Tag Archives: Unity

Assemblies of God Founders Were Diverse, Yet They Believed They Could Do More Together Than Apart

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A group stands in front of a tent at an Aimee Semple McPherson camp meeting in Wesson, Arkansas, ca. 1920. W. J. Walthall is in the center (tenth from right).

This Week in AG History — November 8, 1924

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 5 November 2015

The founders of the Assemblies of God were not “cookie-cutter” Pentecostals. They were pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who hailed from a variety of religious and social backgrounds. Some came from large northern cities; others from small southern hamlets. Many were entrepreneurs who had launched churches, orphanages, and rescue missions without any denominational backing. They often differed on ministry methods, which were shaped by their personalities and cultural preferences. They were not all cut from the same mold. However, they all believed they were helping to restore the vibrant witness of the New Testament church, and they all believed that they could do more together than they could apart.

This diversity within the early Assemblies of God naturally created tension. However, many founders embraced this tension and sounded a common theme — that they aimed for “unity of the Spirit” until one day they could achieve “unity of the faith.”

The first masthead of the Christian Evangel (the original title of the Pentecostal Evangel), from 1913, stated: “The simplicity of the Gospel, In the bonds of peace, The unity of the Spirit, Till we all come to the unity of the faith.” This call to unity implicitly recognized that readers did not yet have “unity of the faith” — that disagreement existed on some matters. In the meantime, they affirmed that believers should aim for “unity of the Spirit.”

The minutes from the first General Council, held in April 1914, reveal that the convention began with devotions. The devotions set the tone for the next 11 days of meetings. According to the minutes, the devotions brought together “Men of God, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” but who “were not yet in perfect unity in faith.” The minutes then reported that participants “retained the unity of the Spirit until the unity of Faith was being much manifested in the meetings.” This language about keeping “unity of the Spirit” while aiming for “unity of the faith” was repeated in the resolution that officially formed the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

The Pentecostal Evangel, in 1924, published a devotional article about “the two unities” — the unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith. The article, by pioneer Assemblies of God pastor W. Jethro Walthall, illuminated what early Pentecostals meant when they used the phrases “unity of the Spirit” and “unity of the faith.” According to Walthall, “unity of the faith” — which is the believer’s eschatological hope — cannot be fully achieved on earth. Before they achieve perfection in heaven, Christians can maintain “unity of the Spirit” on earth. Walthall wrote that “unity of the Spirit” is achieved by “walking worthy of our calling, and this is done by a meek and lowly walk with God, and maintaining a loving and long-suffering attitude to all saints.”

These insights — showing how early Pentecostals theologically explained the existence of differences amongst themselves — provide hope to those today who struggle to find unity amidst diversity.

Read “The Two Unities” by W. Jethro Walthall on page 5 of the November 8, 1924, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Also featured in this issue:
• “The Sin of Hopelessness,” by Florence L. Personeus
• “The Old-Time Power,” by Donald Gee
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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E. S. Williams: 1937 New Year’s Message for the Assemblies of God


This Week in AG History–January 16, 1937
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 14 January 2015

While much has changed in the past 78 years, Ernest S. William’s New Year’s admonition to the Assemblies of God in 1937 remains strikingly relevant. Williams was the only veteran of the Azusa Street Revival to serve as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1929-1949). Known for his spiritual depth, he led the Fellowship during a period of significant numerical growth.

Williams took the helm of the Fellowship the same year as the Great Depression began. In 1929, the Assemblies of God reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members. By 1937 those tallies had approximately doubled to 3,473 churches with 175,362 members.

“God has blessed our fellowship of Spirit-filled redeemed people with a phenomenal growth,” Williams acknowledged. However, he warned readers of “danger” that accompanied growth. With the increase in numbers, Williams cautioned, comes the temptation to rely on “human ideas and human methods, not all of which are sanctified to the glory of God.”

Christians are called to live and worship “in spirit and in truth” and “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” Williams wrote. Any substitute would cause the Assemblies of God to suffer “grievous loss.” He suggested that “prayerful watchfulness and entire consecration” were required to maintain this spiritual calling.

Williams encouraged believers to seek unity. He expressed his belief that the Pentecostal movement “would be a far greater service to God were it all united.” It may not be God’s will, he clarified, that this unity be expressed organizationally. In his view, believers should be united “in one spirit and Christian fellowship” and in “Christian love and worship.”

While Williams opposed divisions due to “sectarian causes,” he acknowledged that true Christian unity could only develop among believers who embraced solid doctrine and morals. “Let us therefore show Christian love and Christian fellowship to all of God’s children who love and do the truth, wherever they may be,” Williams wrote, “but let us continue an uncompromising stand against tolerance of evil wherever it is found.”

Williams concluded his New Year’s message with a missionary call. “The uttermost parts of the earth is our motto,” he propounded. “May the coming year be one of rich harvests in souls and in personal soul development.” This dual concern for deep spirituality and sharing the gospel continues to be central to Assemblies of God identity.

Read Williams’ article, “The Task That Is Before Us,” on page 4 of the January 16, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Leaving the Choice with the Lord,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Power, Love and a Sound Mind,” by Donald Gee

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

– See more at: http://www.penews.org/Article/This-Week-in-AG-History-%E2%80%94-January-16,-1937/#sthash.uNUNChh6.dpuf

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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United in and with Christ


This Week in AG History–December 15, 1917
By William Molenaar

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 15 Dec 2014 – 8:44 PM CST

Ninety-seven years ago, today, an article was published titled, “United in and with Christ,” by Andrew D. Urshan. It was originally a message given at the Pentecostal Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and released in the December 15, 1917, issue of the Weekly Evangel. Urshan opens his message by singing, “Jesus only, Jesus ever; Jesus all in all we sing; Saviour, Baptizer and Healer, Glorious Lord and coming King.”

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), was an early Assemblies of God missionary to Iran. He founded a Persian Pentecostal mission in Chicago in 1908 and was ordained by William Durham in 1910. Urshan wrote several articles in the Weekly Evangel between 1914 and 1918.

In this 1917 article, Urshan points out that the “Baptism of the Holy Ghost make Jesus real.” He also observes that the power of the Holy Spirit brings God’s children together from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Urshan states, “Since we have received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, there is a spiritual magnetizing power that draws us toward each other. There is a strange holy unity between God’s people.” Urshan goes on to encourage readers to walk in the Spirit, live yielded to Him, and to set our affections upon Him.

Based on Psalm 91, Urshan taught that seven blessings are given to those who truly love God: “(1) I will deliver him; (2) I will set him on high; (3) he shall call upon me and I will answer him; (4) I will be with him in trouble; (5) and honor him; (6) with long life will I satisfy him, (7) and show him my salvation.”

Knowing persecution himself, Urshan pointed out that being in deep loving communion with God will give one the strength and courage to face persecution. According to Urshan, it will also preserve one from falling for the world’s temptations, and prepare one for the coming rapture of the Church.

Read the article, “United in and with Christ,” on pages 4-6 of the December 15, 1917, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Hell and Who are Going There,” by William T. McArthur

* “Evangelizing the World,” by A. W. Orwig

* “Not Knowing,” by M. G. Brainard

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

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 Open Bible Council


This Week in AG History–June 24, 1916
By William Molenaar

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 23 Jun 2014 – 3:13 PM CST.

In the early days of the modern Pentecostal movement, controversies raged over the nature of tongues, sanctification, water baptism, and the Trinity. Many local churches and pastors operated independently, with little accountability, and did what was right in their own eyes. The Assemblies of God was formed in 1914 in part to bring unity, stability, and accountability to churches within the Pentecostal movement. However, the first General Council decided not to create a binding statement of faith.

The emerging Oneness movement (also called the “New Issue”) forced the Assemblies of God to reconsider its decision to be non-creedal. Advocates of the New Issue were teaching that believers must be baptized in the name of Jesus based on the narrative of Acts, rather than using the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” They further rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and understood the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit not as persons of the godhead, but rather as different manifestations of the one personal God. As a result, some Oneness believers asserted that no distinctions existed between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The young Assemblies of God was compelled to define its doctrine and to create organizational mechanisms to ensure accountability. Chairman J. W. Welch, in the June 24, 1916, editorial of theWeekly Evangel, issued a call to ministers to attend a third General Council of Assemblies of God. Welch desired unity and decried the strife and contentions among Pentecostals. He pointed out the need for “scriptural unity, order and government in the church.” Welch referred to the council as “an OPEN BIBLE council,” asking that those who attend to base their decisions squarely on the Bible.

Welch reassured readers that the meeting would not seek to create a sect or denomination. Doctrinal confusion was at hand, and he pleaded with those attending the next General Council to strive for unity and harmony, while discerning what is truth and what is error according to the Word of God. What resulted? The 1916 General Council adopted the Statement of Fundamental Truths.

Read the entire editorial by J. W. Welch on pages 3 and 7 of the June 24, 1916, issue of theWeekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Christians in India Are Given ‘Gift of Tongues,'” by William T. Ellis.

* “Some Good Things to Remember,” by Mrs. P. M. (Agnes Ozman) LaBerge.

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

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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Gerrit R. Polman and Pentecostal Unity

This Week in AG History–May 29,1926
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Wed, 28 May 2014 – 3:53 PM CST.

Gerrit R. Polman (1868-1932) is regarded as the founder of the Pentecostal movement in the Netherlands. Polman was originally a member of the Reformed Church and joined the Salvation Army in 1890. Influenced by reports of revivals in Wales and at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, Polman and his small congregation in Amsterdam identified with the Pentecostal movement in 1907.

Polman wrote a historical account of Dutch Pentecostalism, which was published in the May 29, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Polman recounted testimonies of how lives were transformed. He recalled that in one city, “The sick were healed, demons cast out, souls saved, and other manifestations of the power of God were given.” This pattern was repeated, with some variations, in cities and villages throughout the nation.

According to Polman, people who experienced God’s power did not stay the same. He wrote, “What a wonderful change it brings in our lives when the Holy Spirit comes in, in Pentecostal power; how it changed our conduct, our hearts and lives; what a fellowship in the Spirit with our risen Lord!”

Polman used his article about Pentecostalism in his corner of the world to encourage unity among Pentecostals everywhere. He gave praise to God for “the unity in the Spirit” that existed among Dutch Pentecostals. He believed that this unity would be “a testimony in the midst of the spiritual deadness.” One’s Christian citizenship, he argued, should outweigh all earthly allegiances: “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether we be American or Dutch, English or German.” He continued, “The body of Christ is a new race of people, born from heaven, and as such, they are a heavenly people, seeking the things which are above.”

Polman was a Pentecostal leader in his nation, but he grasped a vision of the body of Christ that was much bigger than the churches he oversaw. A similar vision for Pentecostal unity, grounded in God’s Word and for the purpose of worldwide evangelization, also energized the founders of the Assemblies of God in 1914. Early Pentecostals recognized the tensions between heavenly and earthly allegiances, and they regularly encouraged believers to seek unity by forming their identity around biblical ideals.

Read the entire article by G. R. Polman, “The Pentecostal Work in Holland,” on pages 2-3 of the May 29, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Newspapers Report Mrs. McPherson Drowned”

* “Pentecostal Power,” by Ernest S. Williams

* “Brother Wigglesworth in Ceylon,” by Walter H. C. Clifford

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

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

Leave a comment

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