Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Best Sources for Apostolic Pentecostal History

Several of you have asked me about the best sources for Apostolic (Oneness) Pentecostal history. Without a doubt, the 2 best books for this study are

*David Reed's "In Jesus' Name: The History and Beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals" (Deo Publishing, 2007).

*Talmadge French's "Early Oneness Pentecostalism, G. T. Haywood, and the Interracial Pentecostal Assemblies of the World" (2011 Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Birmingham).

Reed—Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology and Research Professor at Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada—offers the best comprehensive look at the roots of Oneness Pentecostalism in Pietism and late 19th-century evangelicalism as well as the formative of years of the new movement between the Azusa revival (1906-07) and the "New Issue" in the Assemblies of God (1914-16). His insights about the influence of William Durham on early Oneness leaders like Frank Ewart, Glenn Cook, Robert McAlister, and Franklin Smalls are original and invaluable. Because of this work, I realize the need to go back and read Durham's published work and periodical articles from 1908 to his untimely death in 1911 and to better address the special challenge of separating later remembrances of Oneness leaders from the contemporary witness of primary documents, especially the abundant, but not always easily accessed, Pentecostal periodical literature of 1900-20. Reed also includes a survey of Oneness teachings under the banner: “The Theology of Oneness Pentecostalism.”

French, an Atlanta pastor and former UPCI Bible college instructor (and my old compatriot from Apostolic Bible Institute), offers an astounding amount of information I have never seen before about the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World—both before and after its embrace of Jesus' name baptism and the "one God" message. The short-lived movement of the New Issue men into the PAW after their exit from the Assemblies of God in 1916, their subsequent departure, and the ensuing independent trajectory of the PAW's history (in contrast with the predominantly white Oneness organizations we are familiar with through Clanton's "United We Stand") are all eye-opening. The dividing power of race and the impact of Jim Crow laws and attitudes among southern Pentecostals make for an interesting backdrop of controversy in contrast to the tales of "unity out of confusion" that are usually told (not only in the denominational "histories" (hagiographies), but also in William Menzies' thesis of white Oneness consolidation and black Apostolic diffusion that informed my earlier research). In French's hand, the founders of Oneness Pentecostalism become three-dimensional men that show shortcomings amidst greatness and greatness amidst shortcoming. He has produced a very readable work despite the often confining form of a dissertation.

While I do not agree with every detail of these two works, I endorse them wholeheartedly as well-documented, thoroughly informative works and as the springboards for all such future research. Whatever shortcomings you might find, their benefits will far outweigh any reservations you might have.

Both books are available at

P.S. I have not read Daniel Seagraves’ dissertation, “Andrew D. Urshan: A Theological Biography.” David Reed holds this work in high regard.


  1. I had a look at Talmadge French's dissertation, and yes, it is very well done! Thanks for the tip!

  2. We might add Steve Graham's MA thesis (Wheaton College, 1982) on Andrew Urshan to the list. It is "shortish" by comparison to the dissertations, but still quite helpful.

    Also, Grant Wacker's HEAVEN BELOW (2001) is the best (and quite readable) history of early Pentecostalism. More recently, R.G. Robins' PENTECOSTALISM IN AMERICA (2010) is a great survey of the movement.

  3. I definitely support Snyder's recommendations, especially the work by Grant Wacker.

  4. Thanks for this list of books!