Category Archives: Biography

Robert E. McAlister: Canadian Pentecostal Pioneer

McAlisterThis Week in AG History — December 6, 1941

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 05 December 2019

Robert Edward McAlister (1880-1953) is considered by many to be the father of Canadian Pentecostalism. He was a charter member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) and served as its General Secretary from its inception in 1919 through 1932. He oversaw the creation of The Pentecostal Testimony (now Testimony/Enrich) in 1920 and served as its editor until 1937.

Born to adherents of the Scottish Presbyterian Holiness movement in Ontario, McAlister experienced a personal conversion at the age of 21. Feeling a call to ministry, he enrolled in God’s Bible School (Cincinnati, Ohio), founded by leading Methodist Holiness minister Martin Wells Knapp. Although illness caused him to leave the school after only one year, he became an evangelist with the Holiness Movement Church, a small Canadian denomination that emphasized the importance of “entire sanctification.”

While preaching in western Canada, McAlister heard about a revival taking place in Los Angeles at the Azusa Street Mission. He arrived at the meetings on Dec. 11, 1906, and experienced his personal Pentecost. Within weeks, he was conducting meetings in Ontario and western Canada, teaching about the baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by tongues.

In 1913, McAlister was invited by R. J. Scott to be a speaker, along with Maria Woodworth-Etter, at the Worldwide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting at the Arroyo Seco campground in Los Angeles in an effort to unite Pentecostal groups. At the end of his sermon, he mentioned an observation that the apostles baptized “in the name of Jesus,” rather than using the Trinitarian formula of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” While McAlister always embraced Trinitarian doctrine, interestingly, it was this brief observation at the camp meeting that helped to the spark the Oneness Pentecostal movement, which rejected traditional Trinitarian formulations.

Although he lacked much formal theological education, McAlister was respected as a pastor, evangelist, publisher, author, administrator, and preacher over his 50 years of Pentecostal ministry. At that time, any preacher who did not make full use of the entire platform during a vigorous sermon was looked upon with some suspicion, yet McAlister rarely moved about in his presentation. His strength was not in delivery but in content. PAOC historian Gordon Atter said of him, “He never went into the pulpit but what he was completely prepared … when he was through, you would remember that sermon, and his altar calls were tremendous.”

McAlister addressed the 1941 General Council Assemblies of God, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His sermon was printed in the Dec. 6, 1941, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel.

Robert C. Cunningham, in his Oct. 4, 1941, summary of the General Council meetings described the service: “Once again our hearts were thrilled at the music in the opening part of the service. Loren Fox placed ‘The Holy City’ on the organ and it so stirred the heart of R.E. McAlister of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who was the evening speaker, that before the message he gave a wonderful description of heaven. The message which followed on ‘The Threefold Ministry of Christ’ was much anointed and will not soon be forgotten by the large numbers attending that service.”

After his retirement in 1937, McAlister was succeeded by A.G. Ward (father of Revivaltime speaker C.M. Ward) as the new secretary-treasurer of the PAOC and editor of The Pentecostal Testimony. He remained an in-demand speaker and many pastors continued to consult his God-given wisdom in their own ministries until his death in 1953.

Read the full sermon, “The Threefold Ministry of Christ,” on page 1 of the Dec. 6, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Praying for Worldwide Revival,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Echoes of Victory,” by H.C. Ball

• “The Secret of True Success,” by E. Hodgson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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: iFPHC.org

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James F. Linzey Collection Deposited at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

SONY DSCJames Franklin Linzey, namesake of his uncle, Pentecostal evangelist Franklin Hall, and son of Assemblies of God ministers Chaplain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr. and Dr. Verna M. (Hall) Linzey, has deposited his personal papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

James F. Linzey has spent his life in service to God and country. He served as a Pentecostal chaplain for 24 years in both the Air Force and the Army with high honors, retiring in 2009 with an Honorable Discharge. He is a prolific author, he has hosted numerous Christian television broadcasts, and he served as manager of Verna Linzey Ministries during his mother’s final decades of evangelistic ministry. Linzey’s most significant contribution to the Christian church, however, is likely his Biblical scholarship that resulted in two new Bible translations: the Modern English Version and the New Tyndale Version.

Linzey served side by side with Assemblies of God educator Stanley M. Horton, Th.D., as the Chief Editor of the Modern English Version Bible translation, now used in the Fire Bible, and General Editor of the New Tyndale Version Bible translation, also with Dr. Horton, Dr. Verna Linzey, and their committee of other reputable Bible scholars, which is scheduled to be released sometime before 2025, the 500th Anniversary of the Tyndale Bible.

The Modern English Version, published by Passio (an imprint of Charisma Media), has become a prominent Bible translation since its debut in 2014. The Modern English Version retains the style and feel of the King James Version, and yet uses the most modern English allowed within the parameters of the Formal Equivalence approach, and is based on the Textus Receptus. The New Tyndale Version differs from the Modern English Version in that it will be based on the eclectic Nestle-Aland/UBS text of the Greek New Testament.

Dr. Linzey hosted his own worldwide television broadcasts, titled “Operation Freedom,” which emphasized the classical Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He was invited by the Vision Chanel in the United Kingdom to host these programs, which aired to 400 million people in Europe, Russia, North Africa, and hundreds of millions more around the world. His broadcasts aired in the United States on God’s Learning Chanel (GLC), and Angel One in the Far East. Additionally, he has spoken on the baptism in the Holy Spirit on ‘Behind the Scenes’ with Paul Crouch, Sr., and ‘Praise the Lord’ on Trinity Broadcasting Network worldwide, Daystar Television Network with Marcus and Joni Lamb, and SON Broadcasting Network, and Hosanna Broadcasting Network as a guest of Dr. Verna Linzey and Dr. Terry Warren. He has spread the Pentecostal message on American Voice Radio throughout North, Central and South America.

Chaplain Jim Linzey and Dr. Paul Crouch on Behind the Scenes, TBN Sep 7, 2004

Jim Linzey and Paul Crouch, on the “Behind the Scenes” television program, Trinity Broadcasting Network, September 7, 2004

Other media appearances included ABC News, CBS News, CNN News, FOX news, NBC News, Christian Broadcasting Network, and “Glenn Beck” on FOX.

Dr. Linzey has disseminated the Pentecostal message through his books The Holy Spirit, A Divine Appointment in Washington, DC, and his tract How to Pray for People to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. He has also written a number of articles on the Holy Spirit, published by Pneuma Review.

A professionally trained actor, Jim had a role in the major feature film Iniquity, in which he was cast as a military chaplain in a court scene along with Dr. Verna Linzey who was the lead juror. The film was an update of the Bible story of David and Bathsheba. He also sang on the soundtrack, harmonizing with Verna Linzey on her rendition of ‘The Rose’ by Bette Middler.

In 2018 Sony Provident Films which produced the major feature film ‘Indivisible’ invited Dr. Linzey to write two of the Indivisible Devotionals for the movie.

Additionally, he is the general editor for The Military Bible and The Presidents’ Bible, both edited by Military Chaplains and published by Military Bible Association, Inc., which he and Verna Linzey co-founded.

Dr. Linzey has preached the Pentecostal message in his own crusades in Ukraine, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and also participated in Verna Linzey Crusades. The latter reached 80,000 people in Haiti in 2013, and hundreds of pastors as part of Verna Linzey’s ministry team at the Singaporean Pastors’ Convention in Singapore in June 26-29, 2014. Additionally, he has taught the Pentecostal message at various schools, including Regent University, Oral Roberts University, Christ for the Nations Institute, and Asia Pacific Theological Seminary.

Dr. Linzey did promotional work for Franklin Hall. He officiated at Mrs. Franklin Hall’s funeral at the International Healing Cathedral in January of 2010 and conducted the World Believer’s Convention there in 2010. He provided administrative support for and ministered with his parents, Stanford and Verna Linzey.

Jim Linzey on The Word with Dr. Verna Linzey Television program August 2012

Jim Linzey, on “The Word with Dr. Verna Linzey” television program, August 2012

As a Pentecostal chaplain, Dr. Linzey has laid hands on many airman and soldiers to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Serving with distinction for 24 years, his more notable positions were as supervising chaplain for the largest mobilization and demobilization mission in the continental United States at Fort Bliss, Texas in 2003-2004; and also as the first full time chaplain for the Leader’s Training Course under the U.S. Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 2006.

Dr. Linzey received a BA at Southern California College in 1979; an M.Div. at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1983, received an honorary D.D. at Kingsway Theological Seminary in 2000. Dr. Linzey mastered New Testament Greek at Fuller Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary.

Over the course of his ministry, Linzey collected a substantial archive of materials documenting his own ministry, as well as that of his uncle and parents. Linzey earlier deposited the Franklin Hall Collection, the Verna Linzey Collection, and the Stanford Linzey Collection at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The James F. Linzey Collection includes publications, photographs, sermons, audio-visual materials, correspondence, MEV Bibles and NTV New Testaments, and other historical materials. The collection provides insight into the life and ministry of a Pentecostal military chaplain whose passion for the Bible and for the Pentecostal experience has made a lasting contribution to the Pentecostal Movement and the Church overall.

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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 archives and research center 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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Alice Reynolds Flower: Thanksgiving in the Life of a Pentecostal Pioneer

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Flower family portrait at Scranton, Pennsylvania, December 1930. (L-r): Suzanne, George, J. Roswell, Joseph, David, Roswell, Alice R., and Adele Flower.

This Week in AG History — November 22, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 21 November 2019

Alice Reynolds Flower (1890-1991), affectionately known as “Mother Flower,” was known far and wide for her godly example, her preaching and teaching, devoted prayer life, her writings, and pearls of wisdom. She also was very thankful to God for His many blessings in her life.

She was thankful for healing. Her mother experienced a dramatic healing in 1883 (which was seven years before Alice was born). Mary Reynolds was an invalid, suffering for seven years from incurable diseases brought on by a nervous collapse. Mrs. Reynolds had ulcers in her throat and lungs, and eating caused great pain. She visited prominent doctors across the country, seeking relief from her chronic pain, but the medical profession seemed incapable of helping her.

After years of suffering, Mary Reynolds’ thoughts turned to God. A question formed in her mind: Why don’t you take your case to the Lord in prayer? A friend suggested that a Quaker evangelist, R. H. Ramsey, could come and pray for her, and he did.

“When Mr. Ramsey anointed me,” said Mrs. Reynolds, “I urged that he not only pray for me bodily, but my spiritual welfare also.” The next day she was overjoyed when she realized that she had been healed — both body and soul. This was such an astounding miracle that the editor of the Indianapolis Journal (who was a friend of the family), wrote an article entitled, “Another Cure By Faith,” which was published on the front page of the paper. Other newspapers also reported on her healing. Mary’s healing served as a visible reminder that God is real and that He continues to provide for His people. She gladly shared her testimony of healing for the rest of her life, and this had a profound influence on her daughter, Alice.

In later years, Alice herself, while in her early teens, was near death with double pneumonia. After much prayer, her mother knelt by her sick bed and said, “My dear, the Bible conditions have been met — use what breath you have left to praise God.” Between gasps, Alice followed her mother’s advice, and her condition changed within the hour. “My recovery was phenomenal — a real miracle,” recalled Alice. She was back in school within a couple of days.

Alice Reynolds Flower was thankful for salvation and for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As a young girl of 16, she attended a meeting conducted by Rev. Tom Hezmalhalch in Indianapolis on Easter Sunday of 1907. She had been seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and at the meeting she prayed: “Lord, please give me this baptism of the Holy Spirit. I believe You to do it just now and I thank You for it in Jesus’ name.” That was her simple prayer of faith. Then she lifted her hands and boldly declared, “I thank You, Lord, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Soon she felt the physical manifestation of God’s power and sank to the floor and began speaking in tongues.

“Wave after wave of glory swept over me,” said Alice, “until there seemed to be a shining path reaching from my opened heart right into the presence of God.”

Mother Flower was thankful for her family. She dedicated one of her books of poetry, From Under the Threshold, to her six boys and girls — “whose care and training has been my greatest school and richest joy in life.” The first poem is called “My Blossoms Six.” The first stanza follows:

Rich are the lessons that you have brought
Since first one by one you came,
Lessons of patience, tenderness, trust,
As daily we played life’s game.
I gave to you the best I could
And you gave your best to me
But oh how little you each one guessed
How rich would those lessons be.

She raised six children, one of whom died while preparing for the mission field as a student at Central Bible College. Her other five children all became ordained ministers with the Assemblies of God and served Christ with distinction.

Alice Reynolds Flower was the wife of J. Roswell Flower, the first general secretary of the Assemblies of God (elected at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914). She also was an ordained minister herself, preaching for revivals and other special events. She and her husband started what became known as the Pentecostal Evangel. The Flowers also helped to found what today is the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Alice also taught Sunday School and led a weekly prayer meeting at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, for over 60 years.

Her anointed writings included many tracts and poems as well as a few books, including The Home — A Divine Sanctuary, Building Her House Well, and Grace for Grace. She emphasized holiness and godly Christian living.

She liked to write about thankfulness. Three of her poems are “Thanksgiving Grace,” “Thanksgiving Hymn,” and “Thanksgiving Praise.” In “Thanksgiving Praise” she answered these questions: Whom shall I praise?, How shall I praise?, When shall I praise?, For what shall I praise?, and How long shall I praise? In the poem she recounted “countless days of His rich mercies” which followed her all the days of her life.

Fifty-five years ago, Mother Flower wrote a piece on thankfulness for the Pentecostal Evangel called, “Rejoice in the Lord Alway!” She emphasized that for those “who rejoice in the love of a faithful Heavenly Father and His wonderful redemption, thanksgiving is far more than a seasonal occasion.” She emphasized that one needs to be thankful even in the midst of hardship and even when answers to prayer seem slow. Alice reminded her audience that “He told us to lift up our head and rejoice for our redemption draweth nigh.” She closed out the article with these words of wisdom: “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, may your life in its every expression be a song of praise unto Him this blessed Thanksgiving season.”

Read Mother Flower’s article, “Rejoice in the Lord Alway!” on pages 5 and 6 of the Nov. 22, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Thank God and Take Courage,” by Elva J. Hoover

• “Women of the Harvest,” by Ann Ahlf

• “We Are Thankful,” by Mildred Pitts

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

For the poem, “Thanksgiving Praise,” click here.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are 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

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Pentecost Came to Madagascar in 1910 in a Revival of Signs and Wonders

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Rev. Rasoamanana, president of the Assemblies of God of Madagascar, and his wife, 1978.

This Week in AG History — November 15, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 14 November 2019

The Pentecostal movement came to Madagascar, the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, in 1910 in a great revival with signs and wonders. The revival began when a 60-year-old woman, Ravelonjanahary (known to English-speakers as Ravelo), who was believed to be dead, suddenly sat up during her own funeral. This caused quite a stir in her community, and she became known as “the resurrected one.”

Eighty-nine years ago, the Pentecostal Evangel published an account of Ravelo’s resurrection and the ensuing revival. After being raised from the dead, Ravelo was baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt God tugging at her heart to share her testimony and to preach the gospel. Ravelo initially rejected this call to the ministry. She reasoned, “I cannot speak, I am not clever.” But she heard God’s voice again, saying, “Go! Preach in My Name and heal the sick.”

Ravelo obeyed God’s voice and began ministering in a simple manner. She went from town to town, sharing God’s Word and her testimony. Before praying for a sick person, she would ask, “Have you repented? Have you given up your idols?” Ravelo’s ministry met with remarkable results. All across the countryside, people were healed and began to follow Christ.

At the time, Madagascar was a French Protectorate, and the French governors were hostile to Christianity. They introduced laws restricting the religious freedom of natives of Madagascar, showing particular opposition to Protestants. Ravelo persevered in spite of opposition from the government and society elites.

Local newspapers covered the revival, often defending Ravelo against attacks. One newspaper editorial noted that scoffers questioned whether Ravelo had really been raised from the dead. The editorial reasoned that proof of Ravelo’s resurrection was unnecessary, because the miraculous healings under her ministry were profound, frequent, and undeniable. Another newspaper defended her against charges of sectarianism, stating that she was not trying to build up one particular church.

People who were healed and who became Christians crowded into Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal, and other churches. Ravelo’s revival spilled into the broader Protestant church world, and to this day it is common for Madagascar Protestant churches of all stripes to encourage healing, exorcism, and biblical spiritual gifts.

The great revival sparked by Ravelo’s resurrection helped to lay the foundation for the Assemblies of God in Madagascar. In 2018, the Assemblies of God reported over 100,000 adherents in the island nation.

Read the entire article, “How Pentecost Came to Madagascar: A True Story of a Great Revival,” in the Nov. 15, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian,” by Donald Gee

• “Praying William: A Liberian Convert Testifies in His Own Words”

• “Healed of Bright’s Disease and Dropsy,” by Frank B. Anderson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of 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

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Caring for the Orphans of India and Nepal: Anna Tomaseck, Pentecostal Pioneer

Tomaseck AnnaThis Week in AG History — November 8, 1930

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 07 November 2019

Anna Tomaseck (1902-1981), a single woman known as “Mamaji” (precious mother) to the many children whom she raised on the Indian/Nepali border, spent 50 years serving God in India and is credited with opening the doors of Nepal to the Pentecostal movement.

Tomaseck accepted Christ in a Billy Sunday crusade and consecrated her life to serve in whatever way God led. She trained as a registered nurse in Ohio and began to tell others of her desire to be a missionary, sensing a call to India. Her Presbyterian Sunday School teacher and many friends pledged their support and Tomaseck arrived in India in 1926.

Almost immediately, she was introduced to missionaries who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and she, too, accepted this gift and identified with the Assemblies of God in 1928. Tomaseck spent the first 10 years of her missionary service at the Assemblies of God Girls School in Bettiah, learning the Hindi language and assisting in evangelistic efforts.

In the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she wrote, “Our school is growing and we have over one hundred students. We are much in prayer these days that God will again pour out His Spirit upon us, for we are a needy people and He alone can meet our need.”

Through these kinds of prayers, Tomaseck soon discerned there was something else that God had in mind for her. While visiting English missionary Amy Carmichael, she spent several days seeking for the specific assignment for which Christ had called her.

When Tomaseck left Carmichael’s mission, she believed that God had given her a two-fold mission: to raise children that no one else wanted and to reach the people of Nepal. Many discouraged her from this endeavor as Nepal was closed to Christianity. Tomaseck determined if she could not legally enter Nepal, she would get as close as she could.

Looking at a map of the railway system, she set her sights on Rapaydiya, the last Indian village before Nepal. In 1936, she purchased a one-way ticket and rented the house nearest the border – the last house in India – and began learning the Nepali language.

Tomaseck brought along with her three children who had been subsisting on whatever scraps they could find after their parents died. Soon local people understood that the young American lady would take in children, regardless of their health or status. Many more babies were brought to her home, from both India and Nepal. Some were orphans, some were unwanted by their families, and some were abandoned because their parents could not afford to feed them. Some had leprosy. They were all starving and sick.

Tomaseck received some criticism from other missionaries and supporters who felt that her time should be spend evangelizing rather than caring for sick children. She was undeterred. She instituted a teaching program that provided life skills for her children, seeing that each boy learned a trade and that each girl was taught to manage a home. As her children grew and moved out to find their place in life, more children came to take their place. In three decades of service on the Nepali border, Tomaseck raised 420 children in the Nur Children’s Home, teaching each of them about the love of Christ.

Tomaseck soon found that she was able to cross the border without police permission, as she was escorted by border guards who she had raised when they were boys. A string of churches was planted in southern Nepal and much of the leadership of the Pentecostal church traced their roots back to her ministry.

After 33 years in Rapaydiya, Tomaseck returned to Bettiah, where she remained until her retirement in 1976 at age 74. She moved to Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, and passed away five years later.

God saw the need in a remote part of the world and He heard the prayer Tomaseck wrote in the 1930 Pentecostal Evangel, asking for His Spirit to be poured out on their work. He enabled a young single woman to raise up believers, teachers, laborers, and pastors who would go where missionaries could not go. Mamaji’s abandoned babies became men and women of the Spirit who built His church in India and Nepal.

Read Anna Tomaseck’s early report from the field on page 11 of the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “In the Midst of Chinese Bandits” by W.W. Simpson

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian” by Donald Gee

• “From Witch Doctor to Gospel Preacher,” by A.R. Tomlin

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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: iFPHC.org

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Charles Price Jones/Anita Bingham Jefferson Collection Deposited at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

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Charles Price Jones

By Darrin J. Rodgers

Charles Price Jones (1865-1949) was a prominent African American church leader, composer, educator, theologian, and poet. He founded the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., an African American Holiness denomination that shares a common history with the Church of God in Christ. He composed over 1,000 songs, many of which continue to be sung in churches across the denominational and racial divides. The songs for which Price is possibly best known are “Deeper, Deeper” and “Come Unto Me.”

Jones was licensed to preach as a Baptist minister in 1885. Jones was concerned that many Christians of his day seemed unconcerned with spiritual disciplines and godly living. He identified with the Holiness movement, seeking to bring spiritual renewal to black Baptist churches. He served as a pastor and an evangelist throughout the South. He also served as editor of the Baptist Vanguard newspaper, published by Arkansas Baptist College.

In 1895, Jones became pastor of the prominent Mt. Helm Missionary Baptist Church, which was the oldest African American church in Jackson, Mississippi. In the same year, Jones befriended another young Baptist minister, Charles Harrison Mason. A growing Holiness movement coalesced as Mason and like-minded ministerial colleagues joined Jones in a quest for holy living.

The emergence of the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) resulted in a split within the Holiness association led by Jones. While Jones and Mason both acknowledged that the gift of speaking in tongues had not ceased, they differed on whether it was the evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Mason accepted the Pentecostal view of evidentiary tongues, while Jones did not. The led to the 1907 organization of the Pentecostal group, over which Mason was selected as overseer. Both groups went by the name Church of God in Christ. After several years of legal battles over the use of the name, Mason’s group won the right to call itself Church of God in Christ. Those who followed Jones incorporated in 1920 as Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A.

During the first half of the twentieth century, Jones was a well-known figure in African American Holiness and Pentecostal circles. However, in recent decades Jones and his remarkable achievements have faded from the memory of many Christians. This may be partly due to the relative growth of the two groups. The Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. reported 12,960 members in 139 churches in the United States in 2012. The Church of God in Christ, however, in 1991 reported 5,499,875 members in 15,300 churches (these statistics apparently include worldwide members and churches).

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Dr. Anita Bingham Jefferson

Dr. Anita Bingham Jefferson, Christian educator and women’s leader in the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., has sought to educate new generations about Jones and his legacy by preserving and promoting his writings and life story. Over the past forty years, she has gathered historical materials. Since 1981, she has written or published seventeen books about Jones and the history of the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A.  Several of Jefferson’s books about Charles Price Jones are still in print and are available on amazon.com.

Jefferson has deposited copies of her books, as well as some of her research materials, at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). These materials shed important light on Jones and the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., as well as more broadly on African American hymnody and the African American Holiness movement.

Pentecostal historians will find the collection indispensable in their efforts to better understand Charles Harrison Mason and the origins of the Church of God in Christ, which cannot be understood apart from the history of the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A.

Interestingly, the denominations led by Jones and Mason identify differing origin stories. The Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. originated in 1897. In 1896, after an extended period of prayer, Jones felt impressed by God to call for a Holiness convention. The convention was held the following year, in June 1897, at Mt. Helm Missionary Baptist Church.

The Church of God in Christ has identified two dates as its origin: 1897 and 1907. Two significant events relating to Mason occurred in 1897: he established a congregation in Lexington, Mississippi, and he received a revelation that the church should be named “Church of God in Christ.” The 1907 date refers to the Church of God in Christ’s organization as a Pentecostal denomination under Mason’s leadership.

Following the 1907 separation, the two groups grew and formed new churches across the United States. The Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. established its headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Church of God in Christ established its headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.

CPJonesBook

One of Dr. Jefferson’s books about C. P. Jones

Dr. Anita B. Jefferson deposited the collection at the FPHC with encouragement from Mother Mary P. Patterson, widow of J. O. Patterson, Sr., who served as Church of God in Christ Presiding Bishop (1968-1989). Patterson, through her company, the Pentecostal Heritage Connection, has spent over 12 years raising awareness of the Charles Harrison Mason’s formative ministry years in Mississippi. She organized tour groups of Lexington, she built relationships with community leaders, church leaders, and academics, and she spearheaded the placement of two official State Historical Markers in Lexington. Patterson deposited her husband’s papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in 2012.

The Charles Price Jones/Anita Bingham Jefferson Collection takes its place alongside other significant African-American Pentecostal collections deposited at the FPHC in recent years, including:

  • Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. Collection (Patterson served as Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989)
  • Mother Lizzie Robinson/Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection (Robinson was the founder of the Church of God in Christ Women’s Department)
  • James L. Tyson Collection (Tyson is the historian of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, which is the largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)
  • Alexander C. Stewart Collection (Stewart is the historian of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., the second largest African American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)
  • Robert James McGoings, Jr. Collection (McGoings was a prominent African-American Oneness Pentecostal from Baltimore, Maryland)

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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 archives and research center 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: http://www.iFPHC.org

 

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J. Narver Gortner: The Methodist Pastor Who Became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

Gortner

J. Narver and Della Gortner, with their son, Vernon, circa 1914

This Week in AG History — October 25, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 24 October 2019

Most people today probably associate the name Gortner with Marjoe Gortner (1944- ), the child evangelist-turned-movie star. Early Assemblies of God members, however, would associate the name with his grandfather, J. Narver Gortner (1874-1961). J. Narver, the son of a Methodist missionary, became a prominent early leader in the Assemblies of God.

J. Narver’s father was an old-fashioned Methodist preacher who taught the importance of holy living and who believed that God still performs miracles. His father yielded to a call to serve as a missionary in Liberia. The Gortner family sailed for Liberia in 1887, but their life as African missionaries was short-lived. J. Narver’s father died in 1888, and his grieving widow and two sons went back to America, where they settled on the family farm in Nebraska.

The sorrowful experience in Liberia might have caused J. Narver to reject the thought of entering the ministry. However, he felt a pull toward the pastorate and enrolled at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett Theological Seminary) in Evanston, Illinois. He began pastoring his first church, a Methodist congregation in Inman, Nebraska, at the age of 19.

Narver pastored several churches in Nebraska, numerous people accepted Christ under his ministry, and he rose in prominence in the Methodist Church. In 1911, his wife, Della, became deathly sick. J. Narver accepted the pastorate of a church in southern California, hoping that the change in climate would bring a measure of relief to Della.

Della did get better, but her healing did not come from the weather. Rather, she attributed her healing to the prayers of several Christians, including Pentecostal pioneer and medical doctor Finis Yoakum. She often testified that before she was healed, she had subsisted for fourteen months primarily on raw eggs and malted milk. After she was healed, she could eat beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and anything else she wanted.

Della’s healing caused the Gortners to view Pentecostals favorably. Pentecostals were generally considered part of the broader Holiness and Wesleyan movements, with which the Gortners also identified. However, Pentecostals also placed an emphasis on the baptism in the Holy Spirit with an evidence of speaking in tongues, which was not emphasized in Gortner’s Methodist church.

In 1914, J. Narver read about a Pentecostal camp meeting slated to be held in Cazadero, in the California Redwoods. Carrie Judd Montgomery, an early Pentecostal healing evangelist, was going to minister at the camp. He had read Montgomery’s periodical, Triumphs of Faith, and wanted to experience a Pentecostal service for himself.

J. Narver attended the camp and received a powerful experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. He also was healed of a long-standing painful spinal condition after evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, another speaker at the camp, prayed for him.

The 40-year-old Methodist pastor was both exhilarated and in a quandary. He wanted to testify about his baptism in the Holy Spirit and his healing.  However, he thought it would likely cost him his position as a Methodist pastor and denominational official.

Gortner went home and next Sunday morning told his Methodist congregation in Arroyo Grande what had happened to him. They listened with interest, Methodist officials did not remove him from the pastorate, and his fears subsided. He remained in the Methodist church until 1919, when he decided to become more involved in the young Pentecostal movement.

Gortner transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God and quickly rose in prominence in his new church. In 1920, he became the first superintendent of the Central District of the Assemblies of God, and the following year he became a member of the Executive Presbytery, a position he kept for 26 years. He also served as a pastor in Oakland, California (1927-1937) and president of Glad Tidings Bible Institute in San Francisco (1941-1947). He authored five books and over 250 articles published in the Pentecostal Evangel.

According to historian Carl Brumback, Gortner was a very influential theologian and church leader in the Assemblies of God from the 1920s through the 1940s. Brumback viewed J. Narver Gortner, Samuel A. Jamieson, and P. C. Nelson as a “doctrinal trio” which had “a great part in molding the conservative nature of the Assemblies of God.” In 1927, Gortner championed the idea of changing the name of the Assemblies of God to The Pentecostal Evangelical Church. Gortner was not ashamed of being Pentecostal and thought the term Pentecostal should be in the name of the Fellowship. He also built bridges across the denominational divides and played a significant role in the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals.

In its early decades, the Assemblies of God benefited significantly from an influx of veteran ministers from other denominations whose lives had been touched by the work of the Holy Spirit. J. Narver Gortner was one such minister, and his influence can still be felt through the countless lives that he touched through his ministry and writings.

Read Gortner’s testimony on pages 6 and 7 of the October 25, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit a Necessity?” by P. C. Nelson
  • “The Initial Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” by Donald Gee
  • “Was the Apostle Paul a Madman?” by Charles A. Shreve

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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