Tag Archives: African American

45 Years Ago: Thurman Faison Challenges White Pentecostals to Preach Against Racism and to Link Arms with Blacks in Ministry

faison2This Week in AG History — January 9, 1972

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 5 January 2017

Riots and civil unrest marked American cities during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  When African American Assemblies of God minister Thurman Faison addressed the 1971 meeting of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America, he spoke to the social turbulence that was on everyone’s mind.

Faison’s message addressed the question, “How are we going to reach the blacks of our inner cities?” The editors of the Pentecostal Evangel felt the question needed the attention of their readers and reprinted his entire address in the Jan. 9, 1972, issue.

Having pastored in both Harlem and Chicago, Faison was well aware of the concerns facing the African American population of the inner cities. “The urban scene is a constant focus of the news media. What would reporting be without the demonstrations, riots, class struggles, and corruptions of the big cities!” He stressed that the Pentecostal church could not afford to neglect urban evangelism; the major cities of America influence the course of the nation.

While the Pentecostal movement had long been known for their strict stance on “sins of the flesh,” many Pentecostals remained relatively quiet with regard to the sins of pride and prejudice. Faison made the point to his largely white audience that “all unrighteousness is sin — be it prejudice or adultery — and that the righteous Lord loves righteousness.”

At that time, the Assemblies of God had engaged in little intentional outreach to the black community in comparison to its missions efforts with other ethnic populations. In a 1970 interview, General Superintendent Thomas Zimmerman estimated that the Assemblies of God had “at least” 25 black ministers and only a handful of churches in predominately black neighborhoods (Pentecostal Evangel, April 26, 1970).

Faison called Pentecostals to rediscover and maintain their God-given identity and calling to preach the plain gospel of Christ.  He noted, “The world demands what they call ‘contemporary relevance.’” He defined  “contemporary” to mean “to happen along with,” and “relevance” to mean “to have a definite relationship or bearing upon the matters at hand.” He concluded that “the gospel-preaching church meets this standard of contemporary relevance.”

According to Faison, Christians must address pressing social issues: “God’s purposes have always … had a definite bearing upon the matters at hand.”

Faison knew the powerful impact of the Church in an inner-city community.  In 1969, he moved from Harlem to Chicago and worked closely with Illinois District Superintendent E. M. Clark to develop an Assemblies of God outreach to African Americans. The mostly white churches of the Illinois District helped Faison to purchase church property and a parsonage in Chicago’s South Side, along with radio time to promote the new church.  This partnership of blacks and whites proved to be a powerful ministry strategy. Southside Tabernacle, under the leadership of Pastor Titus Lee, continues to be a strong representation of the kingdom of God in Chicago.

In 1971, Faison stated that “the issues of yesterday are not the same today, nor will they be the same tomorrow.” Yet the headlines from 2016 reflected the same themes that he referenced in his time: demonstrations, riots, class struggles, and corruption in the big cities. Forty-five years have passed, but many of the same social ills remain.

Why should Pentecostals boldly proclaim Christ in small towns and inner cities, and to people of every race, class, and persuasion? Faison realized that social problems, ultimately, can only be solved with the gospel. He wrote: “The biggest issues will always be constant — the problem of sin in the human heart, the alienation of men from God, and the expressions of unrighteousness in word, thought, and deed.”

faison

Assemblies of God leaders meet with General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman to discuss ways of reaching African Americans, December 1969. Thurman Faison is seated on the far right.

Read Faison’s entire address, “What Are We Going to Do About Our Cities?” on pages 8-9 of the Jan. 9, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “He Preached Through His Hands,” by Betty Haney

• “A Call to Sleeping Jonahs,” by Charles W. H. Scott

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Ethics, History, Missions

AG Educator Helps Dedicate Mississippi Historical Marker Where COGIC Bishop Mason Was Jailed in 1918

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Dr. Byron Klaus, retired president of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1999-2015), was a keynote speaker at the dedication of a State Historical Marker honoring the birthplace of the Church of God in Christ. The event, held in Lexington, Mississippi, on October 16, 2015, evidenced the deepening relationship between the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ.

While the Church of God in Christ is the largest predominantly black Pentecostal denomination in the United States, its roots are often overlooked. Few people noticed when Charles H. Mason founded a small Holiness church in 1897 in Lexington. Rejected by his fellow African-American Baptists on account of his Holiness teachings, he represented a marginalized religious group within a marginalized race. But his teachings caught fire among both African-Americans and whites, and his followers soon stretched far beyond the small Mississippi town. When Mason identified with the Pentecostal revival in 1907, he parted ways with ministry colleague Charles P. Jones and reorganized his followers as the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Immediately, the COGIC became one of the largest and most-respected fellowships in the fledgling Pentecostal movement.

Lexington’s role in COGIC history has been largely overshadowed by Memphis, home of COGIC international headquarters. Seeing this inequity, Mother Mary P. Patterson (widow of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr.) launched a grassroots campaign to encourage COGIC members to rediscover their Lexington roots. Since 2006, Patterson has organized tours of the historic sites through her company, The Pentecostal Heritage Connection, and she built relationships with Lexington officials, church leaders, and historians.

Patterson’s efforts culminated on October 16, 2015, when a State Historical Marker honoring the COGIC’s birthplace was dedicated at the south entrance of the Holmes County Courthouse in Lexington. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the marker, and the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, chaired by Bishop John H. Sheard, sponsored and paid for the recognition. David Daniels, chairman of the COGIC Commission on Education, supported the project with historical documentation.

The dedication ceremony, organized by Patterson, featured three keynote speakers: Byron Klaus; Superintendent William Deans, pastor of St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington (the first COGIC congregation); and Dr. Percy Washington, pastor of Sweet Canaan Church of God in Christ, Lexington (the second COGIC congregation). Each speaker provided historical insight into Lexington’s significance in COGIC history.

Two buses of ministers and members from the COGIC’s Tennessee 5th Jurisdiction, located in Memphis, traveled to Lexington, where they supported their bishop, Jerry W. Taylor, who unveiled the marker on behalf of the Board of Bishops. Over 80 young people from Taylor’s jurisdiction attended. Local government officials were in full force, each offering their heartfelt prayers and committing the city to provide hospitality for pilgrims. Speakers frequently drew parallels between Scripture and COGIC history. “If Memphis is the Church of God in Christ’s Jerusalem,” stated Patterson, “then Lexington is its Nazareth.”

Byron Klaus noted that the marker’s location is “is a poignant reminder that following Jesus is not an easy path.” The Holmes County Courthouse, he explained, intersected with COGIC history several times. In 1897 Mason began preaching on the courthouse steps, and then moved services to private homes and an abandoned gin house. While in Lexington, he founded St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the world’s first COGIC congregation. Later, in 1918, Mason was incarcerated in the jail cell in the basement of the courthouse on trumped-up charges that he opposed American involvement in World War I. Other church leaders who opposed the Holiness message tried to sabotage Mason’s ministry by falsely accusing him of treason. The jail cell that once held Mason is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Lexington was also home to Saints Industrial and Literary School, established in 1918 by Sister Pinkie Duncan and Professor James Courts to train African-American children. 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.

Mason, a bridge builder, was ahead of his time. He worked with both blacks and whites, striving to overcome the color barriers of his day. Klaus recounted that Mason gave his blessing in 1914 to the formation of the Assemblies of God. “I am forever grateful for that blessing from a father in the faith,” Klaus told the crowd.

Patterson believes that God is bringing the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ into closer relationship. She demonstrated her commitment to this in 2011, when she deposited her husband’s personal papers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national office, is the world’s largest Pentecostal archives. Patterson stated, “I am entrusting the Assemblies of God to help preserve and promote my husband’s materials. I want to send a signal that our two churches can and should cooperate in areas like education and historical archives.”

The heritage of the Church of God in Christ has much to teach the broader church. Its Lexington roots remind believers that great things often germinate from small beginnings, that the way of holiness is often marked by suffering, and that Pentecostalism emerged at the turn of the 20th century with an interracial impulse. These lessons come to life in Lexington, Mississippi.

Originally published 23 October 2015 on PE News

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

State Historical Marker dedicated on the south lawn of the Holmes County Courthouse, October 16, 2015.

State Historical Marker dedicated on the south lawn of the Holmes County Courthouse, October 16, 2015.

Lexington6

Pictured (L-R): Darrin Rodgers, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center; Mother Mary P. Patterson; Byron Klaus, former president of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

About 125 people attended the dedication.

About 125 people attended the dedication.

Lexington

St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the oldest COGIC congregation in the world, was founded in Lexington in 1897.

St. Paul Church of God in Christ, the oldest COGIC congregation in the world, was founded in Lexington in 1897.

Bishop Mason began preaching in 1897 on these steps on the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse.

Bishop Mason began preaching in 1897 on these steps on the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse.

Dr. Byron Klaus, standing in the original pulpit in St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington, MS. Bishop Mason preached from this pulpit.

Dr. Byron Klaus, standing in the original pulpit in St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Lexington, MS. Bishop Mason preached from this pulpit.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

Bishop Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

1 Comment

Filed under Church, History

Uncovering the Assemblies of God’s Black Heritage: Ellsworth S. Thomas Ordained 100 Years Ago

Ellsworth2TW_728
This Week in AG History — July 25, 1936

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 23 July 2015

One hundred years ago, the Assemblies of God ordained its first African American minister, Ellsworth S. Thomas of Binghamton, New York. Ellsworth was largely absent from the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel, other than a brief mention of his death, published 79 years ago this week.

Recently uncovered information about Ellsworth sheds new light on this African American pioneer in the Assemblies of God. Ellsworth was part of a flourishing but small community of free blacks that existed in Binghamton in the nineteenth century. Historian Debra Adleman, who wrote about the black community in Binghamton, noted that many had escaped slavery, moved north, and formed a close-knit community. They overcame racism and societal restrictions, developed strong families, and carved out their own religious, economic, and social niche in the region.

Ellsworth S. Thomas was born in 1866 in New York. His father, Samuel, was born in Maryland in 1830 and worked as a laborer. Samuel was also a Civil War veteran, serving for three years as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. Ellsworth was born about nine months after his father returned home from the war. Ellsworth’s mother, Mahala, was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania and worked as a laundress. Ellsworth was the eldest of two children born to the couple. After Samuel passed away in the early 1890s, Ellsworth lived with his mother and cared for her. Census records show that they owned a modest house and that most of their neighbors were white. He did not attend school, but he could read and write.

Binghamton city directories from the 1890s reveal that Ellsworth was a laundryman. By 1900, though, they listed his occupation as a traveling evangelist. His name first appeared in the Assemblies of God ministers’ directory in October 1915, which stated that he was a “colored” pastor in Binghamton. He remained an active Assemblies of God minister for the remainder of his life.

In 1917, the Assemblies of God asked existing ministers to re-submit applications for credentials, apparently because paperwork had not been kept during the earliest years of the Fellowship. Robert Brown, influential pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, endorsed Ellsworth’s 1917 application. On the application, Ellsworth stated that he was originally ordained on December 7, 1913, by R. E. Erdman, pastor of a large congregation in Buffalo, New York. Correspondence in his ministerial file from reveals that Ellsworth also pastored a congregation in Beaver Meadows, New York.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center holds a 1936 letter from Paul Westendorf that informed the Pentecostal Evangel of Ellsworth’s death on June 12, 1936. He was 70 years old and passed away in Binghamton after a serious illness. Westendorf wrote, “He has been in the Council Fellowship for many years and so will be remembered throughout the Eastern District. Brother Thomas was faithful and true to the Lord in all kinds of circumstances, serving Him with gladness, therefore we feel that he had an abundant entrance in the presence of the Lord.” Ellsworth S. Thomas’ passing was briefly noted on page 13 of the July 25, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

No photograph of Ellsworth S. Thomas has yet been located. Persons with additional information about the life and ministry of Ellsworth S. Thomas are encouraged to contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center at archives@ag.org.

As the Assemblies of God continues to become more ethnically diverse, it is increasingly important that its history books include stories from the varied backgrounds of believers.

Other articles featured in the July 25, 1936, issue:
• “Reckless for God,” by Beatrice V. Pannabecker
• “Victors and Victims of Faith,” by J. O. Savell
• “How God is working in the Gold Coast,” by Brother and Sister H. B. Garlock

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

2 Comments

Filed under Church, History

Black Pentecostal Church in Harlem Started in 1917 by Single German Woman

Bethel Gospel Assembly, purchased the former James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School in Harlem in 1982.

Bethel Gospel Assembly purchased the former James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School in Harlem in 1982.

This Week in AG History–August 26, 1933
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 25 Aug 2014 – 4:15 PM CST

Lillian Kraeger (1884-1964), a young single German woman, demonstrated incredible courage and character when confronted with racism within her church in downtown New York City. Two young African-American girls, Mae Allison and another whose name is now lost to history, had accepted Christ in 1915 and applied for membership in Lillian’s church. They were rejected on account of their skin color.

This broke Lillian’s heart. She did not want the young girls to fall away from the Lord. In January 1916, Lillian began traveling to Harlem, where the girls lived, and held “cottage meetings.” These home Bible studies blossomed and grew into a small congregation.

Lillian’s commitment to her African-American congregation came at great personal cost. Her own family rejected her, as they did not approve of her crossing the racial barrier. Lillian had been engaged to a young man, but he called off the engagement because of her leadership of the mission. Lillian’s love for African-Americans caused her to be forsaken by her own people.

Lillian was an unlikely missionary to African-Americans in Harlem. She did not have ministerial credentials, she was a single female in her early thirties, and she had accepted Christ just nine years earlier. In addition, her German heritage may have put her under suspicion because the United States was at war with Germany. The United States government carefully watched (and sometimes imprisoned) other white ministers who ministered among African-Americans during the First World War, suspecting them of crossing the racial lines in an effort to create an alliance with Germany or the Bolsheviks in Russia.

In the Spring of 1917, a Pentecostal evangelist remembered as “Brother Jamison” shared the Pentecostal message with this small group of believers. Kraeger and several others in the congregation were baptized in the Holy Spirit. In November 1917, the congregation organized as Bethel Mission.

Lillian felt a call to serve as a missionary to Africa. The Assemblies of God confirmed this calling and issued her credentials as a missionary in 1918. Lillian did not go to Africa, however, and remained as pastor of Bethel Mission. Her heart for missions became part of the DNA of the congregation. In 1924, Lillian established Bethel Missionary Home, a ministry that provided room and board for missionaries who had returned from overseas.

In 1924 or 1925, James Barzey, one of the members of the church, was chosen to be succeed Lillian as pastor. Lillian retained her title as “Founder” of the church and put her energies into the development of the missionary home. The name of the home was changed in 1930 to Mizpah Missionary Home.

The August 26, 1933, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published a report by Lillian about the Mizpah Missionary Home. She wrote, “When God spoke and showed us He wanted a missionary home in New York City, it seemed like a great impossibility in the light of the recent stock crash in Wall Street.” However, Lillian recounted that God faithfully provided: “He reminded us that He still had riches in glory which were inexhaustible and that when he speaks the word all that we have to do is to be obedient and He will bring to pass what He has said. And so we stepped into the Jordan and it has been rolling back ever since.”

Several years later Lillian married Assemblies of God missionary Alfred Blakeney, whose first wife had died.

What happened to the small congregation founded by Lillian Kraeger? Bethel Mission, now known as Bethel Gospel Assembly, is led by Bishop Carlton Brown and ministers to over 1,500 people each week in Harlem. Bethel Gospel Assembly is one of the most prominent congregations in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God (UPCAG). The UPCAG, a historic black Pentecostal fellowship organized in 1919, united with the Assemblies of God as a cooperative fellowship in February 2014. In a fitting turn of events, Bethel Gospel Assembly is honoring its roots and developing a deeper relationship with the Assemblies of God.

It would have been easy for Lillian Kraeger to listen to her family and her fiancée and to forget about the two little African-American girls who had accepted Christ. But the courageous young German woman, despite great cost, followed God’s call. Almost 100 years later, Bethel Gospel Assembly has emerged to become a powerful voice within the African-American community in Harlem.

Read Lillian Kraeger’s report published on page 8 in the August 26, 1933, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Paul’s Ideal for a Gospel Assembly,” by P. C. Nelson

* “Discouragement of Elijah,” by Ernest S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

Top Pentecostal history books in libraries


Next to Assemblies of God Heritage magazine the Bible, what is your favorite reading material? Do you have a top ten list of your all-time favorite books?

We thought it would be interesting to see which Pentecostal history books are most popular in libraries. So, we logged onto FirstSearch (aka WorldCat or OCLC, which is available at your local library) and searched for books with the following terms in their subject headings. The top ten books for each term, in terms of the numbers of libraries holding each book, are below.

Pentecostal history
1. Heaven Below : Early Pentecostals and American Culture / Grant Wacker (Harvard University Press, 2001) 878 libraries
2. Reinventing American Protestantism : Christianity in the New Millennium / Donald E. Miller (University of California Press, 1997) 847 libraries Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Education, Theology

Review: Skeptics and Scoffers


Skeptics and Scoffers

Skeptics and Scoffers: The Religious World Looks at Azusa Street, 1906-1907 (The Complete Azusa Street Library, Vol. 8), compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin. Pensacola, FL: Christian Life Books, 2004.

Dr. Larry Martin has been my friend for many years and I have nothing but good things to say about him. We have been prayer partners, and one time we attended the Smithton Revival together. Another time Larry and I traveled to Indianapolis and Anderson, Indiana, tracing the footsteps of William J. Seymour and other early Pentecostals who sojourned there for awhile. Although now separated by distance, we have ongoing communication through emails and sharing of historical materials.

Larry has an outstanding ministry as an evangelist, teacher, and writer. He also has a profound interest in revival and its origins, which has led him to a deeper study of historical revivals such as the Topeka Outpouring, the Welsh Revival, and Azusa Street. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Reviews

Review: The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour


The Life and Minisrty of William J. Seymour

The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour: And a History of the Azusa Street Revival (The Complete Azusa Street Library, Vol. 1), by Larry Martin. Joplin, MO: Christian Life Books, 1999.

Having read through this manuscript when in its formative stages, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is researching the Pentecostal movement or the Azusa Street revival of Los Angeles that began in the spring of 1906. It is also a good sourcebook for those interested in Black history as William Seymour figures prominently among African-Americans of the 20th century. Larry Martin has done an excellent job in ferreting out little known facts about William J. Seymour, the leader of the Azusa Street revival. He has also uncovered information regarding Seymour’s family and his early life in Louisiana and other places he traveled before arriving in Los Angeles in 1906. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews