I’m working hard on my thesis, and I’m hoping I have the rough draft finished and submitted by the time this is published.
Where did Pentecostalism start? Anyone know?
Some of you will point to Charles Parham. Good. You’re on the right track. Some will point to E. W. Kenyon. You’re only part right, and you’re missing the biggest mover and shaker out of all of them.
I’m going to say that it really started with Charles and John Wesley. They got Christians into a mindset of seeking for an emotional reaction as proof of holiness and God’s favor.
That set the tone.
The Second Great Awakening, which I wrote about yesterday, set up the petri dish that Pentecostalism would grow in. “Barton Stone had people laying on the ground and BARKING!!!” And yes, when you seek for emotional reactions, you’re not going to be satisfied until you get them. If you really want emotional reactions, turn on General Hospital or Days of our Lives.
All of Pentecostalism traces its way back to four men.
- Frank Sandford
- Charles Parham
- John Dowie
- E. W. Kenyon
And culprit number one is the biggest name. Frank Sandford was a school teacher-amateur baseball player turned preacher. He had a pretty dramatic conversion, and went from being a brawler and foul mouthed man to suddenly being a man of God. He aimed for attending Seminary as soon as he was converted, and seven years later, was attending.
30 days later, he was pastoring a church.
Wait. Does that strike anyone as wrong? The Bible specifically urges we lay hands suddenly on no one, that they not be a new convert, lest they be puffed up, and that they study to shew thyselves approved.
Frank Sandford was not a new convert in any sense of the word – but he had not studied to shew himself approved. He attended Bates College for 30 days, was ordained, and off and running. The Freewill Baptist denominations did this twice, where they’d take a man who’d never finished Bible College and made them a pastor. No kidding, they’re still doing it – a local Freewill Baptist church replaced a pastor with a man who’d graduated from business School, and he’s destroyed what was a strong church. Even the mice escaped that building.
Frank Sandford would create a storm of wreckage, and influence others. John Dowie, a faith healer from Australia and deep psychosis issues, would be influenced by Sandford. Charles Parham was also influenced by Sandford.
It seems that only E. W. Kenyon, out of the four, was completely indifferent to Sandford’s influence.
Sandford would go into and out of the ministry, and his behaviour was almost more that of a man with severe mental issues than a man of God. At one point, he was content to live in the basement of his in-law’s. He suffered from brief auditory hallucinations, hearing spoken words he attributed to being from God. He became convinced he was in turn King David, Elijah the prophet, and John the Baptist.
He decided to set up a religious commune in Durham, Maine, called Shiloh. If you drive from Lewiston to Durham, you’ll see what’s left of Shiloh – one building I think. It used to be three imposing buildings.
Everyone would pray for six hours every thursday. They would keep the laws of Moses. nobody could have any debt. And they were to seek the anointing of the holy ghost.
Dowie traveled to America at that time, and hearing of Sandford and Shiloh, starts Zion City after haunting the Chicago Word Fair for some time. Dowie, feeling himself to be a man of God, cannot be out-done by Sandford’s wild eye pronouncements, and eventually proclaims himself an apostle, then finally Elijah the prophet and high priest. So, America was blessed double that of Israel – we had two Elijah’s, and they only had one! Except theirs did amazing things, and ours only got people killed.
Charles Parham, who’d left a Methodist college (he was not getting specific Seminary training, despite what the histories say – I’ve got copies of his grades, and can tell you what classes he was taking!), was seeking how to teach the baptism of the Holy Ghost. So, he traveled to see A. B. Simpson, another mentally deranged Holiness teacher (read his Nyack diaries – it’s very sad to see untreated mental illness), then on to Shiloh, where he stays with Sandford for three months or so. He attempts to coerce Sandford, whose people were speaking what they thought were foreign languages without anyone to interpret, into getting his people to pray in unknown tongues. Sandford is brusque in his refusal, and Parham leaves to see Dowie.
Sandford goes into a rage, and institutes a purge. Everyone would have to undergo an inquisition, “fair, clear and terrible” as Sandford pronounces it (and yielding a book about Shiloh with that title). Several are foun d wanting and cast out. One or two of those are permitted back. The others, finding the thought of eating three meals a day exciting and new, decide death by starvation at Shiloh seems a little extreme, and they praise God that they’re out of there.
Parham says nothing about his time at Dowie’s. No doubt he found Dowie too deranged over the death of his youngest daughter years before and the shock of most of his first congregation dying from some virulent epidemic. So Parham returns home, full of Sandford’s doctrines but nothing in the way of Dowie. Parham then starts his Bethel Bible College, where Agnes Ozman – who apparently had been part of the group that had gone with Parham to Shiloh and Zion City – became the “First” to speak in tongues.
I’m surprised Sandford didn’t storm down to Kansas and beat Parham thoroughly, but at that time, Sandford was fixated on getting yachts to sail the world in, and proclaim himself King David over in Israel. And Sandford was convinced that he and one of his right hand men was going to be killed by the Antichrist in Jerusalem in a few months anyway.
Was Agnes Ozman the first to speak in tongues? No, she just had a far more effective press agent in Parham, who managed to spread the news far more effectively than Sandford. People had been speaking in tongues at Shiloh for over six years by the time Parham had visited. And the Fire Holiness movement has claimed to be speaking in tongues for seven years before Shiloh.
But Sandford set the pattern for all of them to follow. After Sandford was released in prison for the deaths of those who sailed the oceans with him, he retired in relative obscurity. No more healings. No more wild eyed pronouncements. And because he’d spent his time in prison teaching the inmates the Bible and baseball, he’d recovered much of his faculties. No more voices speaking to him. Or at least, he was recognizing them as a delusion, and ignoring them now. He was apparently, well, functional. And when questioned about the Pentecostal movement which had spread from one of Parham’s students, Sandford had only this to say: “It’s not of God, but a trick of the devil.”