Tag Archives: Assemblies of God

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.

___________

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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Revivaltime’s Global Radio Ministry: Paul Pipkin and the Philippines

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Paul Pipkin on the air at DZAS in the Philippines, 1949

This Week in AG History — February 17, 1957

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 16 February 2017

Revivaltime, the weekly radio broadcast which aired from 1953 to 1995, was one of the best-known Assemblies of God ministries of its era. However, many may not be aware of its substantial global impact.

The Feb. 17, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel shared how Revivaltime came to the Philippines — one of the countless nations in which the program was rebroadcast.

Assemblies of God missionaries Paul and Violet Pipkin began ministering in the Philippines in December 1948. Soon after they arrived, the president of the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) approached Paul about hosting a radio ministry.  He eventually worked on staff at the FEBC for seven years and worked for more than 50 years in broadcast and evangelistic ministry.

By early 1957, Paul Pipkin was broadcasting Revivaltime at a radio station in Cebu City, Philippines.  He also had a contract with the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) to air Revivaltime at the FEBC station in Manila, Philippines. As one of the directors at FEBC, he oversaw the PM (Portable Missionary) and Extension Department.

In a report to FEBC, Pipkin declared, “Besides our ten broadcasts a week, we have the interesting task of assigning hundreds of portable radios to Filipino families on a loan basis.” Before the days of transistor radios, the PM and Extension Department manufactured battery-operated, pre-tuned radios known as “Portable Missionaries” or “PM’s” and loaned them out to hospitals, prisons, and people in remote villages.  Through these PM’s thousands of people were able to hear the gospel.

Pipkin sent out a questionnaire to members of the PM club he had organized, and asked what they thought about Revivaltime. One member wrote, “Revivaltime is helping us very much. The sermons of Brother [C. M.] Ward are just what we need for our day. We won’t miss it for anything.”

In addition to English messages of C. M. Ward that were broadcast on the radio, Pipkin would translate the messages into the Ilocano dialect for one group of Filipinos who lived in the mountains.

Pipkin reported that “Requests come constantly for Revivaltime to be released on more stations. Who can measure the number of actual homes reached each week as Revivaltime finds its way into the most unlikely places?”

While Revivaltime originated in the United States, its audience members spanned the globe. Creative missionaries and national church leaders adapted the radio broadcast for use in the Philippines and numerous other countries. Revivaltime was a prominent manifestation of the Assemblies of God’s commitment to take “all the gospel to all the world.”

Read “Revivaltime in the Philippines,” on page 20 of the Feb. 17, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Servant of the Church,” by Gayle F. Lewis

• “Hindu Priest Finds Christ,” by E. E. Shaffer

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel achieved editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Melodies of Praise: 60th Anniversary of a Favorite Assemblies of God Songbook

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The Melodies of Praise hymnal and orchestrations made their debut in 1957. Pictured here are Assemblies of God Music Division staff members Lorena Quigley (left), Marie Salisbury (center), and Edwin Anderson.

This Week in AG History — February 10, 1957

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 2 February 2017

Early Pentecostals commonly believed that two books were essential for revival: the Bible and the songbook. Fervent, spiritual singing has been a distinguishing characteristic of the Pentecostal movement from its inception, alongside powerful anointed preaching.

In the few first decades of the movement, Pentecostals used and promoted a great variety of songbooks published by non-Pentecostals, such as R. E. Winsett. However, at the 1920 General Council of the Assemblies of God, a recommendation was made that “in addition to the Sunday School literature … a Pentecostal Song Book, to be used universally throughout the Assemblies of God, be prepared and published.”

When Chairman J. W. Welch asked how many ministers would use a uniquely Pentecostal song collection. nearly all the ministers raised their hands. This recommendation was met with the 1924 release of Songs of Pentecostal Fellowship, the first Assemblies of God effort to produce a songbook that was distinctly Pentecostal.

Songs of Pentecostal Fellowship was followed by other songbooks, such as Spiritual Songs (1930), Songs of Praise (1935), and Assembly Songs (1948). These collections consisted mainly of gospel songs which were popular at camp meetings and revival services. They also featured songs by Assemblies of God authors and began to bring unity to the congregational singing of the churches.

The 1950s brought a “golden era” to Pentecostal music. Quartet conventions began featuring more Pentecostal groups such as the Blackwood Brothers, and the Assemblies of God established the Music Division of Gospel Publishing House. One of the Music Division’s first duties was to produce a songbook for congregational singing that would also encourage the use of orchestrations for instruments. 

This new songbook, Melodies of Praise, made its debut 60 years ago in the Pentecostal Evangel, and it was formally introduced at the General Council later that year. It was the first Assemblies of God music publication to be released in both round note and shaped note editions, giving it a broader appeal for use in the southern singing schools. Melodies of Praise kept the gospel songs that were popular in churches but also incorporated more traditional hymns, such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Conversely, the compilers also sought to expose more church members to newer writers, such as Ira Stanphill, with the inclusion of songs like Mansion Over the Hilltop and Suppertime. It also incorporated a newer genre of church music with its introduction of choruses like Everybody Ought to Know, I Shall Not Be Moved, and Isn’t He Wonderful. 

Another change the Music Division made was to release a companion edition with instrumental orchestrations. Most Pentecostals embraced the use of instruments in worship and, for the first time, church instrumentalists could participate in the accompaniment of song services with the aid of properly composed notation.

Melodies of Praise was well received and sold 77,410 copies in its first year. By 1986, almost 2 million copies had been sold. Even after it was replaced in 1969 by the popular Hymns of Glorious Praise, it continued to sell well. Pentecostals have long known the power and importance of good church singing. The songs of the church teach and affirm biblical truth, are a spiritual expression of our affection toward God, and a testimony of His work in our lives. They also serve as a unifying factor. With the publication of a denominational hymnal, an Assemblies of God church member from Kentucky could visit a church in California and instantly feel at home during the congregational singing.

As the 60th anniversary of the release of Melodies of Praise is celebrated, it is a time to recognize the Assemblies of God’s rich history of worshiping through song. Even as times have changed, and many churches have moved to electronic projection of songs rather than printed hymnals, the Assemblies of God is still known as a people who embrace the musical language of worship with fervent passion.

New copies of Melodies of Praise are available through My Healthy Church.

See the original advertisement for Melodies of Praise on page 10 of the Feb. 10, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Prophet’s Shattered Home” by J. E. Harris

* “What is Communism” by Frank W. Smith

*”First Graduating Class at Rhodesian Bible School” by 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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Missionettes: the Assemblies of God Mentoring Ministry for Girls Was Launched in 1955

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A Missionettes Honor Star crowning, circa 1980s. (L-r): Julie Blasius, Melody Shoemaker, Chris Hulbert, Cindy Hulbert, and Cheryl Mesick, all from First Assembly of God (Three Rivers, Michigan).

This Week in AG History — January 20, 1957

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 19 January 2017

Missionettes, the original name of the national girls ministries program of the Assemblies of God, celebrated its first birthday 60 years ago. Now called National Girls Ministries Girls Clubs, the program was launched in 1955 as an extension of the Women’s Missionary Council (now Women’s Ministries Department).

Early in the 1950s, local Assemblies of God began developing programs to teach young women about missions and to prepare them for involvement in church ministries. One such example was Cheerbringers, a group of girls at First Assembly of God, Santa Cruz, California. Under the direction of Mrs. Meryl Steinberg, a ukulele band was started. Fifteen girls had ukuleles and began ministering in nursing homes, hospitals, and to shut-ins. The girls met on Wednesday evenings. Time was given for handwork followed by devotionals. The girls took an active role in the leadership of these meetings.

On the national level, the Women’s Missionary Council (WMC) began to develop the Missionettes mentoring ministry in response to the need to minister to girls and to establish a systematic plan for the older women to train the younger women (Titus 2:3,4). The first slogan for Missionettes, “Because we care we serve,” continued to be a motivating theme of the program for many years.

After months of planning, Missionettes was first introduced at the WMC Conference at the 1955 General Council. It was enthusiastically received. The program was created especially for girls ages 12 through 17, with the intent to involve girls in church ministries. One of its primary focuses was missions.

The first Missionettes club was officially chartered in January 1956. Since then, the clubs have continued to be organized across the United States and in many other countries. Through the years, modifications have been made to the program to include younger ages and updated material, but the ultimate purpose of winning girls to Jesus Christ and teaching them to live victoriously has never changed.

After just one year of the program being introduced nationally, the Pentecostal Evangel published glowing reports of Missionettes involved in revival and ministry. Here are just a few of those testimonies:

  • “Our group is a praying group, and we are catching a missionary vision. Praise God!”
  • One club with only 18 girls was able to raise $350 for missions.
  • A sponsor reported there had been such a wonderful revival among the girls that there had not been much time for working on projects.
  • Another sponsor told of two of their girls being baptized in the Holy Spirit at a Missionettes meeting.

In 2007, the national Missionettes Department changed its name to National Girls Ministries in order to better relate to girls in the 21st century and better reflect its mission. The current director is Mandy Groot.

To learn more about National Girls Ministries, or to access resources for teen girl leaders and parents, visit the National Girls Ministries website.

Read “Missionettes — One Year Old,” on pages 28 and 29 of the Jan. 19, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Speaking with Tongues,” by Carl Brumback

• “Israel’s Message to the Church,” by Albert L. Hoy

• “When the Spirit Came,” by A. T. Pierson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Anna Ziese: The Legendary Assemblies of God Missionary to China

zieseThis Week in AG History —January 12, 1935

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 12 January 2017

Anna Ziese (1895-1969), the legendary Assemblies of God missionary, began her life in Germany and lost her life during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China. Between these two events, she showed tremendous courage and creativity as she lived and ministered on three continents.

Anna was born in eastern Germany, where she graduated from public school. She accepted Christ at age 16. Her mother and father died within a year of each other and, by age 17, Anna was an orphan. Anna was forced to grow up quickly. She and two of her sisters immigrated to the United States, hoping for a better life.

In America, Anna worked as a nanny and became engaged to marry a dentist. Her future seemed bright and comfortable. But God had other plans for Anna. She felt called to China as a missionary. Her fiancé did not share her call, so they broke up. Anna attended Elim Bible Training Institute (Rochester, New York) from 1916 to 1918 to prepare for her future overseas.

Anna’s two sisters also received calls into the ministry. One sister married E. C. Steinberg, a Pentecostal missionary to Taiyuan, China. The other sister married Frederick Drake, an Assemblies of God minister. When Anna finally received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God in 1920, she sailed to China and joined her sister and brother-in-law.

When Anna arrived in China, the nation was in the midst of social turmoil. Imperial dynasties had ruled China for thousands of years, but the final dynasty had been overthrown in 1912. By 1920, two warring factions, the Communists and the Nationalists, were fighting for control of the nation. The ongoing war left the countryside in shambles, and many missionaries seized the opportunity to help those in distress.

Anna worked to alleviate the suffering caused by war and famine. She wrote numerous letters, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, describing the horrors of daily life endured by many Chinese. She sought funds to provide food for the hungry, and she ventured into the war camps to minister to the prisoners. In an article published in the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she reported that 86 prisoners followed Christ in water baptism.

Anna did not try to maintain Western standards of living while ministering to the impoverished. Instead, she adapted to Chinese ways of life. When the Communists shelled and took the city of Taiyuan in 1949, she stayed and did not flee with the other Westerners. Anna was the only American Assemblies of God missionary who stayed in mainland China after the Communists gained control. All others returned to the West or transferred to other nations.

While China closed its doors to Western missionaries, Anna was able to remain because she never became an American citizen. She was born in eastern Germany, so following World War II she received a passport from the new communist government in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Anna lived in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when possibly a million or more people were killed because of supposed ties to the West or to the former Chinese ruling class. The last two decades of her life are shrouded in mystery, as she lived behind what became known as the “Bamboo Curtain.” One surviving report about Anna, from the “block-watcher” where Anna lived, spoke highly of Anna’s noble character and frugality. Anna lived in a one-room adobe structure that was common in China and received a $3 monthly stipend (the average wage of that time) from the Chinese communist government. During her two decades in communist China, Anna continued to share the gospel and train converts and ministers. When Anna died in the summer of 1969, her remains were placed in a local crematorium, as is common in China.

Anna Ziese gave up a life that promised comfort in America to follow God’s call in China. She did so as a single woman in an era that generally required women to be subservient to men. She adapted to the Chinese lifestyle and loved their culture. She consecrated her life completely to minister to the Chinese people and was even accepted by and supported by the communist government. In an era when heightened political tensions made it almost impossible for Western missionaries to minister in China, Anna Ziese’s love for the Chinese people and her humble ways made her calling possible.

Read the report by Anna Ziese, “Eighty-Six Prisoners Baptized,” on page 10 of the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Marks of a Christian,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “Strength for the Journey,” by Zelma Argue

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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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

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Pentecostalism in Puerto Rico Marks a Century: A Movement Birthed by Refugees Now Includes 25 Percent of Island Residents

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Iglesia Asamblea Pentecostal (Bayamon, Puerto Rico), 1969

This Week in AG History — December 16, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 15 December 2016

Puerto Rico is home to a vibrant, growing, and indigenous Pentecostal movement, consisting of an estimated 25 percent of the island’s population. Pentecostalism first came to Puerto Rico in 1916 via Hawaii, where a number of Puerto Rican families had migrated in search of employment on sugar plantations. After many Puerto Ricans living in Hawaii surrendered their lives to God during a Pentecostal revival in the early 1910s, several of them — including Salomon Feliciano, Juan Lugo, and Francisco and Panchito Ortiz — felt called to bring the Pentecostal message to their homeland.

The four Puerto Rican missionaries became credentialed with the Assemblies of God and helped spark a spiritual hurricane that reshaped the religious contours of the island. Feliciano and Lugo arrived in Puerto Rico in the fall of 1916, followed shortly afterward by the father-and-son team of Francisco and Panchito Ortiz. Lugo initially ministered in the barrio of Santurce, located in the capital city of San Juan. After a month, he moved his ministry focus to Ponce, a large city in the southern part of Puerto Rico.

The Pentecostal Evangel published numerous letters by the four missionaries. One letter by Feliciano and Lugo, published in the Dec. 16, 1916, issue, recounted both successes and challenges. They reported 43 converts and many others who felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Mainline Protestant ministers viewed the newcomers as a threat and tried to discourage them from starting a new church. Hostile government officials also interfered with the Pentecostals’ missions efforts. But the Pentecostal prayer meetings soon outgrew the home where they were held, and believers overcame public cynicism and hostility and organized the first Pentecostal church in Puerto Rico. Within several years, Pentecostal churches began popping up all over the island.

The Pentecostal movement in Puerto Rico, now 100 years old, was birthed by refugees who left their island homeland and who migrated across the world in search of a better life. In Hawaii, they experienced a spiritual awakening, which changed the trajectory of their lives and propelled them to return to Puerto Rico as missionaries. While they faced opposition to the gospel, the missionaries did not shrink back. Indeed, Feliciano and Lugo concluded their letter by expressing confidence in God’s provisions in the face of trials: “When the world is against us, Jesus is with us.”

Read the article by Salomon Feliciano and Juan Lugo, “Salvation Coming to Many in Porto Rico,” on page 12 of the Dec. 16, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “I Fell in Love with the Nazarene,” by Sarah Haggard Payne

* “The Bible,” by D. W. Kerr

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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