This Week in AG History —April 3, 1955
By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 06 April 2023
Anthony David Palma (1926-2023) was a beloved Assemblies of God minister, college and seminary professor, administrator, and author. He was born into a nominal Roman Catholic household to Italian immigrants Philip and Maria Palma on Dec. 22, 1926, in Moonachie, New Jersey. One of five children, he spent his early childhood in the Italian neighborhood in Hoboken, New Jersey.
At the age of 12, his family moved to Jersey City. Living nearby were three Italian immigrant ladies who attended a local Italian Pentecostal church. Because of their encouragement and evangelistic efforts, Anthony, his parents, and his older sister, Susan, began attending the church and accepted Christ. Anthony was 14 at the time of his salvation. Three years later he was baptized in the Holy Spirit (1943).
Palma placed great value on education and enrolled at Central Bible Institute (later Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri, in 1944. From 1945 to 1947 he attended Eastern Bible Institute (now University of Valley Forge). He returned to CBI from 1948 to 1949, graduating with a BA in Bible. Next he earned an MA in education from New York University in 1957. He also earned the Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB) from New York Theological Seminary in 1960, and the STM (1966) and ThD (1974) from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
Palma joined the U.S. Navy in 1950, serving during the Korean Conflict. He wrote articles for the Christ’s Ambassadors Herald while he was in the service. He viewed the military as a “tremendous mission field” with close to 5,000,000 men serving in the armed forces at that time. After his military service, he married Betty J. Leskela of Waukegan, Illinois, in August 1959, and they had two children. Palma later served as a chaplain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, attaining the rank of Commander.
While in the Navy, Palma said he “experienced a spiritual revolution which culminated in a deeper appreciation for our Pentecostal heritage.” This led him to pioneer a church in Hoboken, New Jersey, a city where he lived as a boy and “never once heard the message of salvation or saw a Bible.” Through his efforts souls were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Palma pastored this home missions church for three years while he was attending seminary. He was ordained with the New Jersey district on May 19, 1960.
A notice about Anthony Palma planting an AG church in Hoboken, New Jersey, is featured on page 16 of the April 3, 1955, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Feeling a call to teach, Palma had an extensive ministry in education. He began teaching at South-Eastern Bible College (now Southeastern University) in Lakeland, Florida. He then taught at Central Bible College (1962-70); Evangel College (now Evangel University) (1970-73); and the Assemblies of God Graduate School (now Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) (1973-81), all located in Springfield, Missouri. He also taught at Valley Forge Christian College (now University of Valley Forge) in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (1981-86), and Anthony and Betty both taught at American Indian Bible College (now SAGU American Indian College), Phoenix, Arizona (1990-1993).
As an administrator, he served as dean of theology at AGGS (1974-80), academic dean at VFCC (1981-86), and administrator/principal at Calvary Temple Christian Academy (1987-89) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also served as president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in 1978.
In addition, from 1993 to 2004, he and his wife filled preaching assignments and ministered as short-term teachers at overseas Bible colleges and seminaries in Belgium, Italy, the Philippine Islands, Korea, Nigeria, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.
In 1993, Palma was honored by the General Council of the Assemblies of God with the Distinguished Educator Award in recognition of his distinguished service to Christian higher education.
A prolific writer, Palma authored a number of articles and books. His theses include: Glossolalia in the Light of the New Testament and Subsequent History (S.T.B. thesis, 1960); Tongues and Prophecy: A Comparative Study in Charismata (S.T.M. thesis, 1966); and The Holy Spirit in the Corporate Life of the Pauline Congregation (Th.D. thesis, 1974). He published several articles in the Pentecostal Evangel and “Spiritual Gifts — Basic Considerations” in Pneuma. His books include: The Writings of John: A Study Manual For Youth (1966); Knowing Your Bible (1970); The Spirit: God in Action (1974); Truth: Antidote for Error (1977); Baptism in the Holy Spirit (1999); and The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective (2001).
Through his teaching, preaching, and writing, Anthony Palma made important contributions in the training of Pentecostal ministers and educators. He considered his teaching ministry as a professor of New Testament Theology and Greek (especially his work at AGTS) as the most important aspect of his life calling. One of his students said, “He opened my mind and my heart through his teaching of Bible scriptures. His life and that of his lovely wife were examples to us.”
Anthony Palma passed away on Feb. 23, 2023, in Media, Pennsylvania. His wife, Betty, passed away on April 14, 2020. Both are buried in Washington Crossing National Cemetery, Newtown, Pennsylvania.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Love’s Triumph in Gethsemane,” by Robert W. Cummings
• “Cheap Crosses,” by Edwin Raymond Anderson
• “Revival Among the Young People in Japan,” by Robert W. Frivold
And many more!
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
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