Tag Archives: Racial Reconciliation

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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The Story Behind the Foot Washing at the 1994 “Memphis Miracle”

Click here to listen to Donald Evans tell the story behind the foot washing at the Memphis Miracle

Certain segments within early Pentecostalism – most prominently the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles, California – promoted a vision of “brotherly love” across the racial divides. However, this interracial vision was quickly eclipsed as Pentecostals set out to organize churches and did so largely along cultural and racial lines. When the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America – an umbrella organization for Pentecostal denominations – was formed in 1948, its founding members were all mostly-white denominations.

Recognizing the need to heal the racial divisions within Pentecostalism, church leaders came together in Memphis on October 18, 1994 and dissolved the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America. The next day the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA) was formed by both white and black denominations. The meetings surrounding this monumental act of racial reconciliation came to a climax when, on October 18, a white Assemblies of God pastor, Donald Evans, approached the platform. He tearfully explained that he felt God’s leading to wash the feet of Church of God in Christ Bishop Ithiel Clemmons, while begging forgiveness for the sins of the whites against their black brothers and sisters. A wave of weeping swept over the auditorium. Participants sensed that this was the final seal of the Holy Spirit’s approval from the heart of God over the proceedings. This event, which became known as the “Memphis Miracle,” is a significant milestone in the annals of Pentecostal history. Continue reading

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A House No Longer Divided

 
 
 
Dr. Stanley Horton extemporaneously addressing participants at A House No Longer Divided, Timmons Temple COGIC, Monday, April 13. Horton was explaining that his father was pastor of a multiracial church in Arroyo Seco, Los Angeles, in 1926-1927. Members – half were black, half were white – would eat dinner together after every Sunday service. (Photo courtesy of Ken Horn)

Dr. Stanley Horton extemporaneously addressing participants at A House No Longer Divided, Timmons Temple COGIC, Monday, April 13. Horton was explaining that his father was pastor of a multiracial church in Arroyo Seco, Los Angeles, in 1926-1927. Members – half were black, half were white – would eat dinner together after every Sunday service. (Photo courtesy of Ken Horn)

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Co-sponsors Demonstration of Unity, Marking Unlikely Dual Anniversary of Springfield Lynching and Azusa Street Revival

On April 13-15, 2009, people from various ethnic, social, and denominational backgrounds gathered in Springfield, Missouri, to celebrate their unity in Christ. This demonstration of unity, dubbed “A House No Longer Divided,” was sparked by the unlikely dual anniversary of two events — the horrific Springfield Lynchings and the beginning of the multiethnic Azusa Street Revival, which has become a worldwide symbol for racial reconciliation. The meetings were held each evening from 7-9 pm at Timmons Temple Church of God in Christ (April 13-14) and at the William J. Seymour Chapel at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (April 15).

On April 14, 1906, three African-American men were lynched by a mob on the Springfield town square. The lynching of Horace Duncan, Fred Coker and Will Allen led to the flight of possibly hundreds of blacks to less hostile areas. The ethnic makeup of the community, to this day, reflects that horrific event. The African-American community in Springfield remembers the event much like Jews remember the Holocaust.

That same day, on April 14, 1906, William J. Seymour began holding services at the run-down mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The interracial Azusa Street revival, which emerged from meetings in a home on Bonnie Brae Street, became a focal point for the emerging Pentecostal movement. Azusa participant Frank Bartleman famously exulted that “the color line was washed away in the blood.” A little more than one year later, Rachel Sizelove, a Free Methodist-turned-Pentecostal evangelist, brought the movement to Springfield from Azusa Street and started what became Central Assembly of God.

“A House No Longer Divided” featured special speakers, preaching, and music. Timmons Temple Pastor T.J. Appleby emceed the services, and speakers included both seasoned and young ministers. Organist Beverly Daniels and the Timmons Temple gospel choir led participants in worship each evening. Half of each evening was devoted to gospel music, which was interspersed between speakers (each was given either 10 or 30 minutes to speak).

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Review: Voices of Pentecost

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Voices of Pentecost: Testimonies of Lives Touched by the Holy Spirit, by Vinson Synan. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 2003.

Images of the Holy Spirit and Pentecostalism have historically been associated with that of the ministries of William J. Seymour, Charles Parham, and the Azusa Street Revival. These revivals recorded the emergence of glossalalia to the Church and became widely acknowledged as the beginnings of Pentecost. While Seymour, Parham, and Azusa Street demonstrated the overflow of the Spirit upon the 20th century, they alone are simply a portion of the Pentecostal movement which has spread throughout history in a variety of avenues. Within Vinson Synan’s, Voices of Pentecost, a sampling of firsthand accounts of the charismatic movement is provided, addressing lesser-known personages and denominations to Pentecostalism. Faiths including Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Methodism are included with their spiritual lineage and unique Pentecostal perspective.

Synan approaches this historical overview by submitting 2-3 page testimonies or eyewitness accounts of various men and women who have influenced Pentecostalism. At the very beginning of the work, Synan breaks the traditional mold to present a spiritual event within the Catholic account of St. Augustine and his eyewitness description of spiritual prayer. Synan continues his collection with other renowned names including Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, St. Francis of Assisi, and Charles Finney while incorporating many lesser known names. Even foreign spiritual encounters such as the revival within the Methodist Episcopal Church of Chile in 1909 are retold in the testimonies of its participants. This collection spans hundreds of years to create a vivid representation of Pentecostal history.

Included with the individual epithets are theological principles that have helped shape the Pentecostal church. For instance, descriptions of miraculous healings, unification of the races, missions inspiration, along with traditional church prayers and protocol are included. Personal descriptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit create a tangible image of this most holy gift. The ease at which Synan writes is exceptional, and his emphasis upon primary sources are quite useful in painting a stunning image of each account.

For the benefit of those familiar with the Pentecostal historical timeline, a chronological system would have offered a more systematic layout for this book. It is important to note the significance of pre-Azusa street Pentecostal encounters such as John Wesley (1703-1791), Charles Finney (1792-1875), and Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924), which would differ greatly from modern-day contributors like Mark Rutland, Pat Robertson, etc.

In an age of scarce historical acknowledgement, Synan’s work, Voices of Pentecost, contributes a much needed overview of the major contributors to the Pentecostal movement. The readability and intrigue of this work makes it accessible to audiences of various ages with the assurance of building faith. It is a significant contribution to the Church to have all these testimonies collected in one solitary place.

Reviewed by Krista Ridley, Evangel University student

Paperback, 180 pages. $10.99 list price. Order from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com

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Church of God in Christ and in unity with the Apostolic Faith

When the Assemblies of God was formed in 1914, the largest contingent of incoming ministers came from a loosely-organized group which, on its credentials, was identified as “Church of God in Christ and in unity with the Apostolic Faith.” This group had its roots in Charles Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement, but had, by late 1910 or early 1911, changed its name to incorporate the term “Church of God in Christ.” This group, which consisted mostly of white ministers (although at least two black ministers were members), was better known as “Church of God in Christ.”

Little is known about this organization. Scholars have given it the label the “[white] Church of God in Christ” to differentiate it from another organization also named the Church of God in Christ, a largely-black group led by Charles H. Mason.

The [white] Church of God in Christ issued its own credentials, elected its own officers, published its own newspaper, and had its own system of short-term Bible training centers for ministers. Despite having similar names, the two groups organizationally seemed to have little, if anything, in common.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC), in its vault, holds the ministerial rosters of the [white] Church of God in Christ from 1912 through 1914.

To view the [white] Church of God in Christ rosters, please click the links below:
Roster of August 1, 1912
Roster of February 1, 1913
Roster of December 1913
Roster of 1914 (missing the first one or two pages)

Can anyone provide information about any ministers on these rosters?

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Emanuel Williams interview

Cornelius Jones RobertsonWhen Emanuel Williams read the 2008 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, he could not believe who he saw peering back at him from the pages of history — Cornelia Jones Robertson, his childhood pastor! Mother Jones was one of the featured pioneers in the article, “Known and Yet Unknown: Women of Color and the Assemblies of God,” written by Jessica Faye Carter.

Emanuel contacted me (I serve as the magazine’s editor and as the director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center) to express his appreciation for the article. I was thrilled to find someone who was a close friend of not only Mother Jones, but also of her “grandson,” Bob Harrison (Harrison was a close family friend of Mother Jones, though not related to her by blood).

Mother Jones became, in 1923, one of the earliest African-Americans ordained by the Assemblies of God. Harrison is best-known for breaking the color barrier in the Assemblies of God in 1962, when General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman invited him to become an ordained minister, thus overturning a policy, instituted in 1939, denying ordination to African-Americans.

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2008 Heritage hot off the press


Heritage 2008

The 2008 annual edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine is hot off the press and will shortly be mailed to all credentialed Assemblies of God ministers. Additional copies may be ordered online or by phone: 877.840.5200 (toll free).

Download selected free articles from the 2008 edition from the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website. If you like what you read, consider ordering the entire 2008 edition of Heritage for yourself, or as a gift for your friends or relatives. We think you will agree that Heritage magazine is a keepsake!

The 2008 edition features the following articles:

Dr. Charles S. Price: His Life, Ministry and Influence
This Oxford-educated pastor became one of the most noteworthy Pentecostal evangelists of the twentieth century.
BY TIM ENLOE

Teen Challenge: 50 Years of Miracles
What began as an outreach by David Wilkerson to the gangs of New York City has developed into one of the largest and most successful Christian drug-treatment programs.
BY DAVID BATTY AND ETHAN CAMPBELL

Conflicted by the Spirit: The Religious Life of Elvis Presley
The “King of Rock ‘n Roll,” the most famous Assemblies of God Sunday school prospect from the 1950s, experienced an all-too public struggle between his religious upbringing and the temptations of the world.
BY JAMES R. GOFF, JR.

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Marjorie Walker, pioneer black Assemblies of God minister, honored


Rev. Marjorie Walker, possibly the first African-American female ordained by the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God, was recognized in a special service at her church in celebration of Black History Month. The service, held at Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Greeley, Colorado, also honored two additional faithful African-American church leaders, George and Clydene Osborne.

The church’s pastor, Rev. David Meek, shared their stories in an article about the event published in the Greeley Tribune:

“The Rev. Marjorie Walker, a retired nurse, was the first black woman to be ordained in the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God Church. Last September, she retired at the young age of 81 from ministering at retirement homes in Greeley for 30 years. She is still an associate pastor at Glad Tidings and loves to lead people to Jesus. We love to hear her sing those great Southern Gospel songs, and she learned to play the harmonica at age 76 after her husband, Sid, went to be with Jesus.”

“George and Clydene Osborne are vital members as they greet people, sing in the choir and pray for the sick. George is a board member, directs the Men’s Ministry and preaches every Friday night at the Weld County Jail, leading men to love, serve and follow Jesus. They have been married 49 years, which is a miracle of God, as George use to be heavy drinker of beer, before Jesus delivered him!”

Rev. Meek recounted that the Assemblies of God grew out of a worldwide Pentecostal revival that took place one hundred years ago. One of the focal points of this emerging revival was the interracial congregation at the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street, Los Angeles, led by African-American pastor William J. Seymour. Meek noted that at Azusa Street, “The rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and all races worshipped and sought God together.” The Azusa Street revival (1906-1909) has become a symbol of racial reconciliation, not just for Pentecostals but for all Christians. This interracial unity was not just evidenced at Azusa Street, but also in churches today, such as Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Greeley.

Panorama Magazine (a publication of the Greeley Tribune) also published an article about Rev. Walker in 2007.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center is very interested in acquiring materials documenting African-American Pentecostal history. If you have old photographs, publications (periodicals, tracts, books, congregational histories, etc.), and other treasures that would help historians, church leaders, and people in the pew to better understand African-American Pentecostal history, please consider depositing them at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (email: archives@ag.org).

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Review: Pentecostals and Racial Reconciliation

We’ve Come This Far

We’ve Come This Far: Reflections on the Pentecostal Tradition and Racial Reconciliation, edited by Byron Klaus. Springfield, MO: Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, 2007.

The history of racial unity and division within the Pentecostal movement has been addressed in a recently-published book, We’ve Come This Far: Reflections on the Pentecostal Tradition and Racial Reconciliation, edited by Byron Klaus. The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary has been a leader within its denomination in its efforts to better include voices of ethnic and racial minorities. This has been evidenced by its increasingly multicultural and international student body, the dedication of the William J. Seymour Chapel, and — now — the publication of We’ve Come This Far.

We’ve Come This Far contains the proceedings of a 2006 lecture series at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary that encouraged reflection about the “missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential” for the Assemblies of God to be an agent of racial reconciliation. The volume notes that the Assemblies of God — like many predominantly-white Pentecostal denominations — “has experienced some challenges in acknowledging its multicultural roots,” as well as its “years of ambiguity about the inclusion of African-Americans in its ministerial ranks” (back cover).

We’ve Come This Far juxtaposes the lives of two notable 20th century American religious leaders — William J. Seymour and Martin Luther King, Jr. — while reflecting on the lessons that can be drawn from them concerning African-American preaching and leadership. The book also features a selection of historical materials — including an account of Assemblies of God minister Robert Harrison (who successfully challenged a policy denying ordination to African-Americans) and a history of the struggle to overcome racism within the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa. Continue reading

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Free Azusa Street photos on Flickr

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SplashCast with Flickr photos
Produced by iFPHC

It was an unlikely location for an event that would change the face of Christianity.

In the summer of 1906, revival erupted in the newly-formed congregation meeting at the small, run-down Apostolic Faith Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Critics attacked the congregation because its mild-mannered black Holiness preacher, William J. Seymour, preached racial reconciliation and the restoration of Biblical spiritual gifts. The Azusa Street revival, as it became known, soon became a local sensation, then attracted thousands of curiosity seekers and pilgrims from around the world. The spiritual intensity of the revival was red hot for over three years, making Azusa Street one of the most significant Pentecostal centers in the early 20th century. One hundred years later, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements — broadly construed — claimed over a half billion adherents, the second largest grouping within Christianity after the Catholic Church.

With the Pentecostal movement’s explosive growth came recognition of the Azusa Street revival as one of the most important events in recent Christian history.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center holds one of the largest collections of Azusa Street-related materials. Our vault protects treasures such as a complete set of The Apostolic Faith, the newspaper published by the Azusa Street mission. We also hold a significant collection of rare photographs of the Azusa Street mission, William Seymour, and other early revival leaders.

We keep these valuable Azusa Street materials under lock and key, but — to mix metaphors — we don’t want to hide our light under a bushel! We have digitized some of our best photos and are making them available for free on Flickr. Not only can you view these photos, you can paste our Azusa slideshow into your own blog or website, or use them in a PowerPoint sermon or classroom lecture.

These photographs remain the intellectual property of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The free photos on Flickr contain an unobtrusive watermark (iFPHC.org). If you use the photos, our only requirements are that you leave the watermark on the image and include the following line in your website, PowerPoint, or other publication: “Image used with permission of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (iFPHC.org).” Publication-quality images without the watermark are available for purchase from the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Would you like to read the exciting news of the Azusa Street revival as it was originally published in The Apostolic Faith newspaper? We also have digitized The Apostolic Faith, which is included on the following research DVD for sale:
Assemblies of God Publications: Pre-WWII

To view the photoset of the Azusa Street at Flickr click on the link below:
Flickr Photoset

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Posted by Darrin Rodgers

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