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Visions of Glory: The Place of the Azusa Street Revival in Pentecostal History

  • Joe Creech (a1)


As news of the great Welsh Revival of 1904 reached Southern California, Frank Bartleman, an itinerant evangelist and pastor living in Los Angeles, became convinced that God was preparing to revitalize his beloved holiness movement with a powerful, even apocalyptic, spiritual awakening. Certain that events in Wales would be duplicated in California, Bartleman reported in 1905 that “the Spirit is brooding over our land.… Los Angeles, Southern California, and the whole continent shall surely find itself ere long in the throes of a mighty revival.” In 1906 he speculated that theSan Francisco earthquake “was surely the voice of God to the people on the Pacific Coast.” Bartleman indeed witnessed such a revival, for in early April 1906, this “Latter Rain” outpouring had begun to fall on a small gathering of saints led by William J. Seymour, a black holiness preacher. At a vacant AME mission at 312 Azusa Street, countless pentecostals received the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues—a “second Pentecost” replicating the first recorded in Acts 2. Bartleman, who also experienced this, would soon become integral to the revival's growth by reporting the events at Los Angeles within a vast network of holiness and higher life periodicals. As during other religious awakenings, such reports not only generated the perception of widespread divine activity but also provided an interpretive scheme for understanding the meaning of such activity. For Bartleman, Azusa was the starting point of a worldwide awakening that would initiate Christ's return. He reported: “Los Angeles seems to be the place, and this the time, in the mind of God, for the restoration of the church to her former place.”



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I wish to thank Edith Blumhofer, Richard Lamanna, George Marsden, Gary McGee, Russell Richey, Wayne Warner, John Wigger, and especially Grant Wacker for reading various versions of this essay, and the staff of the Assemblies of God Archives for their bibliographic assistance.

1. Quotations in Bartleman, Frank, “How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles,” in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1985), pp. 39, 53, 89;see also , Bartleman, “From Plow to Pulpit,” in Witness to Pentecost;, Bartleman, “How Pentecost Came,” pp. 596;, Bartleman, My Story: The Latter Rain (Columbia, S.C., 1909), pp. 736, 58;Vinson Synan's foreward to , Bartleman, Azusa Street (1925; repr. Plainfield, N.J., 1980); and Robeck, Cecil M.'s “Introduction” in Witness to Pentecost.

2. Assemblies of God, Spiritual Life Committee Report, 1991 General Council, pp. 1, 6. I am using the term “myth” to mean a sacred narrative that explains the origins and meaning of a particular religious group. For my views on the concept of “symbol,” see footnotes 26 and 28.

3. See , Bartleman, “How Pentecost Came,” p. 89;Taylor, G. F., “The Spirit and the Bride,” in Three Early Pentecostal Tracts, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1985), pp. 9396;Wacker, Grant, “Bibliography and Historiography,” in The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements [hereafter DPCM] (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1988), pp. 6576; and , Wacker, Augustus H. Strong and the Dilemma of Historical Consciousness (Macon, Ga., 1985), pp. 1113, 3941.

4. Advocating the “many fires” motif were Frodsham, Stanley (With Signs Following [1926; repr. Springfield, Mo., 1946], esp. pp. 7–8, 60–61, 230–241, 265),Gee, Donald (The Pentecostal Movement [London, 1941, 1949], pp. 3, 1114), and Lawrence, B. F. (“The Apostolic Faith Restored,” in Three Early Pentecostal Tracts, pp. 11, 5257, 113114).Goss, Ethel E., (Winds of God, rev. ed. [1958; repr. Hazlewood, Mo., 1977], chap. 4) and Parham, Sarah (The Life of Charles F. Parham, ed. Dayton, Donald [New York, 1985], chap. 17) emphasized Topeka and Azusa., Taylor (“Spirit and Bride,” pp. 92–93) andEwart, Frank (The Phenomenon of Pentecost [1947; repr. Hazlewood, Mo., 1975], pp. 23, 40–41, 64–70, 78, 92–93) mentioned other centers but saw Azusa as most important.See also , Charles W.Conn, Like a Mighty Army, rev. ed. (Cleveland, Tenn., 1977), p. xxiii;Nelson, Douglas J., “For Such a Time as This” (Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham, England, 1981), chap. 4; and Goff, James R., Fields White Unto Harvest (Fayetteville, Ark., 1988), pp. 1415.

5. , Wacker, “Bibliography,” p. 69. Synan has claimed that Bartleman's works “constituted the most complete and reliable record of what occurred at Azusa Street,” in his forward to Azusa Street, p. xi. See Nelson, pp. 112–119, 140–142;Nichol, John T., Pentecostalism (New York, 1966), pp. 3435;, Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1971), chap. 5;, Synan, In the Latter Days (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1984), esp. pp. 4849; and Hollenweger, Walter J., “Pentecostals and the Charismatic Movement,” in The Study of Spirituality, ed. Jones, Cheslyn, Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Yarnold, Edward (New York, 1986), pp. 549554.

6. Noll, Mark, History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1992), p. 387 (see also pp. 386–388, 541);Ahlstrom, Sydney, A Religious History of the American People (Garden City, N.J., 1975), 2:292293;Hudson, Winthrop, Religion in America, 3d ed. (New York, 1981), p. 347;and Albanese, Catherine, America: Religions and Religion (Belmont, Calif., 1981), p. 105. Mitigating Azusa's centrality are Goff, p. 11;McGee, Gary B., This Gospel Shall Be Preached (Springfield, Mo., 1986), pp. 4853;, Wacker, “The Functions of Faith in Primitive Pentecostalism,” Harvard Theological Review 77 (1984): 353356; and Blumhofer, Edith, Restoring the Faith (Urbana, Ill., 1993), pp. 4387.

7. For example, Barfoot, Charles H. and Sheppard, Gerald T., in “Prophetic vs. Priestly Religion,” Review of Religious Research 22 (1980): 217, argue that a “prophetic stage” of pentecostalism in which women enjoyed full participation in ministry (as at Azusa Street) degenerated into a “priestly stage” marked by restrictions on women's roles due to denomination building.See also Poloma, Margaret M., “Charisma and Institution,” Christian Century, 17 10 1990, pp. 933934;and Johns, Cheryl Bridges, “The Adolescence of Pentecostalism,” Pneuma 17 (1995): 38. For pentecostalism, routinization probably did not occur until the 1940s;see , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 4–6. Blumhofer has shown that early pentecostals were more hesitant to urge women into professional ministry than has often been assumed;see “Women in American Pentecostalism,” Pneuma 17 (1995): 1920; and , Blumhofer, “Assemblies of God,” DPCM, p. 26.

8. Lovett, Leonard, “Black Origins of the Pentecostal Movement,” in Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, ed. Synan, Vinson (Plainfield, N.J., 1975);Pluss, Jean-Daniel, “Azusa and Other Mythos,” Pneuma 15 (1993): 189201; Nelson, pp. 1–28, 201–208, 271;, Hollenweger, “Pentecostals,” pp. 249–254;MacRobert, Iain, “The Black Roots of Pentecostalism,” in Pentecost, Mission and Ecumenism, ed. Jongeneel, Jan A. B. (Frankfurt, Germany, 1992), pp. 7384;and , MacRobert, The Black Roots and White Racism of Early Pentecostalism in the U.S.A. (New York, 1988), pp. 8189. While Azusa and a few congregations were interracial, they were the exceptions to the rule in early pentecostalism. It is also unclear whether or not racial equality, even where it existed, was a core theological tenet;see Tyson, James L., The Early Pentecostal Revival (Hazelwood, Mo., 1992), pp. 193195. MacRobert and Cox may rely too much on Nelson's problematic conclusions.

9. Cox, Harvey, “Liberation and the Spirit,” Christian Century, 25 08 1993, p. 808.See also Cox's insightful Fire from Heaven (Reading, Mass., 1995).

10. , Goff, pp. 9–16;, Wacker, “Functions,” pp. 359–370;and , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 55–56.For Parham's life and theology, see Parham, C., “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness,” in The Sernwns of Charles F. Parham, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1985), esp. chaps. 3–5, 15;Parham, C., “The Everlasting Gospel,” in Sermons, pp. 6–18, 31–32, 53–76, 92–95;and Goss, pp. 39–47, 69.On the relationship of early pentecostals to other evangelicals, see , Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1987).

11. Parham, C., “Everlasting Gospel,” p. 55 (see also pp. 16–18);Parham, C., “Voice,” pp. 22, 39, 53, 62–63;Parham, S., pp. 72, 166–170; and Goff, pp. 106–133. Parham considered ecstasy a “negroism.”

12. , Wacker, “Playing For Keeps,” in The American Quest for the Primitive Church, ed. Hughes, Richard T. (Urbana, Ill., 1988), pp. 197215, quotation on p. 207.

13. The Apostolic Faith, September 1906, pp. 1, 2, 4; October 1906, pp. 1–3; November 1906, pp. 1–2; and January 1907, p. 2; all issues of The Apostolic Faith have been reprinted in Like as of Fire, ed. Corum, Fred T. (Wilmington, Mass., 1981);“How Pentecost Came,” esp. pp. 54–61, 89; and Robeck, C. M. Jr,, “Azusa Street Revival,” in DPCM, pp. 31–36. Parham was considered the leader or ‘projector” of Azusa until he renounced it in July 1906; see , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 55–56;Barratt, T. B., “When the Fire Fell,” in The Works of T. B. Barratt, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1985), p. 123;, C. Parham, “Everlasting Gospel,” pp. 55, 70–73, 118–121;and S. Parham, chap. 17.

14. In Lawrence, pp. 56–57.See also Carothers, W. F., Church Government (Houston, Tex., 1909), pp. 6264; letter from Agnes Ozman LaBerge to E. N. Bell, 28 February 1922, Assemblies of God Archives; Minutes from the First and Second General Councils of the Assemblies of God, 2–12 04 1914; 15–29 November 1914 (Springfield, Mo.), p. 1;and Goss, pp. 72–75.For the history and theology of the OAFM, see Goss;Corum, Fred T., The Sparkling Fountain (1983; repr. Windsor, Ohio, 1989);Lawrence, pp. 52–76;, Robeck, “Carothers, Worren Fay,” in DPCM, pp. 108109;Goff, pp. 87–146, 226–228;Wordand Witness, 20 August 1912, p. 2; 20 November 1913, p. 1; 20 January 1914, p. 1;, Carothers, pp. 7–8, 24;and Pentecostal Testimony, July 1910, p. 10.

15. , Lawrence wrote: “It is a significant fact that all the great impulses toward Bible order and unity have emanated from…this old ‘Apostolic Faith Movement’” (p. 55).See also Goff, pp. 108–110, 129;, Blumhofer, “Assemblies of God,” DPCM, p. 26; Carothers, pp. 13–18, 39–47, 52–54, 58;Goss, pp. 245–247, 258–282; and Word and Witness, 20 March 1913, p. 2; 20 June 1913, p. 2; 20 January 1914, p. 2; 20 May 1914, p. 1.

16. , Gee, pp. 13–14;The Apostolic Faith, 02/03 1907, p. 3;, Corum, pp. 24–25, 54–63, 110–133, 146–182;Goss, pp. 98–99;Lawrence, p. 66;Riss, R. M., “Cook, Glenn A.,” DPCM, pp. 224225;, Robeck, “Farrow, Lucy F.,” DPCM, pp. 302303; and , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 73–74. This same process took place, more or less, in the international pentecostal movement;see McGee, Gary, “Missions, Overseas (North America),” DPCM, pp. 610614; Lawrence, pp. 96–112; Nelson, pp. 73, 213, 252–253;Barratt, T. B., “In the Days of Latter Rain,” in Works, p. 144;and Barratt, “When the Fire,” pp. 103–105.

17. Synan, Vinson, “Cashwell, Gaston Barnabas,” DPCM, pp. 109110;, Synan, “International Pentecostal Holiness Church,” DPCM, pp. 467468;The Apostolic Faith, 12 1906, p. 3;, Taylor, pp. 39, 94–96;and , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 74–77.

18. Actually, the COG claims to be the sole progenitor of the pentecostal movement, purporting to have practiced glossolalia since a revival in Camp Creek, North Carolina, in 1896.

19. Crews, Mickey, The Church of God: A Social History (Knoxville, Tenn., 1990), pp. 320, 92–94, 163–167;Roebuck, David, “Perfect Liberty to Preach the Gospel,” Pneuma 17 (1995): 2532; Conn, p. 25; and Tomlinson, Homer, ed., Diary of A. J. Tomlinson, vol. 1, 1901–1923 (New York, 1949), pp. 5–9, 24–25, 68, 75–77.

20. On history, see , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 72–73, 79–81;Goff, pp. 120–127;S. Parham, chap. 16;Lawrence, p. 56;Goss, pp. 200–204;The Apostolic Faith, 02/03 1907, pp. 1, 4;Pentecostal Testimony, 01 1912, pp. 6–8;Latter Rain Evangel, 01 1910, pp. 2–7, and June 1911, p. 15;and Word and Witness, 20 August 1913, p. 1. For theology see Pentecostal Testimony, January 1912, pp. 1–6, 8–10, and July 1910, pp. 1–4; and Latter Rain Evangel, January 1909, pp. 3–5, December 1909, pp. 7–8, and September 1912, p. 12.Harlan, Rolvix describes Dowie's followers as “lower bourgeoisie” and of “below average intelligence,” and his leaders as well educated (as was Dowie) and upper class;see , Harlan, John Alexander Dowie and the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion (Evansville, Wise, 1906; repr. of Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago), pp. 14, 80, 177, and also pp. 3–17, 31–33, 150; and Wacker, Grant, “Marching to Zion”. Church History 54 (1985): 502505. For ethos, see Latter Rain Evangel, December 1908, pp. 9–10, 15–18; June 1911, p. 15; July 1912, p. 12; November 1912, pp. 6–7; and March 1913, p. 2;also Pentecostal Testimony, July 1910, p. 9.Demographic sources on Chicago pentecostals are scarce. My assessment is thus impressionistic and drawn mostly from the writings of pentecostals of Anglo and Northern European origin. Durham's congregation contained numerous Italians of occupations ranging from general laborers to mostly artisans and small business owners who may have held different views; see Riss, R. M., “Durham, William H.,” DPCM, pp. 255256; and Colletti, Joe, “Sociological Study of Italian Pentecostals in Chicago, 1900–1930,Papers of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the Society of Pentecostal Studies (n.p., 1986), pp. 622.

21. On history, see , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 77–79, 113–141;Anderson, Robert, Vision of the Disinherited (New York, 1979), pp. 142152, 171–194;Eleventh Annual Report of the Christian and Missionary Alliance: 1907–1908 (Nyack, N.Y., 1908), pp. 9, 10, 67, 70, 82;and Frodsham, pp. 44–47.Also, Flower, J. Roswell, a founder of the Assemblies of God from the CMA, is negative toward Seymour and states that there were no substantial ties between Azusa and CMA pentecostals;see his “History of the Assemblies of God,” typed lectures (Assemblies of God Archives, 1950), pp. 16–17. For descriptions of leaders and ethos, see Robinson, E. B., “Myland, David Wesley,” DPCM, p. 633;Pentecost in My Soul, ed. Blumhofer, Edith (Springfield, Mo., 1989), pp. 4160, 194–198; and Myland, D. Wesley, “The Latter Rain Covenant and Pentecostal Power,” in Three Early Pentecostal Tracts, p. 16. Fourteen of the CMA's thirty-nine early leaders had doctorates; see Niklaus, Robert, Sawin, John, and Stoesz, Samuel, All for Jesus (Camp Hill, Pa., 1986), pp. 257276.

22. See Blumhofer, Edith L., “Transatlantic Currents in North American Pentecostalism,” in Evangelicalism, Noll, Mark, Bebbington, David, and Rawlyk, George, eds. (New York, 1994), pp. 351361.O'Brien, Susan (“A Transatlantic Community of Saints,” American Historical Review 91 [1986]: 811823) and Crawford, Michael J. (Seasons of Grace [New York, 1991], pp. 3–6, 19–20, 29–36, 98–99, 124–138) have influenced my thoughts about the role of periodicals in the spread of revival.O'Brien notes that “correspondence” in the first Great Awakening "intensified their [the participants] emotional identification with one another and reinforced a set of beliefs and practices” (p. 823)., Crawford writes, “News of the itinerants' successes created new expectations, which fed new successes. An international network for exchanging revival news sustained the impression that the Holy Spirit was unusually active among congregations throughout Protestantism” (p. 141)

23. On Keswick and its relationship to pentecostals, see Marsden, George, Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, 1980), pp. 7280;Torrey, Reuben A., The Baptism With the Holy Spirit (New York, 1895);, Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, chaps. 3–5;and Anderson, chap. 2. For historical consciousness, see Simpson, A. B., The Coming One (New York, 1912), pp. 213214;, Simpson, The Gospel of the Kingdom (New York, 1890), pp. 1011;Dixon, A. C., Evangelism Old and New (New York, 1905), pp. 3440;Pierson, A. T., Forward Movements of the Last Half Century (New York, 1900), pp. v–viii, 223–224; and Gordon, A. J., The Ministry of the Spirit (New York, 1894), pp. x–xi.

24. , Pierson quoted in Bartleman, My Story, p. 58.See also , Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, pp. 11–12, 96;Weber, Timothy, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming (Chicago, 1983), chap. 1; Pierson, pp. viii, 389–421;Blackstone, W. E., Jesus is Coming (Chicago, 1908);Chapman, J. Wilbur, Present Day Evangelism (New York, n.d.), pp. 1559;Taylor, chap. 9;and Goff, p. 60.

25. For Latter Rain, see , Gordon, pp. 210–211;Brookes, James, An Outline of the Books of the Bible (Chicago, n.d.), pp. 4749; and Simpson, A. B., Holy Spirit, chap. 17. The notes on these passages in the Scofield Bible render the same interpretation.

26. , Shaw, for example, reported that, “a wave of power, without any human instrumentality, or anything external to cause it, would sweep over the mass of people”;see Shaw, S. B., The Great Revival in Wales (Chicago, 1905), p. 14. Quotations from Shaw, pp. 5, 43, 40. See also Shaw, pp. 5, 127; Goodrich, Arthur, et al. , The Story of the Welsh Revival (New York, 1905); and Stead, W. T. and Morgan, G. Campbell, The Welsh Revival (Boston, 1905).

27. , Blumhofer, “Restoration as Revival,” in Modern Christian Revivals, Blumhofer, and Balmer, Randall, eds. (Urbana, Ill., 1993), pp. 150152.

28. My thinking on the symbolic role of Azusa has been shaped in part by Geertz, Clifford, Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), pp. 8998;quotations from p. 91. I have made use of Geertz's ideas that symbols “function to synthesize a people's ethos…and their world view” (p. 89), that symbols function as both a “model of” and a “model for” a particular world view (p. 93), and that symbols are inherently motivational.On this latter point I have also been influenced by O'Brien, pp. 811–815, and Crawford, pp. 98–99.On glossolalia, see , Wacker, “Functions,” pp. 358–361;, Wacker, “Playing for Keeps,” pp. 204–205;and , Blumhofer, “Restoration as Revival,” pp. 145–148.

29. For quotations see, in order, , Bartleman, “How Pentecost Came,” p. 89;and The Apostolic Faith, January 1907, p. 4;see also Taylor, pp. 96–99.For Bartleman's mimicry of Shaw, see citations in note 12. For pentecostal premillennialism, see Pentecostal Testimony, June 1910, pp. 1–4;Taylor, pp. 95–99; The Apostolic Faith, January 1907, pp. 1–2;Word and Witness, 20 November 1913, p. 1; and , Cox, Fire from Heaven, chap. 6.

30. , Frodsham, pp. 7–8;Baker, Elizabeth V., Chronicles of a Faith Life, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1984), pp. 134136, 141–143. For more accounts, see Flower, J. Roswell, “Introduction,” in Winehouse, Irwin, The Assemblies of God (New York, 1959), pp. 1314; Pentecost in My Soul, p. 57;Carrie Judd Montgomery, “Under His Wings,” in The Life and Teachings of Carrie Judd Montgomery, ed. Dayton, Donald (New York, 1985), pp. 163165, 170; Latter Rain Evangel, 07 1910, pp. 2–4, 6;, Bartleman, ‘How Pentecost Came,” pp. 20–21, 39, 53, 56, 62–64, 89–91; Baker, pp. 34, 96–97;Berends, Kurt O., “Cultivating for a Harvest: The Early Life of Alice Belle Garrigus,” Pneuma 17 (1995): 4248; and Wacker, , “Playing for Keeps,” pp. 204–205. My stress on the reciprocal nature of theology and experience has been influenced by Geertz, pp. 91–98; , Crawford, pp. 3–6;, Wacker, “Functions,” pp. 366–370;Lawson, E. Thomas and McCauley, Robert, Rethinking Religion (Cambridge, U.K., 1990), chaps. 1, 4, 7; and Lindbeck, George, The Nature of Doctrine (Philadelphia, Pa., 1984), pp. 18, 30–45, 79–84., Wacker has written in “Playing for Keeps” (p. 204) that for pentecostals, in the “elaborate scheme called dispensational premillennialism…powerful religious experiences and the theological interpretation of those experiences became functionally inseparable.”


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