Tag Archives: Race

Confronted by Racial Tensions, Ohio AG Church Grew by Reaching out to Hispanics and Blacks in 1960s

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Pastors (left to right): S. Reyes Nodal (Templo Betel); Dana Dickson (Evangel Assembly, Sandusky); Keith Smith (Broadway Assembly); Robert E. Burel (Beulah Assembly)

This Week in AG History —August 8, 1965

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 09 August 2018

Fifty-three years ago, the community of Lorain, Ohio, was in the midst of a significant demographic shift. Thousands of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico relocated to Lorain to work in the steel mills, and the African-American community was growing. Racial tensions existed in the historically white town of 60,000, as residents grappled with these social changes.

How should the church respond to racial tensions and community strife? Keith Smith, an Assemblies of God pastor in Lorain, saw the changes in his community as an opportunity to share the gospel and bring reconciliation. He led his church, Broadway Assembly of God, to seek out the newcomers and minister to their needs.

Members of Broadway Assembly canvassed the community, befriended the immigrants, and began a bus ministry so that those without transportation could come to church. The church began a Spanish-speaking ministry under the leadership of S. Reyes Nodal, an Assemblies of God pastor born in Mexico. Nodal’s ministry grew and became Templo Betel (Bethel Temple), the first Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church in Ohio.

Broadway Assembly asked a Church of God in Christ pastor, Robert E. Burel, to lead an outreach to African-Americans. Under Burel’s leadership, a new congregation, called Beulah Assembly, formed and met in Broadway Assembly’s building. After about a year and a half, Burel led his congregation to affiliate with the Church of God in Christ.

Broadway Assembly grew significantly even as it was planting new churches in its own community. Sunday school attendance grew from 200 to over 600 in a few years. The church built a new building to accommodate its growing crowds and gave its old building to Templo Betel.

How should today’s church respond to demographic changes and social strife? When confronted by a similar situation 50 years ago, Keith Smith did not retreat into the comfort of his church building. He led his congregation to engage the community and reach out to Spanish-speaking immigrants and African-Americans.

Read the article about Broadway Assembly, “Mother Church Triples,” on page 15 of the Aug. 8, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Witness for Christ,” by Fred Smolchuck

• “Man Overboard!” by Charles T. Crabtree

• “Be Not Silent,” by Bob Hoskins

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Bob Harrison, in the Midst of 1960s Racial Strife, Called for a Counter-Revolution

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This Week in AG History — October 22, 1967

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 22 October 2015

Racial conflict and change dominated the American landscape in the late 1960s. August 1967 epitomized the era. The month began with race riots engulfing Washington, D.C., and ended with the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to serve as the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

In the midst of this racially charged month, the most prominent African-American Assemblies of God minister, Bob Harrison, delivered a message at the 32nd General Council held August 24-29, 1967, in Long Beach, California. Harrison’s sermon, which addressed the racial strife of the day, was published in the October 22, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Harrison was acutely aware of the effects of racial prejudice, as the racist patterns of the world had found their way into the church. In 1939, the Assemblies of God instituted a policy that denied ordination at the national level to African-Americans. African-Americans could still be licensed at the district level. Harrison graduated from Bethany Bible College (an Assemblies of God school in Scotts Valley, California) in 1951 and was eligible for district licensure. However, he was initially denied a license on account of his race. This decision was later revisited and, in 1957, the Northern California-Nevada District granted Harrison a ministerial license.

This injustice was compounded by irony: Harrison’s godmother, Cornelia Jones Robertson, was ordained by the Assemblies of God in 1923, before the national policy was instituted. She was one of the earliest African-American females ordained by the Assemblies of God.

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 the policy against ordaining African-Americans. Harrison, in his new role as an ordained Assemblies of God minister, became a visible proponent of working across the racial divides.

In his 1967 General Council sermon, Harrison challenged the notion that racial problems could be cured by political and economic means alone. “Only Christ and His gospel can solve it,” he asserted. Having traveled around the world, Harrison also observed that American segregation provided a poor witness of the Christian faith.

Harrison noted that people “tend to confuse Biblical Christianity with American culture.” He explained that while American culture was influenced by Christianity, “the Church exists as a minority” in America. Harrison furthermore offered a blunt assessment of American morality: “America is long on money and materialism but terribly short on values that count.”

Harrison’s interracial vision was grounded in the Great Commission. His sermon was suffused with admonitions that everyone has the responsibility to accept and serve Christ. He encouraged readers to have “total commitment” to bring “the whole gospel for the whole man and the whole world.” According to Harrison, Christians should think in terms of the “human race,” rather than in terms of black or white. Harrison called for Christians to lead a “counter-revolution,” which he described as “a new era of Bible-based, soul-convicting, sin-blasting evangelism.” This counter-revolution, according to Harrison, “began centuries ago at Pentecost.”

Read Bob Harrison’s article, “These Things Shall Be,” on pages 2-3 of the October 22, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Refugee Problem,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “Getting God’s Help in These Times,” by H. C. Noah

• “The Triumph of the King,” by W. Glenn West

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

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Review: The Azusa Street Mission and Revival


The Azusa Streat Mission and Revival

The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement, by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006.

If you only read one book on the Azusa Street revival, this should be it. Written by the leading authority on the subject, The Azusa Street Mission and Revival is the result of over twenty years of research. Its engaging prose and careful attention to detail bring the story to life. This book is a joy to read.

Nearly twenty-five percent of the world’s Christians count themselves among the Charismatic and Pentecostal family of Christian movements, yet few know how Pentecostalism began. The Azusa Street Mission and Revival tells the story of the small racially-inclusive group that gathered in Los Angeles in 1906 and changed the world of Christianity. With little more than a printing press, a trolley stop and a powerful message, the revival that began at Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street, rapidly crossed more than race lines — into Mexico, Canada, Britain, Scandinavia, western and southern Africa, India, and China — and began to change the landscape of Christianity. The complete story of the Mission has finally been recorded. Continue reading

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