Parham and Pentecostal

pursued my

own

graduate

studies in

history

in the

early 1960s,

even

University

focused on the Gilded

Age

and

Progressive

emerged

in the United States.

Only

in the

very

late

Pentecostalism 1960s and Pentecostalism

early

1970s,

when

doctoral dissertation research

Era,

the

very

time when

searching

for

information on

the Pentecostal movement. scholarly

works on Pentecostalism addition to Kendrick’s

pioneering

to

prepare

lectures on the

subject

for Adult

Sunday School classes and then for a college course, did I think

seriously

about the

origins

of

my

own

religious

tradition and the

pioneers

who created

I

quickly

Pentecostal

discovered the number of by

historians was rather limited. In

The Promised

Fulfilled (1961),

The Pentecostals

which I believe initiated the modem American

professional study

of

history,

there was John T. Nichols’

(1971, originally, Pentecostalism, 1966),

William Menzies’ Anointed to Serve: The

Story of

the Assemblies

Synan’s

The

Holiness-Pentecostal

of

God

(1971),

and Vinson Movemerzt in the United States

*Augustus Cerillo, Jr.,

is Professor of

History

at California State

University, Long

Beach.

1

78

(1971). Interestingly, tovarying degrees Pentecostalism.

described

all were

begun

as doctoral

dissertations,

Parham’s

field of Pentecostal

catalyzed

and

shaped,

Such

developments

place

in the

and all history

of

larger group

and other academicians

Since the

mid-1970s,

as readers of Pneuma no doubt are

aware,

the

studies has almost become a boom

industry,

I

believe, by

several

mutually reinforcing developments.

include the sheer

growth

in numbers and

rising

social

prominence

of

Pentecostals;

the

emergence

of a much

of

University-

and

Seminary-trained

interested

creation of the

Society

for Pentecostal

journal, Pneuma;

the

organization specializes

in the

publication growing

historical consciousness and their establishment

Pentecostal

aids.

of books on Pentecostal

Blumhofer, Wayne Nienkirchen, Goff have

brought to the

study of the

Warner,

publication

Pentecostal scholars

in

studying Pentecostalism;

the

Studies and

publication

of its of Hendrickson

Publishers,

which

subjects;

a among

Pentecostal church

leaders,

the

Mickey

Crews,

Charles

Perhaps

the culmination of this

phase

was the

and

and other scholars have

emerge during

the first decade

causes.

of Moreover,

of denominational archives to

preserve

heritage;

and the

publication

of numerous

bibliographical

Pentecostal historical

scholarship,

as one

part

of this

larger

field of Pentecostal

studies,

has matured

conceptually

even as it has

grown quantitatively.

Scholars such as Robert

Anderson,

Grant

Wacker,

Edith

Mel

Robeck,

Gary McGee,

James

Tinney,

Leonard

Lovett,

and James

new

questions, insights, methodologies

and research

of Pentecostal

history, thereby enriching

our

understanding

innumerable

events, personalities

and details that

comprise

the internal

history

of Pentecostalism.

in the

development

of

professional

Pentecostal

historiography

in 1988 of the

indispensable Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic

Movements,

edited

by Stanley

M.

Burgess

and

Gary

B. McGee.

In one

way

or another these historians

wrestled with the broader and more fundamental

question

of

origins: how, why

and where did Pentecostalism

of the twentieth

century?

And on this issue

they

have

given

a diverse

usually

constructed around some combination

racial and

providential

path(s)

these historians have taken to

origins, they all,

either

implicitly

or

explicitly, have had to deal with four

underlying questions. First,

what

larger

and

religious setting

or context must be

fully

the

timing, early theological

shape

and

staying power

of the Pentecostal revival?

Second,

how

and discontinuities

century

holiness and

evangelical revivals,

movements and theological

innovations be

assessed,

and inform an analysis of

origins?

set of answers

sociological, ideological, whatever

general interpretative explain

Pentecostalism’s

socio-economic, political explored

to understand

should the continuities nineteenth

and social

of Pentecostalism with

2

79

Third,

what is the relative

significance

for an

understanding

of Pentecostal

beginnings

of those elements of Pentecostal beliefs and practices

that

provided

a measure of

unity

and cohesion to Pentecostalism,

and the undeniable

theological,

social and organizational diversity

that characterized

primitive

Pentecostalism? In other

words,

should the Pentecostal movement be viewed as a whole or in terms of its

parts?

Is the historian faced with a

single

Pentecostal movement or with Pentecostal

movements,

and what are the implications

of these

questions

for a

study

of

origins? Fourth,

what were the social sources of Pentecostalism? How does

knowing something

about who became

Pentecostal, including

leaders and followers,

and

why help

us understand

why

Pentecostalism arose and developed

as it did? What

light might

this

information

shed on the previous

three

questions?

Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the

Missionary Origins of

Pentecostalism

nicely

illustrates the

professional coming-of-age

of Pentecostal

scholarship.

James

Goff,

a historian trained at the

University

of Arkansas where the book

began

as a doctoral

dissertation,

has

given

us one of the few

scholarly biographies of

any early

Pentecostal leader and the

only

definitive

study

of Parham. It is well-written,

clearly organized,

and

exhaustively

researched both in the

primary

sources and

pertinent secondary

literature.

Throughout

the book and in the

many

content notes at the end of the

volume,

Goff displays

a sure

grasp

of the

many interpretive issues, including

what other historians have written,

surrounding

Parham’s role in Pentecostalism’s

beginnings.

Thus this fine account of Parham’s

life, thought

and career is of value to scholars as well as the

general reader, and,

as I have found

personally,

is well-suited for

college

courses on Pentecostalism.

Golfs

analysis

of Parham’s

place

in Pentecostal

history

combines the contributions of traditional Pentecostal historians who

give primacy

to the

theological

roots of Pentecostalism with the

insights

of

scholars, most

notably

Robert

Mapes

Anderson

(Vision of the

Disinherited: The Making of

American

Pentecostalism, 1979),

who stress the sociological

sources of the Pentecostal revival. Not

only

was Parham the founder of the Pentecostal movement because he first formulated the new

religion’s defining theological tenet, tongues

as the initial evidence of

Holy Spirit baptism, argues Goff,

but also because he first preached

a Pentecostal full

gospel message,

which included the themes of

conversion, sanctification, Holy Spirit baptism,

divine

healing

from all sickness and the

premillennial rapture

of the

saints,

that

appealed

to the social and

spiritual

needs of

intellectually alienated, socially dislocated, physically

and

psychologically hurting, politically powerless and

economically struggling poor

and

working-class people.

“The

3

80

How well

throughout story

of Parham’s ideological

connecting

mix,”

writes

Goff,

“fell

significance” (p.16).

earliest converts in this

theological-sociological

under the

ministry

of Charles F. Parham”

(p. 13); indeed,

he was the father of “a revolution

of socioreligious

his book does Goff

develop

his view that the

life and

ministry

“reveals the

sociological

and

roots of Pentecostalism”

(p.16)?

I believe he is more successful

charting

Parham’s

theological journey

and contributions to an

emerging

Pentecostal movement than he is in

showing precise

links between Parham’s

religious message

and the

larger social and economic forces that were

transforming

America around the turn of the

century.

To be

sure,

Goff writes

appreciatively

about the Pentecostal ethos and its

spiritual benefits,

in contrast to Anderson’s

and makes

many plausible

Pentecostal beliefs and who the Pentecostals

sociologically.

he fails

sufficiently

assertion to demonstrate in some

historically

concrete

ways just

how Pentecostal

religion

functioned to

help

its adherents structure their own

create humane home and work environments

negative critique, functional fit between were

However,

lives,

problems.

glimpses

socially

appraisal of pre-1920

Religious fair,

as

2) study

Goff’s

of the

assertions

about the

to

go beyond

and

just generally Moreover, might

the

intriguing sometimes

anti-capitalistic

and

_

between

Populism

and problems suggested

above.

harshness,

general

social

cope

with life’s

everyday

Goff

provides

into Parham’s

radical rhetoric be

suggestive

of a more

politically significant

Pentecostal social criticism than he

suggests

or has

yet

been

attempted (on

this

possibility

see R. Laurence

Moore,

Outsiders and the

Making of America, 1986,

ch.

5).

To be

Fields White Unto Harvest’s deficiencies on this

point

are due in part

to at least three different

problems: 1) the limitations imposed by the

genre

of

biography

as the basis for a

study

of such a broad and complex

social

phenomenon

the rise of this new

religious movement;

the

drawing

of conclusions about the rank and file members from a

of

leadership;

and

3)

the

paucity

of other

published

studies that do address the theme of Pentecostals in society.

handling relationship

Pentecostalism illustrates the

interpretative

In

chapter one,

“The Perils of

Youth,”

he sketches the first 20

years

of

life,

from his birth in Iowa in 1873 to his

entry

into the

ministry

in Kansas in

1893, against

the

background

of

and

bust,

environmental

and

agrarian

dissent associated with life on the Kansas plains

in the late nineteenth

century. Picking up

on a theme

suggested

over 20

years ago (The

Holiness-Pentecostal Movement

pp. 52-53)

Goff asserts that

“religion

sometimes offered a

and consolation to

Populists

who

their

attempt

to control life

thwarted;”

became a tremendous source of

power

for

(pp. 22-23). Goff goes

on to

suggest

that Parham “drew

Parham’s Methodist economic boom uncertainty

by

Vinson

Synan

unique

vehicle for

self-expression discovered

“psychologically, religion the

powerless”

even

more,

4

81

his formative

thoughts”

from this insecure

agrarian world;

and “it was among

others like

him,”

Goff

states,

that Parham’s

“ministry,

and the message

of the Pentecostal

movement,

found an enthusiastic

following” (p. 22).

Goff seems to

suggest

a

chronological pattern:

rural dwellers and farmers turned to

Populism

as an answer to their economic and social

problems;

when the

Populist party failed,

at least some turned to religion

in the form of the holiness movement and the new Pentecostalism.

Perhaps many

did.

Otther than

naming Joseph

D.

Botkin,

a Parham

family

friend with earlier

Populist political

connections

(see p. 182,

note

10),

Goff provides

little direct evidence of the links between

Parham,

his

recruits, and other

Pentecostals,

and

Populism.

More

recently

historian

Mickey Crews found that in the

Appalachian region, despite

the

many commonalities between

Populists

and Church of God

folk,

the Populists’

offered an

alternative, competing ideology.

The Church of God,

he

found,

was “not

directly

related to

Populism”:

the character and

purpose

of the two movements were different, and few Church of God adherents became members of the

Populist party.

The Church of God was

“clearly

a parallel movement”

(see

his 7he Church

of God:

A Social

History, 1990). Regional

and other factors

may explain

the different connections between

Populists

and Pentecostals in Kansas and Appalachia.

Whatever the

explanation,

both Goff’s and Crew’s works suggest

the need for a

major study

that

specifically

focuses on the relationship

between the Holiness and Pentecostal movements and Populism (and

for that matter

socialism, labor,

and other late-nineteenth

century utopian

and radical social

movements).

Did Populists

become

Pentecostals,

and if so, where,

why

and how

many?

Populism’s heyday,

it also must be

remembered,

was in the

1890s, yet

Pentecostalism arose and

grew during

the

economically

better and politically

innovative

Progressive

era. Were most Pentecostals so economically disinherited,

so out on the

fringes

of society, as

suggested by

historian

Anderson,

that

they

were

people

whose lives the

concept of

Progressivism

fails to embrace or

capture? Interestingly,

as Goff makes

clear,

Parham himself came from a rather

economically

and socially

secure

home,

studied for three

years

at Southwest Kansas College,

was a talented

speaker

and

obviously

had

leadership

abilities. Although

his intellectual and

spiritual

orientations

may

have

put

him at odds with the

prevailing religious

and academic orthodoxies in late-nineteenth

century America,

at least

socially

and

economically

the young

Parham

hardly

fits the mold of the

marginalized. My point

here is simply this: how and where to locate Pentecostalism and Pentecostals within the

larger

Gilded

Age

and

Progressive

era

settings

is

still,

I believe,

an issue that needs further

scholarly exploration.

The

portrait

of Parham that

emerges

from the first two

chapters

is that of a

sickly, intelligent,

restless and

religiously inquisitive young

5

82

man. Goff

masterfully

shows how

Parham, during

the decade of the nineties,

drew from a variety of sources the

theological building

blocks upon

which he would construct his

historically significant

Pentecostal doctrinal formulation. From his

mother,

to whom he was

especially close–“a mama’s

boy”

is how Goff describes the

relationship–and

who died when Parham was

only

12 years

old,

Parham received his earliest understanding

of

religious

commitment and

personal piety.

From his string

of illnesses and several dramatic

healings

came a sense that God had called him into the

ministry, given

him a message of divine

healing for

others,

and the

personal

faith to

give up

all

medicines, drugs

and life insurance. From the holiness

preachers,

he

accepted

the doctrine of sanctification as a second work of grace. From his

Quaker

friend David Baker,

whose

granddaughter

he would later

marry,

Parham added the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked to his

theology.

From the evangelical

and

higher

life leaders and movements he became acquainted

with or had confirmed such beliefs as

healing

in the atonement, dispensational premilennialism, baptism

in the

Holy Spirit for

power

to serve the Lord and live a

godly life;

and he witnessed in their ministries the

practice

of

praying

for the

sick,

the establishment of Bible

schools, healing homes, religious periodicals,

and

inner-city

social works.

(Here

is the one

place

in the

chapter

where Goff’s

description

of the

timing

and relative

impact

of these

evangelical

influences is imprecise

and thus

unclear.)

From radical holiness leader

Benjamin Hardin

Irwin,

the

impressionable young preacher picked up

the notion of

Spirit baptism

as a third and distinct

religious experience beyond conversion and the second work of sanctification. And at Frank Sandford’s Shiloh

ministry

in

Maine,

Parham

accepted

the view that consecrated believers could be

empowered

for world

evangelization

in the last

days by

a

special Baptism

in the

Holy Spirit;

and most significantly,

at Shiloh he

personally

observed

among

the students

modem

tongues speaking. By 1900,

it

seems,

Parham’s eclectic

bag

of beliefs reveals the

evangelist very

much a

product

of the

religious milieu that characterized the

Age

of the

Spirit

in late nineteenth

century America. In the

person

of

Parham, Goff,

so to

speak, puts

a real face on what Donald

Dayton

in an earlier book called the

theological

roots of Pentecostalism.

Chapter three,

“The

Gospel

of the Latter

Rain,”

is the

conceptual heart of the book. Here Goff moves from

describing

the derivative nature of Parham’s

thought,

the

continuity

of his

religious journey

with nineteenth

century

holiness and

evangelical trends,

to reveal to us Parham the 27

year

old

theological innovator,

a man who in 1900 still was uncomfortable with his

times,

unsatisfied in his

longings

for religious experience

and

finality

of belief about

Holy Spirit baptism. Goff,

as

historian-detective, carefully

and

painstakingly

reconstructs how

Parham,

in the

span

of six months, from October 1900 to

April

6

83

1901, “pieced

the

theological puzzle

of Pentecostalism

together”

when he linked

tongues–actual existing languages

or

xenoglossa,

he believed–as initial evidence with the

Baptism

in the

Holy Spirit.

Such “missionary tongues,”

Parham

taught,

were

given

to

baptized

believers to

expedite

world

evangelization

in the last

days

before the Second Coming

of

Christ; additionally, tongues-speaking

Christians were

being recruited as Christ’s elite “Bride” to rule with Him in the millennial kingdom.

“This

decision,

in

effect,

created the Pentecostal movement” (p. 164),

declares

Goff,

who

gives primacy

to the

theological explanation

of Pentecostalism’s

beginnings.

“Since

tongues

as initial evidence defined the movement as a distinct element

apart

from the overall

emphasis

on the

Holy Spirit,

that doctrine

provided

later Pentecostals their

ideological

birth announcement”

(p. 72). Only Parham, then,

Goff

logically concludes,

“can

chronologically

be labeled founder” of the Pentecostal movement

(p. 15).

His book’s “dual thesis,”

he writes “is that Charles Parham founded the Pentecostal movement in

Topeka, Kansas, early

in 1901 and that the essential character of this new faith revolved around an intense millenarian-missions

emphasis” (p.15).

At this

point

I would add that the reader of Goi?’s book will

appreciate

the author’s

very helpful introductory essay

in which he

provides

a brief but excellent historiographical

overview and

critique

of the

major theological, sociological

and racial

interpretations

of the

origins

of Pentecostalism, and

places

his

interpretation

of the

centrality

of Parham’s

thought

and ministry

for

understanding

the

ideological

and

sociological

roots of Pentecostalism in the context of this

historiographical

debate.

When

making

his case on behalf of Parham as the

theological

founder of

Pentecostalism,

Goff

explains

how Parham had come to his

concept of

missionary tongues

as

early

as 1899 when he received a

report published

in a holiness

periodical indicating

that a

young lady

named Jennie

Glassey,

associated with Sanford’s Shiloh

community,

had spoken

in an African dialect after

receiving

a

missionary

call to Africa.

Such

missionary tongues,

Parham informed his

followers, duplicated the

apostles experience

recorded in Acts 2. Gof? also debunks as flawed both Parham’s and

Agnes

Ozman’s later

conflicting

accounts of the origins

of the

“Topeka Pentecost,” especially

Parham’s

story

of how the students at his

recently opened (October 1900)

Bethel Bible College independently

concluded after

studying

the biblical book of Acts that

tongues

was the initial evidence of the

Baptism

in the

Holy Spirit.

The historical

evidence,

Goff

maintains,

makes it clear that Parham himself

through

his Bible

teaching

at Bethel motivated his students to conclude that missions

tongues

was the New Testament evidence

of Holy Spirit Baptism,

which

they

did on

January 1, 1901, not the watch

night

eve of December

31,

1900.

7

84

formulated his affirming

Anderson’s

Parham

Testament truth However,

those scholars theological

circular, asserting

implicitly

at least

challenges Pentecostalism or a Pentecostal

not defined and recruited on the

Curiously,

when

believers,

character of

early who believed he was

might

in the

shape

it

assumed,

by

the

newly baptized

GofP solution to the

puzzle

of

precisely

how and

why

Parham

Pentecostal doctrine seems

irrefutable,

as does his

stress on the millenarian

Pentecostalism. Of course, this focus on Parham,

on a mission from

God,

does not

necessarily preclude

the Lord

through the

Holy Spirit guiding

in his

re-discovery

of this New

of Holy Spirit baptism for humankind in a new

century.

who

reject

or

place

less

emphasis

on a

definition of Pentecostalism view Goff’s

reasoning about the

primacy

of the

theological origins

of Pentecostalism as

what needs to be

proved.

But Parham’s

biographer

such critics to make the case that

movement,

would have

emerged

at all in the

early

twentieth

century

had Parham

initial evidence doctrine.

evaluating

the claims of those–hearers and speakers–reporting

real

languages spoken

Goff ventures

unnecessarily

onto

speculative

terrain. Armed only

with the information that the areas in Kansas and elsewhere where claims

of xenoglossa

surfaced had

large contingents

of the

foreign bom, he

suggests

that to whatever extent actual

foreign

words were included in

tongues speech by Pentecostals,

it must have been a form of

that

is, the recipients

of the

baptism

had been

exposed

to

and

unknowingly

stored them in their memory, only

to have them

unconsciously

of the

baptism experience.

Such

conjecture,

and rather

dogmatically

out of character with the

carefully documented and reasoned tone of much of the volume. For Goff to

go out on such a

speculative

limb is even more

surprising given

that he makes no

attempt

to

explain

in social scientific or other naturalistic terms the

larger phenomenon

of

tongues itself,

whatever the nature of

that

matter,

the claims

by

Pentecostal believers of

being

filled

by

God’s

Holy Spirit

or

divinely

healed of

cryptomnesia;

such

foreign

words in their

past

interpretations mentioned, historical

narrative,

seems

the

verbalized phrases,

or for

verbalized

during

the stress

with no alternative

interjected

into the

and five

(“The Goff traces Parham and his

1906 to

spread

the new

physical

ailments.

In

chapters

four

(“The Projector

co-workers’

attempts Pentecostal

movement.

The author

deftly Parham’s

bouts

Latter Rain

Spreads”)

of Pentecost: The

Promise”)

from 1902

through

message

and build what Parham called The

Apostolic

Faith

weaves

together

information about

personal

and

family life, including

the

evangelist’s continuing

with

illness,

the social and economic conditions of the towns in Kansas,

Missouri and Texas in which Parham ministered, the various themes on which the talented and

entertaining

Parham

preached,

the

extent of the new movement’s

numerical

growth

and

geographic

8

Pentecost’s” impressed God’s

work,

Apostolic

Faith

85

of

ministry.

preaching, prayer periodicals,

short recruits

among recent

trends, gospel.

diffusion and the

general

activities associated with “The

Projector

I could not

help

but be

with these Pentecostal

pioneer’s

selfless dedication to

doing

whatever the costs in

personal

sacrifice and however difficult the

circumstances,

and their creative utilization of

popular cultural outlets–town streets for

meetings

and

parades,

colorful

for the

sick, camp meetings, printed

leaflets and

term Bible schools–to

spread

the

message

and

gain

the common

folk, including

minorities. In contrast to

women had a

large part

in

spreading

the Pentecostal

More

negatively,

I could not

help

but note that Pentecostal leaders were

excessively individualistic,

and slowed the

_

prophetic discourses,

drawn crowds but

hardly provided for the

fledgling

movement. Pentecostal

reprehensible

prevailing

racist attitudes

millenarian inclinations,

strengths

The focus

suspicious

of

organization

and

Perhaps

due to their

empowerment. Pentecostalism,

Many

of the obviously,

prone

to

compete

with each other for

power

and

place,

all contributing to an institutional and

regional fragmentation

that

probably

weakened

new movement’s national

impact.

Parham’s

penchant for

preaching

sensational sermons

mixing

biblical

texts, speculative

current events and

pseudo-science may

have

a

sturdy theological underpinning

Parham’s

belief,

shared

by

other

preachers,

in the racial

inferiority

of black

people

was

for a

religious leader,

even if understandable

given

the

of American

society,

and contributed to the racially segregated development

of Pentecostalism.

few

Pentecostals,

it

seems, fully comprehended the

larger

social

implications

of Pentecostal

and weaknesses of

contemporary

have their

genesis

in the movement’s formative

years.

in these

chapters

on Parham’s

Kansas,

Texas and northern Illinois

refreshingly places

famous west coast Azusa Street revival

in,

what seems to

me,

perspective. many

historical

treat the

Topeka beginnings

and Parham’s and others’ ministries before 1906 as some sort of minor event or

preface (“early raindrops”

is how Leonard Lovett described it several

years ago)

to the

revival

(the heavy

down

pour

or Latter

Rain)

J.

Seymour’s leadership, which,

it is

realistic Pentecostalism

Too

spectacular

Azusa Street in Los

Angeles,

under William declared, successfully catapulted

ministry

in

Missouri,

the

justly

more

a more surveys

of the rise of

Pentecostalism into a national and

that in the Fall of 1906

and dimensions of

Parham

probably

underrated Seymour’s

Los

Angeles revival, how at that time

yet, Seymour’s

global

movement. Goff does

acknowledge

the

significance

but also

importantly proceeds

to show

work was

very

much

linked–by

Parham’s

considerably larger

theology, organization

and

personnel–to

movement,

which itself was

giving

birth to other missions

such as the

young

Marie

Burgess,

who

midwestem

and new Pentecostal

preachers, took the

message

across the nation.

9

86

were derived from

Parham, Pentecostalism.

the relative

significance

interpretation

Pentecostals

gone beyond urban,

Pentecostalism’s birth

branches of the Pentecostal

1950s,

of Parham and

Seymour

to

as the father of

of

history

and to flawed Parham? Gofl’s

or the two

combined,

were The

forthcoming study

of Azusa

disciple, Seymour

that

greatly

altered Parham’s Pentecostal

Pentecost:

On the issue of the relative

importance

the rise of

Pentecostalism,

Goff is clear in his view

that,

at least until 1909,

the Pentecostal essentials

preached

and

practiced

at Azusa Street

giving

him

priority

I have often wondered how much our

understanding

of Azusa Street and Parham’s midwestern work stems from Frank Bartleman’s influential but at times

self-serving

of the Los

Angeles

revival?

Furthermore,

have we

the historical record to create out of the

multi-cultural and -racial Azusa Street revival a

story

of

and

early spread

that

partly

at least serves our present

needs in a multi-cultural world? Have we white academics elevated William J.

Seymour,

the

genuinely

humble and

godly

black American

pastor

of Azusa Street to Pentecostal folk hero status to atone for the racist dimensions in white Pentecostal

cover our embarrassment over the

morally

account moreover makes clear that neither the west coast nor mid-west

revival,

growing rapidly enough

to

greatly

dent the national consciousness. whole nation was not

taking

notice of the Pentecostals nor were the major newspapers headlining

the new movement. At least until the

American Pentecostalism was a

fringe

Protestant tradition within American

Christianity,

even considered

by

some Christians to be a cult. Just how

big

was the Pentecostal

explosion emanating

from “The American Jerusalem-Azusa Street”

(to

borrow a

phrase

from Vinson

Synan)? Hopefully

Mel Robeck’s

Street will

clarify

numerous issues associated with that

great

revival and its

place

in Pentecostal and national

history.

Goff

provides

full and

judicious appraisals

of Parham’s

split

with his

in

1906,

and

alleged

homosexual

act,

the two events

ministry

history.

In the first

part

of

chapter

the

Fall”)

he relates the

by

now

failed

attempt

in 1906 to wrest from

Seymour

Azusa Street revival so as to

shape

with his midwestern brand of Pentecostalism. Goff

perceptively

in

dispute

the two

wings

of the

For Parham the Azusa Street crowd’s

worship style

was too

emotional,

its racial

comradery disgusting,

and its tongues speech glossolalia,

and not

xenoglossa.

I think Goff is correct to

place these

specific

differences between Parham’s and

Seymour’s

visions of a proper

Pentecostal

expression

within the

larger

context of the different

of Parham’s

based

ministry

and

Seymour’s metropolitan

revival. Goff also notes how Parham’s racist attitudes seemed to have

pinpoints

the issues Pentecostal movement.

cultural and social realities

and

subsequent place

in .

6

(“The Projector

of

familiar

story

of Parham’s

the

leadership

of the its cultural

expression

in accord

between

largely

Kansas-Missouri-Texas

Los

Angeles

centered

10

87

hardened and become more

regressive

after his disastrous encounter with

Seymour

and the Azusa Street mission.

Goff is less

convincing

when he

suggests

that had Parham succeeded in getting control of the Azusa Street revival in October

1906,

it would have

greatly

“altered the future of the Pentecostal movement”

(p. 133). Nationwide the Pentecostal movement rather

quickly fragmented along leadership, doctrinal, cultural,

racial and at times ethnic lines.

Early

on most

baptized

believers in fact did not claim to

speak

in real

languages, and

worship styles among

the

growing

Pentecostal missions and churches varied

greatly.

Thus it is hard to

imagine

what Parham

might have done in Los

Angeles

that would have

significantly

altered this history.

Here is where

viewing

Pentecostalism as a diffuse

group

of movements,

however connected

by

a doctrinal commitment or

single religious experience, might prove insightful.

In the second

part

of

chapter

6 Goff

sensitively

discusses the rumors of

homosexuality against

Parham that circulated in late 1906 and

1907, and the

felony charge

of

sodomy brought against

the

evangelist

in San Antonio, Texas, which,

in

fact,

was

eventually

dismissed without a

formal indictment. After

thoroughly examining

the extant evidence in the

case,

Goff concludes about Parham: “There is neither

enough

hard evidence to condemn him nor

enough

doubt to

sufficiently explain

the preponderance

of rumor which circulated.

during

his lifetime.”

Guilty

or not,

and

despite

some continued success as a Pentecostal

preacher

and leader of a small

group

of faithful

Apostolic

Faith followers and churches until his death in

January,

1929

(all

detailed in

chapter 7, “Perseverance and

Obscurity”),

Pentecostalism’s

founder,

the

subject of the “first

genuine

scandal in Pentecostal

history” (p.136)–and certainly

not the last–became an embarrassment to most of his

peers, better

ignored

and

forgotten

than lauded for his

pioneering

role. Such historical

revisionism,

as Goff

notes,

fit well the Pentecostal claim that their

religious movement,

a

product

of God’s endtime

pouring

out of His

Spirit–the

Latter Rain–indeed had no need of a human

founder, and

certainly

not one flawed as was Parham.

Despite

the

attempts

of

early Pentecostals,

in historian Grant Wacker’s

words,

to sanitize their own

history,

Charles F. Parham’s legacy,

as Goff reiterates in his

conclusion,

cannot be denied. Parham’s formulation of the initial evidence doctrine “created the Pentecostal movement”;

and

tongues

served Pentecostals as their

“identifying badge”

within the

larger

Christian world.

Additionally,

he “infused the movement with a zeal for missions” which accounts for Pentecostalism’s

spectacular growth throughout

the world. And the essence of Parham’s

message,

with its

appeal

to

working people’s social and

religious needs,

“mirrors the

complex origins

of Pentecostal growth.”

These enormous

accomplishments notwithstanding,

Goff admits that Parham’s direct institutional

legacy

is

meager.

Other

11

88

Pentecostal leaders–some who

rejected

the

sexually

soiled

founder, some who did not share all of his

beliefs,

and some who never knew him–were more instrumental in

translating

Parham’s initial evidence doctrine into a Pentecostal movement and culture. Here denominational histories can take us further in understanding the institutionalization of early

Pentecostalism. What is needed, in my judgment, are studies that focus on the nuts and bolts of how and

why supposedly powerless

and largely working

class

people

in countless communities across the nation engaged

in Pentecostal movement

building

and cultural formation. Around what issues did

they

form local

fellowships?

What was the specific

role of

doctrine,

as

compared

to other

religious

and/or social needs,

in the creation of local

fellowships?

Did Pentecostal leaders use the rhetoric of social criticism and forms of mass culture to mobilize followers and resources to create Pentecostal communities and a national

movement(s)?

How should we even define “movement” in early

Pentecostalism? Gofi:’s

biography

tells us much about how one man formulated the initial evidence

doctrine;

what it can not tell us–given

Parham’s

ideological

and

personal

limitations–is how the movement he had such a central role in starting slowly became a group of denominations, churches, ministries and subculture in American life.

Scholars will

quarrel

with Goff’s

emphases

or

interpretations

of Parham’s

ideas,

ministerial activities and their

impact,

and as indicated throughout

this

essay,

with the author’s

handling

of broader interpretative

issues related to the

origins

and

meaning

of Pentecostalism. But I believe the main

story

of Parham’s life and career will not need

re-telling

for a

long

while. Therein lies Gofl’s

signal achievement and contribution to Pentecostal

history.

No one

working in the field of Pentecostal

history

can

ignore

this excellent book.

12

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