Review: Portraits of a Generation

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Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders, ed. by James R. Goff, Jr. and Grant Wacker. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002.

Portraits of a Generation talks about many of the early Pentecostal leaders. Instead of giving a large, drawn-out list of every leader in the Pentecostal movement, it gives the testimonies and interests of those leaders that maybe weren’t quite as famous. It gives insight into who really had the vision and those who desired seeing those visions put into real life. In this book, they represent leaders from all different walks of life. They differ on areas from ideas about theology, ethnic and social background, and areas of living. There is a common view that Pentecostalism was a movement without structure or leaders, but this book instead shows that the movement had a strong sense of both.

Portraits of a Generation is separated into three sections: “Forerunners,” “Visionaries,” and “Builders.” All of the chapters are about individual early leaders. Many of the contributors are known scholars of Pentecostalism while others aren’t very well known in the academic world.

In the first section, “Forerunners,” the leaders that the editors include are John Alexander Dowie, E. L. Harvey, Charles Price Jones, Frank Sandford, and Alma White. They are all leaders who paved the way toward the formal Pentecostal movement. These leaders were not directly tied with the Pentecostal movement, and some didn’t believe in the same standards that Pentecostals do today, such as speaking in tongues. Though not specifically under the Pentecostal umbrella, they laid out some of the ground beliefs and ideals that were later accepted into Pentecostal doctrines.

In the section on “Visionaries,” there are discussions about Minnie F. Abrams, Frank Bartleman, William H. Durham, Thomas Hampton Gourley, Alice E. Luce, Francisco Olazábal, and Maria B. Woodworth-Etter. These leaders were between the forerunners and the builders. They were the ones who envisioned what the movement eventually became and helped provide for the structure. Francisco Olazábal was one of the main contributors in the growth of Pentecostalism in the Hispanic culture while Minnie F. Abrams, Alice E. Luce, and Maria B. Woodworth-Etter gained popularity in being some of the first female leaders for the Pentecostal movement.

“Builders,” the last section, discusses the leaders Florence Crawford, G. T. Haywood, Charles Harrison Mason, Carrie Judd Montgomery, Antonio Castañeda Nava, Ida B. Robinson, George Floyd Taylor, and A. J. Tomlinson. In this section, Pentecostalism begins to take on the form of classical Pentecostalism. The people included in this section are those who heard and saw what the other leaders were trying to do and started to put their beliefs and ideals into action.

Because the volume is collective, there are some essays that were different in the quality of their sources than others. Some of the arguments had limited sources so are based on suppositions. Overall, the quality of the essays is very professional. All twenty-two chapters looked at Pentecostalism in three different lights: those who came before, those who had the vision, and those who put the vision into action. This gives us a good understanding of the early stages of the Pentecostal movement and how it was viewed by those with whom it began.

Reviewed by Samantha Beck, Evangel University student

Softcover, 430 pages, illustrated. $34.95 plus shipping. Available from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com

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