The First Pentecostals in Latin America
The global shifts and constant mutations that characterized Pentecostalism were strongly influenced by local factors. Independent churches with a Pentecostal emphasis proliferated in the global South, and this expansion had repercussions for all of world Christianity, drastic changes that were unforeseen by the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910. But this was not just a geographical and cultural shift of center; it was at the same time a reformation of Christianity so fundamental that its reverberations extended much further than had the Protestant Reformation. The 1910 Edinburgh missionary conference had left Latin America out of the program altogether, regarding it (like all Europe), as already Christianized and therefore not needing missionaries. In stark contrast, pentecostals, like their evangelical counterparts, saw South America as the “neglected continent” and were stridently anti-Catholic. Their rhetoric described Latin America as a “Romanist” stronghold and their letters and reports abounded with allusions to the “darkness” and “delusion” of popular Catholicism in this region. They were at pains to point out that Catholicism was “Christopaganism” or “baptized paganism” and that such things as the burning of (Protestant) Bibles, the veneration of Mary and images, “pagan” religious festivals, and rampant immorality were evidence that South America was anything but a “Christian” continent. Furthermore, they pointed out, there were millions of indigenous Amerindians who were without any knowledge of Christianity. Evangelical Christians thought that South America had few qualified mission workers but was wide open to American missionaries in particular. Pentecostals, therefore, must grasp the opportunity so that God could “find faithful workers whom He can thrust forth into this most neglected field of the whole world, for truly the fields are white already unto harvest.” Calls for increased missionary activity on the “neglected continent” went largely unheeded in mainline Protestant denominations, but in the second half of the century Latin America became the world stronghold of Pentecostalism. Some pentecostal denominations, like the Assembly of God in Brazil, were established several years before the major ones in the United States, from which they are sometimes erroneously presumed to have emerged, were even founded. The birth of Latin American Pentecostalism took place at a time when North American pentecostal denominations were still forming.1
The movement in the South therefore is quite different from that in the North, and we should not regard it as a North American creation or import, especially not in the case of the two most heavily pentecostal countries at that time, Chile and Brazil. In every Latin American country except Chile, where Pentecostalism began with a large number of established Methodist believers and an experienced minister, the movement had a very slow start. Nevertheless, by the end of 1910, Pentecostal missionaries were already operating in at least nine Latin American countries. Many of the first pentecostals in Latin America were Chileans. This is all the more surprising because so little coverage of the dramatic events in Chile and Brazil appeared in the English-language pentecostal periodicals, and these two areas of greatest expansion received almost no support from American churches. One reason is that, in the case of Chile, there was very little influence from the North. The origins of Pentecostalism there are associated with Willis C. Hoover (1858-1936), a revivalist minister in Valparaiso, a former physician who had been in Chile since 1889, pastor of the largest Methodist Episcopal congregation in Chile (700 strong) and a district superintendent. Like fellow pentecostal leaders T. B. Barratt in Norway and Minnie Abrams in India, he was a product of Bishop William Taylor’s missionary zeal. There is some evidence that the Hoovers received pentecostal papers from the United States, but that these were only circulating after the Chilean revival began in April 1909. Hoover himself wrote that in 1907 his wife May Louise received a copy of Minnie Abrams’s 1906 booklet The Baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire, thus learning of the outpouring of the Spirit in India. Mrs. Hoover’s subsequent correspondence with Abrams, her former fellow student in the Chicago Training School, kick-started the Chilean pentecostal revival. The Hoovers also made contact with a Swedish pastor in Chicago, Alexander and Mary Boddy in Sunderland (and their paper Confidence), and others like fellow Methodist Barratt in Norway, thus learning of the pentecostal revival movement taking place in various parts of the world.2
The Methodist Episcopal Church in Valparaiso was stirred to pray for a “Holy Ghost revival,” and in January 1909, daily prayer meetings “for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our church” began. These meetings happened to coincide with the opening of a new church, the largest Protestant building in Chile at the time. By July 1909, after six months of prayer, the expected revival arrived in Valparaiso during one of these prayer meetings and many unusual and ecstatic manifestations occurred. These included weeping, uncontrollable laughter, groaning, prostration, rolling on the floor, revelatory visions, singing and speaking in tongues, with people repenting and confessing sins. There were more than 200 conversions in a year. Those baptized in the Spirit felt compelled to go out onto the streets to tell of their experiences, and this, together with the noise generated by the revival meetings, brought a hostile reaction from the civic authorities, the local press, and eventually from the Methodist hierarchy. In Santiago, some of the revivalists were arrested, including a young English-born former prostitute from Valparaiso, Nellie (Elena) Laidlaw, whom Hoover described as having “remarkable manifestations and gifts.” She was refused permission to prophesy in two Santiago Methodist churches, prompting a majority of the members to resign and begin holding meetings in homes. Hoover’s support for Laidlaw was his undoing as far as the Methodist Church was concerned and Hoover became the subject of a flurry of scurrilous reports. There were other positive and independent reports of this revival. A. B. Simpson visited Chile early in 1910 and preached to almost a thousand people in Hoover’s church in Valparaiso. He wrote that Hoover was “the most successful missionary in Chile” and that the revival there was “accompanied by many of the remarkable manifestations which have come to our [CMA] work in India, South China and many parts of America,” including simultaneous prayer, speaking in tongues and divine healing. Simpson warned that sending Hoover back to the United States “would break up the largest Protestant church in Chile and probably lead to the forming of an independent mission” and that “the gravest issues are hanging in the balance,” especially if the Methodist Church were to “dismiss him or try to coerce his people.” The warning went unheeded and in 1910, the Methodist Conference met in Hoover’s Valparaiso church building and in the presence of his members, charged him with “scandalous” and “imprudent” conduct and with propagating teachings that were “false and anti-Methodist... contrary to the Scriptures and irrational... offensive to decency and morals” and involving “hypnotism.” Presiding Bishop Bristol removed Hoover as district superintendent and told him that either he had to leave Chile or leave the Methodist Episcopal Church. The revivalists in Santiago decided to form a new church and the Valparaiso congregation officials and the majority of its members joined them. Hoover resigned in May 1910, stating that he was not separating himself either from Wesley or from Methodism. In the Valparaiso congregation, 450 of Hoover’s 700 members and all the members of the two congregations in Santiago had already resigned. Hoover was invited to become superintendent of the new church, which was named Iglesia Metodista Pentecostal (MPC).3
Within the first year, Hoover’s Valparaiso congregation received 150 new members. Five years later there were congregations of the new denomination in twelve different cities, some 1,200 members, and several other groups affiliated with the MPC. Chilean missionaries also planted MPC congregations in Argentina and Peru in the 1920s, and by 1925 there were fully self-supporting churches with some 3,000 members in forty towns across Chile. Significantly, this Chilean movement with origins in India was not connected to American pentecostal churches. Although Hoover was an American, his ejection from an American Methodist mission meant that he relied on local people for his support, infrastructures, and workers. As a result, the Methodist Pentecostal Church (MPC) was almost immediately a self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating church—probably the first in Latin America. Chilean Pentecostalism, like the movement at Mukti, did not follow American classical Pentecostalism’s doctrine of “initial evidence,” and taught that speaking in tongues was one of many manifestations of Spirit baptism. Many secessions have taken place in the MPC, the first when Carlos del Campo left to start the Iglesia del Senor (Church of the Lord) in 1913; and later the Iglesia Evangelica de los Hermanos Pentecostales (Evangelical Church of the Pentecostal Brethren). In time, Hoover would clash with the majority of the Chilean pastors in the MPC over the use of popular music and instruments in the church, among other things. Hoover led a secession himself in 1932 and founded the Iglesia Evangelica Pentecostal (Evangelical Pentecostal Church, EPC), which he led until his death in Santiago four years later. The vast majority of Chilean pentecostals belong to the family of churches with origins in the MPC.4
Manuel Umana Salinas (1876-1964) became the pastor of the Santiago branch of the church in 1910 when the denomination was founded. After Hoover’s resignation in 1932, Umana became its first Chilean general superintendent (later called presiding bishop) until his death in 1964. It was the first time that a pentecostal church in Chile had taken the title of bishop for its leader—a declaration that Pentecostalism was a viable alternative to Catholicism for Chilean people. Under Umana’s leadership and slogan of “Chile para Cristo” (“Chile for Christ”), the church grew steadily, planting congregations throughout the country and sending missionaries to Argentina and Peru. During this time only the Catholic Church was given official recognition in Chile. All non-Catholic churches were regarded as heretical sects. But the MPC soon established itself as the largest non-Catholic denomination in Chile, one with a special appeal to the poorer masses. The Santiago congregation was soon the largest in the MPC, and in 1928 it moved to Jotabeche, where in the 1960s it claimed to be the largest congregation in the world with 150,000 members. The church claims to be true to the doctrines and principles of the Methodist church founded by John Wesley, but at the same time being truly pentecostal by giving wide latitude to the gifts of the Spirit “according to the Scriptures and especially the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2.” It maintains Methodist doctrines and practices, including infant baptism and episcopal structures.5 The MPC entered into a “fraternal relationship” with the PHC in the United States in 1967, based on their common Wesleyan and pentecostal heritage.
From the 1940s until the 1960s, Bishop Umana directed members to vote en bloc to attract political attention. There was a definite gap between the views of the denominational hierarchy and those of the ordinary members. Some pentecostals were leaders in rural labor unions and neighborhood social service associations organized by Eduardo Frei Montalva’s Christian Democratic government in the 1960s. It is thought that more pentecostals than Catholics supported the left-wing government of Salvador Allende, although pentecostal leaders were publicly against it. Some demonstrated against the Pinochet regime and were exiled or killed. In 1990, a survey revealed that less than 15 percent of pentecostal respondents supported Pinochet’s regime.6 After the September 1973 coup installing Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, some pentecostals joined the interdenominational Committee of Cooperation for Peace to defend human rights, but as relations between Pinochet and the Catholic bishops deteriorated, Bishop Javier Vasquez Valencia with 2,500 other evangelical leaders had placed an advertisement in the national newspaper supporting the Pinochet regime. The MPC’s biggest congregation was in Jotabeche, Santiago de Chile, one of the largest in the world at the time. Vasquez, who had been pastor of this congregation since 1965, invited Pinochet to inaugurate the new Jotabeche Cathedral in September 1975. An evangelical “Te Deum” followed the opening, taking on the role of a national dedication service previously filled by the Catholic Church.7 The new tradition has continued and the Te Deum service is held in this cathedral every year, attended by the Chilean president and other political and military leaders. Vasquez was presiding bishop of the MPC from 1982 until his death in 2003. Questions have been raised about the MPC leaders’ friendly relationship with the Pinochet government, as Pinochet’s presence at pente- costal functions in the face of Catholic opposition seemed to legitimize his repressive regime. But the vast majority of pentecostal members in Chile represent the working classes and did not follow their leaders’ example; most of them opposed Pinochet and supported the popular socialist politics of Salvador Allende before his overthrow in 1973. Young pentecostals who later resisted Pinochet’s regime were harassed, tortured, and even killed. Pentecostal churches in the WCC like the PCC were particularly targeted for persecution by the military junta.
Chilean evangelicals, 90 percent of whom are pentecostals, constituted more than 20 percent of the country’s population in 2010, compared to 62 percent (and shrinking) for Catholics. This remains a source of tension and there is little dialogue taking place between pentecostals and Catholics. There are now over thirty pentecostal denominations deriving from the MPC, comprising over 95 percent of the Protestants in Chile, which has an astonishing 1,400 other pentecostal denominations. The MPC and the EPC are the largest, followed by the Evangelical Pentecostal Methodist Church, and the Pentecostal Church of Chile (PPC), together accounting for almost 2 million Christians in 2010, while the original Methodist Church had 30,000. The PPC was formed after a schism in the MPC in 1946. The PPC and the smaller Mision Iglesia Pentecostal (Pentecostal Mission Church), which split from the EPC in 1952, joined the World Council of Churches in 1961, the first pentecostal churches to do so. Since 1999, as a result of pentecostal pressures, a law has been passed providing equality for all religions in Chile. In the same year a Charismatic bishop, Salvador Pino Bustos, attempted to run for president but failed to receive enough support to register as a candidate. But because pentecostals are such a significant religious minority in Chile, their role and influence in Chilean politics continue to be important and they are courted for political support.8
The largest and most prolific region of pentecostal activity in Latin America is in the enormous Portuguese-speaking country of Brazil, with probably the largest number of pentecostals in the world, some 15 percent of the total population according to reliable sources, some estimates reaching 21 percent—or somewhere between 30 and 40 million people in 2010. Including Charismatic Catholics and evangelicals would make these figures considerably higher. The two earliest forms of Pentecostalism there have common associations with the Chicago ministry of William Durham. Durham had prophesied that his associate since 1907, Luigi (or sometimes, Luis) Francescon (1866-1964), a former Waldensian and leader of the first Italian pentecostal church, would preach the pentecostal message to the Italian people. Francescon established congregations throughout the United States and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1909. In 1910, he went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a small team to begin working among the large Italian community there, at that time over a million strong. He preached on the baptism in the Spirit to Italian Presbyterians and was expelled from their church. The result was the formation of a pentecostal denomination, Congregazioni Christiana (Italian for “Christian Congregations”), the first pentecostal church in Brazil. Around 1935 it began to adopt Portuguese in its services and attract native Brazilians, and it is now known by its Portuguese name Congregagao Crista, one of the seven largest Pentecostal denominations in Brazil.9
Two Swedish Baptists, Gunnar Vingren (1879-1933) and Daniel Berg (1884-1963) were responsible for the beginning of Pentecostalism in the state of Para in northeast Brazil. Vingren, a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School and pastor of a Swedish Baptist church in South Bend, Indiana, and Berg, a layman in Chicago, had both met Lewi Pethrus in Sweden. At a conference in Chicago they received separate prophecies that they should go to “Para,” a place they had never heard of. After discovering that this was in north-east Brazil, they travelled to Belem in 1910 and began prayer meetings in the cellar of a Baptist church pastored by a Swedish missionary. Some received Spirit baptism and began evangelism in their neighbourhood. A group of eighteen, a majority of the members, was expelled from the church in June 1911 and Vingren became their pastor. Berg and Vingren learned to speak Portuguese in six months and in three years they had over a hundred converts. In five years there were 400 pentecostals and ten churches in northern Brazil.
Berg assisted Vingren as a freelance evangelist, supporting the mission as a steel foundry worker, then as a shipping agent and colporteur distributing Bibles along the rail and riverboat routes, making converts as he went. In 1917 he reported 126 baptisms and eleven missions established along the Amazon River and its tributaries; two years later there were twenty-six assemblies and 500 people in the movement. As in other parts of Latin America, violent mobs were organized against the pentecostals and some were thrown into prison. Vingren and Berg adopted Brazil as their own country and the church was a Brazilian church from the beginning. Vingren made it clear that the work should grow through Brazilians going to other parts of the country—first to the Amazon interior, then farther south along the railroad and along the coast. As he put it, “There was not a missionary there when the Lord poured out His Spirit and started a big church.”10
The resulting church was first called the Apostolic Faith Mission but registered in 1918 as Assembléia de Deus (AD, Assembly of God). The denomination grew rapidly, particularly through its practice of prayer for healing. Tragically, Vingren left Brazil in 1932 with stomach cancer and died in Sweden the following year. Brazilians quickly took over the ministry. Brazilian pentecostal missionaries were sent out very early in their history. In 1913 José Placido da Costa (1869-1965), one of the first converts of Vingren and Berg, left Belém for Porto, Portugal, to establish the first pentecostal church there. He was followed by another Belém pentecostal, José de Mattos (1888-1958), in 1921. The first Portuguese congregation was established in the Algarve and pastored by de Mattos until 1938. Daniel Berg founded a congregation in Porto in 1934 and a Swedish missionary, Jack Hàrdstedt, started one in Lisbon. The mission to Portugal from Brazil and Sweden was soon followed in 1931 by Portuguese missionaries going to Portuguese territories and colonies abroad, the first to the Azores.
The AD spread to every state in Brazil, an independent movement with some support from Lewi Pethrus in Stockholm and missionaries from the Swedish pentecostal movement. Members were recruited initially from the lower strata of Brazilian society, and Pentecostalism appealed to Amerindian, black, and mixed race (mulatto) Brazilians, the majority in this and several other Brazilian pentecostal churches. Brazilian Pentecostals from Belém began evangelizing the Amazonas region and spread to the big cities of Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Sào Paulo, and Porto Alegre. They emphasized healing and establishing churches in cities, which experienced remarkable growth. In Sào Paulo 10,000 converts a year were baptized and the city now has over a thousand AD congregations. In 1930 the headquarters transferred from Belem to Rio de Janeiro, the Swedish leaders handed over the leadership to Brazilians (although the “pastor-president” was Swedish until 1950), and the AD became a national church independent of foreign missions. The church considers itself an independent church within the worldwide AG fellowship of churches. The AD has education and literacy programs for members; provident funds for unmarried mothers, the sick, and the orphaned; abundant printed literature from their own publishing house; and community projects like community centers, factories, schools, hospitals, old age homes, libraries, and day nurseries. It is the largest pen- tecostal denomination in the world and the largest Protestant church in Latin America. A significant schism in 1955 resulted in the formation of Igreja O Brasil Para Cristo (Brazil for Christ Church).11
Harvey Cox profiled the Afro-Brazilian woman Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio (b.1942), a pentecostal born in poverty in 1943 who became a prominent politician in President “Lula” da Silva’s ruling socialist Labor Party and governor of Rio de Janeiro state from 2002 to 2003. She was the first woman and the first Afro-Brazilian to occupy this office, and an ardent campaigner for black women’s rights. Since then, the most prominent politician involved in the ongoing struggle to preserve the Amazonian rain forests from destruction is Marina Silva (b.1958), another Afro-Brazilian pentecostal born into poverty and illiteracy in Amazonia, but rising to become Minister of the Environment in Lula’s government from 2003 to 2008. She left the Labor Party to fight the presidential election in 2010 on a Green ticket against Lula’s hand-picked successor Dilma Rouseff, but came third with 19.4 percent of the vote. Her late entry still attracted impressive and rapidly rising support, and she remains an important figure in Brazilian politics.
Guatemala, which may be the most pentecostal country in Latin America, has produced two far-right presidents who were members of Charismatic churches: military dictator Rios Montt from 1982 to 1983, still a political force in this country, and Jorge Serrano from 1991 to 1993, now in exile in Panama. However, these two dictators represented the educated middle-class Charismatic elite and not the majority of Guatemalan pente- costals, over half of whom are Amerindians.12
Relationships between pentecostals and the Catholic Church in Latin America have not been easy. In the first place, they have been mutual antagonists: the pentecostals charge the Catholics with Christopaganism, persecution of pentecostals, and responsibility for the region’s underdevelopment;
and Catholics see pentecostals as troublesome, even heretical sects. In reality, popular Catholicism and Pentecostalism have very similar belief systems and worldviews. But in 1992 Pope John Paul II warned against the “invasion of the sects” and the “ravenous wolves” that were threatening the Catholic hold on Latin America—yet Pentecostalism, more than Catholicism, is essentially a Latin American phenomenon. Studies have shown that Catholicism had proportionately far more foreign priests in Latin America—an astonishing 94 percent in Venezuela—than Pentecostal churches had foreign missionaries. Second, Latin America has changed rapidly in the twentieth century from being a predominantly Catholic continent to one where religious pluralism is a fact of modern life. The Catholic proportion of the population has been steadily decreasing and pentecostals command significant influence both socially and politically. Third, from the very start, Pentecostalism took on a Latin American character that contrasted with the old Latin liturgies of the Catholic Church. In the eyes of many, the Catholic Church had become the church of the middle and upper classes, a vestige of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, while Pentecostalism represented ordinary, working-class people. And worst of all, pentecostals engaged in aggressive proselytizing of nominal Catholics, whom they considered not really Christians. Understandably, the Catholic Church has felt threatened by the remarkable pentecostal growth that has exploded the myth of a united Latin American Catholic culture. One of the common accusations made in the past was that the new “sects” were agents of the neo-imperialist United States. As many have pointed out, however, it is the Catholic Church whose leaders are “foreign.” Nevertheless, one of the most remarkable reactions has been the “Pentecostalization” of the Catholic Church in Latin America, or what Andrew Chesnut calls “a Catholicized version of Pentecostalism.” Some observers think that in 2010 there might have been almost twice as many Catholic Charismatics in Latin America as pentecostals—some 73 million.13
Pentecostalism has rapidly become one of the most prominent and influential religious movements across Africa. But the “Pentecostalization” of African Christianity cannot be understood without reference to the pioneers in the early years of the movement, particularly those leaders from whose work emerged what are widely referred to as “churches of the Spirit,” independent African churches with a pentecostal emphasis.
The complex West African pentecostal history begins with African preachers, especially the Grebo Liberian prophet William Wade Harris and Garrick Sokari Braide (1882-1918), a popular Anglican revivalist preacher in the Niger River Delta of southeastern Nigeria. Braide preached about repentance, the destruction of fetish charms, and healing through prayer. He preached against the lucrative alcohol trade, was regarded as a threat to British rule and financial hegemony, and was jailed in 1916 for seditious behavior, succumbing to the influenza epidemic soon after his release. His disagreements with the Anglican church and subsequent imprisonment caused his followers to form the Christ Army Church in 1916, the first independent “church of the Spirit” in Nigeria, to be followed by many more, including the highly successful Aladura movement in southwestern Nigeria.14
William Wade Harris (1865-1929) had at least passing acquaintance with the Azusa Street missionaries who arrived in Liberia in 1907, some of whom worked in Harris’s home district of Cape Palmas among Grebo Methodists. From 1913 to 1914 Harris began preaching in Cote d’Ivoire and on the west coast of Ghana about one true God, healing, and the rejection of practices associated with African religions. Harris and his companions were responsible for one of the greatest influxes ever seen of Africans to Christianity. Harris may have baptized 120,000 adult Ivorian converts in a year. In 1914, he was deported by French colonial authorities and village prayer houses set up by his followers were destroyed. Although he directed people to existing mission churches, thousands of his followers found themselves disagreeing with Methodist financial policy, their prohibition of polygamy, and the foreign liturgy that was so different from the African singing and dancing practiced by Harris. They organized themselves into the Harrist Church, which grew rapidly, although it became increasingly identified with the nationalist struggle, was severely persecuted by the French administration, and was only officially registered in 1955. Other churches in the Ivory Coast were to emerge in the Harrist tradition and Harris’s influence was to be felt in neighboring Ghana.15
Ghana had its fair share of early charismatic preachers and prophets responsible for the rapid growth of Christianity in the early twentieth century, among whom were John Swatson, a disciple of Harris with a Methodist background who became an Anglican preacher, and the younger Sampson Oppong (d.1965), a converted fetish priest who became a Methodist preacher during the 1920s and 1930s. Both men exercised charismatic gifts of healing and both fell out of favor with their British ecclesiastical overseers and died in obscurity. The first “spiritual church” to emerge in Ghana was the Church of the Twelve Apostles in 1918, founded by Harris’s converts Grace Tani and Kwesi John Nackabah. This new church followed Harris’s emphasis on healing and the use of holy water, administered in healing “gardens,” communal dwellings much like the American “healing homes” set up in the late nineteenth century. In 1938 the church considered affiliating with the Apostolic Church of Britain, but according to one account they withdrew when the Northern Irish Apostolic missionary James McKeown insisted that tambourines be substituted for calabash rattles, apparently seen as an attempt to deprive Africans of the power to ward off evil spirits.16
The four main classical pentecostal denominations in Ghana today are the Church of Pentecost, the Apostolic Church of Ghana, the Christ Apostolic Church, and the Assemblies of God. The first three have origins in the work of a remarkable Ghanaian, Peter Anim (1890-1984), regarded as the father of Pentecostalism in Ghana. The region had witnessed a major outbreak of the deadly influenza epidemic in 1918 and a concomitant economic recession, and Western medicine and mission-founded churches were unable to handle the crisis. Africans were convinced that the epidemic had an important spiritual dimension and set up a number of fellowships to pray for divine intervention. Anim came into contact with the publication The Sword of the Spirit of the Faith Tabernacle church in Philadelphia, and in 1921 received healing from guinea worm infection and protracted stomach ailments. Faith Tabernacle was an offshoot of Dowie’s Zion City, which emphasized healing and baptism by immersion. Anim resigned from the Presbyterian church to become an independent healing preacher who gathered a large following, affiliating for a short time with Faith Tabernacle. Similar developments in Nigeria took place, where David Odubanjo became the leader of Faith Tabernacle. Relations between the West African and Philadelphia church deteriorated for three main reasons. First, in over four years none of the American leaders had ever visited West Africa, which cast doubt on their commitment. Second, there were doctrinal differences over speaking in tongues, already practiced by the Africans but rejected by the Americans, who like the Zionists in Chicago, considered it a satanic delusion. Third, in 1926 the Philadelphia church’s leader, Pastor Clark, was excommunicated over his matrimonial affairs. Anim and the Nigerian leaders severed the connection with Faith Tabernacle in Philadelphia.
At the same time another periodical began circulating in West Africa, The Apostolic Faith from Portland, Oregon, a movement whose founder Florence Crawford was a leader in the Azusa Street revival. After the break with Philadelphia, Anim found the teachings of the Apostolic Faith in line with his own practices and took the name Apostolic Faith for his movement. In correspondence with Odubanjo, he discovered that Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria was seeking affiliation with the Apostolic Church in Britain to assist in addressing the difficulties the African leaders were having with the colonial administration. Anim and two of his leaders met the three British Apostolic leaders on their voyage from England and accompanied them from Accra to Lagos in 1931. According to Anim’s own account, the Spirit baptism of some of his key leaders took place in 1932 during prayers in a village and quickly spread in what was called a “Holy Ghost Dispensation.” Ghanaian scholars argue that Anim’s organization was pentecostal before there was any missionary presence. Anim’s organization affiliated with the Apostolic Church after a brief visit from their missionary in Nigeria in 1935. Anim negotiated for missionaries to be sent to Ghana to assist the growing number of churches and the Apostolic Church sent the McKeowns in 1937. Anim’s contemporary James McKeown (1900-89) contracted malaria soon after his arrival and was taken to hospital for treatment, a position that Anim and his followers found deviating from their understanding of divine healing without the use of medicine. This conflict resulted in Anim and some of his followers withdrawing from the Apostolic Church two years later to form the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). The CAC continued its opposition to the use of medicine well into the 1970s. After a short retirement in 1957 Anim continued as leader of the CAC in Ghana until his death at the age of ninety-four. The CAC suffered several schisms in its short history from which it never fully recovered, and it was soon overtaken by the rapidly growing and well-organized Church of Pentecost. Nevertheless, Anim remains the most significant and respected pioneer of Ghanaian Pentecostalism.17
In 1953, McKeown himself, on a visit to Britain, came into conflict with the Apostolic Church and resigned, whereupon the Church Council in Ghana declared him leader of the now-independent Gold Coast Apostolic Church, which, after Ghana achieved independence in 1957, became the Ghana Apostolic Church. Protracted legal battles between the British and Ghanaian churches over church properties ensued, and an attempt to have McKeown deported failed. In 1962 President Kwame Nkrumah intervened and ordered the Ghana Apostolic Church to change its name; thereafter it was known as the Church of Pentecost (COP). The opposing faction left the COP and joined the Apostolic Church, which was declared to legally own all properties acquired by the church before the split in 1953. Although McKeown was chairman of the COP, there was an all-Ghanaian executive council and Ghanaians took the initiative for the expansion of the church. This was an autochthonous Ghanaian church and McKeown’s links with British Pentecostalism were at most tenuous. McKeown himself was a supporter of the principle of indigenization, stating that “it would be difficult to grow an ‘English oak’ in Ghana. A local ‘species’, at home in its culture, should grow, reproduce and spread; a church with foreign roots was more likely to struggle.” On another occasion, he stated: “Who runs the Church of Pentecost? Ghanaians. You talk about my founding this Church, but I could never have done all that. The Africans did it.”18
In 1971 the COP entered a cooperative agreement with the Elim Pentecostal Church in Britain, whereby Elim missionaries would assist the church in leadership training, radio ministry, and publishing. McKeown began to withdraw from his dominant role in the 1970s, when he would spend increasing time in Britain (especially after his wife remained there after 1974), and he finally retired and left Ghana in 1982 at the age of eighty-two. By this time the COP was easily the largest pentecostal church in Ghana. He was succeeded as chairman by Ghanaians: Apostle F. S. Safo (1982-87), Prophet M. K. Yeboah (1988-98), and Apostle Michael K. Ntumy (1998-2008). The COP went through twenty years of rapid growth, from 129,000 members in 1982 to 717,000 in 2002. The Pentecost Bible College developed into Pentecost University College in 2003 and was opened by J. A. Kuffour, at that time the president of Ghana. The first principal was Apostle Dr. Opoku Onyinah, a PhD theology graduate of Birmingham who was elected fifth chairman of the church in 2008. In 2011 the COP claimed to have 1.5 million members in Ghana, with ninety-six primary schools, six secondary schools, and seven hospitals and clinics. Furthermore, it now operated in over eighty countries worldwide.19
Parallel events took place in Nigeria. Testimonies of people who claimed that they were healed of influenza drew large crowds to join the fellowships in southern Nigeria, which organized themselves in 1918 under Anglican leader Joseph Shadare as Egbe- Okuta Iyebiye, a Yoruba term meaning “Precious Stone” or “Diamond Society,” to provide spiritual support and healing for victims of the epidemic. This group left the Anglican Church in 1922 over the issue of infant baptism; through Odubanjo’s efforts, they affiliated with Faith Tabernacle, but severed the affiliation in 1925. In the same year, the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Society was founded by another Anglican, Moses Orimolade Tunolashe (who became known as Baba Aladura, a title used by subsequent leaders of this church), and the fifteen-year-old girl Abiodun Akinsowon (later called Captain Abiodun), for whom Orimolade was called upon to pray for healing. Orimolade had begun preaching in about 1915 after partially recovering from a long illness. This new movement emphasized prayer and so its followers were called aladura (“owners of prayer”), a term that distinguished them and stuck. Orimolade took the revival to other parts of Yorubaland, where the largest and most numerous independent churches of the Spirit in West Africa are now found.20
Faith Tabernacle experienced remarkable growth under the activities of the young Yoruba prophet Joseph Ayo Babalola (1904-59), who appeared on the Nigerian religious scene in the late 1920s. Babalola claimed he heard a divine voice calling him to become a prophet and evangelist, and as a result became an itinerant preacher, carrying a Bible, a bell, and “water of life” (holy water) which he claimed would heal all sicknesses. Initially operating from his local Anglican church, he was soon expelled because of his healing practices. He met Shadare, joined Faith Tabernacle in Ilesa in 1929, and played a leading role in a revival that began the following year, when it was reported that many were healed and believers had to renounce all evil practices and witchcraft. The church that Babalola helped establish became affiliated with the Apostolic Church after the arrival of British missionaries in 1932, but in 1939 it seceded after the missionaries objected to the use of “water of life” in healing rituals. For their part, the Nigerians disagreed with the missionaries using medicine and quinine for healing, which seemed to compromise their doctrine of divine healing. The CAC was constituted in 1941 and is now the largest Aladura church in Nigeria and one of the largest independent Spirit churches in Africa. It considers itself a pentecostal church and follows the Apostolic Church in both polity and theology but with significant modifications. The CAC proscribed polygamy and the use of all medicine, traditional and modern, but has more recently modified the medicine ban. It is the only church with roots in the Aladura movement to be accepted by other pentecostal churches. After the secessions in Ghana and Nigeria, the British missionaries and the Apostolic Church remained in both countries. By 1950 Aladura churches like the CAC and the Cherubim and Seraphim were at the center of Yoruba society and, despite numerous secessions, they are still a significant force in Nigerian Christianity. The churches of the Spirit in West Africa, though influenced by Western Pentecostalism, were birthed in an African revival marked by the rejection of pre-Christian religion. Many of the new pentecostal churches formed in this region today have roots in both the Aladura and the Apostolic Church movements, which remain important influences on African Pentecostalism as a whole.21
Sometimes the leaders and prophets of African churches of the Spirit were given biblical mandate as Moses figures, bringing their people out of slavery into the promised land, the new “City of Zion.” This is seen most clearly in the churches in southern Africa, the most colonized and oppressed region in the continent. The historical links with early Pentecostalism are clear, and the Spirit churches there are usually referred to as “Zionist” and “Apostolic” churches. Their reading of the Bible portrays the Exodus as a deliverance from the old life of trouble, sickness, oppression, evil spirits, sorcery, and poverty. The new Israel incarnate in Africa is moving out of Egypt toward the new Jerusalem, the Zion of God, where all these troubles are forgotten. The people of God are the members of this new African church, which has been able to discover its own promised land. Zion, the new Jerusalem, the holy place is not in some far off foreign land at some distant time in the past, but present here and now in Africa. This idea was also influenced by the Zion movement of Dowie and his Zion City in Chicago. Most Zionist and Apostolic churches have a church headquarters where the founder or bishop lives, a healing colony to which members must make regular pilgrimages on holy days for church conferences. This African Zion is above all a place of healing, blessing, and deliverance—in short, the place where the imminence of God is keenly felt. It is also the place where the means of grace and the manifestation of God’s presence in the sacraments are administered by the leader. The conferences of the church at “Zion” are therefore of the utmost importance. Members are expected to visit their Zion at least once a year, a pilgrimage following the Old Testament tradition of the annual journeys of the people of God to their holy place at regular festival times. Without such a pilgrimage, the process of receiving the message of God is incomplete. Through this journey members meet the leader and obtain his (it is usually his) blessing, especially through the sacrament of communion. The Easter Festival of South Africa’s largest denomination, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) at Moria (named after the mountain Moses ascended) in the northern Limpopo province is the annual highlight. Somewhere between 1 million and 2 million people, dressed in ZCC khaki, gold, and green uniforms, congregate there annually. The pinnacle of the weekend’s activities is when Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane, resplendent in green and gold and marching at the head of a brass band, takes the podium to address the assembled and expectant multitude. As the grandson of the founder of the church, his word is regarded by his faithful followers as the word of God.22
The church’s founder was Engenas Lekganyane (c.1880-1948), an evangelist in the Free Church of Scotland, born in Limpopo province. He met P. L. le Roux, the first Afrikaner leader in the Apostolic Faith Mission in Johannesburg soon after it was founded in 1908 by missionaries from Indianapolis. Lekganyane had suffered from an eye disease for some years, but had received a vision in which a voice told him that if he went to Johannesburg he should join a church that baptized by threefold immersion in water, and thereby find healing. He joined the AFM, was baptized, and became a member of a congregation near his home. A Zionist historian suggests that Lekganyane followed Elias Mahlangu rather than le Roux on his arrival in Johannesburg in 1912, and Mahlangu baptized Lekganyane, resulting in his healing. Mahlangu was an AFM preacher until about 1917 and the distinction between “Zion” and “Apostolic” was blurred at that time. Lekganyane first got his preaching credentials from the AFM, but in 1916 was ordained into Mahlangu’s Zion Apostolic Church (ZAC) and he started a ZAC congregation in his home village of Thabakgone. This appears to have been a schism under Mahlangu, not the first in the AFM’s short history. In 1917 Lekganyane prophesied the defeat of Germany by Britain, and when this came to pass his prestige as a prophet and “man of God” grew. Lekganyane became the leader of the ZAC in the Limpopo province, a powerful preacher who won many converts. He appears to have continued with Mahlangu for about three years, but differences between them soon emerged. Customs promoted by Mahlangu to which Lekganyane took exception included the compulsory wearing of white robes, growing beards, and taking off shoes before a service, practices now found in many Zionist and Apostolic churches but not in the ZCC. Lekganyane’s final break with the ZAC came in 1920, when he went to Lesotho and joined Edward Lion’s Zion Apostolic Faith Mission (ZAFM). Lion, whose original surname was Motaung (“lion person”) had been a notable preacher and healer in the AFM, and the two leaders had much in common. Lekganyane was ordained as bishop of this church in the Transvaal, but again, differences emerged and around 1924-25 he founded the ZCC. Lekganyane had married a second wife, which was another reason for the break with Lion, who opposed polygamy. Lekganyane remained a strong admirer of Lion, and named his second son after him. He subsequently related how around 1920, he had had a revelation that a multitude of people would follow him. But as often happens in schisms of this kind, the main reason for Lekganyane’s break with the ZAC and the ZAFM was a leadership power struggle.23
The ZCC grew rapidly. By 1925, when Lekganyane applied for government recognition, he claimed 926 adherents in fifteen congregations. The government, which looked at independent African churches with considerable suspicion, denied his application and did so again in 1943. In 1930 Lekganyane was involved in a dispute with his chief over the chiefs mistreatment of one of his members and was forced to leave his home village. Church members raised the money to purchase a farm and gave it to Lekganyane as his personal property. This farm became Zion City, Moria. An early emphasis of Lekganyane’s ministry was divine healing, and it was probably his reputation as a healer more than anything else that contributed to the rapid growth of the ZCC. He used to heal by personally laying on hands, but as the church grew this became impractical and he began to bless strips of cloth, strings, papers, needles, walking sticks, and water, to be used for healing and protective purposes. These symbolic ritual practices emerged in the latter part of Lekganyane’s ministry, resonated with African healing practices, and are reasons for the present-day distance between the ZCC and pentecostal churches. Several miraculous incidents are attributed to Lekganyane in his later years. Believers testified that he had helped in obtaining employment, the blessing of harvests, and “rain-making”—a traditional sign of power for which Lekganyane was well known. Healing and miracles continued to be one of the main characteristics of Lekganyane’s ministry. By 1942 the ZCC had about 27,487 members and had spread to Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the Northern Cape Province. A year later the membership was estimated by government sources to be between 40,000 and 45,000, and the ZCC had already become the largest independent church in southern Africa.
Lekganyane died in 1948 after a long illness, and there was a leadership crisis. He had not appointed a successor, and his two sons, Edward and Joseph, disputed the succession. After the traditional mourning period of a year, they formed two separate churches in 1949. The followers of Joseph (the minority faction) became the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church, while the majority of Engenas’s people followed Edward in the ZCC. In beliefs and practice there is little difference between these two churches, and their Zion headquarters adjoin each other. Under Edward Lekganyane (1926-67) the ZCC continued to grow remarkably, so that by 1954 the membership was some 80,000. In 1963 Edward enrolled in the three-year course for evangelists at the Dutch Reformed Church’s Stofberg Theological College, near his headquarters; he attended classes in his chauffeur-driven black limousine wearing his rather ostentatious diamond ring. It seems that the only difference he had with his teachers there was on the question of baptismal modes, Lekganyane favoring threefold adult immersion after the practice of the American Zionists and the AFM. He seems to have tried to move the ZCC in a more biblical direction, but not everyone in the ZCC was happy with his newfound friendship with the Reformed Church, some alleging that the church had “lost the Spirit” and was not as “powerful” as it used to be. Nevertheless, Edward was an effective leader. Two days after his sudden and premature death of a heart attack in October 1967, a leading article in the black newspaper World said that he had been “one of the most powerful leaders who have dominated the religious scene in this generation.” His son Ramarumo Barnabas Lekganyane (b.1954) was only thirteen years old when his father died but was chosen as the new leader by a General Council of the ZCC at the Easter Conference in 1968. The ZCC was governed by a superintendent until 1975, when Barnabas was old enough to become bishop. The church grew rapidly and in 2001 the government census put ZCC membership at 5 million, twenty times the size of the AFM, the country’s largest classical pentecostal denomination. There were another 8 million people in the thousands of Zionist and Apostolic churches that exist in South Africa.24
The ZCC attempted to play a role in the changes that took place in South Africa in the early 1990s. The church was known for promoting harmony and reconciliation, which may be the reason the three most influential political leaders in South Africa at the time (Mandela, De Klerk, and Buthelezi) were each invited to the Easter Festival in 1992 at Moria, when I attended. ZCC Bishop Lekganyane made an attempt to play a constructive role in the delicate political negotiations being conducted at that time, and thereby help promote peace during a period of violent strife. The bishop’s sermon on this occasion was directed at the three leaders, lashing out at “warmongering” and inflammatory political speeches, saying that leaders as well as followers were responsible for the current carnage in the South African townships. He made a plea for peace and emphasized the role of the ZCC as a church of peace. Any political leaders ignore the ZCC at their peril, and this is probably why all three leaders accepted the invitation. Arguably, the largest crowd that any South African political leaders had ever addressed was there, perhaps as many as 2 million. The greatest applause that afternoon was given by the ZCC multitude to Mandela, who made reference in his speech to prominent African National Congress (ANC) officials who were members of the ZCC. The ZCC does not engage in political posturing, and like many other African churches does not align itself with political parties. The bishop prudently avoided any impression of taking sides in his sermon. The afternoon belonged to him and not to any of the politicians present—they were on his turf.25
The existence of enormous independent churches today has a lot to do with early pentecostal missionaries, who tapped into the new phenomenon of African independence particularly prevalent in institutionally segregated South Africa. American missionary Jacob Lehman wrote of a whole tribal community in the northwest of the country that had seceded with their chief from “a certain missionary society” because of exploitation by missionaries. Near Middelburg, Lehman and other pentecostal missionaries held services to welcome a group of secessionists into the pentecostal fold and John G. Lake visited an “Ethiopian” church conference seeking affiliation with the AFM. Lake wrote of a “native missionary,” Paul Mabiletsa, who told Lake about a paralyzed woman healed through prayer. In 1920 Mabiletsa founded the Apostolic Church in Zion, which would become one of the larger Zionist churches. Lake also reported that twenty-four “native Catholic churches” and “five large Ethiopian churches” had decided to affiliate with the AFM in 1910 and that the “African Catholic Church,” with seventy-eight preachers, joined in January 1911. In 1911 the “Ethiopian Church” affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Church. Clearly, many of the early pentecostal “converts” in South Africa were already members of Christian churches, especially African independent ones. But the flow went both ways. By 1915 there were several secessions from the pentecostals, especially from the AFM. African leaders likely felt marginalized by the white leadership. One Pentecostal Mission worker complained about African women who had “risen up refusing to acknowledge any authority in the church” and who were now “trying to establish a church of their own, with a native as leader.” African churches of the Spirit are a long established tradition. Although many of these independent churches may no longer be described as pentecostal without further qualification, the most characteristic features of their theology and practice are overwhelmingly so. Pentecostal missions in South Africa were the unwitting catalysts for a much larger movement of the Spirit that was to dominate southern African Christianity into the twenty-first century. Similar links between foreign pentecostal missionaries and independent churches have been documented in West Africa, as the stories of Faith Tabernacle and the Apostolic movement demonstrate. The same links can be demonstrated in East Africa. The influence of these churches on African Christianity is pervasive.26
There are many examples of pentecostal churches founded in Asia also. For example, it was thought that Pentecostalism in Sri Lanka began with the Danish actress Anna Lewini and former British soldier in India Walter Clifford, who arrived in Colombo in 1919 and 1923, respectively. From their work evolved the Assemblies of God and the independent Ceylon Pentecostal Mission (CPM), founded in 1921 by Alwin R. De Alwis (c.1890-1967) and Ramankutty Paul (1881-1945), a Dalit from Kerala. It was suggested that the De Alwis family became pentecostal as a result of Clifford’s healing services. A perusal of early pentecostal papers, however, reveals that Alwin had been a pentecostal for at least ten years before Clifford arrived and was already leading a pentecostal mission. In fact, pentecostal missions were active in Sri Lanka long before Lewini and Clifford arrived, and its pioneers were Sri Lankans, including D. E. Dias Wanigasekera and Charles Hettiaratchy. There is also record of a Sri Lankan Baptist, J. J. B. de Silva, who became pentecostal, started an independent congregation, and assisted Anna Lewini. Ramankutty Paul returned to India in 1924 to establish the Pentecostal Mission with headquarters in Madras (Chennai). The first faith home (a commune where members dispose of all their private possessions and live together) was established in 1933 in Tuticorin, but it soon spread to other parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, to which missionaries were sent in the 1930s. The CPM is an exclusivist sect where celibacy is encouraged for the increase of spiritual power, and Indian music usually accompanied by drums is used. Most independent Indian Pentecostal denominations have strict rules for members but none are as strict as those of the CPM, whose rules include dressing only in white traditional dress and opposition to all forms of jewelry, taking medicine, and the ordination of women. Celibacy is enjoined on all full-time workers who live in the faith homes, where compulsory prayer begins at 4 a.m. and strict obedience to the chief pastor, the head of the movement, is enjoined. After Paul’s death in 1945, sole leadership passed to Alwin who remained as chief pastor until 1962; after disagreements over his leadership, the son of Ramankutty Paul, Freddy Paul, became chief pastor.
From the CPM came a whole string of secessions, including the Apostolic Christian Assembly, the Apostolic Fellowship Tabernacle of India, and the Maranatha Full Gospel Mission.27
K. E. Abraham (1899-1974), formerly a Syrian Orthodox schoolteacher and ardent nationalist, was baptized by immersion in 1916 by K. V. Simon, leader of an Indian Brethren separatist group known as Viyojithan (“Separatist”). Abraham joined the pentecostal movement in 1923 through the ministry of C. Manasseh and influenced the emergence of Indian leaders thereafter. He worked with Robert Cook first in the AG and then in the Malankara Pentecostal Church of God, until separating from him in 1930. The reasons for the break with Cook are not clear but were connected to Abraham’s own leadership aspirations and nationalist sympathies. Although there were many Indian pentecostal preachers, no Indians had been ordained until Pastor Paul of the CPM visited Kerala and ordained them. The two existing Pentecostal denominations were controlled by foreign missionaries, and the break revolved around the issue of funding for church buildings, which the missionaries controlled. Abraham emphasized the autonomy of the local congregation and stated that foreign missionaries were “non-biblical and non-apostolic.” Abraham was fiercely nationalistic and, in the words of one of his biographers, “stood for national leadership, national churches, national missionary organizations and national administration... against the foreign domination... never wanted to sacrifice freedom for money.” After three years with the CPM, Abraham, together with other Kerala leaders K. C. Cherian, P. T. Chacko, and P. M. Samuel, founded the Indian Pentecostal Church of God (IPC), which planted its first congregations in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. Abraham started the Hebron Bible School to train Indian pastors. Contact was made and cooperation established with the Swedish pentecostal Filadelfia Church of Lewi Pethrus, and Abraham and Cherian spent eighteen months in 1936-37 itinerating in Sweden. The Swedish pentecostals with their emphasis on local autonomy gave unconditional financial support to the IPC in those early years. In Kerala, Pentecostal leadership has been dominated by people of Syrian Christian background. The IPC had the first of many schisms in 1953, when P. J. Thomas formed the Sharon Fellowship, formally registered in 1975. The IPC, with the Christian Assemblies of India and the Assemblies (Jehovah Shammah) are among the largest independent Indian Pentecostal churches, but there are growing, newer churches like the New Life Church and the Filadelfia Fellowship Church of India.28
From 1908 to 1917, a former schoolteacher in Hong Kong edited the first pentecostal newspaper outside the Western world. Mok Lai Chi (1868-1926) was born into a Christian family and attended an English school in Hong Kong until he went into government service as a translator in 1886. After some time living a profligate life “at large in the world,” he repented and in 1892 began a school teaching English and shorthand. He is also recorded as being Chinese Clerk and Interpreter for the Registrar General in 1893. He was a deacon in the American Board Mission church, superintendent of a Sunday School, and secretary for the local YMCA, where he had done evangelistic work among the dock workers. He met Albert and Lillian Garr in 1907, interpreted for them in the Mission where they commenced services every night. Mok was baptized in the Spirit in November 1907, stating, “The Spirit spoke through me in the Mandarin dialect, the Hakka dialect, and an African tongue.” His wife Alice Lena Mok followed a few days later. His four-page broadsheet was called Pentecostal Truths and contained articles mostly in Chinese, with up to a page in English. Many of the Chinese articles were translations of teachings published elsewhere in English, but Mok also wrote many articles in Chinese himself. Six thousand copies of the paper were printed and freely distributed throughout China and overseas in 1909 and 8,000 in 1915. Although originally a monthly paper, during the war years only three issues were published, perhaps due to a shortage of donations. The first publication made front-page news in Azusa Street’s Apostolic Faith in May 1908, with a report on how the paper started. It was a Chinese initiative from the start and Mok was in charge of its publication.29
Mok’s description of its commencement, written from “The Apostolic Faith Mission, Hong Kong, China” shows his role:
One day, Brother McIntosh told me that the Lord had spoken to him about starting a free paper, giving the name of “Pentecostal Truths,” and asked me to pray about it. When I prayed the Lord spoke to me, commanding me to take charge of it. I said, “Lord,
I am not a writer,” but the Lord reminded me of what Moses said on Mount Horeb, and promised that He would make my brothers to help me. So in January, 1908, “Pentecostal Truths” made its first appearance with 1,000 copies. It has since increased to 6,000 copies each issue. It is a free paper, with three pages printed in Chinese and one in English. It reaches, as many other Pentecostal papers do, many hungry souls, both in China and foreign countries.
Besides the paper, we are publishing free tracts.30
In another letter, Mok said that he started the paper “without any fund and without any help whatever.” In April 1909 the Hong Kong paper announced its aim as being “especially for proclaiming the truth of the baptism of the Holy Spirit to inspire the downcast Church,” and that its content would be kept “simple but understandable to make sure that women and children can know and gain the heavenly blessings.” By 1914 the paper seems to have shifted to a particular emphasis on “the fact of Jesus’ imminent coming,” and Mok exhorted his readers to “keep this paper to avoid regret,” as soon, when Christ appeared in the sky, the paper would stop and his work would be finished.31
Mok Lai Chi was leader in what was first called the Apostolic Faith Mission, which was associated with the Garrs. The Garrs had a hand in persuading Mok to become pentecostal, and on their arrival in Hong Kong he already had a reputation as an influential Christian leader and respected director of the Morrison English School. A young American missionary, Cora Fritsch, writes of Mok as “the pastor” of the “dear band of [Chinese] baptised souls here” and “surely a chosen child of God, so devoted and consecrated to God. He gives all his time to the gospel work. Printing a paper as well as preaching and teaching school.” Four days later she wrote that Mok took full charge of the services in the mission, and was a “highly educated Chinese” who “speaks and writes English almost as well as if he had been educated in America.” The services were held in the “upper room” of a large house, the “Pentecostal Missionary Home” where the Garrs and other missionaries lived. But this building was far from where the “heathen” lived and too small for Mok’s large family, so by April 1909 Mok had opened a new “mission hall to the heathen” in Wanchai, in the “slums of the town,” filled with an attentive crowd of over 150 for nightly services. Four Chinese workers and at least some of the women missionaries helped him in this work, and were “living by faith.” He reported on nightly conversions, with “idol-worshippers” coming to kneel at the altar, and that “cases of beri-beri, fever, sores, consumption, diarrhoea, dysentery, and other diseases have been miraculously healed by our Lord Jesus through the prayers of our little apostolic company.” By April 1909 teams of Chinese workers were going out into the surrounding countryside taking Pentecostal Truths and tracts with them; a team of four women went to the villages on the mainland, with another two going farther into the interior. At the end of the year, the first two Chinese missionaries were sent out from Mok’s mission to the Chih-Li (now Hebei) province in northern China. This is further evidence that the influence of Mok and his paper extended far beyond the confines of British Hong Kong.32
By March 1910 Mok had moved to a larger rented building with his family. It accommodated a women’s English school with sixty-three enrolled, a kindergarten school for seventy-three children (these two schools did not charge fees), and rooms for counseling “seekers to come and tarry for their baptism.” Missionary Anna Deane wrote that the church was “governed by the Chinese” and that Mok was its pastor with “all Chinese deacons.” J. H. King, leader of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, was on a world tour in 1910 and spent a month in Hong Kong working with Mok, preaching every night with Mok interpreting. King spent his first night at “the mission of Rev. Mok Lai Chi far up the mountain side,” and he gives us a description of this Chinese leader. He writes that he had “the air of a quiet, statue-like educated Chinaman, and his influence was strong and extensive among the Chinese.” During this time Mok was visiting villages near Hong Kong on a regular basis to preach to the “heathen villagers,” and he networked with several other Chinese preachers, including some of considerable means. By July 1910, Mok was disturbed by the divisions creeping into American Pentecostalism and wanted to ensure that future American workers would not cause divisions in China. He believed that it was the Chinese themselves who should evangelize China, but they needed teachers to train them in a Bible school, and English teachers to help in the school. Mok criticized missionaries who lived in luxurious houses with several servants, a lifestyle “higher than some of the leading European merchants,” but this was not the case with native pentecostal missionaries. He dispelled the rumor that the Chinese required less food than foreigners, and said that Chinese workers needed adequate support. Garr wrote that they would leave Hong Kong as soon as the work was established and, significantly, that Mok Lai Chi was “the head of the work here.”33
In 1910 Mok’s paper explained (in Chinese) the relationship with the missionaries, declaring:
Hong Kong Pentecostal Mission is a Jesus church founded by Chinese themselves, not a branch of any foreign churches planted in my nation. Many genuine New Testament believers from many countries around the world always have correspondence with us.
We love each other from our hearts and support each other.34
By 1913 the Hong Kong Pentecostal Mission was a totally independent Chinese church. The latest report we have of Mok’s work in the overseas press was published in E. N. Bell’s Word and Witness in November 1913, where Mok writes of a convention in August 1912 and ongoing conversions and water and Spirit baptisms. The Mission continued its daily activities, including a Chinese Bible class (with twenty students) five times a week for training workers, a Sunday school with 130 children “mostly from heathen families” and ten Chinese teachers, an English school and two “native workers,” and the newspaper. It appears that this congregation met most of the costs of printing and postage for Pentecostal Truths, but that donations toward these costs from readers were also encouraged. The Mission was experiencing steady growth. By 1917 Mok reported that he was still running a weekday school that enabled him to support his family, and “two Pentecostal girls schools.” The periodical may have stopped publication soon after 1917, as no later copies are known. However, there is evidence that Mok was involved in itinerating activities throughout the areas around Hong Kong, and was instrumental in founding other congregations in the area, one commencing in 1917 in Sun Yat Sen’s birthplace Zhongshan, in which Mok held conventions, and existing today as the Yunfeng Pentecostal Church.35
In July 1921, Mok Lai Chi presented a petition to the Secretary for Chinese Affairs in the colonial government on behalf of 10,468 tenants (representing a substantial part of the population) against spiraling rents levied by Chinese landlords. Now fifty-three, Mok was still running the Pentecostal Mission and was recognized as a community leader, “representing Chinese tenants of the Colony.” The tenants were also petitioning for proper legal representation on the Council. This may be the last written record of Mok Lai Chi. After Mok became ill in 1923, leadership of the Mission passed to his long-time co-worker Sung Teng Man, a civil servant and father of the present superintendent S. H. Sung, a businessman who took over after his father’s death in 1958. The Mission opened two branch churches near Macau in 1916 and 1924, a branch in Kowloon in 1928, and one in Canton (Guangzhou) in 1934. Mok died in Hong Kong in 1926, but his independent Pentecostal Mission still exists today with two “Pentecostal Tabernacles” in Hong Kong and one in Vancouver, Canada. According to its present leader, the Mission has relied on part-time workers and leaders since its founding, it does not take up collections, and members spend an hour praying while kneeling in services. The leader of the first pentecostal church in China and undoubtedly a very influential Pentecostal pioneer in his own right, Mok Lai Chi made an enormous contribution to Pentecostalism in China.36
No one knows how many Christians there are in China today, but most informed observers would venture at least 80 million, and some considerably more. The majority of these Christians probably belong to independent churches established since 1980. Although Western terminology is difficult to use after many decades of isolation and operating in secrecy, many, if not most of these churches exhibit pentecostal features or have been influenced by Pentecostalism. In pre-Communist times, independent pentecostal churches were flourishing in China. By the time Pentecostalism entered China there was an unprecedented growth in Protestant Christianity and revivalist expectations. The True Jesus Church (TJC) was the largest and most successful independent church to arise in early twentieth century China. Wei Enbo (c.1876-1919) was a member of the London Missionary Society and a silk trader who was reportedly healed from tuberculosis after encountering a pentecostal mission in Beijing in 1916. His contact with foreign missionaries was short-lived, and after a divine revelation he baptized himself by facedown immersion, took the name Wei Baoluo (Paul) and founded the International Assembly of the True Jesus Church in 1917 in Beijing. Wei was stridently anti-foreign missionary, preached about impending doom for Western Christendom, and attracted many followers from existing churches.37
Zhang Lingsheng (1863-1935), who had received Spiritbaptism through an Apostolic Faith missionary in Shanghai in 1909, succeeded Wei after his death in 1919 from the tuberculosis from which he had been “healed,” by which time the church had over a thousand members. It appears that Zhang had met pentecostal missionaries who had convinced him of the non-Trinitarian Oneness doctrine; the first pentecostal missionary in the region, Bernt Berntsen and his influential periodical Popular Gospel Truths, became Oneness in 1919. Zhang in turn had persuaded Berntsen to keep Saturday as the Sabbath, which practice Berntsen began to propagate in 1916. Zhang was to leave TJC in 1929. The TJC was a radically anti-foreign, exclusivist church that owed much of its early growth to the efforts of its preachers, including the Confucian scholar Gao Daling in Shanxi, and (Barnabas) Zhang Dianju (1882-1961), who traveled the length and breadth of South China on foot, reporting many signs and miracles, establishing churches and baptizing thousands. The church was particularly effective in converting members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. An unsuccessful attempt to influence the National Christian Council of
China in 1922 resulted in further isolationism, and after the incident in Shanghai when British troops fired on unarmed protestors, their virulent anti-Western message became even more attractive. By 1929, the TJC was found throughout China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, its main attractions being deliverance from demons and opium addiction and the healing of the sick with holy water. The TJC had also suffered several secessions, including an attempt by Zhang Dianju to take over leadership, thwarted in 1930 when he was excommunicated. Wei Yisa, son of Wei Baoluo, and Gao Daling remained as leaders. By 1949 there were at least 700 congregations with more than 100,000 members in eighteen provinces, but the new government’s opposition to religious sects had increased. In 1958 the TJC was banned, only able to recommence openly in 1980. In Taiwan it has been one of the fastest-growing churches, with over 28,000 members by 1968. The emigration of Chinese to Europe and North America resulted in the formation of the TJC in the West. During the Cultural Revolution, the church in mainland China, forced underground, grew rapidly. There may be at least 3 million TJC members in China today. TJ C considers itself the only true church. Members observe the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments; both adults and children are baptized by immersion face downward in running water in the name of Jesus, after which a sacrament of foot washing is performed. Common Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues, trembling, singing, leaping, and dancing in the Spirit are found. The international leadership of the church is presently administered from Taiwan, but political tension between Taiwan and the mainland means that the mainland church remained isolated and has lost influence, especially with the recent rapid growth of house churches, congregations that meet in houses and are not registered with the government.38
One of the missionary couples W. W. Simpson recruited to the pen- tecostal cause in China was Leslie and Ava Anglin, Free Baptists who in the period following their pentecostal conversion established a community called the House of Onesiphorus in Tai’an, Shandong. With workshops, schools, and an orphanage with almost 500 destitute children in 1925, the Anglins eventually affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Their self-supporting community influenced Chinese pentecostal communities, in particular the Jesus Family founded by Jing Dianying (1890-1957) at Mazhuang, Shandong. Jing and others established a Christian savings society in 1921, a cooperative store attempting to meet the needs of the socially marginalized, followed by a silk reeling cooperative in 1926. Jing’s contact with the Anglins led to his pentecostal experience there in 1924 and his expulsion from the Methodist Episcopal Church. Jing worked briefly for the House of Onesiphorus but in 1927 formed the Jesus Family, which grew with little contact with Western missions. Members renounced the world and their allegiance to natural families, committing themselves totally to the community; private ownership was forbidden; members had to live simply, work hard, and contribute to the community after the pattern of the early church. Family homes were established throughout China and by 1949 there were 127 self-supporting communities with over 10,000 members engaged in several different trades and educational courses. Although the Family first supported the Communist revolution, in keeping with its own egalitarian principles, in 1952 Jing was arrested on several charges including imperialism and anti-Communism, and the Family was officially dissolved and repressed. Jing died of cancer five years later. In spite of this, the movement continued underground and in 1977, meetings resumed in Mazhuang. The old meeting place was restored by 1984, and a two-story hostel was started in 1988. Most Christian groups in central Shandong are of Family background, and their influence remains in other provinces. Apart from the strong sense of community, other characteristic Family beliefs that remain are early morning emotional prayer meetings with loud crying, simultaneous prayer and manifestations of the Spirit like speaking in tongues, trances, revelations through dreams, visions, and other means, hymn singing (Jing wrote many hymns), and sharing testimonies. Although these phenomena characterize pentecostal movements all over the world, in the Family these meetings last for at least three hours, and the regimented work activities revolve around the daily meetings. The Family suffered further repression in 1992, with several key leaders imprisoned and buildings demolished by the government.39
In 1929, a remarkable pentecostal revival occurred in Shandong in the wake of the anti-Christian movement and the chaos created by warlords and revolution. Initiated by a Norwegian independent missionary with pentecostal leanings, Marie Monsen, the revival exploded among Lutherans, Baptists, and Presbyterians after the creation of a grassroots Chinese pentecostal movement called the Independent Chinese Spiritual Gifts Society (SGS). Initiated by the Nanjing pentecostal Nathan (Zhaorui) Ma and organized by Presbyterians Yang Rulin and Sun Zhanyao, the SGS set out specifically to promote the practice of gifts of the Spirit. Emotional and ecstatic outbursts, speaking in tongues, “holy laughter,” prophecies, healings, exorcisms, and public confessions were common in their meetings. The movement spread through the province and missionaries distanced themselves from it. Presbyterians in particular were affected; it was reported that two-thirds of Presbyterian pastors had joined the movement, but it soon spread to all the Protestant churches in the province. The revival reached other provinces like Henan, Manchuria, and Szechuan and was also influenced by the Jesus Family in Shandong. By 1936, SGS had organized itself into a separate denomination and opened its first church buildings in Qingdao and Jinan. The movement did not flourish during the Japanese occupation and subsequent civil wars, and although it continued to influence Chinese Christianity, many of its members joined the Jesus Family. SGS was finally dissolved in 1958.40
Independent Chinese churches were characterized by two things: pentecostal tendencies and conservative theology, characteristics that remain at the heart of Chinese Protestantism—especially, but not exclusively, those many groups that refused to join the government-recognized Three-Self Patriotic Movement. It has been estimated that half a million Chinese Christians lost their lives in the persecution that took place between 1950 and 1978, half of them during the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966. Many of these would have been members of the churches described here. All foreign missionaries left, and during these three decades Christianity became an underground Chinese religion with an apocalyptic emphasis. David Aikman considers how deeply Christianity penetrated Chinese society during the twentieth century. Many of the characteristics of the revivalist movements in pre-Communist China continued with the movements that emerged after 1980. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping’s rise to power in 1978, and the subsequent relaxation of severe religious restrictions, China has been experiencing an unprecedented growth in Christian conversions dubbed “Christianity fever.” The Chinese Protestant population was less than a million when Mao Zedong came to power in 1949. Today 50 million is a conservative estimate. The remarkable growth of Christianity in China is in no small part due to the efforts of the pioneers who established a vibrant Chinese Christianity that was not dependent on Western missionaries or organizations for sustenance. If recent reports are accurate, the majority of these Chinese Christians have pentecostal inclinations.41
The role of Pentecostalism and expatriate pentecostal missionaries in the early years of African, Indian, and Chinese independent churches and the links with some of its most significant leaders is an important historical fact that should not be glossed over by romanticizing “indigenous” churches without foreign influences. Nevertheless, there was indeed a very vigorous indigenous pentecostal movement at an early stage, and the growth and expansion of Pentecostalism in Asia and Africa was a direct consequence of this. From its beginning, Pentecostalism has been a highly migratory, missionary movement. Many pentecostals are unencumbered by ecclesiastical structures and hierarchies. With a sense of divine calling to do something important for God, they place primary emphasis on being “sent by the Spirit” and depend more on what is described as the Spirit’s leading than on formal structures. People “called by God” are engaging in missionary activities in other countries because they believe that the Spirit directed them to do so, often through some spiritual revelation like a prophecy, a dream, or a vision, and even through an audible voice perceived to be that of God. The result is that pentecostals approach their ministry and involvement in the church with deep commitment, often with self-sacrifice and hardship in order to see their divine vision realized. Not all have the success they dream of, but their dedication to the mission of the church is impressive. The existence of vibrant African pentecostal churches in Europe since the 1990s has put pressure on European Christians to seriously reconsider the effectiveness, content, and relevancy of the church’s mission. In its vigorous expansion, Pentecostalism as a whole sees the “world” as the space to move into and “possess” for Christ. Transnationalism and migration do not affect their essential character, even though their adherents may have to steer a precarious course between contradictory forms of identity resulting from the migratory experience. Pentecostals make full use of opportunities to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, in order to evangelize and minister to what they see as the felt needs of people, resulting in the growth of their churches.42