This Week in AG History — May 19, 1945
By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 17 May 2018
Howard Carter (1891-1971) was an early British Assemblies of God leader who planted congregations, trained ministers, and traveled the world encouraging missionaries. He also gave to the Pentecostal movement some of its most lasting teaching on spiritual gifts.
Carter was raised by a godly mother in the Anglican church but did not show much interest in religion. He was a mediocre student who stuttered and did not find a place of belonging until he discovered his talent as an artist. He gained the highest awards in the Royal Society of Artists’ examinations and began a career as a draftsman, a job at which he excelled.
As a young man he began to experience disillusionment as he realized that the finest works of art fade in time. Even the great English cathedrals with their soaring buttresses and stained glass windows would one day disappear. Carter wanted to give himself to something that could impact eternity.
A friend invited him to visit the Church of Christ, where he was impressed with the informal and friendly services. He accepted Christ and was baptized. He became involved in Friday night meetings with the YMCA, where he met a man whose preaching and exuberant praise during prayer intrigued him. The man invited Carter to join him in Pentecostal meetings that were taking place in a room over a shop outside of Birmingham. Carter listened to the messages and observed the Pentecostal worship services and believed immediately that what he was seeing coincided with the experience of the early church in the New Testament.
He began to seek the Pentecostal experience but struggled with the concept that speaking in tongues was a necessary aspect of receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit. In a May 19, 1945, article in the Pentecostal Evangel, Carter described a deep experience with God when he felt the manifestation of the Spirit in a way that left him spiritually enthralled but did not include speaking in tongues. He recalled, “For a time, this was conclusive evidence to me that the speaking with other tongues was not the evidence of the Baptism … people asked me if I had received the Holy Spirit. I would confidently affirm that I had, yet in my spirit I felt a lack … it was as if I had seen a great deluge of rain falling over a country parched by the sun and greatly refreshing it for the time, but leaving no river flowing through it.”
It was a full year later when Carter experienced the fullness of the Spirit with the evidence of tongues. “From that day on in the year 1915 to the present, I have never ceased to speak with other tongues … not only did the showers fall …but a river has flowed ever since, from which I have been able to slake my thirst daily.”
Interestingly, Carter’s faith developed deep roots while in prison during World War I. Like many Pentecostals in this period, Howard Carter was a pacifist. When Britain passed the Military Service Act in 1916, Carter registered as a conscientious objector. Because he made his living as a draftsman and not as a minister, even though he was pastoring a small Pentecostal work at the time, he was not allowed to claim his religious affiliation as an exemption to military service. On March 16, 1917, Carter was sentenced to 112 days hard labor, locked in solitary confinement, and given a diet of bread and water.
It was during his imprisonment that a lifelong quest to unlock the mysteries of the gifts of the Spirit began. Having nothing to study but his Bible, he spent his confined hours praying and searching through the entirety of the Scriptures, seeking to develop a fuller understanding of spiritual gifts, a topic he felt had been neglected by church theology for centuries. The teaching he developed during this time enabled him to construct a balanced and scriptural teaching on the gifts of the Spirit, which was his greatest contribution to the Pentecostal movement.
Carter went on to direct a Pentecostal Bible school for 27 years, and he was a founding member of the British Assemblies of God, serving first as vice-chairman and then as chairman. During his years as the leader of that movement he made it a goal to visit every Assemblies of God missionary on the field, including taking a two-year missionary journey with his young American protégé, Lester Sumrall.
Resigning his position with the British Assemblies in 1945, Carter continued to travel the world, encouraging missionaries and leading many into the Pentecostal experience through his teaching on spiritual gifts. In 1955, at the age of 64, the confirmed bachelor married Ruth Steelberg, widow of the general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God, Wesley Steelberg. The newlyweds embarked on a world preaching tour, inspiring others to move out in faith and exercise the gifts of the Spirit. They ministered together until Carter’s death in 1971.
Carter’s life motto can be summed up in the prayer he penned in 1923 after attending the great campaign in London of successful evangelist Stephen Jeffreys. As he contrasted his mundane ministry of Bible school teacher with the successful evangelistic crusade he wrote in the front of his Bible, “Let me never lose the all-important truth that to be in Thy will is better than success, and grant that I may ever love Thyself more than Thy service.”
While Carter was never considered a great evangelist, he was a solid teacher and an encourager who made an eternal impact that will outlast even the beautiful architecture of Westminster Abbey.
Read Howard Carter’s article, “Speaking in Tongues as the Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” on page 2 of the May 19, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “How Pentecost Came to India,” by Minnie Abrams
• “The Tarrying Meeting,” by Stanley Frodsham
• “An Anniversary Testimony,” by A.H. Argue
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
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