Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Healing Hands

Healing Hands: Touching the Suffering through Medical Missions, by Peggy Johnson Knutti. Springfield, MO: Access Group, 2010.

It seems to be a common assumption in some quarters that, about 100 years ago, there occurred in American Protestantism a division between those who truly believe and those who truly care. The former (evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Pentecostals) became the standard-bearers of orthodoxy, while the latter (mainline Protestants) sought to perfect society instead of saving souls, embracing a “Social Gospel” that set out to apply Christian ethics to social ills. If one listened only to contemporary politicized rhetoric (e.g., Glenn Beck’s condemnation of churches that embrace “social justice”), it might seem like concern for the eternal and the temporal are mutually exclusive. However, a careful examination of history demonstrates a more complex story.

In her new book, Healing Hands: Touching the Suffering through Medical Missions, Peggy Johnson Knutti documents efforts within one Pentecostal denomination to share both compassion and the message of Christ. This history of HealthCare Ministries sheds light on why the Assemblies of God has come to view compassion as an essential part of its mission, and how medical missions are being utilizing to achieve this goal.

The first chapter provides an overview of humanitarian work in Assemblies of God missions prior to the 1980s. Some of these stories are worth recounting here. Marie Stephany and Nettie Nichols began orphanages in China in the early 1920s. Anna Tomaseck opened a children’s home near the Nepali border in northern India, which led to the formation of the Pentecostal work in Nepal. Lillian Trasher’s famous orphanage in Assiout, Egypt, gave credibility to the Assemblies of God in that Muslim nation. Florence Steidel, a missionary nurse, arrived in Liberia in 1935 and committed herself to working with lepers — those who had been abandoned by the rest of society. Mark and Huldah Buntain opened the six-story, 120-bed AG Hospital and Research Center in Calcutta, India, in 1977. In 1963, El Salvador missionary John Bueno started Latin America ChildCare, which is now the largest private school system in the world and has served over seven hundred thousand students. Knutti’s account demonstrates that compassion has been a very visible aspect of Assemblies of God missions since the earliest years of the denomination. When the Assemblies of God, at its 2009 General Council, added compassion as its fourth reason for being (in addition to worship, evangelism, and discipleship), this was an affirmation of an existing tradition within the Fellowship of helping the suffering.

The Assemblies of God did not sponsor a systematic attempt to support medical missions until 1983, when the Assemblies of God Foreign Missions Board approved the Medical Missions Program. The name HealthCare Ministries was adopted in 1984. Chapters two through six recount the story of the early years of HealthCare Ministries and its founder, Paul R. Williams. Knutti does not shy away from sharing the struggles of trying to establish a medical missions program in a denomination that often harbored suspicion of  efforts that seemed to resemble the so-called Social Gospel movement in liberal mainline denominations. The balance of the book shares the testimonies of HealthCare Ministries directors and missionaries, including: Joe and Eloise Judah, JoAnnn Butrin, Peggy Johnson Knutti, Terry and Diana Dwelle, Bob and Twyla McGurty, Deborah Highfill, and many others.

Healing Hands is a valuable contribution to the understanding of how the Assemblies of God has come to embrace medical missions as an important way to share the love and message of Christ around the world. Importantly, this volume will challenge the assumptions of two audiences: outsiders unfamiliar with Pentecostal social concern who incorrectly think that Pentecostals don’t care; and Pentecostals who may conflate compassion with a dilution of the church’s charge to share the gospel. Healing Hands is an engaging read and will be warmly welcomed by those who care about Assemblies of God medical missions, those who appreciate missionary stories, and those who wish to better understand the role of compassion in Pentecostal churches.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, 184 pages, illustrated. $15.00 postpaid on U.S. orders. Order from HealthCare Ministries by phone: (417) 866-6311.

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Review: In Jesus’ Name

“In Jesus’ Name”: The History and Beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals, by David A. Reed. Blandford Forum, England: Deo Publishing, 2008.

David Reed’s book, “In the Name of Jesus,” is possibly the best study on the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism – that segment of the Pentecostal movement that rejects traditional Trinitarian formulas in favor of an emphasis on the name of Jesus. Reed’s own spiritual journey (he was reared in a Oneness Pentecostal church in New Brunswick, Canada, but is now an Anglican minister and educator) provided the impetus for his study of the Oneness movement, which has become his life’s work.

Reed divides his work into three sections – 1) the Pietist and evangelical legacies within Oneness Pentecostalism, 2) the birth of Oneness Pentecostalism, and 3) the theology of Oneness Pentecostalism.

Reed opens with a spotlight on the Pietist emphasis on searching out the truths of Scripture. Pietist leader Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705) gave priority to moral living over correct doctrine. Pietism tended to focus on spiritual process and growth, asking questions such as “Are you living yet in Jesus?” (pp. 13-14n).

The author traces the spirit of Pietism through the ministries of August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) and Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf (1700-1760) with their emphasis on a heart religion that came about through repentance, conversion, weeping, practical piety and rejoicing. Zinzendorf was Christocentric, giving great value to the suffering and bleeding of Jesus. Reed states that Pietist devotion included an emphasis on the name of Jesus, which should come as no surprise. John Wesley later made his mark on the religious world with a two-fold emphasis on conversion and holiness of life.

Puritan clerics of the seventeenth century believed nearly the same as Pietists in the matter of experiential religion. According to Reed, “Pietism was a stream of spirituality that emphasized the affective and practical aspects of faith…it contributed to the working out of the distinctive doctrine of Oneness Pentecostals” (italics mine) (p. 32).

Reed argues that Oneness Pentecostalism arose from this evangelical Pietist and Puritan heritage. Whereas Pietists narrowed Spirit-baptism to a stream of spirituality that emphasized the affective and practical aspects of faith, Oneness Pentecostals extended this Pietistic hermeneutic to “the name of Jesus.” Oneness Pentecostals claimed that there is power in the Name if you have faith in the Name (and if you are buried by baptism in His Name). Further, it appears that Oneness Pentecostalism is a child of Jewish thought—a radical monotheism stressing one God and one Name. This Oneness belief maturated in the Holiness and early Pentecostal movements.

Wherever one found devotional literature, hymnody, and continued teaching by Pietist descendants, one often encountered the name of Jesus. “The phrase ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Only’ became commonplace among Keswick and Holiness writers” (p. 40), such as Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911).

Reed, in the second part of his book, deals with the birth of Oneness Pentecostalism, stating that it had two birthplaces: Topeka (1901) and Azusa Street (1906). “White Pentecostals, especially those in the Assemblies of God, have pinned their Pentecostal identity on Parham’s doctrine of glossolalia. Black Pentecostals, on the other hand, have identified with the Azusa Street Revival” (p. 81). He contends, however, that it is difficult to substantiate this claim. He further observes, “Oneness doctrine and practice may be more compatible in its core with an Afro-centric worldview than with that of non-Pentecostal white evangelicals” (p. 82).

Reed asserts: “The ‘Jesus Name’ or ‘Oneness’ paradigm is a radical (emphasis mine) soteriology constituted by: a non-trinitarian modalistic view of God, the name of Jesus as the revealed name of God, and the threefold pattern for full salvation set forth in Acts 2:38” (p. 113)—blood, water and Spirit [repentance, baptism in water in the name of Jesus, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit].

“For the uninformed outsider, Oneness Pentecostalism is a conundrum. Like other Pentecostal groups, it should be emphasizing the Spirit,” Reed states. “But it speaks about Jesus and denies the Trinity” (p. 338).

Reed’s book covers such topics as: Finished Work, Secret Rapture (Manchild Doctrine and Bride of Christ), Restoration Movement, New Issue, Re-baptism, Champions of the Trinitarian Cause, Old Testament Names of God and much, much more. It is a work that is based on rare and extensive research. At times, it seems that Reed tries to cover too much ground, but he is so full of information that he has to have an outlet. A pulpit is set up in every reader’s realm, from which Reed dispenses thoughts and opinions.

“The challenge of the future,” Reed concludes, “is hidden in its name and its inheritance: oneness. The earliest appeal to oneness in 1910 was that the Pentecostal movement be united. A decade later that appeal was applied sharply to racial unity. By 1930 it became a descriptor for the movement. Throughout its history, lack of oneness with full Pentecostals and other Christians has become enigmatic: for some a mark of doctrinal purity, for others, a sign of sin” (p. 363).

Reed emphasizes that the Oneness movement needs to receive fair and judicious treatment. However, Oneness Pentecostals may take offense at Reed’s statement that “There is within Scripture potential for developing a theology of the Name” (emphasis mine) (p. 356). He goes on to further point out particular weaknesses in Oneness theology, while fully supporting Trinitarianism.

The first part of the book leads one to believe that Reed fully supports the Oneness Pentecostal belief; however, as I perused his continuing discourse, I experienced opaque visions of Oneness Pentecostals as being inferior, and that they were not the norm.

“In Jesus’ Name” is the result of excellent research; it delves into scores of themes related to Oneness Pentecostalism; its common thread is the Name; and the reader, whether Trinitarian or Oneness, will enhance his knowledge of the Jesus’ Name doctrine.

Reviewed by Patricia P. Pickard, Independent scholar, Bangor, Maine

Softcover, 394 pages. $39.95 retail. Order from: amazon.com

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Review: Dalit Pentecostalism

Dalit Pentecostalism: Spirituality of the Empowered Poor, by V. V. Thomas. Bangalore, India: Asian Trading Corporation, 2008.

Dr. V. V. Thomas is one of the leading historians of Indian Pentecostalism.  His book, Dalit Pentecostalism: Spirituality of the Empowered Poor, is an excellent study, which in a creative manner interprets the history of Pentecostalism in Kerala from the point of view of the Dalits experiences and perceptions.  The study is not only based on valuable new historical material with regard to the issue of Pentecostalism in Kerala but also interrogates it with a subaltern perspective.

In a focused way the material is systematically approached and presented which shows original thinking.  The author’s critical ability is evident throughout the book in that he has critically used several primary sources available both in Malayalam and English.  Bot analysis and narration are combined in a balanced way while looking at the historical developments without losing sight of the socio-cultural contexts within which the Dalits experienced Pentecostalism in Kerala.  The author’s arguments are strong in many ways basically because of his being a personal witness to the problems, in addition to the overall knowledge of people’s history and the Church in Kerala that he possesses.

The author rightly argues with substantial data that Dalit Christians in Kerala had a prominent role in shaping the history of Pentecostalism in Kerala although it has been ignored hitherto.  The author’s historiographical evaluations in the book is very valuable as it exposes the dominant community’s views and perceptions with regard to Dalits’ place in the history of Christianity and especially Pentecostalism in Kerala.  The sustained effort of the author to keep methodological approaches has helped the author to conclude strongly that there is an entity within the larger Pentecostalism in Kerala which may be described as Dalit Pentecostalism.

Although the author had to face the problem of a lack of sources, he has overcome that difficulty by re-reading the existing sources and also by taking into account the oral sources seriously.  Orality, which is a strength of Dalit people’s way of keeping memory has helped the author to a great extent.

This book will no doubt stand as another valuable source in the library of Dalit history in India and especially in Kerala.

Adapted from the Foreword by Rev. Dr. George Ommen, Former Professor of History of Christianity, United Theological College, Bangalore, India

Softcover, 432 pages. $20.00 plus shipping. Available from: Asian Trading Corporation

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Review: Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada

Streams of Grace: A History of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada, by Linda Wegner. Edmonton, AB: New Leaf Works, 2006.

The Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada (ACOP) is possibly unique in North America. With roots in the early twentieth-century Pentecostal revival, the ACOP holds to the doctrine of eternal security and has transitioned in recent decades from identification with the Oneness movement to a Trinitarian understanding of the godhead. The ACOP ties with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador as the second-largest Pentecostal denomination in Canada, each with approximately 26,000 adherents. The largest, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, claimed 233,400 adherents in 2008.

Linda Wegner’s history of the ACOP, Streams of Grace, traces the intriguing history of this church. Frank Small, a leading Canadian Pentecostal pioneer, and ten others who had withdrawn from the infant Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), in 1921 received a Dominion charter to form the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada. Small and the ACOP held to a Oneness position, while the PAOC (which affiliated with the Assemblies of God in the U.S.) was Trinitarian. Both the PAOC and the ACOP embraced William Durham’s Baptistic “Finished Work” doctrine, which stated that sanctification is a progressive work in the life of a believer (as opposed to the Wesleyan belief that perfection is possible following a crisis experience of sanctification). However, the ACOP extended Durham’s Baptistic theology from sanctification to soteriology, holding to a position of eternal security. This Calvinistic position was very rare among early Pentecostals in the U.S. The only other major early U.S. Pentecostal group to teach eternal security was an informal network of churches best known by the name of their periodical, Grace and Glory, published in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1953, another Canadian group, the Evangelical Churches of Pentecost (ECP), merged into the ACOP. The ECP was organized in 1927 as Full Gospel Missions. Full Gospel Missions, like the ACOP, preferred that baptism be administered using the formula “in the name of Jesus” instead of using the Trinitarian “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Unlike in the ACOP, many Full Gospel Missions ministers did not reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Full Gospel Missions identified its position as “Tri-unity of the godhead” as opposed to Oneness. Both groups embraced a Calvinist perspective. Interestingly, a number of ECP ministers, most notably Ern Baxter, were amillenial.

Following the 1953 merger of the ECP into the ACOP, the ACOP tolerated Oneness and Trinitarian (Tri-unity) positions on the godhead. Over time, the Trinitarian position became dominant within the ACOP and, within the last decade, the ACOP has officially declared itself to be Trinitarian by joining the Pentecostal World Fellowship and the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, two organizations with Trinitarian statements of faith.

Wegner highlights the lives and testimonies of the ACOP’s pioneers and recounts the events and theological debates surrounding the development of the ACOP and the ECP. Streams of Grace is an important volume, providing a much-needed update to Robert Larden’s 1971 history of the ACOP, Our Apostolic Heritage. Streams of Grace is essential to understanding how the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada arrived where it is on the pilgrimage of faith. This book will be warmly received by those who lived the history and belongs in the library of every Bible college and seminary.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, 350 pages, illustrated. Cost: $20.00 plus shipping. Order online from the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada. For more information, contact the ACOP International Office #119 – 2340 Pegasus Way NE,  Calgary, Alberta, Canada  T2E 8M5.

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Review: Nebraska’s Living Water

 

 

 

 

Nebraska’s Living Water: 20th-Century Assemblies of God, compiled and written by Elisabeth James Lemp and Glenn W. Gohr. Grand Island, NE: Nebraska District Council of the Assemblies of God, 2010.

This book roughly covers the history of the Pentecostal movement in Nebraska in the 20th century. It chronicles holiness and divine healing influences in Nebraska beginning in the 1890s and up through the founding of the Nebraska District of the Assemblies of God. It also covers the first 80 years of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the Nebraska District (1919-1999).

The title of the book compares Nebraska’s vibrant spiritual heritage with the history of how the Nebraska landscape began to flourish. As pioneers moved into the Nebraska Territory in the 1800s, they found it to be hundreds of miles of dry prairie, which came to be known as the “Great American Desert.” The climate was arid, and raising a crop was difficult. But this all changed one day when it was discovered that Nebraska was situated directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest underground fresh water ocean in the world. All that was needed was a way to access this water to bring life to the landscape and its inhabitants. Soon windmills were built across the state, which were able to pump “life-giving water” to a parched and dry land.

Just as Nebraska experienced a physical drought in its earliest history, there was also a “spiritual drought.” But then came the “living water” of the Holy Spirit to touch many of the inhabitants of the state. Men and women began to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the Pentecostal message spread from Charles Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas and the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, as well as other places.

Many may not realize that Agnes Ozman, who was from Nebraska, was the first person to speak in tongues at Charles Parham’s Bible school on January 1, 1901. Other important Pentecostal leaders such as B. H. Irwin, John Alexander Dowie, A. A. Boddy of England, and Maria Woodworth-Etter each had early connections with the state of Nebraska.

Elisabeth James Lemp began this project in 1995, shortly after the funeral of her mother, Marie James, when it was noted that “Marie James was the last of that era of Pentecostal pioneers in Nebraska.” Elisabeth began contacting churches and ministers and families of ministers to try to obtain personal narratives, testimonies, and history of the Nebraska District and its people. Others including Joe Masten, Glenn Gohr, and Faith and Dennis Tyson, each helped with the project, with Glenn tying up all the loose ends to wrap up this 15-year project. The personal narratives and church histories were augmented with printed reports and testimonies found in periodicals such as the Pentecostal Evangel, district publications, early newspaper accounts, and other writings.

The book contains information on early revivals, memories from Nebraska church camps, testimonies from a number of ministers and missionaries across the state, and sketches of nearly 200 Assemblies of God churches and missions in Nebraska. Bibliographic references are included as well as photographs of key people, churches, and events. Anyone with a Nebraska connection will want to obtain a copy of this inspiring book.

Reviewed by Glenn W. Gohr

Hardback, 320 pages, illustrated. Price: $20 for the first book, and $15.00 for each additional book; shipping extra. Order from: Nebraska District Council of the Assemblies of God, P.O. Box 1965, Grand Island, NE 68802. Phone: 308-384-1234. Email: district@neag.org

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Review: Annette Murphy Barton Missionary Biography

Memories of a Missionary’s Daughter, by Annette Murphy Barton. Oklahoma City, OK : the author, 2009.

Annette Murphy Barton’s book, Memories of a Missionary’s Daughter, is a spell-binding account of a missionary family to India and Cuba. Barton’s mother, Dessie M. Knight, first sailed for India in 1929 as an Assemblies of God missionary after completing her education at Central Bible Institute (Springfield, Missouri). She married fellow missionary Hubert E. Murphy in 1935 while on furlough, and they went back to India under the auspices of his denomination, the Pentecostal Church of God. H. E. Murphy died in 1975 and Dessie Murphy died in 1981. Barton’s book details a fascinating record of significant events aboard both freight-hauling ships and of magnificent floating palaces, all necessary for world travel in order to arrive at required destinations. The book records in detail, both the extreme highs and lows of life as missionaries from the 1930s to the 1950s. The volume is well written and includes excellent pictorial illustrations.

Reviewed by Floyd and Joyce Hutcheson

Softcover, 70 pages + 38 pages of photos. Price: $15 postpaid. Order from: Annette Murphy Barton, 5008 S. Anderson Road # 40, Oklahoma City, OK 73150. Phone: 405.610.7455 Email: anniebarton38@aol.com

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Review: The Davis Sisters

The Davis Sisters: Their Influences and Their Impact, compiled and written by Patricia P. Pickard. Bangor, ME: the author, 2009.

This delightful book is a tribute to the legacy of two Southern aristocratic ladies named Miss Carro and Miss Susie Davis who became Pentecostal evangelists and founders of Pentecostal churches. After these twin sisters from Macon, Georgia, were converted to Pentecost, they hit the streets of Macon, powerfully charged with the gospel and the Holy Spirit. Later they felt directed to establish Pentecostal churches in Maine and New Brunswick. They ended up in Saint John, New Brunswick, where they founded a Pentecostal congregation and became copastors for many years.

Miss Carro and Miss Susie Davis were twins whose parents died when they were young. They were from a well-to-do family, so their Aunt Minnie accepted the task of raising the twins. The family lived a fashionable life on a plantation outside Macon, Georgia. Both girls decided to become schoolteachers. Around 1910 they were converted to Pentecost and became dedicated Christians, desiring to serve God in every way they could. Through their aunt, they learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. When they planned a vacation trip to Chicago, Aunt Minnie urged them to visit a Pentecostal Persian Mission which had been established by Andrew Urshan. They also attended a series of meetings which were conducted by William Durham, where a mighty Pentecostal outpouring was taking place, and where Miss Carro received Spirit baptism. Miss Susie received the Pentecostal blessing shortly after she returned home.

Eager to share this good news in Georgia, they returned and shared this news with their associates and with their friend, Professor J. Rufus Moseley, who had already received the Baptism.  Not long afterwards, Professor Moseley, the Davis sisters, and their aunt were refused admittance to the Presbyterian Church they attended because of their Pentecostal beliefs.

This led the two sisters to begin traveling the streets to tell others about the good news of God’s love. They held street meetings, conducted house and tent meetings, and established churches in Georgia and Florida among African Americans and whites. They suffered persecution, but God blessed their ministry. Four “unusual men from Maine” (that included Clifford A. Crabtree) arrived at the plantation in 1922, and spent the winter helping the ladies and Professor Moseley in their work of evangelism. Soon they heard an inward “voice” that spoke to them to “Go north, Miss Carro and Miss Susie.” They started out like Abraham, not knowing just where they were to go. Arriving in Bangor, Maine (with Crabtree as their young chauffeur and assistant), they started holding revival services which resulted in the establishment of a strong congregation in that city which is now Glad Tidings Church.

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