Revivalism and Relevance
The revival movements discussed in the previous chapter illustrate that majority-world Christianity could no longer be understood exclusively through the lens of Western churches or missionary agencies, but could express itself more freely and flourish by engaging with local contexts and local agendas. The life, work, and ministries of Arulappan and Ramabai and others like them enabled Christianity to take on local idioms that were to be further developed in independent churches. This was always heightened by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, which enabled people of every language and culture to take the gospel to every nation. The primary motivation for the early expansion of pentecostal forms of revivalism was these revivalists’ overwhelming sense of divine calling and empowerment to proclaim their personal testimony to the whole world. The transnationalism of revivalist Christianity had just begun. How this worked out and accelerated in different contexts is the subject of this and the following chapters. But first it is necessary to return to questions of causes and origins. Pentecostalism has grown most rapidly in those areas of the world where a pluralistic religious environment is the norm— including such “Christian” countries as the United States or Ukraine, or where well-established Protestant missions were operating and there was a ready acceptance of the pentecostal message of power to overcome an evil spirit world—such as in the regions of the sub-Sahara, Indonesia, and China. There were several reasons for this. I will deal with some of them here, including the multiplicity of denominations and mission agencies that greatly facilitated the creation of new ones.
There were also other, more immediate causes, however. Not least of these was racism and colonialism, which were significant factors in the formation of independent churches throughout the global South. Although independent churches were seldom directly the products of secession from missionary churches, they were major catalysts for a fire that only needed a spark to set it ablaze. The earliest independent churches in Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa arose partly out of nationalist feelings and a desire for African self-expression and freedom from missionary control. The same pattern was to be true of independent churches across Asia and particularly in China, where a strong anti-colonialism and rising nationalism were prevalent in the early twentieth century. The various independent pentecos- tal churches were complex symbolic systems, expressions of cultural protest against and resistance to colonial domination. Many Africans turned to less conventional forms of Western Protestantism such as Pentecostalism and the healing movement. These provided the basis for new churches to emerge as what social anthropologist Jean Comaroff calls (in the South African context) “a more radical expression of cultural resistance.” The oppressed people directed their disaffection against the more tangible colonialism of the mission churches, for repudiating the established churches was also a symbolic rejection of the larger social system. In particular, the “key metaphor” of healing emphasized “the reintegration of matter and spirit, the practical agency of divine force, and the social relocation of the displaced.” The outcome of this was that these movements had drawn together “everything that had been set apart in the black experience of colonialization and wage labor.” These churches were not overtly political but formed a systematic counterculture that attempted both to encompass and to transform alienating structures of power and control. They were a creative response to the breakdown of traditional society, providing security and order in new social groupings. Whether the pentecostal pioneers were aware of this or not, the new movements they helped form affected profoundly the allocation of power and influence within their communities.1
However, an overemphasis on reaction to colonialism and racism may lead to reductionism, where religious causes are not given enough attention. The growth of independent pentecostal churches should be seen also and perhaps primarily as the result of a proclamation of a message addressing communities’ tangible needs, a local response to the Bible. Instead of being objects of foreign mission reacting to that mission, indigenous pentecostal leaders were in fact the subjects of their own mission, actively involved in their own initiatives. The English Catholic historian Adrian Hastings wrote that African independent churches should be seen in a continuous rather than a discontinuous relationship with missionary churches, precisely because they sought to reproduce what they saw as important in missionary Christianity. The process was primarily one of conversion to their cause, not of secession from the missionary churches. Although this is certainly an important observation and there were more similarities than differences between pentecostal and older churches, these considerations should not distract from the fact that pentecostal churches introduced many innovations to Christianity that the foreign missionaries had been unable to accomplish within the confines of their Western cultural paradigms. Harold Turner wrote that the prophet-healing movements in Africa were fundamentally spiritual and religious movements, and should be studied and evaluated in religious terms. Although we may not make an arbitrary or superficial distinction between religious and nonreligious factors in the emergence and growth of Pentecostalism, of the many factors accounting for their emergence and continuing growth, perhaps none are more significant than the religious ones. David Bosch writes of the “superficial, impoverished gospel” preached by Western missionaries that “did not even touch on many facets of the life or struggle of the African” and answered questions that Africans were not asking. “Salvation” was seen exclusively as the “saving of souls” from moral sins, so that Christianity was perceived as a religion with a list of taboos. This inability to be relevant to the daily struggles of ordinary people left people profoundly disillusioned with the form of Christianity that people had embraced after being persuaded by the missionaries to forsake their popular folk religions. This failure was especially acute in the area of sickness and healing, where the older missions’ response was to simply provide medical facilities when they had the resources. No religious solution was given to the problem of sickness, and even the advent of medical missions tended to secularize healing to the realm of Western medical expertise and outside the sphere of religion. This created a vacuum that was later filled by the prophetic and pentecostal movements. In these and most communities in the Majority World, religion could not be separated from the whole of life’s experiences, and sickness and affliction were also religious experiences. These were to a large extent health-oriented communities, and in their pre-Christian religions, the most prominent rituals were those for healing and protection. Because healing and protection from evil are also prominent practices in the liturgy of many pentecostal churches and are important elements in their evangelism and church recruitment— especially in the early stages of their development—the pentecostal message of healing and deliverance proved popular in many of these communities.2
African theologians have pointed out that many African Christians felt that the church was not interested in their daily misfortunes and tangible problems. One of the greatest attractions provided by the pentecostals is their open invitations to bring local anxieties and paranoia about witches, sorcerers, bad luck, poverty, illness, and other kinds of misfortune to the church for relief. Daneel’s research among Shona “Spirit” churches in Zimbabwe demonstrated the preponderance of religious causes for the appeal of these movements, highlighting such factors as adaptations to African rituals and customs, prophetic practices in detecting and removing malignant medicines and wizardry, and especially the practice of healing and exorcism. As a consequence of these and many similar situations throughout the Majority World, new indigenous pentecostal leaders responded vigorously to what they experienced as a void left by rationalistic, older forms of Protestant Christianity that had initiated what amounted to the destruction of their ancient spiritual values, even if this had taken place unwittingly. Pobee and Ositelu write that African “Pentecostal” churches “reflect an African dissatisfaction with a Christianity that is too cerebral and does not manifest itself in acts of power in the Spirit and Spirit possession.” The main characteristics of these churches, they argue, are their emphases on receiving a conscious experience of the Holy Spirit, healing and exorcism, their insistence on personal testimony, and their function as a “protest movement” against what they call “the North Atlantic captivity of the Christian faith.” Indigenous pentecostal missionaries in the Majority World proclaimed that God was not only in the business of “saving souls,” but was also addressing physical affliction and deliverance from all kinds of oppressive forces and structures, providing answers to felt human needs. It was especially the message of healing from sickness, deliverance from the oppression of evil spirits, and the possibility of receiving the enablement of the Spirit to cope in a hostile spirit world, that was indeed good news. This was a religion that offered solutions to all of life’s challenges, not only the so-called spiritual ones.3
To a large extent, independent pentecostal churches were created to address the problem of both foreignness and irrelevance. Their founders were convinced that they were providing a more genuine form of Christianity, for they believed that any religious institution that did not cater to daily life experiences would be spiritually empty. Powerful men and women throughout the global South, charismatic leaders who attracted followers through their preaching and healing attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit, founded many new pentecostal churches in the early twentieth century. This concept of a man or woman “of the Spirit” was a leading factor in the origin and growth of African independent “churches of the Spirit.” Some of these leaders, like Garrick Braide in Nigeria, Wade Harris on the coast of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and Simon Kimbangu in the Congo, did not intend to found new churches but were part of unanticipated mass movements toward Christianity all over Africa at the time, for which the foreign missions were unprepared. These leaders were seen as better able to meet the felt needs of the people than the foreign missionaries had been. But these movements were not so much secessions from or reactions to the mission churches as they were mass conversions or African “revivals,” and the followers of these revival leaders and prophets only later organized themselves into denominations. In particular, the pentecostal churches that have arisen in the twentieth century, both new and older ones, have attributed their emergence to the work of the Holy Spirit. Among the most significant causes for the growth of Pentecostalism is their derivation from original, creative attempts to relate their “full gospel” in a meaningful and symbolically intelligible way to innermost needs. In so doing, they have succeeded in creating places where local people can be “at home.” Comaroff reminds us, however, that these “religious” factors can only be understood with reference to the inclusive symbolic systems in which they arise. Not only did the emphasis that pentecostals place on the Spirit seem to “accord with indigenous notions of pragmatic spirit forces,” but also it served to “redress the depersonalization and powerlessness of the urban labor experience.” This may explain why pentecostal churches have succeeded in cities, at least from this sociological perspective. But the significant religious factors should not be overlooked in discussing the rise and development of Pentecostalism throughout the global South. However, we should not assume that these were the only causes, nor should we separate them from their larger context. Throughout the twentieth century, new Christian movements with radically different messages and orientations have arisen to challenge older ones. Nostalgic notions of the old, the traditional, and the rural should not be seen as more “authentic” or more “contextual” than the new, the modern, and the urban.4
Pentecostalism expanded rapidly in the global South during the first half of the twentieth century through the feverish efforts of many fragmented and missionizing groups. Pentecostal missionaries from the global North differed in many ways from conventional Protestant missionaries, especially in their fierce independence, their sharing of a supernatural worldview, and their conviction that their experience of the Spirit was all they needed to evangelize the nations. In China, for example, they tapped into what Daniel Bays describes as “the supernatural aspects of Chinese popular religions of the time.” This was to characterize many forms of Chinese Christianity thereafter, and Pentecostalism “with its radical egalitarianism and its provision for direct revelation from God” for ordinary, unlearned believers, as well as its anti-hierarchical stance, encouraged the formation of independent churches. But the missionaries themselves were often assertively independent of ecclesiastical organizations, a fact that could hardly pass unnoticed by the local believers they influenced. As W.W. Simpson, veteran missionary to China turned pentecostal, commenting on his resignation in 1913 from the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), put it: “While in the C.M.A. I had naturally conformed to their ways; now I was free to do as the Lord wished. This vision was the Lord’s instruction to do just like the early preachers did from Pentecost onward.” Inevitably, such subjective conclusions about the Lord’s wishes sometimes led to autonomous and misconstrued decisions made without regard to anyone else, often presumptuous and arrogant, forming the seeds of schism. The consequent rise of independent denominations and frequent and sometimes scandalous divisions within Pentecostalism soon made it the most diverse and fragmented movement within world Christianity. Curiously—but perhaps not unexpectedly—it was this very fragmentation that caused its growth, while it confounded any possibility of a distinct pentecostal identity.5
The pentecostal and healing missions from which independent churches emerged were themselves undergoing a process of fission, inherent in the ecclesiological structures of these groups that saw every congregation as an independent unit. The result was considerable confusion, so that the new Christians saw a multiplicity of denominations as the norm, and the creation of many more new ones was but a natural consequence. Hastings considers the entire African independent church movement to be “clearly a very Protestant movement,” emerging and continuing from a string of denominations and secessions in Britain and the United States. The tendency for Catholics to be more resistant to schism might be partly attributable to their rigid, central hierarchical system, which, before Vatican II did not favor the ideal of an “indigenous church.” They also had a different attitude toward the Bible, which for them did not exist as an independent source of authority apart from the church and therefore apart from the European missionary priest. Since Vatican II, Catholic spirituality, with its focus on and prayer for the unity of the church, has also attributed to a resistance to schism.6
Questions of Origins
The seeds of pentecostal transnationalization can also be found in the early years of the century. Most pentecostal groups in these years had not yet emerged as fully fledged denominations and were in competition with each other in the global religious market. But these various groups were united in their conviction that they had a mission to share their special message with the world. The pentecostal revival resulted in a category of ordinary, untrained, often ignorant people named “missionaries” who were “called” in the various revival movements they were part of, and who spread out to every corner of the globe within a remarkably short time. Many of the early missionaries were independent and had none of the financial backing provided by Western mission agencies. Most of them fully intended to go permanently to the countries they were called to and some died there. The Western missionaries who went to the Majority World not only reproduced the many denominations of the West, but in some cases, actually created separate denominations. This was glaringly obvious in Africa, where almost every Protestant missionary group established itself and no comity agreements were observed until much later. Various mission groups competed with and even slandered one another, had different qualifications for membership and leadership, and different disciplinary regulations. Consequently, it was relatively easy to switch membership from one denomination to another.7
The many different factors that might account for the origins of Pentecostalism must always be distinguished from those that might explain its subsequent growth, as they are not usually the same. It is undoubtedly true that the earliest independent pentecostal denominations formed as revival movements that were reacting to the dry formalism and rationalism of the older churches. Independent churches in the Majority World seceded from Western-dominated forms of Christianity for similar reasons. Many of them felt that the older churches had “lost the Spirit” and their new churches were created to restore the practice of gifts of the Spirit. But this does not explain why some of these movements continued to grow profusely among those who had never belonged to any other church. None of the causative factors can be isolated from the others, as a wide number of different causes can result in the emergence of a particular form of Pentecostalism, and equally as many reasons exist to explain its subsequent growth. As far as the expansion of Pentecostalism in the global South is concerned, it is necessary to view the question of causation within the macro-context of colonialism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is not always easy to distinguish between what might be considered “background” factors from the more proximate “immediate” causes.
To illustrate this again with reference to Africa, the twentieth century was one of rapid social change, with industrialization and urbanization and a transition from a pre-colonial stage through a traumatic colonial one to an equally traumatic post-colonial political order. The situation was particularly aggravated during the colonial era with the imposition of discriminatory laws that created migratory labor, the loss of land, alienation, and impersonal mass housing. When the full impact of colonialism was felt, it resulted in a sense of oppression, disorientation, and marginalization that left people seeking to form new relationships in smaller social groups, where they could really belong and regain some sense of human dignity. It was in this situation that pentecostal revival movements were born. The independent churches that formed early on provided what has been described as a “place to feel at home.” This was most noticeable in South Africa which had the largest settler community on the continent and the deliberate social engineering of apartheid. But residential, educational, and social segregation existed almost everywhere in Africa during European colonization, rendering Africans second-class citizens in their own land. Worse, this discrimination and segregation also extended to the churches, many of whose leaders accepted uncritically the sociopolitical status quo and the paradigms of colonialism. As a result, little attempt was made to give African church leaders any real authority. Hastings writes of the racism present in the mission churches, where “even able and experienced [African] ministers remained second-class members of the Church, always inferior to the most junior missionary recently arrived from Britain.” Comaroff describes the white Protestant leaders in South Africa who retained “strict paternalistic control over black congregations” which was “paradigmatic of hierarchical state structures at large.”8
It will readily be seen how the question of origins is a complex one. By far the most widely publicized theories on the origins of Pentecostalism posit that it is a “made in America” religion. Stated simply, the theory is that Pentecostalism originated in the United States and expanded from there to the rest of the world. It is therefore an American religion in both its origins and its heart. This seems to lit its more recent forms, such as the “prosperity gospel,” which sees wealth and capitalism as signs of God’s favor. Most theories place the beginnings of Pentecostalism in nineteenth-century American radical evangelicalism, especially in the fringe groups within the holiness movement and among disenchanted Methodists. Depending on the position of the particular historian or hagiographer, global Pentecostalism was either born in the Church of God movement in the North Carolina Appalachian hills in the 1890s, in Charles Fox Parham’s Apostolic Faith in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, or, most commonly, in the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, 1906-09. The primacy of Azusa Street as the cradle of Pentecostalism over other American claims was established in the 1970s largely through the influence of Walter Hollenweger and his doctoral researchers in Birmingham. There had been a persistent racial bias against Azusa Street as a place of origin in white pentecostal historiography, because this was an African American mission to which whites and Hispanics flocked and where, in the oft-quoted words of eyewitness Frank Bartleman, “the color line was washed away in the blood.” Hollenweger and his doctoral researchers set out to correct that bias, and did so successfully.9
The first quarter of the twentieth century was the formative period of Pentecostalism, before denominations were really established, and of central importance to this period was the Azusa Street revival. There the African American preacher William Joseph Seymour led twelve-hour-long services every day for three and a half years. People flocked there from all over North America and Mexico, and missionaries visited from far-flung countries and left as independent pentecostal missionaries. There is a direct connection between the Azusa Street revival and many of the first pentecostals who rapidly spread out to China, India, South Africa, and the Middle East, but these were by no means the only connections. Seymour was described as a meek and gracious man who even allowed his critics to speak to his congregation and advertised the meetings of his rivals. Seymour was spiritual father to thousands of early pentecostals in North America and for three years the revival was the most prominent center of Pentecostalism on the continent, further promoted by Seymour's periodical The Apostolic Faith, which reached an international circulation of 50,000 at its peak in 1908. People influenced by this revival started several new pentecostal centers in the Los Angeles area—by 1912 there were at least twelve. Hundreds of visitors came to see what was happening and to be baptized in the Spirit. Many of them began pentecostal centers in various other cities. People came from Latin America and Europe and missionaries came from Asia and Africa, and they went back with the “baptism” to their various countries. Pentecostal missionaries were sent out from Azusa Street to over twenty-five nations in two years, first to China, India, Japan, Egypt, Liberia, Angola, and South Africa. This was no mean achievement and the beginning of what is arguably the most significant global expansion of a Christian movement in the history of Christianity.
So, Seymour's Apostolic Faith Mission at Azusa Street was the most prominent and significant center of American Pentecostalism and was predominantly a black church rooted in African American culture. Hollenweger wrote that the main features of its spirituality were an oral liturgy, a narrative theology and witness, the maximum participation of the whole community in worship and service, the inclusion of visions and dreams into public worship, and an understanding of the relationship between body and mind manifested by healing through prayer. These expressions were a fundamental part of early Pentecostalism and remain in the movement to this day. Bartleman wrote of Azusa Street as the “American Jerusalem,” the place from which Pentecostalism was expanding to the ends of the earth. Hollenweger wrote of the need to determine the origins of Pentecostalism from a theological or ideological perspective. Writers began to assert the important role of this predominantly African American church as the generator of pentecostal churches throughout the world. Cecil M. Robeck Jr. has definitively established the significance of Azusa Street and its leader William Seymour in global pentecostal history. There have been several theories on the origins of American Pentecostalism, and most of the recent ones place Azusa Street squarely at the center, although this has not gone unchallenged. But the question of origins has often been influenced by the ideological presuppositions of its propagators. Joe Creech refers to the “central myth of origin for almost every pentecostal denomination” that has placed Azusa Street in the middle of American pentecostal historiography and has overlooked or minimized other important centers of pentecostal expansion. Histories of Pentecostalism usually begin with American pioneers like Parham and Seymour and then emphasize the beginnings of Pentecostalism in other countries with reference to mostly white male missionaries sent from the United States or other Western countries. For example, the Canadian John Lake is credited with the founding of Pentecostalism in South Africa, the Americans Alfred G. Garr and George Berg with India, the Swedish Americans Gunnar Vingren and Daniel Berg and Italian American Luigi Francesconi with Brazil, British missionary William Burton with the Congo, and so on.10
Without underestimating the important role of these pioneers, it remains true that many historians have ignored, overlooked, or minimized the vital role of thousands of national workers and women in the global expansion of early Pentecostalism. A theory of origins in Los Angeles in 1906, while certainly having merit as far as some parts of the world are concerned, must be balanced by the equally convincing case of multiple, often unconnected religious and cultural origins. The macro-context must not be lost. Seen from this perspective, Pentecostalism is neither a movement with distinct beginnings in the United States or anywhere else, nor a movement based on a particular theology; it is rather a series of movements that have taken several years and several different formative ideas and events to emerge. Pentecostalism in its origins and causes is a multicentered and variegated phenomenon, best seen as historically related, revivalist movements where the emphasis is on the experience of the Spirit and the exercise of spiritual gifts. This more nuanced view will help us dispel the tendency to treat North American forms of Pentecostalism as normative, it will maximize our understanding of the impact and influence of local leadership in comparison to that of Western missionaries, and it will enable us to better understand the contextualization of the Pentecostal message in different cultures, nations, and contemporary contexts. The many various revival movements worldwide were part of a series of events that catalyzed the emergence of worldwide pentecostal movements. A more nuanced, multicultural, and polycentric perspective on pentecostal origins will better reflect global realities and place different forms of Pentecostalism within their local contexts. Whatever the influence of American Pentecostalism and the Azusa Street revival might have been on world Pentecostalism then, there were other important forces in several regions giving the emerging movement a local character that tempered some of the globalizing forces at work. The stream of revivalist missionary fervor at the beginning of the twentieth century became a catalyst in many parts of the world for the acceptance of pentecostal ideas. The new movement was actually an extension of the evangelical missionary movement and was to become a major player in the remarkable transformation of world Christianity within a relatively short period.
The first issue of the Azusa Street revival newspaper revealed the essence of the pentecostal missionary thrust. “Many are speaking in new tongues,” it declared, “and some are on their way to the foreign fields, with the gift of the language.” In this way God was “solving the missionary problem, sending out new-tongued missionaries on the apostolic faith line, without purse or scrip, and the Lord is going before them preparing the way.” The “missionary problem” was how to get enough missionaries out all over the world in the shortest possible time without any unnecessarily irritating delays like theological preparation and language learning. Pentecostals believed they had this short-cut to missionary preparedness. They continued the revivalist emphases of the movements out of which they emerged, convinced that they were involved in a worldwide revival that was preceding the imminent coming of Christ. They used biblical texts from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:4 in particular) to proclaim that the evidence of their receiving the Spirit was to speak in new tongues—for some this meant speaking the languages of the nations without the need for prior study. Charles Parham, William Seymour, and many of the first American pentecostals believed they had been given foreign languages through the experience of Spirit baptism so that they could preach the gospel throughout the world. Hundreds did just that and went out believing that they would immediately be able to preach in the languages of the nations. Most of these newly-gifted missionary linguists made haste to travel to China, India, and Africa with a language they would later discover they did not have. Apart from isolated instances when it was claimed that they had actually spoken in known languages, most admitted that they were unable to speak any local languages and some returned home, thoroughly disillusioned.11
Early pentecostal missionaries followed their revivalist compatriots in thinking of “mission” as “foreign mission” (mostly cross-cultural, from “white” to “others”), and they were mostly untrained and inexperienced. Their only qualification was the baptism in the Spirit and a divine call; their motivation was to evangelize the world before the imminent coming of Christ—and so evangelism was more important than education, “civilization,” or charitable works. In common with the missionary ethos of the day, pentecostal workers from the Western world usually saw their mission in terms of moving from a civilized, Christian “home” to a Satanic and pagan foreign land, where sometimes their own personal difficulties, prejudices (and possible failures) in adapting to a radically different culture, living conditions, and religion were projected in their newsletters home. These newsletters were written for the primary purpose of raising financial and prayer support, and sometimes they were remarkably frank. The missionaries went out, like many other missionaries before them, with a fundamental conviction that the Western world was a Christian realm, that they were sent as light to darkness, and that the ancient cultures and religions of the nations to which they were sent were heathen, pagan, and demonic, to be conquered for Christ. This was part of their evangelical conviction that “heathen idolatry” was a manifestation of rebellion against the true God. In this they were no different from their evangelical compatriots. Of course there were political and social factors facilitating the early growth of Pentecostalism, but the primary motivation of the first pentecostals was religious and eschatological.
The first two decades of the pentecostal movement were marked by feverish and often admirable and sacrificial missionary activities. The first American missionaries that went out only five months after the Azusa Street revival began were self-supporting and most of them were women. John G. Lake, a Canadian evangelist and former elder in John Alexander Dowie’s Zion City, traveled to South Africa from Indianapolis in 1908 with Thomas Hezmalhalch, himself an Azusa Street convert. After arriving in Johannesburg they established the Apostolic Faith Mission, now the largest classical pentecostal denomination in that country. In 1909 the message was taken from the pentecostal movement in Chicago of William Durham (who became pentecostal at Azusa Street) to South America, first to Italian communities in Argentina and Brazil by Luigi Francesconi. Then in 1910, two Swedish Baptist immigrants who also had connections with Durham, Gunnar Vingren and Daniel Berg, began what became the Assemblies of God in Brazil, now the largest non-Catholic denomination in Latin America and the largest Assemblies of God in any nation. These and many others were all important figures in the early spread of Pentecostalism.
Despite all these important connections, to focus on the United States in the debate on the origins of Pentecostalism is, in my view, to miss the point and distort the facts. The previous chapter established the Mukti Mission as one of the most important early formative centers of Pentecostalism, and it shares this importance with Azusa Street. But Pentecostalism did not arise in a single event, place, or phenomenon; it was a movement that crossed national and ethnic boundaries and resulted in a plethora of different types of revivalist Christianity in the twentieth century. Stepping back a little in history, as we did in the previous chapter, will reveal that “typically” pentecostal manifestations of healing, tongues, and prophecies were evident in nineteenth-century Christianity in several countries. By 1905, Western evangelical periodicals were reporting on revivals in Wales and India, heightening expectations that these revivals would spread worldwide as a sign of the last days. Elisabeth Sisson, a former missionary who was soon to join the pentecostal movement, wrote of the Welsh revival as the beginnings of a worldwide revival on “all flesh,” the “latter rain” prophesied by the prophet Joel. Minnie Abrams wrote of a whole sequence of interconnected revivals, from Torrey’s meetings in Australia in 1903-04, to the Welsh Revival and the Indian revivals, and from Mukti to Korea, Manchuria, and the rest of China. Holiness periodicals like J. H. King’s Live Coals and A. B. Crumpler’s The Holiness Advocate reported on the series of revivals in India, Bartleman documented the influence that the Indian revivals had on their expectations for Los Angeles, and The Apostolic Faith declared only months after the beginning of its own Azusa Street revival, “Pentecost has come and is coming in India, and thank God in many other places.” During the decade following, revival movements were occurring in China, West Africa, and East Africa that were quite independent of Western pentecostals and resulting in vibrant new churches developing along their own historical trajectories.12
Classical Pentecostal Denominations
Pentecostalism did not begin as a denomination or schism from other Protestant churches but rather as a hodgepodge of assorted individuals who shared a common experience of Spirit baptism and were largely rejected by their fellow Christians. At first, they were opposed to creating new denominations, but as their ostracism increased, their attitudes hardened and they sought ways to work together. Over time, denominations began to arise. In North America, the holiness movement had given birth to a multiplicity of new churches in the late nineteenth century, and it was in this pluralistic milieu that Pentecostalism arose. Between 1895 and 1905, over twenty holiness denominations were set up, including the Church of God (1886), the Christian and Missionary Alliance (1887), the Church of the Nazarene (1895), and the Pilgrim Holiness Church (1897)—thus creating a precedent for the further fragmentation that was to occur. However, the oldest form of American Pentecostalism, the Holiness (“three-stage”) pentecostals began in existing church organizations and emerged as pentecostal denominations in the first decade of the twentieth century as the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland), and the Pentecostal Holiness Church. These churches held that a distinct experience of sanctification was needed in addition to conversion and Spirit baptism. “Finished Work” (“two-stage”) pentecostals were stimulated by the preaching of William Durham in Chicago, who taught that salvation was a complete process that included sanctification and was followed by Spirit baptism. The scattered remnants of Baptists, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Dowie’s Zionists, and other independent evangelicals with a “Finished Work” experience coalesced in 1914 to form the Assemblies of God. This new movement, which eschewed denomina- tionalism, underwent its first major schism in 1916, when the Oneness pentecostals left eventually to form the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and later, the United Pentecostal Church. The process of schism and proliferation was set in motion in American Pentecostalism and was to multiply thousands of times throughout the world. Other major denominations would be formed in the next thirty years, but in many countries, new national denominations were to spring up that often dwarfed the American-originating ones in size and influence.13
Several different American pentecostal denominations trace their origins to Azusa Street, including the largest: the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the Assemblies of God (AG). However, in the case of COGIC, the denomination itself was constituted in 1897 by African Americans Charles H. Mason (1866-1961) and C. P. Jones, former Baptists who had embraced the Holiness position of entire sanctification. Mason visited Azusa Street in 1907 and received Spirit baptism, after which the denomination split over the issue of tongues as evidence and Jones organized the Church of Christ (Holiness), while Mason was elected overseer of COGIC. Because COGIC was already an officially registered church in 1907, Mason issued preaching credentials to much of the American pentecostal movement. Many of the first leaders in the AG had Mason’s credentials and COGIC had an equal number of black and white ministers and members until the founding of the AG in 1914. Mason had considerable abilities and organized his church with bishops and overseers in most regions of the United States; the church grew tenfold between 1930 and 1960. After a seven-year dispute following his death, Mason was eventually succeeded as presiding bishop in 1968 by his son-in-law J. O. Patterson, who remained in office until his death in 1989. During Patterson’s tenure, the church again grew tenfold to become the largest pentecostal denomination and second largest African American denomination in the United States.
The Assemblies of God (AG)—which began an aggressive missionary thrust after its organization in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914—and its independent “district councils” and associated national denominations— collectively constitutes the largest pentecostal group in the contemporary world. The AG in Brazil is by far the largest of the AG denominations, and several other large denominations seceded from there too. The AG’s connections to Azusa Street are more indirect than those of COGIC. With its strong emphasis on local and regional government, the AG was created to counter the extreme individualism developing in Pentecostalism— whether it succeeded ultimately in eliminating individualism is doubtful. It appears that the invitation to attend the founding convention was issued only to white, mostly southern pentecostal leaders, with the exception of G. T. Haywood from Indianapolis, who later became the presiding bishop of the first Oneness denomination, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Charles H. Mason attended only as a guest at the Hot Springs convention and preached to the gathering of over 400 preachers. Many missionaries already serving overseas sought affiliation with the new movement, which initially resisted adopting either a constitution or a statement of faith. It was inevitable that in such a highly individualized and subjective environment, conflict would arise, and two early doctrinal controversies split the AG. The “Oneness” or “New Issue” controversy had been brewing since a convention in the Los Angeles area in 1913, but in 1916 open hostility resulted in the secession of the non-Trinitarian group. Oneness pentecostals reject the traditional Christian doctrine of “separate but equal” Persons in the Trinity and believe that Jesus is the revelation of God the Father and that the Spirit proceeds from the Father revealed in Jesus. Unlike the traditional notion that Jesus is the human name of Christ, in Oneness teaching Jesus is the New Testament name of the one God of the Old Testament (Yahweh), who reveals His immanence in the incarnation of Jesus and His transcendence in the presence of the Spirit.14
In 1918 another debate took place over “initial evidence” in which healing evangelist and AG Executive member F. F. Bosworth was forced to resign. Bosworth argued that speaking in tongues was one of the gifts of the Spirit but did not necessarily constitute the initial evidence of Spirit baptism. As a result of these and other disputes the AG became more rigid on doctrinal issues and formulated a “Statement of Fundamental Truths” in 1916, eventually enshrining the doctrine of the Trinity and “initial evidence” as essential teachings of the denomination. Gradually there was a shift to centralization at the headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. In 1929 the denomination adopted its first constitution and Ernest Swing Williams (1885-1981), a former convert of Azusa Street, became its first general superintendent, a post he held until 1949. In 1942 the AG joined the newly formed National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), a move that was to identify the denomination increasingly with conservative evangelicalism. Thomas Zimmerman (1912-91), general superintendent from 1959 to 1985, was one of the most significant AG leaders who stressed church growth and identification with Evangelicalism; he presided over the AG’s steady transition to a middle-class denomination. The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) began as a Oneness denomination in 1919 but joined the AG the following year, a move that caused the Oneness pentecostals to leave. In 1925 the PAOC separated from the AG in order to pursue its own missionary policy, and PAOC missionaries established national churches in many parts of the world, sometimes in the same regions in which AG missionaries were operating. The AG continued to expand worldwide, particularly through its Division of Foreign Missions in the post-colonial period. In thirty years (1960-89) as its executive director, J. Philip Hogan (1915-2002) presided over the growth of the AG worldwide from 3 million in 1960 to an estimated 30 million in the 1990s. When asked to give the reason for this tenfold growth, Hogan replied:
The concept of the indigenous church has been one of the major keys in the growth of Assemblies of God foreign missions. The Division of Foreign Missions has continued the vision of our founding fathers that we would produce national churches that are self- supporting and self-governing. Most of the pioneer missionaries had the idea of producing national churches. We were able to build on that principle, and that’s one of the reasons why there are 30 million people today in the Assemblies of God around the world. In the beginning we never set out to build an American or a Western organization, but to build indigenous churches.15
Another international pentecostal denomination is the Church of God (CG, Cleveland, Tennessee), a holiness church with roots in the Christian Union founded by R. G. Spurling in 1886 in Tennessee. A revival in this movement in Cherokee County, North Carolina, in 1896 was accompanied by healings and (according to some reports) speaking in tongues by 130 people, many of whom were Cherokee Native Americans living in the Appalachian hills. Some CG historians link this event with the emergence of their denomination, but some of the early events are obscure. In 1902 the church became the Holiness Church, and in 1907 was named the Church of God when the headquarters moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, under Ambrose J. Tomlinson (1865-1943). In 1908 the CG became pentecostal when G. B. Cashwell, who had received Spirit baptism at Azusa Street, brought this experience to Cleveland. In 1909 Tomlinson became the CG’s first General Overseer and the church’s first missionaries were sent to the Bahamas the following year. In 1920 the denomination’s Assembly accepted the proposal that Tomlinson, “General Overseer for Life” since 1914, be given unrestricted control. Resulting tensions led to Tomlinson’s expulsion from the church and his founding a rival Church of God in 1923, while the leadership of the CG passed to Flavius J. Lee. A protracted legal battle between the two Churches of God in Cleveland over property and the name of the church ended only in 1952, when it was declared that Tomlinson’s faction would be known as the Church of God of Prophecy (CGP). When A. J. Tomlinson died in 1943, his son Milton A. Tomlinson (1906-95) became general overseer of the CGP, a position he held until 1990. The CGP has been perhaps the most integrated classical pentecostal denomination in the United States and has remained true to the conservative ethical principles of the Tomlinsons, resulting in the withdrawal of many middle-class white Americans in the 1990s. In contrast to the CGP, in 1926 the black and white congregations in the CG were segregated and there is a separate black CG organization in Florida to this day. The CG and CGP underwent further splits, so that ten separate smaller denominations emerged. The CG joined the NAE at its inauguration in 1942, but the CGP did not join. As a result of the extensive work of both the CG and the CGP in the Caribbean and the migration of Caribbean people to Britain, there the CG is called the New Testament Church of God (NTCG), and the NTCG and the CGP have been the largest black-led denominations in Britain.16
The Pentecostal Holiness Church (PHC) formed as a result of a merger between two Holiness groups: the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church founded by Benjamin Irwin in 1895, and the Holiness Church of North Carolina founded by Ambrose Crumpler in 1898. When Irwin resigned suddenly from the Fire-Baptized leadership in 1890, his assistant Joseph H. King (1869-1946) took over. A further merger took place in 1915 when the Tabernacle Pentecostal Church (founded in 1898 by N. J. Holmes) joined the denomination. G. B. Cashwell, a minister in Crumpler’s church, began preaching the pentecostal message to all three groups, who rapidly accepted it. Crumpler did not, and he resigned from the Holiness Church, after which Cashwell became leader. In 1909 the name of the Holiness Church was changed to Pentecostal Holiness Church, and the merger with the Fire-Baptized church was completed in 1911. J. H. King was general superintendent of the church from 1917 until his death in 1945, and in 1937 his title was changed to Bishop. The PHC joined the NAE in 1943. Bishop J. A. Synan, father of the well-known pentecostal historian Vinson Synan, was leader of the church from 1950 to 1969. One of the best-known ministers in the PHC was the evangelist Oral Roberts (1918-2009), who began his tent campaigns in 1948 but left the denomination to join the United Methodist Church in 1969. The church added the prefix “International” to its name in 1975.17
Pentecostal denominations in Europe emerged even more slowly. In a matter of months after his return to Europe from his pentecostal experience in New York, Norwegian Methodist T. B. Barratt was holding meetings in Sunderland, England. Barratt was the founder and prime motivator of early Pentecostalism in Europe. The new teachings he brought back to Norway from his Spirit baptism experience were unacceptable to his bishops and he was eventually forced to leave the Methodist Episcopal Church and found a fellowship of independent churches. Barratt also drew large crowds to his meetings throughout Europe. He sent missionaries to Sweden and Germany, and went himself to visit the Middle East and India. He wrote to the Hoovers in Chile, encouraging them (and all he came in contact with) to establish self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating churches. Unlike the hierarchical Pentecostalism that was to develop in North America, Barratt’s churches and those planted by many missionaries from Europe were strictly independent and congregational. Barratt submitted himself to baptism by immersion by the Swedish Baptist, later pentecostal pastor Lewi Pethrus in 1913. Barratt’s ministry also had a social impact by caring for the poor, the homeless, children, and the elderly; and he was a prolific writer, especially in his periodicals. By 1910, Norwegian pentecostal missionaries had already gone to India, China, South Africa, and South America.18
In Sweden, Norway, and Finland Pentecostalism quickly grew in size until it was second only to the Lutheran state churches. Barratt made several visits to Sweden, and Lewi Pethrus's Filadelfia Church in Stockholm was the largest pentecostal congregation in the world until the 1960s when churches in Chile and Korea overtook it. Pethrus (1884-1974) became pentecostal after visiting Barratt in Oslo in 1907. Opposition from his home denomination occurred gradually, until he and his Filadelfia Church were expelled from the Baptist denomination in 1913. Pethrus remained Baptist in ecclesiology, a strong advocate of the independence of the local church with no outside interference or denominational organization. This principle has influenced Scandinavian pentecostal churches and missions all over the world. For forty-seven years Pethrus pastored the Filadelfia Church, which had over 6,000 adult members. His output was prodigious. During that time he established a rescue mission (1911), a publishing house (1912), a Bible school (1915), and a secondary school (1942); he edited a daily Christian newspaper Dagen (1945), wrote some fifty books, and established a bank (1952) and a radio station broadcasting in twenty-three languages from North Africa (1955). He was probably the most influential pentecostal in Europe during his lifetime and was open to ecumenical contact of various kinds.19 Pentecostalism expanded to most countries in Europe. The AG in Portugal, planted by missionaries from Brazil, was to become the largest non-Catholic denomination there until about 2000, when the Brazilian church of Edir Macedo, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, had become larger. Portuguese AG congregations were also established wherever Portuguese people had migrated, in places like Johannesburg, South Africa.
There were several factors at work preparing the way for Pentecostalism to enter Britain. England was the home of the Keswick Conventions, which had taught a distinct baptism in the Spirit as “enduement with power,” a sudden experience of spiritual power for witnessing. The Welsh Revival (1904-05) followed this teaching and brought an estimated 100,000 people into Christian churches in Wales. Its leader Evan Roberts had an ecstatic experience of “baptism in the Spirit.” Many leading British pentecostals like George and Stephen Jeffreys, and Donald Gee were converted through this revival, and Anglicans Alexander Boddy and Cecil Polhill, leader of the Pentecostal Missionary Union, visited it. Although a rift developed between pentecostal and holiness groups, especially through the opposition and writings of the influential Jessie Penn-Lewis, the influence of Keswick and the Welsh Revival on the emergence of British Pentecostalism was considerable, creating an expectation for revival throughout Britain and Europe. The leader of Pentecostalism in Britain, Alexander A. Boddy (1854-1930), vicar at All Saints in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, since 1886, visited the revival under T. B. Barratt in Oslo in early 1907. He compared it to the time when he had been with Evan Roberts during the Welsh Revival but said that the scenes in Norway were “more supernatural.” Boddy believed that “very soon we shall witness the same in England.” He invited Barratt to preach in his parish in September that year. When Barratt accepted and held special meetings in the church hall, many of the people who had gathered received Spirit baptism. Boddy’s church became the most significant early pentecostal center in Britain, and he provided the leadership and direction that shaped its future. Annual Whitsun (Pentecost) conventions from 1908 to 1914 drew pentecostals from all over Britain and continental Europe, including Barratt and leaders from the Netherlands and Germany. Boddy edited the widely influential periodical Confidence (1908-26), which reported on the Pentecostal revivals all over the world and expounded the doctrine of Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts. Although Boddy was acknowledged leader of British Pentecostalism before World War I, he remained an Anglican minister until his death. From his church the Pentecostal Missionary Union for Great Britain and Ireland (PMU) was formed in 1909, and led by Cecil Polhill (1860-1938), a former missionary (since 1885) to southwestern China with the China Inland Mission. Polhill was baptized in the Spirit during a visit to the Upper Room in Los Angeles in early 1908. Through an inheritance, he was now a wealthy landowner and avid supporter of pentecostal missions. He bought a large house in London to hold pentecostal services and organized annual conventions that lasted through the war years.20
William Oliver Hutchinson, a Baptist preacher whohad received Spirit baptism in Sunderland in 1908, opened the first purpose-built pentecostal hall in Britain in the same year, the independent Emmanuel Mission in Bournemouth. Hutchinson founded the first Pentecostal denomination in Britain, the Apostolic Faith Church (AFC), in 1911. It is likely that former Congregationalist preacher in the Welsh Revival, George Jeffreys (1889-1962), received Spirit baptism at Emmanuel Mission in 1910. The AFC became increasingly a personality cult around its leader and imbibed British Israelism (the belief that the British and related people were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel) and other teachings rejected by most early pentecostals. Daniel P. Williams led the first secession of most of the Welsh congregations to form the Apostolic Church of Wales in 1916. James Brooke was to lead another secession from the AFC in 1926 to form the United Apostolic Faith Church. The AFC would fall into obscurity and the other two British Apostolic denominations would remain small in Britain, but they performed significant work overseas, especially in Africa. The healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth (1860- 1947) received Spirit baptism in Boddy's church and became an international preacher. George Jeffreys was founder of what would become the Elim Pentecostal Church and his brother Steven Jeffreys became an evangelist in the Assemblies of God. George Jeffreys was trained at the PMU college in Preston in 1912-13 under PolhilTs sponsorship. One of his fellow students was William F. P. Burton, founder of the Congo Evangelistic Mission. Successful evangelistic meetings held by George and Stephen Jeffreys in South Wales in 1913 put the Jeffreys brothers on the national stage. George Jeffreys has been described as the greatest British pentecostal evangelist ever, whose meetings attracted many thousands with remarkable healings and great numbers of conversions, especially in the 1930s. British pentecostals experienced significant growth during their first forty years.
George Jeffreys founded the Elim Evangelistic Band in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1915, renamed the Elim Pentecostal Alliance in 1918, after which a central council governed the organization. Jeffreys remained in Ireland until 1921, only making occasional visits to Britain, and by this time there were twenty-two churches in the region. Jeffreys did not intend to form a denomination and discouraged proselytizing, but the nature of the movement led inevitably to denominationalism. After 1921 Jeffreys began planting churches in England and Wales and moved his headquarters to London; a number of churches joined Elim. From 1926 until the 1990s, Elim held its annual Easter Convention in the Royal Albert Hall in London (then seating 10,000), and Aimee Semple McPherson was the first invited guest speaker. In 1929 the Elim name was changed again to Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance, apparently being inspired by McPherson’s movement. From 1934, Jeffreys began to lose his tight control over the Elim leadership and his support of local church government versus the centralized system that had developed. The British Israel theory espoused by Jeffreys led to his resignation from Elim in 1939 and a schism, when the Bible Pattern Church Fellowship was created. The majority of ministers and members remained in the Elim movement, but it took a long time to recover. In more recent years, the Elim Pentecostal Church (as it is now known) has had to adjust to the challenges posed by the Charismatic movement and to the question of the authority of the local church, but has emerged, along with the Assemblies of God, as the largest classical Pentecostal denomination in the United Kingdom.21
The Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland (AGBI), distinct from its namesake in the United States, emerged in 1924 as a congregational association of autonomous churches under the chairmanship of J. Nelson Parr (1886-1976). These assemblies were highly suspicious of the centralized control in the Elim movement, and George Jeffreys was not invited to be part of the new group. Parr, baptized in the Spirit in Boddy's church in 1910, issued the invitation to a meeting of fourteen leaders in Aston, Birmingham, in 1924 when the AGBI was formed, with the seventy-four assemblies that joined the association guaranteeing autonomy to each local church. The AGBI specifically declared itself pacifist, another reason for the break with the patriotic Anglicans Boddy and Polhill, and like its American counterpart (and unlike Elim), also preached the doctrine of the “initial evidence” of tongues. In 1925, following the departure of Polhill and Boddy, the PMU joined to become the missionary arm of the AGBI. Donald Gee (1891-1966), a pastor in Leith, Edinburgh, was chairman of the AGBI from 1948 until his death in 1966. His overtures to nonpentecostal churches and his support of David du Plessis’s ecumenical efforts earned him the opposition of the American AG. Gee traveled internationally and was the organizer of the European Pentecostal conference held in Stockholm in 1939 (the first such meeting since Amsterdam, 1921) and the first World Pentecostal Conference (PWC) in Zürich in 1947. A prolific author, he was also the first editor of the PWC’s periodical Pentecost and one of the most influential pentecostal leaders of his time.22
With the mass immigration of people from the West Indies to Britain after 1951, African Caribbean pentecostal churches were set up and grew remarkably during the 1960s. The main churches had links with the Caribbean and the United States, but many new independent churches were also formed, resulting in a great variety of churches among African Caribbeans, and later in the African communities in Britain. Later migrations after 1960 resulted in a number of West African pentecostal churches being established in Britain (especially Nigerian ones) and elsewhere in Europe. Black Pentecostal immigrants felt unwelcome in British churches partly because of the cultural differences between the community-oriented Africans and African Caribbeans and the more reserved and individualistic English, but also because of the incipient racism present in British society. The first New Testament Church of God was formed in Wolverhampton in 1953 by Oliver Lyseight, A. D. Brown and G. S. Peddie. By 1961 there were already eighty African Caribbean churches in Britain, mostly Pentecostal, and this was before the period of their greatest expansion. They have been extremely influential within the British church context. Since the 1960s, African-led denominations have expanded in Britain and throughout Western Europe and North America. Most of them have retained their African identity and provided places to be at home for African migrants. Some of these African-led congregations are among the largest in Europe.
As the various pentecostal denominations organized themselves in the early twentieth century, there was always an emphasis on moving out, establishing new congregations, and supporting missions, which were seen as an essential function of and inseparable from the church. From the 1920s onward, the classical pentecostals and the independent denominations founded in the global South began their steady expansion. Some were far more successful than others depending on the means and the volunteers available. The American AG, for example, because it succeeded in winning experienced missionaries for its cause, quickly established itself as a global movement with agents throughout the global South. By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Assemblies of God in its various forms was the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, even though its growth had been modest. By 1951 it had an estimated 318,000 members worldwide. The growth thereafter can only be described as astonishing. By the 1990s it was the largest or second-largest Protestant denomination in over forty countries. By the end of the century many of its most prominent leaders were from the Majority World. Estimates of its combined membership for 2010 exceeded 60 million, the vast majority (some 85 percent) of which were in the global South. Everett Wilson describes the first ever meeting of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship in Seoul, Korea, in October 1994, an association which at its founding had sixty autonomous and loosely affiliated national groupings of churches and now has 150. The venue in Seoul was “10,000 miles and culturally half a world away from the Midwestern town of Springfield, Missouri.” Although the largest, the AG is but one of many pentecostal churches that has expanded into many countries worldwide. The Church of God (Cleveland) states that it has a “presence” in nearly 150 countries; and the Foursquare Church claims to operate in nearly 140 countries. But it is not only from the West that this expansion occurs. Within these denominations there is expansion from the South to other parts of the globe, and denominations founded in Africa, Asia, and Latin America plant congregations in the global North as well as elsewhere in the South.23
The earliest pentecostals understood their movement in eschatological terms, the divine breaking into history of a movement of the Spirit to revive a dead church, evangelize all nations, and prepare for the imminent second coming of Christ. Since the first academic studies on Pentecostalism, writers have speculated on the causes for its emergence and growth. A great many opinions on the subject are highly selective, subjective, and reductionist, depending on what particular interest or experience they reflect. It is necessary to adequately examine the religious and theological factors in the remarkable expansion of Pentecostalism. Contemporary Pentecostalism, whether in its “classical,” “charismatic,” or “neocharismatic” form, has spread all over the world and has affected every type of Christianity. Christianity will never be the same again.