The Second General Council and the Story Behind the Assemblies of God’s Commitment to Missions

Stone Church, Chicago, Illinois

This Week in AG History — November 14, 1914

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 November 2020

One hundred and six years ago, hundreds of Assemblies of God pastors, evangelists, and missionaries traveled to Chicago to attend the second General Council. Held Nov. 15-29, 1914, at the Stone Church, this meeting’s stated purpose was “to lay a firm foundation upon which to build the Assemblies of God.”

The Assemblies of God had been organized just seven months earlier in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The young Fellowship grew quickly as existing independent ministers joined its ranks. They appreciated the vision for fellowship, accountability, and structure, while maintaining the autonomy of the local congregation. This growth caused founding chairman E. N. Bell to call for a second meeting, in order to make urgent decisions about the future of the new organization.

The Stone Church, one of the largest Pentecostal congregations in America, could easily accommodate the expected 1,000 participants. Delegates to the meeting made several important structural changes. They decided to move the headquarters from Findlay, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, which would provide a more central location in a larger city. Delegates voted to expand the number of executive presbyters from 12 to 16, making the leadership more representative of the constituency. New leadership was also elected and Gospel Publishing House was authorized to expand its operations.

But the most far-reaching decision at the second General Council was one that was not on the original agenda. Assemblies of God leaders planned to take a missionary offering at the conclusion of the General Council. They had written articles encouraging people to bring money to give to missions. But the pastor of the Stone Church decided that the final offering should instead go to his own church, to help defray expenses related to hosting the council. Assemblies of God leaders, although frustrated with this turn of events, did not oppose the pastor’s request. Instead, they decided to issue a strongly-worded resolution in which they committed the Assemblies of God, from that point forward, to the cause of world evangelization. L. C. Hall drafted the resolution, which read:

“As a Council, we hereby express our gratitude to God for His great blessing upon the Movement in the past. We are grateful to Him for the results attending this forward Movement and we commit ourselves and the Movement to Him for the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen. We pledge our hearty cooperation, prayers, and help to this end.”

This iconic resolution, unanimously adopted by the delegates, has been widely quoted as illustrating how support for missions is part of the DNA of the Assemblies of God.

There is more to the story. In the spring of 1915, something shocking was discovered about the Stone Church pastor, R. L. Erickson, who had refused to let the offering go to missions. The May 29, 1915, issue of the Weekly Evangel alerted readers that Erickson had been removed from the ministerial list due to moral failure. In a lengthy article, E. N. Bell detailed how Erickson’s “greed” was evidence of poor moral character, which also manifested itself in other harmful ways in his life and ministry. In Bell’s estimation, Erickson’s greed led him to take the offering meant for missions, which led to the adoption of the strong statement in support of missions. What Satan meant for harm, Bell wrote, God could turn into good. And 106 years later, the Assemblies of God remains committed to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.”

Read the Nov. 14, 1914, issue of the Christian Evangel, which published the minutes from the first General Council and encouraged readers to attend the second General Council.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work in Africa and Egypt,” by Frank M. Moll

• “The Unanswered Prayer,” by Harry Morse

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Also read E. N. Bell’s article, “The Great Outlook,” in which he details the events surrounding the adoption of the resolution regarding missions, on pages 3 and 4 of the May 29, 1915, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

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
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s