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Review: Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada

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

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

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 Frank Small, a leading Canadian Pentecostal pioneer, and ten others who had withdrawn from the infant Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), in 1921 received a Dominion charter to form the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada.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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

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

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