CRAIG VON BUSECK: You've written a book that will be released
soon called "The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal
and Charismatic Renewal." On January 1, 2001, the Church celebrates
the 100th anniversary of the Pentecostal Movement -- an event
in history that has revolutionized the Church over the last
century. Can you tell us about the earliest days of the Pentecostal
renewal? How did it begin and what caused it to grow?
DR. VINSON SYNAN: The background of it was the Holiness Movement
that had been around for the whole 19th century -- mainly from
Methodist roots. The Methodists had sort of read these people
out of the church by 1894 and there were a lot of people, maybe
100,000 in America, who were seeking a deeper walk with God
in what they called the second blessing of sanctification, which
they also called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
And so as the new century came on the world, there were people
who believed there would be a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit
to usher in a new century -- a century of world evangelization.
This movement started in Topeka, Kan., in a Bible school led
by a former Methodist pastor, Charles Fox Parham. In a watch
night service, December 31, 1900, going over into the very first
day of the century, a young lady by the name of Agnes Ozman
asked the teacher and the students to lay hands on her and to
pray that she would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. She expected
to speak with tongues in what they call the Bible evidence.
Well, she did speak with tongues. They said she spoke the Chinese
language. She was unable to speak English for three days. When
they tied speaking with tongues to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,
that's what created the Pentecostal Movement. Then not only
tongues, but healing, casting out of demons, prophecy and many
other gifts of the Spirit began to be manifested there in Topeka.
It spread from there down to Houston, Texas, where a black
man, William Joseph Seymour, was brought into the movement by
Parham. Then he went to Los Angeles in 1906 in the famous Azusa
Street Meeting. From there that movement spread all over the
earth -- overnight almost. It was a tremendous beginning for
VON BUSECK: Church historians have given evidence of times
of "tongues speaking" occurring in different areas and in different
times since the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost.
Though speaking in tongues was manifested at times, no one was
taught to seek for the experience as they were taught to seek
for justification, sanctification and so forth. What was it
that inspired Charles Parham to encourage his Bible students
to seek the "Baptism of the Holy Ghost?"
SYNAN: Well, he had studied the teachings of the Holiness Movement,
including salvation, sanctification, healing, and the Second
Coming. And he noticed that there was no standard evidence of
receiving the second blessing -- Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Some people said you would shout or weep or fall on the floor.
The way he tells it, he was teaching his students the major
doctrines of the Holiness Movement at that time, and when he
got to Baptism in the Holy Spirit, he told his students there
are many different ideas of how you know you've received this.
He said, "I'm going on a weekend preaching revival at a Free
Methodist church in Kansas City." And he gave a homework assignment
to the students. He said, "Study the Scriptures and when I get
back report on what is the Bible evidence. How do you know you
received the Holy Spirit?"
Well, when he got back, the students said, to tell the truth,
when we study the Scriptures, we see that they spoke with tongues
in almost every case. If you want to know what the Bible evidence
is, it has to be tongues. He said he was astonished at the answer.
There are other people who believe that he already knew what
the answer was and that he was trying to get the students to
J. Roswell Flower, the founding secretary of the Assemblies
of God, said, "Agnes Ozman's experience [being baptized in the
Holy Spirit] made the 20th century Pentecostal Movement." After
this, millions of people sought to receive an instantaneous
Baptism in the Spirit, expecting to speak with tongues. That's
what made it different from the Holiness Movement and other
movements of the day.
VON BUSECK: As you said, six years after Agnes Ozman was baptized
in the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal Movement was launched to
the world at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. What happened
at those meetings that caused such a tremendous outpouring?
SYNAN: I've studied this for most of my life and there are
people writing books and doing research on Azusa Street. There's
nothing, humanly-speaking, that we can come up with that explains
everything about Azusa Street. It has to be, in my view, a supernatural
work of God. Here is a black pastor born in Louisiana to parents
who had been slaves. He had been to Indianapolis and worked
at a railroad station and as a waiter in restaurants. He had
gotten into the Holiness Movement and had learned about tongues
from Parham. He was invited to California to preach in a little
black holiness church. They locked the door on him. He had not
spoken in tongues yet, but he preached that it was the evidence.
Then he started holding prayer meetings in the home of a friend
by the name of Asbury. For maybe two weeks they prayed and fasted.
And then they began to speak in tongues in that prayer meeting
in the home. And the crowds grew so large until he would speak
on the front porch to hundreds of people on the streets.
They had to find a place to meet. They looked around downtown
Los Angeles and found an old AME (African Methodist Episcopal)
Church, which is now the First AME Church of Los Angeles. It
was the first black church building in Los Angeles. But it had
been sold and used as a stable and a lumber warehouse and all
kinds of stuff. It was a broken-down shambles of a building.
It had been burned and it looked terrible. But Seymour and his
followers, made up mainly of black porters, washer women, maids
-- just very poor people -- started a meeting in April of 1906.
The central attraction was speaking in tongues and healing.
People came from all over Los Angeles and then it got into the
religious press. Stories were printed all over the country that
people were speaking in tongues just like the apostles did.
And so there was a lot of curiosity. People came from all over
the country, and even from Europe. That meeting went on for
three-and-a-half years -- three services a day, seven days a
week. The pastor was a black man, but soon the majority of the
people were white. And so it was Azusa Street with Seymour that
made this a worldwide movement through Frank Bartleman, who
wrote articles that went all over the world. Soon people were
speaking in tongues in Jerusalem, in Stockholm, in London and
Rome -- all over the world, it just spread like an explosion.
VON BUSECK: Who were some of the most important leaders in
the Pentecostal movement in the first half of the 20th century?
Who were the key leaders, and can you tell us about them?
SYNAN: Well, the leadership changed. Nobody stayed in charge
for very long. In fact, they often say it is a movement without
a man. There's no Luther, there's no Calvin, there's no Wesley
who molded the movement into one church. It exploded and there
were many churches starting all over, everywhere.
The first leader, of course, was Parham. Now he's the leader
for about five years. Then Seymour, for three-and-a-half or
four years, becomes the national leader. Then he drops out of
sight because the mailing list for his paper called "Apostolic
Faith" was moved to Portland, Ore.
Then the leadership moves to Chicago -- I call it the Chicago
connection. William H. Durham was the pastor of the First Pentecostal
Church in Chicago. From his church came all kinds of leaders.
Italians spread Pentecostalism all over the world in Italian
communities. From Chicago came Willis Hoover in Chile. He started
the first Pentecostal movement in South America. From the Chicago
area came Daniel Bergan Goonivingren, who went to Brazil and
started a mass movement there. Durham was the founding theologian
of the Assemblies of God was in the Chicago area.
In Memphis you have Charles Harrison Mason, who goes to Azusa
Street, is baptized in the Spirit, comes back and turns his
church, Church of God in Christ, into a Pentecostal church.
And so Memphis becomes a great center. That has become the largest
Pentecostal church in America with six million members.
And there were others here and there. In my church, I come
from the Pentecostal Holiness Church, a man from Dunn, N.c.,
G. B. Cashwell went to Azusa Street and spoke in tongues. They
said he spoke in German. He came back to Dunn and held a Pentecostal
meeting, which they called Azusa Street east. And there, leaders
of four or five different Holiness denominations came, spoke
with tongues, and the Pentecostal Holiness churches became Pentecostal;
through his ministry the Church of God in Cleveland, Tenn.,
became Pentecostal. So you see it spreading.
And then it breaks out in Europe with Thomas Ball Berritt;
Louise Patros in Sweden; it goes into Russia with J. A. Voreniov;
into Korea -- it spreads all over the earth in a very short
VON BUSECK: Some of the strongest churches and denominations
that we have today grew out of the Pentecostal Movement -- denominations
like the Pentecostal Holiness Church, The Assemblies of God,
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, The Church
of God in Christ and others were birthed at that time. Why have
these denominations prospered around the world in light of the
fact that many started with very humble beginnings?
SYNAN: The only thing I can say is that they released a tremendous
power -- the power of the Holy Spirit -- and not just tongues,
but all the gifts were released into the church. These people
were excited. They believed Jesus was coming any moment. They
had to win the world before Christ returned. That gave them
a big motivation.
I think it was the joy of worship -- the power of praising
God, singing in the Spirit, clapping their hands, dancing before
the Lord. It was a very expressive kind of worship. It attracted
poor people, mainly. But in time, by the middle of the 20th
century, it was going into Episcopal churches, Lutheran, Presbyterian,
and even the Catholic Church. But I think the growth came because
very simple people believed God.
In the religious world there were a lot of people who said
we see the power of God working. It was noisy and it was messy.
These people shouted, they danced, but the common people heard
this message gladly. The movement spread like wildfire all over
this nation and all over the world.
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