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My last post on pietism and the Wesleyan holiness movement briefly discussed the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, created in 1895, now known as the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.

This entry will examine how the holiness movement viewed the term ‘pentecostal’, why today’s holiness churches consider themselves separate from Pentecostalism and how Pentecostalism later developed.

Members of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church sometimes spoke in tongues — glossolalia, theologically speaking. However, at the end of the 19th century, no one held it to be evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Repudiating the ‘Pentecostal’ label

Another holiness denomination, now called Pillar of Fire International, was incorporated in 1901 as the Pentecostal Union.

Like the members of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, its followers were also known as ‘holy rollers’ and ‘holy jumpers’ for their supposed Spirit-led gyrations during worship.

Therefore, the physical movements, noise and glossolalia were originally part of the holiness churches.

However, after the Azusa Street Revival (described below), the Pentecostal Union’s founder Bishop Alma White changed the name to Pillar of Fire. It appears that she did this partly for social reasons, as the Azusa Street Revival involved too much mixing of blacks and whites during services.

However, there is a deeper theological aspect here. Pentecostals believe that one can only be baptised in the Spirit by giving evidence of it through speaking in tongues. Holiness churches, on the other hand, do not believe that glossolalia is a given for baptism in the Spirit.

Pentecostal borrowing from holiness churches

Members of holiness churches became the first Pentecostalists at the beginning of the 20th century. As such, they brought their Wesleyan holiness standards with them and (emphases mine):

to this day many “classical Pentecostals” maintain much of holiness doctrine and many of its devotional practices. (Oneness Pentecostals, such as the United Pentecostal Church, still largely adhere to these “standards.”) Additionally, the terms Pentecostal and apostolic, now used by adherents to Pentecostal and charismatic doctrine, were once widely used by holiness churches in connection with the consecrated lifestyle described in the New Testament.

Looking at the Wikipedia page for the United Pentecostal Church International, we read that this denomination

puts an emphasis upon Holiness living in all aspects of one’s life.

‘Holiness living’ involves:

Inward holiness, such as demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit in the Christian’s life, is accompanied by outward signs of holiness, according to the UPCI. These include a belief that women should not cut their hair; in addition, they should wear dresses or skirts rather than pants, in accordance with the scriptural mandate to “not wear that which pertaineth to a man”.[10] Skirt lengths are generally expected to reach below the knee. Woman and men alike are encouraged to “adorn [themselves] in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety”,[11] and are discouraged from wearing cosmetics or jewelry, biblically defined as “gold, or pearls, or costly array”.[11] The precise strictness to which these standards are adhered to often varies, however …

Other controversial issues include: men wearing shorts, attendance at movie theatres, dancing, and mixed bathing.

How it is that outward ‘holiness’ is a sign of inward holiness is unclear. It sounds like semi-Pelagian style over substance.

Yet, when it comes to worship:

Worship at the UPCI is often described as lively, with members jumping, dancing, singing, shouting, and clapping, as in all Pentecostal churches. Some people run through the church aisles, dance in the spirit, roll in the floor, which coined the term “holy rollers”. They have even been known, mostly in the earlier days of Pentecostalism, to walk across the top of pews or jump over pews in an act of fervent worship … Excessive control of worship activities is often referred to as “quenching the spirit”, a scriptural term taken from I Thessolonians 5:19, which states, “Quench not the Spirit.” There has often been controversy over how much worship should be controlled and how much a congregational leader should “let the Spirit move.”

Again, this worship style refers back to the 19th century holiness churches in the United States and England (Primitive Methodists).

Another example can be found in Oneness Pentecostalism, so called because they reject the Holy Trinity and baptise only in the name of Jesus Christ. (Heresy alert: Modalism and Arianism). The popular American evangelist, the Revd T D Jakes, is a Oneness Pentecostal, incidentally.

Oneness Pentecostals also follow standards of behaviour derived from the holiness movement:

Practical or outward holiness for Oneness believers involves certain “holiness standards” that dictate, among other things, modest apparel and gender distinction. Some Oneness organizations, considering current social trends in fashion and dress to be immoral, have established “dress codes” for their members. These guidelines are similar to those used by all Pentecostal denominations for much of the first half of the 20th century.[1] Generally, women wear long sleeves & skirts are expected not to wear pants, makeup, jewellery or to cut their hair; men are enjoined to be clean-shaven, short-haired,no jewellery and are expected to wear long sleeve shirts, long-legged pants, as opposed to shorts.[44] Oneness Pentecostals believe wholeheartedly in dressing modestly (with restraints and limits) and NOT moderately which by definition means “not in excess”. They believe that there is a distinct deference in Modesty (being aware of one’s limitations, or shunning indecency,) and Moderation (avoiding excesses or extremes while suggesting more than usual). Modesty carries the connotation of something being off-limits. They justify this belief by using the Biblical scripture in 1 Timothy 2:9 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel…” Additionally, many Oneness organizations proscribe their members from watching secular movies or television. Many of these views on “standards” have roots in the larger Holiness movement. However, the precise degree to which these standards are enforced varies from church to church and even from individual to individual within the movement.

Due to the comparative strictness of their “standards”, Oneness Pentecostals are ofttimes accused of “legalism” by other Christians.[45] Oneness believers respond by saying that holiness is commanded by God,[46] and that it follows salvation, rather than causes it.[43] “Holiness living”, for Oneness Pentecostals, proceeds from love rather than duty, and is motivated by the holy nature inparted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[43] While the Christian life is indeed one of liberty from rules and laws, that liberty does not negate one’s responsibility to follow scriptural teachings on moral issues,[43] many of which were established by the Apostles themselves.[47]

Once more, adhering to a ticklist of things to do is no sign of inner holiness.

Charles Fox Parham —  a founder of Pentecostalism

Charles Fox Parham was the preacher and evangelist who devised the idea of glossolalia being the evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Not surprisingly, he came from a Wesley-influenced home. His stepmother was a devout Methodist, and her father had been a circuit rider.  When she married Parham’s father, the couple opened up their home for religious meetings — small groups — a characteristic of pietism.

Four things stand out about Parham’s early life:

– He was steeped in Methodism and attended a Methodist college before becoming a supply pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

He married the daughter of a Quaker — a pietist — in a Friends Meeting House.

– He left the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1895, complaining that it did not allow enough scope to preach by ‘direct inspiration’ — another pietist characteristic.

– He started his own itinerant ministry — more evidence of pietism, as he rejected the formal church.

Parham and his infant son both fell ill at the same time; he attributed their recovery to ‘divine intervention’ and decided to make ‘divine healing’ part of his ministry.  At his new base in Topeka, Kansas, he opened the Bethel Healing Home.

In 1900, he became interested in the Bible and the ‘later day movements’, namely, what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell Christians. After studying with evangelist Frank Sandford in Maine and in Ontario, Parham opened his own Bible school. Although he charged no tuition, by instructing applicants to sell what they had, the implication was that they were to pay their way at the Bethel Bible School.

Parham knew from Sandford that at least one person had spoken in tongues. He also believed that there was more significance to Baptism than Christians had believed through the centuries.  Parham was looking for an outward sign and wonder connected with the sacrament. In other words, Baptism on its own did not suffice for Parham.

During a New Year’s vigil and worship from December 31, 1900 through January 1, 1901, a group of Parham’s Bible school students gathered.  It was during the worship service on New Year’s Day that one of them, Agnes Ozman, asked to be prayed for in order that she might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Immediately afterward, she began to speak in tongues.

One would have thought that this event would have catapulted his ministry to nationwide acclaim, but it was not to be — yet. Parham’s ministry had failed, so he decided to make an evangelistic tour of nearby resorts. In 1903, a socialite from Galena, Kansas — Mary Arthur — claimed that Parham had healed her. She and her husband invited Parham to conduct a service at a large venue in Galena over the New Year period of 1903-1904. The News Herald of Joplin, Missouri, picked up the event and reported that 1,000 people had been healed and 800 claimed conversion.  Parham’s ministry was finally on the up.

Parham was able to recruit ‘bands’ of assistants to help him spread ‘apostolic faith’ from town to town in Kansas and parts of Missouri. Putting aside the holiness movement’s diktat of modest dress, he encouraged them to dress stylishly in order to show others how attractive the Christian life is. This is worth mentioning, because it is something many televangelists, especially their wives, do to the present day.

In pietist fashion, Parham disliked the word ‘church’, so he opened ‘assemblies’ — another name which would catch on in the Pentecostal world. His first assembly opened in 1904 — a characteristically Pentecostal frame church — in Keelville, Kansas.  More opened in the Galena area.

Parham expanded his ministry, taking it to Houston, where he attracted a number of black holiness church members. By this time, the aforementioned Fire-Baptized Holiness Church had 50 black congregations, led by a former AME Church pastor.  Although they were not the only denomination, holiness and pentecostalism, as the Wesleyans understood it, appealed to black Protestants, many of whom had been exposed to the movement since the days of slavery.

Parham opened a Bible school in Houston in 1906. He soon teamed up with one of his black students, William J Seymour, who would become the other co-founder of the Pentecostal movement through the Azusa Street Revival (see below).

Parham and Seymour preached to blacks in the Houston area. Soon afterward, Seymour, by then holding a licence to preach as a minister in Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement, moved to Los Angeles to serve as an associate pastor in a holiness mission for a limited time.

Parham did much to bring whites and blacks together in his services.  Today’s younger readers might say that he didn’t do much at all, yet, in a time when slavery had been abolished for only four decades and the American South was divided on clear racial lines, Parham could be considered as having been ahead of his time.

In 1907, Parham was arrested in San Antonio on charges of homosexuality, which was illegal in those days.  Although charges were dropped, orthodox Christians used the episode against the new Pentecostal movement. As we shall see below, on top of the sodomy charges, the transfer of Pentecostal focus to Seymour made Parham even more resentful.

Parham turned his attention towards his Anglo-Saxon belief that the British are direct descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. (British Israelism is still popular today.) In 1928, he returned from a long-awaited trip to Palestine and was scheduled to go on a speaking tour, complete with slides, to show his audience. On January 5, 1929, he collapsed in the middle of one of his appearances. He died on January 29, 1929.

William J Seymour — co-founder of Pentecostalism

Parham’s protege, William J Seymour, was born in Louisiana in 1870 to former slaves and had the use of only one eye.  Seymour, as we read above, became a successful preacher under Parham and left his Houston evangelism for a holiness mission in Los Angeles.

Like Parham, he believed that glossolalia signified evidence that a Christian had been baptised in the Spirit.  This was a highly controversial belief at the time and, even today, the holiness churches do not accept it.  Consequently, the elders of the congregation took little time in locking Seymour out of the church. However, Edward S Lee, a member of the congregation, took Seymour into his own home, where Seymour started a small group of house worship and Bible study.

He then moved on to the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry in Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles. His small group became larger, now attracting white holiness church members as well. Together, the group prayed for baptism in the Holy Spirit as evidenced by glossolalia.  On April 9, 1906, Seymour’s first host — Edward S Lee — began speaking in tongues. At the next meeting, six more people spoke in tongues. Then Seymour himself began speaking in tongues, only three days after Lee.

News of the phenomenon spread by word of mouth in Los Angeles neighbourhoods. Latinos joined blacks and whites in front of the Asberry house in Bonnie Brae Street. Speakers appeared on the porch to describe or evangelise to the onlookers outside. Seymour’s first pastor in Los Angeles — Julia Hutchins — whose church locked him out, attended a meeting and also began speaking in tongues.  The crowds grew into a cross section of Los Angelenos of every background.

The numbers of people attending the meetings grew to the point where the porch of 214 Bonnie Brae Street collapsed and a new meeting place had to be found.

The Azusa Street Revival and William J Seymour

The group which had met at Bonnie Brae Street found another place to meet in a black district of Los Angeles. The building at 312 Azusa Street had once been an AME Church which was then converted into a warehouse among other businesses.

The building was in disrepair and required substantial cleaning inside. It had most recently been a horse stable.  Still, the group were able to transform it enough so that the congregation met on the ground floor and the church offices were upstairs, along with accommodation for Seymour and his bride, Jenny.

The main congregation was estimated at 50 or 60 people, but anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people often attended the meetings.

The people who knew about the house in Bonnie Brae Street now flocked to the new church in Azusa Street along with newcomers, including Asians, German immigrants and Yiddish-speaking Jews.  First-hand accounts describe American congregants as speaking in foreign languages to be understood by speakers of those languages near them in the pews. A number of Protestants, including pastors, from other denominations also attended meetings, if only out of curiosity.

Worship included people claiming being ‘slain in the Spirit’, personal testimony and altar calls. Contributions were strictly voluntary, with a receptacle by the door.  Characteristic of holiness churches dedicated to the Holy Spirit were the jumping, rolling around and gyrations.  Songs were in a cappella or in tongues.

Not surprisingly, members of respectable society — including reporters from the Los Angeles Times and Charles Parham — disapproved of the noise, the dirt and racial mixing.  Pastors also criticised the notional worship and warned against extremes of emotion and unbiblical practices.

By 1913, the excitement had gone and the Azusa Street Mission, as it was called, welcomed smaller congregations. Seymour and his wife lived there the rest of their lives. Seymour died of a heart attack in 1922.  Jenny, who died in 1936, led the congregation until 1931, when the church had to give up the premises. The building was razed later on, and a new structure now houses the Japanese-American Cultural Center.

Rapid spread of Pentecostalism

It should come as no surprise that certain holiness movement pastors and missionaries wished to replicate the sensational religious experience of Azusa Street in their own congregations.

In the United States:

The Southeast United States was a particularly prolific area of growth for the movement, since Seymour’s approach gave a useful explanation for a charismatic spiritual climate that had already been taking root in those areas. Other new missions were based on preachers who had charisma and energy. Nearly all of these new churches were founded among immigrants and the poor.[12]

Missions opened for Mexican and Italian immigrants, nationalities which are traditionally Catholic.

Internationally, missionaries took the Azusa Street experience to every continent and a variety of countries around the world.

A century later, the emotionalism, intensity and sentimentality characterising the ‘slain in the Sprit’  Baptism makes the Pentecostal congregations the fastest growing branch of Christianity in the world. Pentecostalism claims over 500 million believers today.

Types of Pentecostalism

Earlier in the post, we read about the Oneness Pentecostals.

Two other groups — Wesleyan and Finished Work (quasi-Calvinist) — are also represented:

Wesleyan Pentecostals believe in the experience of entire sanctification, a definite event that occurs after salvation but before Spirit baptism. This experience cleanses the believer, rooting out the sinful, fallen nature … Finished Work Pentecostals reject entire sanctification as a definite event. They believe that one is initially sanctified at the moment of salvation. After conversion, the believer grows in grace through a life-long process … With the exception of Oneness Pentecostals, classical Pentecostal churches share basic beliefs with the rest of evangelical Christianity.

Wesleyan Pentecostals

The Wesleyan Pentecostal churches adhere to the standards of the holiness movement.  One of the main denominations is the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) comprised of primarily black congregations which has an extensive mission network around the world.

Another denomination is the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). It is worth noting that the denomination began with three Tennessee evangelists who had links to the aforementioned  Fire-Baptized Holiness Church preachers who evangelised at a revival in North Carolina.  Some of those attending began to speak in tongues. In 1902 this group organised a church called Holiness Church at Camp Creek, near the site of the revival.

In the early 20th century:

The 1st Assembly decided that foot washing was on the same level as the sacrament of communion and, like other holiness groups, condemned the use of tobacco.


The practice of snake handling briefly became a controversy in the denomination in the 1920s after it was endorsed by George Went Hensley, a Church of God minister.

Finished Work Pentecostals

Two main Finished Work Pentecostal denominations are the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Assemblies of God.

I’ll explore the life of founder Aimee Semple McPherson, a Canadian-American, in a later post. Hers is a story in and of itself.

However, her church’s theology is a bit more mainstream with no apparent holiness — strict rules and regulations. The denomination calls for ‘moderation’ and supports many mainstream Protestant teachings, although it does mention the ‘imminent’ return of Christ and ‘divine healing’.  McPherson was the — or one of the — first ‘celebrity’ evangelists of the 20th century. Note that the church’s Angelus Temple is in Los Angeles. There is also an established denomination in Canada. Foursquare Gospel has missions in Nigeria and the Philippines.

The Assemblies of God (AOG) are a larger denomination.  Many who move to mainstream Protestantism become Calvinists. They bring with them huge ‘enthusiasm’ (not a good thing: here, here and here) and, for whatever reason, a number of them wish to transform the churches of which they are now members. Unfortunately, some are ‘Reformed Anglicans’ who are also anti-Catholic and anticipate a return to Cromwellian worship and standards. They not only do a disservice to Anglo-Catholics in our broad church but also to the Reformation heritage.  As one ex-member put it online, ‘I want to win the world for Christ!’ The ardour does not decrease with time.  Future Dominionists, perhaps?

The AOG began in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a few years after the Azusa Revival.  Enough said about the location, which is — or was (even when I was a child) — not known for all things pious and holy.

A number of Anglo-Saxon Pentecostalist groups of the same name around the world united in fellowship during the first half of the 20th century.  Also, before 1967, the AOG was considered a ‘peace church’. Even now, it supports pacifists — a traditional sign of pietism.

The AOG, like other Pentecostal denominations, places a great emphasis on evidence of ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ through speaking in tongues.  Interestingly, a number of its churches in other parts of the world no longer have entries on Wikipedia. One cannot think that this is solely out of persecution, as they were located around the world.  Therefore, we would do well to let the matter rest for now.

Next time: Pietism in other denominations

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