Speaking in Tongues: The Proliferation of Assemblies of God Language Branches Among Immigrants in the 1940s and 1950s

This Week in AG History–November 10, 1957
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 10 Nov 2014 – 9:01 PM CST

The Assemblies of God, during the 1940s and 1950s, formed eight language “branches” for immigrants to the United States. These branches functioned much like geographic districts, allowing Pentecostals whose mother tongues was not English to organize themselves and to better coordinate their ministries.

Most of these new language branches were for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe: Ukrainian (1943), Hungarian (1944), Polish (1944), Russian (1945), Yugoslavian (1945), Italian (1948), and Greek (1953). The German Branch (established 1922) was the first language branch. The Philippine Branch (formed circa 1940) was the only language branch for non-Europeans formed during these early decades. All branches became known as districts in 1973.

Hispanics have always been the largest non-English speaking group in the Assemblies of God in the United States. However, Hispanics had their own structure within the Assemblies of God and never identified using the term “branch.” The first Hispanic administrative structure was organized in 1918 as the Latin Conference of the Texas District. It was renamed the Latin American District in 1925.

The last language branch to form, the Greek Branch, was actually a pre-existing network of Greek Pentecostal churches called the Hellenic Protogonos Apostolic Ecclesia (Greek Original Apostolic Church). The group was recognized as the Greek Branch by the Assemblies of God General Secretary on August 14, 1953. The Greek Branch disbanded in 1968.

Most language branches served as a temporary cultural bridge for new immigrants to America. As their children Americanized and learned English, the churches founded by immigrants joined geographic districts and most language branches dissolved.

The Pentecostal Evangel published numerous reports of the language branches over the years. The November 10, 1957, issue was no exception and carried news of the Greek District’s annual convention held in Oakland, California.

Read the article, “Greek Branch Holds Convention,” by Gust Harbas, on page 30 of the November 10, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “The Call of the Spirit,” by James Van Meter

* “Springfield’s New Central Assembly”

* “Lead Me to the Rock,” by Elva Johnson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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