Category Archives: Education

Gary McGee is Rejoicing with the Angels


mcgeeDr. Gary B. McGee, longtime Assemblies of God educator, slipped from this life into the arms of his loving Savior shortly before noon today, December 10, 2008. McGee was hospitalized on November 13 with complications due to a bacterial infection and a weakened immune system from a long fight with cancer. McGee was released from the hospital yesterday and passed away at home with his family present.

Few Assemblies of God educators have attained the breadth of influence achieved by McGee. His extensive college and seminary teaching experience spanned five decades (1967-2008). He was a prolific author, and he helped to build bridges through his leadership in numerous professional and interchurch organizations. He was Distinguished Professor of Church History and Pentecostal Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he taught since 1984. He previously taught at Central Bible College (1970-1984) and Open Bible College (1967-1970).

McGee authored seven books, edited and contributed to three books, and he wrote chapters in fifteen books, 41 journal articles (since 1993), and 129 articles in twelve dictionaries. He was a frequent contributor to denominational publications, including Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, Assemblies of God Heritage, Advance, Enrichment, and Paraclete. He is probably best known for his two-volume history of Assemblies of God World Missions, This Gospel Shall Be Preached (GPH, 1986, 1989), for his biographical approach to Assemblies of God history, People of the Spirit (GPH, 2004), and for coediting the award-winning Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 1988). He completed his last book, Miracles, Missions, and American Pentecostalism (Orbis Books, forthcoming 2010), just weeks before his death.

McGee traveled extensively and also taught at Asia Centre for Evangelism and Missions, Singapore; Continental Theological Seminary, Brussels, Belgium; Evangelical Theological Seminary, Osijek, Croatia; Kiev Bible Institute, Kiev, Ukraine; Romanian Bible Institute, Bucharest, Romania; and Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore, India.

McGee emerged as one of the most highly-respected and loved educators in the Assemblies of God, as well as one of the most articulate voices concerning the history of Pentecostal missions. In the academic community, McGee was best known for his publications on the history of early Pentecostalism and missiology. His family and friends knew him as a man of sterling character, good humor, humility, spiritual sensitivity, and personal warmth. According to fellow historian Grant Wacker, McGee “was always ready for a joke as well as a prayer.”

Gary McGee’s family came into the Pentecostal movement after his maternal grandmother accepted Christ in an Aimee Semple McPherson evangelistic campaign in Canton, Ohio, in 1921. The family became faithful members of Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Canton. McGee was born on April 22, 1945, the second oldest of five children.

Upon his graduation from Central Bible College in 1967, he began teaching at Open Bible College (Des Moines, Iowa). He received his ordination from the Iowa District Council in 1969. He returned to Springfield, Missouri, in 1970, where he would become a fixture for the rest of his life. He began teaching at his alma mater, Central Bible College, and in 1971 completed the Master of Religious Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri). McGee completed his M.A. in Religious Studies at Missouri State University (Springfield, Missouri) in 1976, and his Ph.D. in Church History at St. Louis University in 1984. Upon completion of his doctorate, McGee began teaching at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He was named Distinguished Professor of Church History and Pentecostal Studies in 2006. In March 2008, the Society for Pentecostal Studies conferred on him the Lifetime Achievement Award.

McGee demonstrated how a holy man – a man of God – can die well. During the last ten years of his life he suffered from cancer and arthritis, but McGee did not complain. Instead, he joyfully focused on other peoples’ needs and labored to complete the tasks he believed the Lord had given to him. Former student Jennifer Strickland Hall wrote, “Watching the grace and beauty you have displayed in the midst of your suffering over the years has taught me more than any book on the subject.” And McGee did, by the way, write a book on the subject: How Sweet the Sound: God’s Grace for Suffering Christians (GPH, 1994). Just before his final hospitalization, he finished the manuscript for his last book. In the past two weeks, McGee tied up loose ends, said goodbyes, and did not show despair, but faith in his great God. This has been a difficult, but beautiful, time.

McGee leaves behind a wife, Alice; two daughters, Angela Brim and Catherine McGee; and two grandchildren, Bailey and Marshall Brim, all of Springfield, Missouri. Other survivors include his mother, Velma L. Davis; two brothers; two sisters; and a host of other relatives.

Visit the AGTS website for more information about McGee’s funeral. Readers are encouraged to send messages to the McGee family, either by posting them on the AGTS website or by mail: Alice McGee, 1920 E. Sayer Circle, Springfield, MO 65803

By Darrin J. Rodgers

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Review: American Indian College history

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes, edited by Joseph J. Saggio and Jim Dempsey. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2008.

American Indian College, the first regionally accredited Bible College for Native Americans in the United States, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2007. Since its founding as All Tribes Bible School by Assemblies of God missionary Alta Washburn, the school has played an important role in the training of Native American pastors and the development of indigenous Pentecostal churches.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes is a valuable collection of historical accounts, interpretive essays, and personal narratives that will evoke memories for those who lived the history. It will also become an essential resource for students and scholars who wish to better understand the history and future of Native American higher education and Pentecostalism. The book was edited by former longtime AIC faculty member Joseph J. Saggio (and now a professor at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington) and Jim Dempsey, longtime faculty member currently serving as AIC Campus Pastor.

The content of this volume falls into three major categories: 1) three previously-published histories of the school; 2) short essays or “reflections” by people associated with the school; and 3) an overview of the school’s history, mission and aims, written by the editors.

The three histories, reprinted with introductions in this volume, are: Trail to the Tribes, by Alta M. Washburn; A Trail of Beauty: A Short History of American Indian Bible College, by Pauline Dunn; and Indian Harvest: A History of American Indian Bible College, by Carolyn D. Baker.

The reflections were written by: board members (T. Ray Rachels, Rodger A. Cree, Sr., Curtis W. Ringness, and Marvin Begay); presidents (Don Ramsey, Simon Peter, Carl E. and Alice Collins, David J. Moore, Jim H. Lopez, and James V. Comer); faculty (Alma F. Thomas, Eugene Hunter, Betty J. Hanna, Belinda F. Lopez, Nancy J. Saggio, and Everett F. Peralta); staff (M. Nadine Waldrop, Sandra K. Ticeahkie, Sandra M. Gonzales, Donald P. Merino); and alumni (Lillie Ward Neal, Jimmy Yellowhair, Vince Roubideaux, James J. Bollinger, Marco J. Burnette, and Jameson D. Lopez).

George O. Wood authored the foreword. Appendices include a historical timeline, lists of members of the Board of Regents, administration and faculty, staff, and graduates. The book also includes invaluable name and photo indices.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes deserves to be widely distributed, as it provides a rare treatment of the intersection of three important subjects, each of which merits attention in its own right: Native Americans, higher education, and Pentecostalism.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, xiv, 433 pages, illustrated. $18 plus $7 shipping and handling. Order from: American Indian College, Attn: Sylvia Rivera, 10020 N. 15th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021-2199. Checks should include the phrase “AIC Book” in the memo line. For more information or to order a book, contact Sylvia Rivera by phone (602-944-3335, ext. 221) or by email (srivera@aicag.edu).

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Documenting the Early Days of Pentecost in Alabama


An early tent meeting in Geneva County, Alabama, about 1913
An early tent meeting in Geneva County, Alabama, about 1913

Rachel Dobson of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has been researching the early history of the Assemblies of God movement in (mostly) southeast Alabama, for a series of independent study projects in the master’s program in library and information studies at the University of Alabama. She has been collecting documentation on tent revivals, camp meetings, brush arbor meetings (from newspapers, posters, oral histories like those at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center) that took place from about 1906 (when M. M. Pinson came to what is now El Bethel AG just north of New Brockton) until about 1918 or 1919, in a few counties of southeast Alabama, and possibly northwest Florida. She also has been resourcing information from county histories, church histories, Google Maps, and references such as The First Fifty Years: A Brief Review of the Assemblies of God in Alabama (1915-1965), by Robert H. Spence, 1965.

Her great grandfather, Lafayette Snellgrove, and her great-great uncle, Handy W. Bryant, and their families were born and raised in Coffee, Dale, and surrounding counties in Alabama. They attended many Pentecostal revivals and camp meetings around Wicksburg, New Brockton, Midland City, and as far away as Florala, in the first decades of the twentieth century. Lafayette and Handy were both ordained ministers, and her great-great aunt, Daisy S. Bryant, was licensed to preach. They attended the organizing meetings for the southeastern District in 1915, 1916, and 1917. She also located Handy Bryant’s name on some of the early rosters of the Churches of God in Christ. See links to these rosters at the blog entry for Church of God in Christ and in unity with the Apostolic Faith.

Rachel is especially interested in the early locations of camp meetings and the history of how churches were established because of these early meetings. Her research has taken her to reports of revival services in early publications such as the Word and Witness and the Christian Evangel (forerunner of the Pentecostal Evangel). Recently she posted some photographs of early camp meeting locations and historic churches in Alabama. These photos can be viewed on a photoset at Flickr.com called Early Pentecost in Alabama.

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Finis Jennings Dake biography

Finis Jennings Dake: His Life and Ministry, by Leon Bible. Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Publishing, 2006.

Bible teacher Finis Jennings Dake (1902-87) is known throughout the Pentecostal world for his four-column Dake Annotated Reference Bible which contains numerous notes and commentaries on all the different verses of the Bible. In fact, Charisma Magazine has even referred to it as “the Pentecostal Study Bible.” A notable Pentecostal minister, Jimmy Swaggart, stated that “I owe my Bible education to this man” [Dake], whose works also include God’s Plan for Man (originally designed as a 3-year Bible course), Revelation Expounded, The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, and Bible Truths Unmasked among other publications.

Having been introduced to his various books in the early 1980s in Oslo, Norway, I was quite excited when I learned about Mr. Bible’s history on Dake’s life and ministry. The book contains more than 400 pages and is a gold mine of information pertaining to Dake’s life and ministry as an Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, TN) and independent Pentecostal pastor, as well as a Bible school teacher, radio minister and author.

Admittedly, this is no scholarly biography (despite footnotes and bibliography), but more of a devotional walk through the life of Dake as seen through the lenses of Dake himself and his immediate family. The author portrays himself as an avid Dake reader whose writings he has admired for more than 30 years, and the book is not only endorsed by but also published by Dake Publishing, Inc. However, due to Dake’s continued influence among Pentecostal and charismatic believers, he also deserves scholarly attention. I hope the author’s sympathetic presentation of Dake will spur contributions from the academic ranks to supplement this volume. Personally, I was intrigued to learn that Dake was so well schooled in E. W. Bullinger’s radical form of ultradispensationalism, and academic researchers might be interested in submitting the Dake writings to historical and theological scrutiny in order to find to what extent Dake has Pentecostalized dispensatonalist and ultradispensationalist writings and to what extent his writings might have an original flavor of their own.

Reviewed by Geir Lie, editor of Refleks : med karismatisk kristendom i fokus (Oslo, Norway)

Hardback, 441 pages, illustrated. $19.95 plus shipping. Order through Dake Publishing.

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COGIC Scholars Fellowship Academic Forum

COGIC shield

The COGIC Scholars Fellowship is sponsoring an Academic Forum at the Church of God in Christ’s annual AIM (Auxiliaries in Mission) Convention, to be held in Detroit, Michigan, June 30 through July 4, 2008.

The Academic Forum, located in Room 02-40 of Cobo Hall, will feature two presentations daily, 2:00-4:30 pm on Tuesday, July 1 through Thursday, July 3.

The impressive lineup of presenters is below:

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Review: Life and thought of Howard Ervin

Pilgrimage into Pentecost

Pilgrimage into Pentecost: The Pneumatological Legacy of Howard M. Ervin, by Daniel D. Isgrigg. Tulsa, OK: Word & Spirit Press, 2008.

In Pilgrimage into Pentecost, Daniel D. Isgrigg provides serious students of Pentecostalism two useful services. First, he gives the reader an interesting and detailed accounting of the life of Howard M. Ervin; and second, he outlines the main contours of Ervin’s theology of the Holy Spirit.

The study follows the journey of Baptist preacher/theologian Ervin from his early day as an agnostic through his encounter with God. It traces Ervin’s early pastoral days, and follows him on to his embracing of the Pentecostal message and experience. Isgrigg follows the long tenure of Ervin as a theology faculty member at Oral Roberts University into his current life of retirement. Pilgrimage then points out Ervin’s strong exegetical and theological defense of the classical Pentecostal message of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, as well as his loyalty to his American Baptist roots. The work shows how Ervin engaged in a spirited defense of his theology against a variety of critics and how the unity of the Spirit among Christians was foremost in Ervin’s desires. Isgrigg makes a strong case for the ecumenical ministry of Ervin over the years.

Pilgrimage into Pentecost highlights several key features of Ervin’s theology: Ervin argues persuasively for the “birthday of the Church” being in John 20, not Acts 2. He anchors his belief in evidential tongues for Spirit baptism in the models provided in the Book of Acts; and he departs from most Pentecostal scholars in his advocacy of “one Baptism; one filling.” In each of these issues, the author documents Ervin’s line of argumentation copiously.

It was more than 40 years ago, when I was a young student of Petecostalism, that I first encountered the writings of Howard M. Ervin. His persuasive apologetic for classical Pentecostal theology, even though he was a Charismatic Baptist, powerfully encouraged me. I have noted with pleasure the long years of faithful ministry and writing of Ervin, one who has not altered his views from his early days. He has been a strong advocate against those who would weaken the belief that God has wanted to empower His people for evangelism and missions with the empowerment of the Spirit in a crisis experience of Spirit baptism, accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues.

In Pilgrimage to Pentecost, Daniel Isgrigg provides Pentecostals and Charismatics — and all interested in this burgeoning international movement of the Spirit — with a well-deserved study of the life and thought of one of its pioneers. Through this work, many can be grateful for the pioneering scholarly ministry of Dr. Ervin and understand his distinctive contribution.

Review by William W. Menzies (from Foreword)

Hardcover, 158 pages. $21.99 retail. Order from: amazon.com

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Emmanuel College history

The Miracle Continues: A Personal History of Emmanuel College: 1969-2005, by David R. Hopkins. Franklin Springs, GA: LifeSprings Resources, 2007.

The Miracle Continues: A Personal History of Emmanuel College: 1969-2005 is one man’s heartfelt account of a life given to build a Christian college. Hopkins is honest, clear, detailed, inspirational, and informative in his personal recollections of 36 years spent as faculty member, academic dean, and president of a small Christian campus. Even if one is not an alumnus of Emmanuel College, he or she may gain a sense of the personal struggles, challenges, trials, and triumphs of an administrator working in a private college setting.

This book is “must” reading for anyone who attended Emmanuel College, any member of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, or any other person who desires a better understanding of the enormity of the task of operating a small, private, church-related college in the 21st century. The Miracle Continues: A Personal History of Emmanuel College: 1969-2005 is a singular volume documenting the real story of a unique institution of higher education. It will be a valuable reference for future generations to read.

–Adapted from cover

Paperback, 255 pages, illustrated. $20.00 list price. Order from LifeSprings Resources.

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Review: Doris Dresselhaus Menzies Autobiography

Young at Heart

Young at Heart: The Story of a Heart Transplant Recipient, by Doris Dresselhaus Menzies. Springfield, MO: Celebration Publishing, 2007.

Doris Dresselhaus Menzies has had two famous last names. Her husband, Dr. William W. Menzies, is one of the most highly-regarded educators in the Assemblies of God. Her cousin, Dr. Richard Dresselhaus, served as the long-time pastor of San Diego (CA) First Assembly of God and continues to serve as an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God. Few people can claim to be related to one statesman of their caliber, much less two!

But Doris Menzies has her own story to tell. In Young at Heart: The Story of a Heart Transplant Recipient, Menzies recounted her testimony — from her Assemblies of God upbringing in Iowa, to her years in the ministry with her husband, to her roles as wife and mother, to her recent medical triumphs as a heart transplant recipient and as a cancer survivor.

Born on a frigid December day in 1932 on an Iowa farm, Doris was reared in the sturdy Willard and Beatrice Dresselhaus family. Her mother taught Sunday school, and her father was the Sunday school superintendent of the Decorah Assembly of God. Willard, a farmer, served as Farm Bureau president for Winneshiek County, was involved in local politics, and owned his own plane. Young at Heart challenges the assumption, held by certain historians, that early Pentecostals were disinherited or socially uninvolved.

Doris met Bill Menzies, her future husband, at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Bill graduated in 1953 and accepted the pastorate of the little Assemblies of God church in Big Rapids, Michigan. They married soon after Doris’ 1955 graduation and settled into pastoral ministry. Continue reading

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Congregational Holiness Church

We BelieveThe Life Story of Rev. B. F. DuncanMy Earthly PilgrimageVision Caster

We Believe [2nd ed.]. Griffin, GA: Congregational Holiness Church, 2003.

The Life Story of Rev. B. F. Duncan, 1874-1949 [rev. ed.]. Griffin, GA: Congregational Holiness Church, 2004.

My Earthly Pilgrimage, by Cullen L. Hicks. Augusta, GA: Augusta Printing Center, 2004.

Vision Caster: The Story of Hugh B. Skelton, by E. Amelia Billingsley. Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2000.

The Congregational Holiness Church (CHC) (www.CHChurch.com) made its entrance onto the Pentecostal scene in 1921, resulting from a disagreement within the Pentecostal Holiness Church (PHC) over the role of medicine in divine healing. Many early Pentecostals, including PHC leaders, eschewed human remedies (such as physicians or medicine) and instead encouraged believers to seek divine healing, which they taught was provided for in Christ’s atonement. This rejection of modern medicine was not universally held in the PHC. When evangelist Watson Sorrow and Hugh Bowling disagreed with the PHC on this and other issues, they were forced to leave the PHC in 1920. They — along with a handful of other ministers and churches — organized the CHC in High Shoals, Georgia in 1921. The CHC was organized along congregational lines, differing from the PHC’s episcopal polity, in an attempt to democratize church governance.

The CHC has grown from 12 churches in 1921 to over 5,200 churches in 12 states and 19 countries in 2007. The CHC’s growth reflects the growing importance of the emerging Pentecostal movement in non-Western contexts. Like the Assemblies of God, fewer than five percent of CHC churches and members are located in the United States. The CHC claims 25,000 adherents in 225 churches in the U.S. and almost one million adherents in about 5,000 churches outside the U.S. (primarily in Central and South America). Continue reading

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Review: Lithuanian Pentecostal History

Lithuanian Pentecostal History

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia: Istorine Apybraiza (The Pentecostal Church of Lithuania: Historical Sketch), edited by Rimantas Kupstys, et al. Vilnius, Lithuania: Apyausris, 2002.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia: Istorine Apybraiza, published in 2002 upon the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Pentecostal church in Lithuania, provides a detailed grassroots account in the Lithuanian language of the development of Pentecostalism across the Baltic nation. The volume was assembled by an editorial committee headed by Rimantas Kupstys, Bishop of the Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania.

The publisher notes the volume is not an exhaustive scientific study. However, this historical sketch is a valuable written account of a national history that, until now, was largely available only in scattered documents or in oral form. The work was based on archival materials, memories of eyewitnesses, published articles, and government documents.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia begins by tracing Pentecostalism’s roots in the trans-Atlantic revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries, resulting in a significant evangelical and Holiness movement in England and America. The traditional version of Pentecostal origins is retold, identifying Charles Parham and the Azusa Street revival as central to the emerging movement. Thomas Ball Barratt, the Methodist minister from Oslo who received the Pentecostal message while visiting New York in 1906, is commended for, upon his return to Norway, helping to nurture Pentecostal leaders across Europe. Continue reading

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