Tag Archives: African-American Pentecostalism

Remembering the Assemblies of God’s Black Heritage

By Darrin J. Rodgers

It is well-known that the interracial Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement, was led by an African-American pastor, William J. Seymour. However, the African-American heritage of the Assemblies of God has often been overlooked.

Most of the approximately 300 ministers who organized the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914 were white. (At least two were Native American.) However, African-Americans played important roles in the early decades of the Assemblies of God – at the first few general council meetings and as pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. They overcame racism (including from fellow believers), they led consecrated lives, and they helped to lay the foundation for the Fellowship. Their stories are our stories. The following vignettes offer a glimpse into the lives and ministries of these sometimes unsung heroes.

  1. William J. Seymour (1870-1922)

seymour-p5606William J. Seymour, a mild-mannered African-American Holiness preacher, is remembered as one of the most important figures in twentieth century American religious history. Just 111 years ago, he founded the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, which became home to the famed Azusa Street Revival. Hundreds of millions of Pentecostals around the world, including those in the Assemblies of God, view Seymour as a spiritual father. He would probably be surprised by the attention, as during his lifetime he was often marginalized, even within Pentecostal circles. But his persistent encouragements toward holiness, humility, racial reconciliation, and evangelism continue to shine as founding ideals of the Pentecostal movement.

  1. Charles H. Mason (1864-1961)

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Few early Pentecostals were as widely respected and admired as Charles H. Mason, founder of the Church of God in Christ. While the Church of God in Christ was a largely African-American Pentecostal denomination, Mason also credentialed numerous white ministers, some of whom ended up joining the Assemblies of God. Mason spoke at and blessed the founding general council of the Assemblies of God, and he also brought his black gospel choir from Lexington, Mississippi. E. N. Bell, the founding chairman of the Assemblies of God, called Mason “a real prophet of God.”

  1. Garfield T. Haywood (1880-1931)

Christian OutlookG.T. Haywood was the African-American pastor of the largest Pentecostal congregation in Indianapolis in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was also a noted theologian, author, songwriter, cartoonist, and inventor. His influence stretched far, and his congregation was racially mixed. The first issue of the Christian Evangel (later Pentecostal Evangel) included three articles by or about Haywood. He was invited to speak on the 1915 general council floor to represent the Oneness position, even though he never held Assemblies of God credentials. Haywood went on to serve as presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a racially mixed Oneness Pentecostal denomination.

  1. Ellsworth S. Thomas (1866-1936)

Ellsworth S. Thomas holds the distinction of being the first African-American to hold Assemblies of God ministerial credentials. His name was just a footnote in the history books until recently, when new information came to light. His parents, a Civil War veteran and a laundress, were part of a free black community in Binghamton, New York, that pre-existed the Civil War. By 1900, Ellsworth had become an itinerant evangelist, he was ordained in 1913 by a Pentecostal church in Buffalo, New York, and he transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1915. He remained a faithful Assemblies of God minister until his death at age 70.

  1. Isaac S. Neeley (1865-1923) and Martha (Mattie) A. Board Neeley (1866-1940s?)

neeleyp5664Isaac and Martha Neeley were married late in life (in 1905) and became the first African-Americans to serve as Assemblies of God missionaries. They went to Liberia in 1913 under the auspices of Howard A. Goss’s largely-white Pentecostal fellowship, the Church of God in Christ (which was distinct from Charles H. Mason’s group by the same name). They transferred their credentials to the Assemblies of God in 1920 when they were home on furlough and received missionary appointment to Liberia in 1923. Isaac died just before they were set to leave, and Martha proceeded alone to Cape Palmas, where she was in charge of Bethel Home.

  1. Cornelia Jones Robertson (1891-1967)

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Cornelia Jones Robertson, an African American participant at the Azusa Street Revival, was ordained in 1909 and became a popular evangelist and preached at churches across the nation. She transferred her credentials to the Assemblies of God in 1923 and settled in San Francisco, where she became a church planter and evangelist. She ran the Barbary Coast Mission for 14 years and is credited for helping 100,000 people in need. She was one of few African Americans listed in the predecessor to the San Francisco Social Register.

  1. Thoro Harris (1874-1955)

Early Pentecostals loved gospel music, and Thoro Harris was one of their favorite song writers. He published countless songbooks and composed over 500 songs, including “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (1921), “All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus” (1931), and “He’s Coming Soon” (1944). Harris, an African-American, moved seamlessly in both white and black circles, as well as in both Holiness and Pentecostal churches. He made a substantial impact on Assemblies of God hymnody in its early decades.

  1. Lillian Kraeger (1884-1964)

kraegerLillian Kraeger, a young single white woman, felt called to Africa as a missionary. She never made it to Africa, but instead became an unlikely Assemblies of God missionary to African-Americans in Harlem. Lillian was heartbroken when her Assemblies of God church in New York City rejected the membership applications of two young African American girls on account of their skin color. She did not want the girls to fall away from the Lord, so in 1916 she began traveling to Harlem to hold Bible studies. The studied blossomed and grew into Bethel Gospel Assembly, which is now the largest congregation in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, the African-American denomination which formed a cooperative alliance with the Assemblies of God in 2014.

  1. Eddie Washington (1916-2008)

Eddie Washington and his twin brother, Billie, were raised in a cruel orphanage in Rhode Island. They hoped for a reprieve when they went to a foster home at age 14. But when they accepted Christ at a Pentecostal church, their occultist foster mother beat them until their heads bled and forbade them to attend church again. They disobeyed, went back to church, and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their foster mother, now afraid of them because she could tell that they had spiritual power, left them alone. The twins prepared for the ministry at Zion Bible Institute and entered the evangelistic ministry. Eddie and his wife, Ruth, joined the Assemblies of God and became well known African-American evangelists and missionaries.

  1. Bob Harrison (1928-2012)

TWOct22_728When Bob Harrison felt a call to the ministry, he naturally turned to the Assemblies of God. His godmother, Cornelia Jones Robertson, was a pioneer African-American Assemblies of God minister. He graduated from an Assemblies of God Bible college in 1951, but he was denied credentials on account of his race, ironically, by the same district that ordained his godmother. Harrison quickly rose in prominence in evangelical circles. He joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1960 and traveled the world as an evangelist. In 1962, he became the catalyst for overturning a policy, instituted in 1939, that forbade the ordination of African-Americans at the national level. Harrison, in his new role as an ordained Assemblies of God minister, became a visible proponent of working across the racial divides.

These and countless other African-American Pentecostals have made a significant impact on the Assemblies of God. In 2015, almost ten percent of Assemblies of God USA members – 308,520 people – were black. As a whole, ethnic minorities accounted for 43 percent of Assemblies of God adherents in the United States. The Assemblies of God, an heir of the Azusa Street Revival, consists of people from varied racial backgrounds who have come together in the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ and to further His Kingdom.

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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 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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Alexander C. Stewart Deposits Important African-American Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

Stewart3

William L. Bonner (left), Chief Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., with Alexander C. and Shirlene Stewart on their wedding day, June 22, 1985, at Solomon’s Temple, Detroit, Michigan.

Alexander C. Stewart, the respected historian of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. (COOLJC), has deposited an important African-American Pentecostal collection at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC).

Stewart has a long history in both Trinitarian and Oneness African-American churches. He was raised in Bethel Gospel Assembly, the large Harlem congregation affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God. In 1974, while still in high school, he accepted the Oneness message and became a member of Greater Refuge Temple, the COOLJC headquarters church located in Harlem. Immediately upon joining his new church, he began collecting historical materials relating to African-American Oneness Pentecostalism.

Stewart described his passion for preserving Pentecostal history: “My life was changed, and I wanted to ensure the preservation of the legacy, heritage and contributions of African Americans and African-Caribbean Americans to Pentecostalism and American religion. As denominations and religious movements mature, generations become disconnected from the values, struggles and sacrifices of their founders. We must remember where we came from, and we must know our roots, so we can shape the future for this generation and the next.”

Alexander Stewart has served the COOLJC in various capacities. In 1988, he was appointed Chairman of the Church History Committee for the Greater Refuge Temple Board of Youth Education. He was editor of the Board’s periodical, Educationally Speaking. In 1991, he was appointed Assistant Historian, serving under Dr. Robert C. Spellman. Stewart and his wife, Shirlene, moved in 1993 to Columbia, South Carolina, and assisted Chief Apostle William L. Bonner in planting a new congregation. When the W. L. Bonner School of Theology (now W. L. Bonner College) was established in Columbia in 1995, Alexander and Shirlene were founding faculty members. He holds a Masters of Theology (Parkerburg Bible College, 2002) and a Masters of Theological Studies (Regent University, 2014).

A careful researcher and writer, Stewart has edited or written for numerous scholarly and church-related publications. His first book, The Silent Spokesman: Bishop Robert Clarence Lawson (1994), was co-authored with Sherry Sherrod DuPree. He also served as editorial and research consultant for the 1999 biography of Presiding Bishop William L. Bonner, And the High Places I’ll Bring Down. He also wrote three articles in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Blackwell, 2011), edited by Dr. George Thomas Kurian. He is a longtime member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and he has presented three papers at the society’s annual meetings.

Stewart

A few publications from the Alexander C. Stewart Collection.

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection consists of 6 linear feet of publications, newspaper clippings, and correspondence, primarily relating to the COOLJC, other African-American Oneness Pentecostal churches, and Bethel Gospel Assembly. The bulk of the collection documents the development of the COOLJC over the past 30 years, with special attention to denominational publications and W. L. Bonner College.

Stewart began depositing materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center over 20 years ago and has continued to add items over the years. Due to the collection’s size and importance, the items have been brought together and recataloged as a special collection, which will aid researchers. Stewart has placed additional collections of materials at the following repositories: the United Pentecostal Historical Center (Hazelwood, MO), Schomburg Center for Black Research (New York Public Library), and Pan-African Archive of the William Seymour College (Bowie, MD).

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection is important, as it provides researchers access to materials that may otherwise be difficult to find. African-Americans, other than the iconic figures of William J. Seymour and Charles H. Mason, are often neglected in standard Pentecostal history books. This is ironic, as African-Americans played leading roles in the origins and development of Pentecostalism in America. In concentrating on the development of certain white segments of the movement, historians often have under-represented the stories of ethnic minorities and those in the plethora of smaller Pentecostal denominations. In recent years, the FPHC has attempted to remedy this problem by building bridges across the racial, linguistic, national, and denominational divides, intentionally collecting materials from the broader Pentecostal movement.

The Alexander C. Stewart collection fills in important gaps in the FPHC’s collections by making accessible a large amount of primary and secondary source materials on the COOLJC, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The Alexander C. Stewart Collection takes its place alongside other significant African-American Pentecostal collections deposited at the FPHC in recent years, including:

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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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James L. Tyson Deposits Important African-American Oneness Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

James Tyson

Bishop James L. Tyson (left) with Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers, showcasing his collection

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), organized in 1907 in Los Angeles in the midst of the Azusa Street revival, emerged to become the largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The influence of the PAW stretched far, and its intentional interracial character continued long after the fires of the Azusa Street revival dimmed. Its most prominent presiding bishop, G. T. Haywood, was so esteemed by early Assemblies of God leaders that, when the Oneness movement became a point of contention in 1915, Haywood was asked to represent the Oneness position on the Assemblies of God’s General Council floor.

Despite the significance of the PAW, its history has been neglected by most standard histories of the Pentecostal movement. Over thirty years ago, James Laverne Tyson, the son of PAW Bishop James E. Tyson, felt the call to document and publish the history of his ancestral church. He interviewed the founding fathers and mothers of the PAW and collected rare publications and photographs. He authored eight books and numerous pamphlets, mostly about PAW history. His first book, Before I Sleep (1976), is a biography of Haywood, and his seminal work, The Early Pentecostal Revival (1992), is the benchmark history of the PAW from its inception to 1930.

Tyson recently retired from the pastorate and, in November 2015, he deposited his collection of PAW historical materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. Tyson noted, “Decades ago when I started my historical research, one of the first places I went was the Assemblies of God Archives.” The former director, Wayne Warner, provided Tyson with access to information about the earliest years of the Pentecostal movement. The Assemblies of God Archives was renamed the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in 1999. Tyson continued, “Now, at the end of my career, it is fitting that my life’s work should reside at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for future generations of scholars who can pick up where I left off.”

Researchers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center are now able to view the James L. Tyson Collection, which includes approximately 550 periodical issues, 150 books, 540 original photographs, and 4 linear feet of his files and research notes. The bulk of the publications date from the early 1920s through the late 1970s and include numerous histories of significant congregations, souvenir journals from PAW events, funeral programs, and assorted minute books and directories. Importantly, the collection includes the original 1918/1919 and 1919/1920 PAW minute books. The photographs, many of which have never been published, mostly date from the 1910s through the 1960s and include large rolled prints of early conventions. The collection includes many publications from the PAW’s historic headquarters church, Christ Temple (Indianapolis, Indiana), which Tyson’s father pastored. While the collection includes chiefly PAW materials, it also includes rare items from groups that broke away from the PAW, including the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World Wide (founded by Smallwood E. Williams) and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith (founded by S. N. Hancock). Tyson previously owned additional artifacts and publications, which he had already given to several PAW bishops.

Christian Outlook

This original May 1931 issue of The Christian Outlook, the official periodical of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is among the approximately 540 periodical issues in the James L. Tyson Collection.

The James L. Tyson Collection fills in a significant gap in the collections of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. In recent years, the FPHC has acquired several major African-American Pentecostal collections, 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)
• Robert James McGoings, Jr. Collection (McGoings was a prominent African-American Oneness Pentecostal from Baltimore, Maryland)
• Alexander Stewart Collection (Stewart was raised in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God and is the historian for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)

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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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State Historical Marker to be Dedicated October 16, 2015, in Lexington, MS, Honoring COGIC Birthplace

Holmes_County_CourthouseThe Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, chaired by Bishop John H. Sheard, has sponsored the placement of a state historical marker in Lexington, Mississippi, the city where Charles H. Mason founded the Church of God in Christ in 1897.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the marker, which will be unveiled and dedicated on Friday, October 16, 2015, at 1 pm at the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse, 200 Court Square, Lexington, Mississippi. A dedication program includes several speakers of national importance, and state and local government officials will be present. The public is invited to the dedication.

The Church of God in Christ, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, is now headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. However, the church’s roots in Lexington, 150 miles south of Memphis, have often been overlooked. The Pentecostal Heritage Connection, led by Mary P. Patterson, assembled the dedication program. “If Memphis is the Church of God in Christ’s Jerusalem,” states Patterson, “then Lexington is its Nazareth.” Patterson, the widow of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr., is particularly interested in helping young people to learn more about their heritage. She has organized tours of Church of God in Christ historic sites in Lexington since 2006.

Lexington has played a prominent role in Church of God in Christ history. Bishop Charles H. Mason (1864-1961) began his ministry in 1893 in Preston, Arkansas. Shunned by the African-American Baptist community in Jackson during the 1890s due to his teachings on holiness, Mason brought his revival to Lexington in 1897. He began preaching on the steps of the Holmes County Courthouse and later moved to private homes and an abandoned gin house. During his time in Lexington, Mason established St. Paul Church of God in Christ, which became known as the “mother church” of the Church of God in Christ denomination.

Mason faced opposition in Lexington, coming from those who disapproved of his holiness preaching and his pacifism and interracialism. He was incarcerated in the Holmes County Courthouse in 1918 for allegedly preaching against World War I, despite having sold bonds to help the war effort. The jail cell which housed Mason has been preserved and is open to the public. Hundreds of people each year visit the jail cell, which is decorated with colorful murals depicting Mason’s incarceration.

Lexington was also home to Saints Industrial and Literary School, established to train African American children by Sister Pinkie Duncan and Professor James Courts in 1918. Under Dr. Arenia Mallory, president of the school from 1926 to 1983, the school became known as Saint’s Academy and was a prominent K-12 school in the community. Dr. Mallory was a leading advocate for civil rights and the poor in Holmes County. The school closed in 2006.

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Important COGIC Collection: Nearly 500 Early Photographs Now Online at iFPHC.org

FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers with Rev. Elijah L. Hill, displaying the collection.

FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers with Rev. Elijah L. Hill, displaying the collection.

An important collection of almost 500 historic photographs relating to the Church of God in Christ is now accessible for free on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website. The photographs (circa 1899-1960s), from the Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection, portray men and women who pioneered the African-American Pentecostal denomination.

The photographs were collected by Mother Lizzie Robinson (1860-1945) and her daughter, Ida F. Baker. Robinson organized the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Women’s Department in 1911 and was the most prominent female COGIC leader until her death. As head of women’s auxiliaries, she founded the Prayer and Bible Band and the Sewing Circle. She also helped to lay the foundation for the creation of the Missions Department (originally known as the Home and Foreign Missions Band).

Mother Lizzie Robinson

Mother Lizzie Robinson

Elijah L. Hill, the COGIC minister and historian who deposited Robinson’s personal papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC), described the photographs as “a rare glimpse into the faces of those who suffered and yet overcame the world.” In his biography of Robinson, Women Come Alive, Hill detailed how Robinson encouraged COGIC women to become self-determining, before the broader society recognized women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans.

FPHC director Darrin Rodgers praised Hill for building bridges. According to Rodgers, “Elder Hill rescued these photographs from destruction decades ago. He has joined hands with the Heritage Center, and together we are working to preserve and promote these treasures that bring to life the heritage of African-American Pentecostals.”

The Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection consists of, in addition to the photographs, approximately 100 publications and Hill’s research files on Robinson. The collection was dedicated in a special service on October 4, 2013, in the William J. Seymour Chapel at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.

The online collection will be unveiled at the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God, slated for August 2-8, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. Elijah L. Hill will join Darrin Rodgers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center booth at General Council, where they will interact with expected crowds in excess of 20,000 people.

Click here to view thumbnail images of the photographs. Click on the title next to each thumbnail image to see larger images.

Click here to watch the dedication service of the Mother Lizzie Robinson / Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection.

Click here to watch a panel discussion featuring Elijah Hill, COGIC historian Glenda Goodson, Darrin Rodgers, and Assemblies of God missions historian Barbara Cavaness Parks. Panelists dialogued about Robinson and the legacy of women in the COGIC and the Assemblies of God.

Rev. Elijah L. Hill is assembling biographies of Church of God in Christ leaders pictured in the photographs. To submit biographies, go to Hill’s website: www.cogicmuseum.org.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, located in the Assemblies of God National Office in Springfield, Missouri, is the largest Pentecostal archive and research center in the world. The FPHC collects historically significant materials from across the denominational, ethnic, linguistic, and national divides within the broader Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For additional information, explore the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website.

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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. 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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Review: …And They Yet Speak

…And They Yet Speak : Historical Survey of African American Pentecostal-Holiness Churches in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., 1900-2006, by E. Myron Noble. Washington, DC: Middle Atlantic Regional Press, c2007.

Historians have long known that the character of American Pentecostalism has been deeply impacted by the African-American church. The storied interracial Azusa Street revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles, one of the focal points of the emerging Pentecostal movement, was led by William Seymour, the mild-mannered black Holiness preacher. One of the earliest black Pentecostal organizations, the Church of God in Christ, has become one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States. Pentecostal spirituality, including its music, preaching style, and worship, reflect aspects of the African-American religious experience.

However, most histories of the Pentecostal movement pay only scant attention to the development of these African-American churches. Many histories purporting to tell the story of the broader movement in reality tell primarily the story of select white churches. The people, institutions, and themes of import in African-American Pentecostalism have been omitted from the history books, in part because historians have not had easy access to materials documenting these stories. Few archival collections of African-American Pentecostal materials exist, so the predominantly-white denominations that published histories and built archives figure most prominently in the historical record.

To remedy this historical bias, researchers must engage in the back-breaking work of reconstructing the grass-roots histories of African-American Pentecostalism. E. Myron Noble has done just that for the nation’s capital city. In his recently published book, …And They Yet Speak, he assembled histories of 90 African-American Pentecostal congregations in Washington, DC.

Noble’s work is organized chronologically, beginning with the earliest congregations and is divided into sections according to the decade that each congregation was formed. The breadth of the churches included in this work, both Trinitarian and Oneness, is impressive. The larger black denominations, such as the Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the United Holy Church of America, the Apostolic Faith Church of God, and the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, are well-represented. But so are smaller denominations and independent congregations of all sizes. Surprising, perhaps, is the relatively strong presence of African-American churches affiliated with predominantly white organizations, such as the Assemblies of God, the Apostolic Faith Church (Portland, Oregon), and the Church of God of Prophecy.

Historians owe a debt to Noble, whose research identified a number of themes important in Pentecostal scholarship. For instance, he documented instances of tongues-speech in Washington, DC beginning in about 1897 (p. 6-9). Noble’s research adds to the growing body of scholarship challenging the historiographical assumption that the modern Pentecostal movement began with the revivals in Topeka, Kansas (1901) and Los Angeles (1906-1909). This book also provides evidence of multiple interracial congregations that existed in the city and recounts several visits of William Seymour (including one in which his sermon on “holy kissing” reportedly stirred dissension among the faithful) (p. 19). Noble also noted that two bishops — Samuel Kelsey (Trinitarian) and Smallwood Williams (Oneness) — actively crossed the denominational and doctrinal barriers in their ministries.

…And They Yet Speak will evoke memories for those who lived the history, and it will be warmly welcomed by scholars and church leaders. Noble, through his decades of labor to document stories that might otherwise have been forgotten, has crafted an invaluable interpretive guide to the understanding of African-American Pentecostalism in Washington, DC. Hopefully, this volume will inspire intrepid researchers to do similar work in other cities and regions.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Paperback, 437 pages, illustrated. $24.99 list price. Order from Barnes and Noble.

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Marjorie Walker, pioneer black Assemblies of God minister, honored


Rev. Marjorie Walker, possibly the first African-American female ordained by the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God, was recognized in a special service at her church in celebration of Black History Month. The service, held at Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Greeley, Colorado, also honored two additional faithful African-American church leaders, George and Clydene Osborne.

The church’s pastor, Rev. David Meek, shared their stories in an article about the event published in the Greeley Tribune:

“The Rev. Marjorie Walker, a retired nurse, was the first black woman to be ordained in the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God Church. Last September, she retired at the young age of 81 from ministering at retirement homes in Greeley for 30 years. She is still an associate pastor at Glad Tidings and loves to lead people to Jesus. We love to hear her sing those great Southern Gospel songs, and she learned to play the harmonica at age 76 after her husband, Sid, went to be with Jesus.”

“George and Clydene Osborne are vital members as they greet people, sing in the choir and pray for the sick. George is a board member, directs the Men’s Ministry and preaches every Friday night at the Weld County Jail, leading men to love, serve and follow Jesus. They have been married 49 years, which is a miracle of God, as George use to be heavy drinker of beer, before Jesus delivered him!”

Rev. Meek recounted that the Assemblies of God grew out of a worldwide Pentecostal revival that took place one hundred years ago. One of the focal points of this emerging revival was the interracial congregation at the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street, Los Angeles, led by African-American pastor William J. Seymour. Meek noted that at Azusa Street, “The rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and all races worshipped and sought God together.” The Azusa Street revival (1906-1909) has become a symbol of racial reconciliation, not just for Pentecostals but for all Christians. This interracial unity was not just evidenced at Azusa Street, but also in churches today, such as Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Greeley.

Panorama Magazine (a publication of the Greeley Tribune) also published an article about Rev. Walker in 2007.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center is very interested in acquiring materials documenting African-American Pentecostal history. If you have old photographs, publications (periodicals, tracts, books, congregational histories, etc.), and other treasures that would help historians, church leaders, and people in the pew to better understand African-American Pentecostal history, please consider depositing them at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (email: archives@ag.org).

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