Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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The "New Issue": Institutional Separation

[This post presents chapter 2 from my dissertation, The People of the Name: Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States (Florida State University, 1985).  This chapter focuses on the Frank Ewart - G. T. Haywood - W. T. Witherspoon school of oneness thought which holds all “3 steps” of Acts 2:38 – repentance, water baptism administered by immersion with the invocation of the name “Jesus,” and Spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia – as necessary for the “new birth” or “full salvation.” This view was rivaled by a “2 step” view which holds the more traditional classical Pentecostal view that “new birth” occurs at repentance and Spirit baptism is “subsequent to and distinct from” the new birth. See Thomas Fudge’s Christianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism for a full discussion of these competing doctrines of salvation.]

Excitement and uncertainty surrounded the formative years of American Pentecostalism. Religious ecstasy bound the diverse elements that participated in the 1906-07 Azusa revivals in Los Angeles. From these promising, but meager beginnings, Pentecostal victories soon resounded in the South and Midwest. Opposition, however, grew alongside the Pentecostal congregations. Newspaper editors chided the eccentricity of ecstatic worship, while denominational leaders rejected the Pentecostal claims of superior religious experience. Even more foreboding, doctrinal conflict emerged from the haze of ecstasy that before had clouded the differences among American Pentecostals. In 1908, controversy raged over the nature of sanctification and threatened to end the early harmony. By 1910, the fire of Azusa had been extinguished and with it the central unifying symbol of the now scattered Pentecostals faded. Regional organizations—many formed from existing Holiness bodies that converted to Pentecostalism en masse—hoped to avert any dissolution. Similarly, large camp meetings sought to consolidate the movement, but failed to match the nationwide scale of the recent revivals. Five years after its inception, the solidarity of Azusa was long since passed and it appeared that American Pentecostalism would become diffuse, regional, and ultimately powerless.

Envisioned as a nationwide organization, the Assemblies of God sought to bind up the remnants of the Pentecostal revivals and to provide structure for effective evangelistic, educational, and missionary action. With strong anti-creedal sentiment, the Assemblies' founders rejected the confining parameters of a firm doctrinal statement and emphasized instead the Pentecostal experience—the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by glossolalia—as the movement's unifying factor. Officially organized in Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 2-12, 1914, the Assemblies of God emphatically pronounced that members of the new body “do not believe in identifying ourselves as, or establishing ourselves into, a sect, that is a human organization that legislates or forms laws and ARTICLES OF FAITH [emphasis mine] and has unscriptural lines of fellowship and disfellowship.”1

The purpose of the new organization was not to "legislate laws," "usurp authority," or "deprive rights and privileges," but rather to "recognize scriptural methods and order for worship, unity, and fellowship."2 Adopting only the most general statement of the sufficiency of the scriptures in matters of faith and practice, the new organization avoided potentially schismatic doctrinal debate. A guiding maxim epitomized the spirit of the new body: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come together in the unity of the faith."3

But this attitude of tolerance was soon to be tested. The New Issue, or Oneness, Controversy challenged the organizing principles of the new body and resulted in a crippling schism three years later. Boasting of new revelation, several Pentecostal leaders began preaching an innovative baptismal formula, a reevaluation of the person of Jesus, and a denial of Trinitarianism. Many ministers converted to this new doctrine, including the Assemblies of God General Chairman, E. N. Bell, and the most important leader in black Pentecostalism, G. T. Haywood. When entire congregations followed these leaders, a growing rift threatened the unity of the new body.

The New Issue controversy had been born unexpectedly and unobtrusively amidst the excitement of the "Worldwide" Pentecostal Camp Meeting held in the Highland Park area outside Los Angeles in April 1913. This, and other, increasingly centralized camp meetings rallied Pentecostal strength for evangelistic appeal. Effused with enthusiasm and eschatological hope, these camp meetings became the seed beds of new thought that would, in turn, be quickly disseminated throughout the movement by those in attendance.

Large crowds gathered at the "Worldwide" Pentecostal Camp Meeting to hear the ministry of Mary B. Woodworth-Etter, the foremost Pentecostal woman evangelist and faith healer. The grand scale of the meeting led to an atmosphere of inquisitive, restless expectancy. An early sermon from Jeremiah 31:22 stressed the expectancy that God was about to perform some "new thing" among these believers. Frank J. Ewart, a later New Issue leader who was present at the camp meeting, echoed this expectation.

The very suggestion that God was doing a New Thing struck fire in the minds and hearts of the saints. From that point on, one could hear expressions of hope that God would do a New Thing for His people.4

Into this otherwise typical Pentecostal camp meeting, doctrinal conflict appeared. R. E. McAlister, a Canadian evangelist, sparked this dissension with a casual remark during a baptismal service. While instructing the candidates, he compared several different understandings of the baptismal mode and refuted various false views with the abrupt declaration that Christ's apostles (as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles) always baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus rather than the triune formula. McAlister asserted, "The words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in the early church in Christian baptism."5 His shocked listeners voiced a hasty rebuke and forced McAlister to clarify his position: the apostolic use of the name of Jesus in baptism by no means negated the effectiveness of the triune formula.6

But this explanation did not satisfy all those present. McAlister's statements so arrested one man, John G. Sheppe, that he spent an entire night in prayer and Bible study, to emerge the next morning shouting throughout the camp that God had revealed to him "the truth of baptism in Jesus name."7 Such "revelations" were common during the Pentecostal revivals and would later become a point of contention among those demanding biblical confirmation of doctrinal matters. Howard Goss, a Oneness minister, wrote

A preacher who did not dig up some new slant on a Scripture or get some new revelation to his own heart ever so often; a preacher who did not propagate it, defend it, and if necessary, be prepared to lay down his life for it, was considered slow, stupid, unscriptural.8

More significant than its impact on Sheppe, McAlister's declaration awakened the thoughts of Frank Ewart, the earliest formulator of New Issue ideas. Ewart, an Australian, had served as a Baptist missionary in Victoria, but poor health forced him to settle in a pastorate near Winnipeg. Exposed to the Pentecostal revivals, Ewart fully accepted the Pentecostal message in Portland, Oregon in 1908. As he began to proclaim his new understanding of Spirit baptism and glossolalia to his congregation, his Baptist superiors dismissed him. Moving to Los Angeles, Ewart became William Durham's assistant at the Seventh Street Mission and assumed full responsibility for the work with Durham's death in 1912.9

When the "Worldwide" Pentecostal Camp Meeting ended, Ewart met with McAlister to discuss harmonizing the triune baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 and the apostolic formula of Acts 2:38. Shortly after this meeting, Ewart left the Seventh Street Mission and established a new work on Main Street aided by McAlister and Glenn A. Cook. Throughout the winter of 1913-14, Ewart honored his ministerial associations, not baptizing in "Jesus name," but all the while wrestling with his conscience and studying the divine name in both biblical testaments. Observing that the Old Testament designations for God were repeated concerning Jesus in the New Testament, Ewart "discovered that Jehovah of the Old Testament was Jesus of the New Testament." With this insight, he expounded the new baptismal formula based on a new doctrine of the name and nature of God. Asserting that "Jesus" was the proper and redemptive name of God, Ewart argued that baptism must be administered in "Jesus name." The application of Old Testament monotheism to the person of Jesus and the subsequent denial of the Trinitarian conception of God—both implicit in Ewart's "theology of the Name"—followed from his new understanding of the divine name and baptism.10 Ultimately, Ewart preached his first "public sermon" calling for baptism in "Jesus name" on April 15, 1914. Realizing their own need for rebaptism, Ewart and Cook publicly baptized one another in "Jesus name."

Equipped with Ewart's new theology, the "Jesus name" movement spread throughout the Midwest in late 1914 and early 1915. Ewart's periodical, “Meat In Due Season”, which offered glorious testimonials to the "greater blessings" received with the "new light" message, greatly influenced this advance. Glenn Cook's evangelistic tour in January 1915 reaped many crops sown by Ewart's periodical. His initial success occurred at Mother Mary Barnes' Faith Home in St. Louis, where the entire staff was rebaptized.11 With this foothold, Cook pioneered revivals in Indiana, Oklahoma, and several southern states.

The new movement made particularly important strides among black Pentecostals in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here, L. V. Roberts and his entire congregation submitted to rebaptism after hearing Cook. G. T. Haywood and his congregation followed this example, with Haywood receiving a "personal revelation" after a visit to Cook's home. J. Roswell Flower, the young General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, sent a letter warning his good friend Haywood to avoid this new error. Haywood replied, "Your warning came too late. I have already accepted the message and been rebaptized."12 Many black pastors emulated Haywood's shift, bringing a substantial portion of Midwestern black Pentecostalism into the new movement. Haywood's periodical, “A Voice in the Wilderness”, soon replaced “Meat In Due Season” as the most widely read New Issue publication.13

By spring 1915, the "Jesus name" movement saturated American "Finished Work" Pentecostalism. The efforts of R. E. McAlister and Franklin Small made inroads into Canada. Louisiana became the stronghold of the New Issue when all the Assemblies of God ministers shifted to the new position.14 Many key Pentecostal leaders likewise converted to the "new light" message at this time: C. C. Hall, George B. Studd, Elmer K. Fisher, R. J. Scott, W. T. Witherspoon, Delmer White, E. G. Lowe, W. L. Stallowes, and Harry Morse.15

Although not fully understood, the danger of the new doctrine became obvious to the leadership of the Assemblies of God, personified in Bell and Flower. As the new understanding of God and the demand for rebaptism persisted, the new movement leaned ever closer to an exclusive doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Seeking to prove the necessity of baptism in "Jesus name," the New Issue thinkers Haywood and Ewart first sought to prove the necessity of water baptism for salvation in contrast to the official Assemblies of God position. Appealing to Clarke's Commentary, which equated the "born of" of the New Birth passage (John 3:3-5) with the "baptized with/in" of Acts 2:38, the New Issue advocates linked the imperative of "birth by water," or water baptism, with the command to baptize in "Jesus name." Apparently as an afterthought, Spirit baptism (Acts 2:38) was also linked to the imperative of "birth by the Spirit" (John 3:5), equating for the first time the Pentecostal experience with conversion.16 This intricate reinterpretation of passages produced a well-defined "plan of salvation" based on Acts 2:38: repentance, water baptism administered in "Jesus name," and Spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia. In the New Issue mentality, these three steps were essential to Christian salvation and those not participating in them were held as deficient and not truly saved. (Thus, the semantic differentiation between "salvation" and "full salvation.") Glenn Cook's description of "Jesus name" baptism as the "water test" of sincerity and truth summed up the sectarian quality of the New Issue.17

As the dispute became volatile, Bell and Flower began defending the triune formula in the pages of “Word and Witness” and the “Weekly Evangel.” From March to July 1915, the call to moderation and orthodoxy emerged as the official Assemblies of God position.18 These articles attacked "Jesus name" baptism as novel, rather than as a return to apostolic practice. Bell and Flower likewise rejected the unbiblical practice of rebaptism and sought to discredit the claims of mass conversion to the New Issue. Arguing that the New Issue interpretation of ecclesiastical history was at best imaginative, Bell contended that the early church recognized a variety of baptismal formulas and that to act "in the name of Christ" was merely to act with his authority or in his stead. Above all, these articles isolated the real issue as the divisiveness of a doctrine of baptismal regeneration and the growing sectarianism of the New Issue advocates.19 These articles provided the ammunition for the future Assemblies of God attacks on New Issue doctrine. But within the next few months, the hierarchy of the fledgling organization splintered and threatened the much lauded unity of the body. Most surprisingly, Bell, the orthodox defender, defected to the New Issue party in late July 1915.

Dismaying his colleagues, Bell submitted to rebaptism in "Jesus name" at the Third Interstate Encampment of the Assemblies of God in Jackson, Tennessee. With Bell and H. G. Rogers officiating, the first services of the meeting were uninspired and the converts few. New Issue believers in attendance vocally decried Bell's rejection of the new message as the reason for this failure. Sorely troubled, Bell confided his doubts to Rogers and they sent for L. V. Roberts, a New Issue evangelist, to conduct the remainder of the meeting.

Startling success followed Roberts' sermons. Convinced by the results, Bell and Rogers submitted to rebaptism in the apostolic formula with sixty-eight others following their example, including eleven area pastors. The news of Bell's rebaptism brought a curious crowd of four thousand to the final service of the meeting.20 The swelling crowds only served to confirm Bell's experience and sent him boldly defending the position he had once attacked.

Bell spent the remainder of the summer fulfilling previous ministerial obligations. In each instance, he met with area pastors, discussed their differences, and sought permission to preach his new understanding. This new approach met little grassroots opposition. Not surprisingly, Bell avoided the Assemblies of God headquarters and the showdown with his fellow officials that was sure to follow. Bell's editorial duties fell to Flower.

By late August 1915, the news of Bell's defection filtered throughout the new body and prompted much confusion and hostility. In defense, Bell submitted an explanatory article—entitled "Who Is Jesus Christ?: Jesus Christ, Rediscovered as Jehovah of the Old Testament"—to both the “Weekly Evangel” and “Word and Witness.”21 But Flower rejected this offensive title substituting the less volatile word "exalted" in the subtitle and omitting Bell's testimony to rebaptism. New Issue advocates hastily charged that Flower "mutilated" the article.22

Actually Bell's article was rather tame by later New Issue standards, but Bell played a key role in sensitizing the Assemblies' leadership to the full scope of the debate. Following the usual pattern of comparing Old and New Testament texts, Bell also appealed to Colossians 2:9, "For in him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Interpreting this passage quantitatively, Bell understood Christ as the embodiment of the entire Trinity rather than merely the incarnate Son and, thus, formed a middle ground in the debate which properly "exalted Jesus," but did not deny classical Trinitarianism.

"Who Is Jesus Christ?" brought accolades from New Issue advocates, but intensified hostilities among the Assemblies of God leaders. Bell tried to defuse the situation with further articles in which he argued that he sought neither to cause division nor to force any issue of controversy in the body.23 He also contended that his experience was not to serve as a standard for others and urged that his example be followed only if conscience demanded. Most significantly, the moderate Bell denounced the "errors" associated with the New Issue: the identification of the New Birth and water baptism and the equating of Spirit baptism and conversion. Bell's unique stance in the New Issue became clear in these articles: although the discussion of the divine name had led him to a new understanding of the person of Christ, he did not promote the sectarian spirit of the movement.

Despite Bell's moderation, the Assemblies' leadership felt the need for quick action to preserve the unity of the organization. Usurping leadership over the lackluster interim chairman, Arch P. Collins, Flower alerted the Executive Presbyters and arranged for a General Council in October 1915.24 Many of the movement's founders had been swept into the New Issue (including Bell, Howard Goss, and D. C. O. Opperman), leaving the remainder, led by Flower and J. W. Welch, to respond to the new threat. The power politics and secret arrangements of the following year insured the ascendancy of this group and the dominating positions of Flower and Welch in the future of the Assemblies of God.

Labeled an "experiment in liberality,"25 the 1915 General Council convened October 1. Welch and Flower controlled the meeting in the absence of General Chairman Collins and Assistant Chairman Opperman. Flower called the meeting to order and arranged for the selection of Welch as temporary chairman.26 Together, Flower and Welch pushed for an exclusive doctrinal statement to define the boundaries of fellowship with New Issue doctrines and adherents, of course, outside orthodox circles.
Despite several days of debate and the machinations of Flower and Welch, the Council reached no final word regarding baptismal formula. Succinctly, the Council refused "to attempt to bind the conscience of men on this matter." Ministers retained "perfect liberty to baptize such persons whose consciences are not satisfied that they have fully obeyed God in Christian baptism."27 Carl Brumback records, "The general conviction prevailed that all should wait patiently for another year, allowing time for prayerful study of the Word, before reaching a definite conclusion."28

Despite this hopeful optimism, the "experiment in liberality" was flawed. The "spirit of Hot Springs" began to crack with the Council's listing of doctrines disapproved by the majority. Of the five listed, the final four directly addressed the New Issue.

1. The use of fermented wine in the communion service.

2. The failure to distinguish between the blood and the Holy Spirit.

3. The confusion of the New Birth with the baptism or filling with the Spirit.

4. The identification of the Father as the Son.

5. The identification of Christ as the Holy Spirit.29

Also New Issue ministers received no committee appointments. Welch officially replaced Bell as editor. Orthodox ministers replaced New Issue sympathizers—Bell, Opperman, Goss, and B. F. Lawrence—on the Executive Presbytery. The peace of the 1915 General Council more resembled an "armed truce."30

New Issue advocates took this new tolerance as license to propagate their message with greater fervor. Their renewed aggressiveness and increasingly sectarian claims thwarted the proposed "experiment in liberality" and moved the Assemblies' leaders to eliminate the problem altogether. Dominated by Welch and Flower, the “Weekly Evangel” and “Word and Witness” officially followed the Council's policy of moderation31, but actually spoke the strongest against the New Issue.32 This policy evoked a dire warning from Glenn Cook to Flower: "Roswell, if you fight against this Oneness message, the whole printing plant will be a pile of junk in six weeks."33 Tensions mounted throughout the year with personalities clashing as often as beliefs. By summer 1916, schism was imminent. Welch's call for an "Open Bible Council" to decide the issue demonstrated the extent of the hostilities and the determination of the orthodox party to end the debate.

The time has come for the interpretation of what scriptural teaching and conduct is. The time of shaking and solidifying is here. The great shaking has begun and all that can be disturbed will be shaken into separation from that which is settled in God. This will not all be done in a few days of Council, but lines will doubtless be drawn.34

The 1916 General Council, opening on October 2, erupted in a blaze of debate. The New Issue men boasted of a mass defection into their ranks, but the meeting rested firmly in Trinitarian hands. Flower engineered the appointment of a "wholly orthodox" committee, including T. K. Leonard, S. A. Jamieson, D. W. Kerr, S. H. Frodsham, and E. N. Bell, to prepare a doctrinal statement.35 The proposed statement of faith was primarily the work of David Warren Kerr of Cleveland, Ohio, a shy, withdrawn minister originally of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. After a personal struggle with New Issue doctrine, Kerr prepared a lengthy defense of Trinitarianism, much of which was incorporated into the "Statement of Fundamental Truths."

When presented, this statement evoked more discussion of its creedal nature than its specifics. Recognizing that their unique understanding of God and demand for rebaptism stood little chance of Council approval, the New Issue advocates focused all their efforts to block any binding doctrinal statement and appealed to the promise of the Hot Springs Council to never disfellowship anyone accepting the basic Pentecostal message. The Trinitarians countered that the intent of the liberality of the Hot Springs Council was to prevent rather than promote sectarianism. The Hot Springs Council had called for the recognition of scriptural methods and for rules regulating "unity, fellowship, and work," but had also called for disapproval of all unscriptural methods and conduct—in this case, New Issue doctrine and practice.36

When their attempt to block any statement of faith failed, the New Issue men, led most vocally by Haywood, Goss, Opperman, Roberts, Rogers, and Ewart, voted en bloc against every portion of the statement, even those portions with which they concurred. This stance evoked such hostility on the Council floor that the debate drifted into a less than gentlemanly scuffle. Deterred by the bitter words passed, the New Issue leaders recognized the futility of any further action and withdrew from the discussion.

The 1916 General Council adopted the "Statement of Fundamental Truths," of which roughly one-half addressed the New Issue error. Traditional Trinitarianism, expressed in Athanasian and Augustinian terms, predominated. Further instructions to the Credentials Committee insured against a resurgence of any unorthodox position. With this thorough repudiation, the New Issue ministers withdrew from the Assemblies of God, shrinking its ranks from 585 to 429 ministers. These homeless ministers passed from view briefly, only to reappear in new Oneness bodies as early as December 1916. Under the reins of Welch and Flower, the Assemblies of God, shaken by the New Issue, steered back to the course of orthodoxy and stability.

The New Issue controversy, with its doctrinal and organizational ramifications, began as an evangelical awakening of sincere minds, but soon swelled into a numerical and doctrinal threat to the status quo unity of the Assemblies of God. Nurtured by poor exegesis, misapplied literalism, and the lack of sufficient rebuttal, the New Issue shifted from an academic debate concerning the baptismal formula to a revolutionary application of monotheism to the person of Christ, and ultimately to a rigid, exclusive doctrine of salvation. This exclusiveness necessarily bred schism.

Formulated by Ewart and Haywood and later defended most prominently by Andrew Urshan, the Oneness doctrine of God and the Acts 2:38 "plan of salvation" pitted sectarian claims against the non-sectarian liberality of the Assemblies of God. Perhaps even more important than any theoretical leadership, the New Issue evangelists—such as Cook, Roberts, Goss, and Oliver F. Fauss—captivated the grassroots of the movement with their sincerity and powers of persuasion. The New Issue leaders also deftly handled the wavering position of Bell during the crucial year of conflict to the advantage of their cause. Nevertheless, the New Issue was destined for separation rather than success: its sectarian doctrines demanded it. The idealized anti-creedalism of the Assemblies withstood three years of threat before the New Issue forced the body to redefine itself in more realistic terms. In this, the New Issue provided a great service to the Assemblies of God by forcing a clarification of its beliefs, goals, and future direction.
_____________________

1Assemblies of God, Minutes of the General Council, 1914, p. 4. (Typewritten.)

2Ibid.

3E. N. Bell, "There Is Safety in Counsel," Weekly Evangel, September 18, 1915, p. 1.

4Frank J. Ewart, The Phenomenon of Pentecost (Hazelwood, Mo.: World Aflame Press, 1947), p. 104. Three hundred sixty-four received the baptism of the Spirit here.

5Ibid., pp. 105-06.

6These statements had little effect on the meeting a whole. Miss Woodworth-Etter, notorious for exploiting any miracle, healing, or vision, failed to record this event. See her Signs and Wonders God Wrought in the Ministry of Forty Years (Chicago: Herald Press, 1916).

7Although the specific content of this "revelation" is unclear, Sheppe sided with the New Issue and became a minister in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, an early Oneness body. See David A. Reed, "Origins and Developments of the Theology of Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States" (Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1978), p. 99.

8Ethel E. Goss, The Winds of God (Hazelwood, Mo.: World Aflame Press, 1958), p. 155.

9For complete discussion, see Ewart, Phenomenon.

10This doctrinal development is best seen in Frank J. Ewart's Revelation of Jesus Christ (St. Louis: Pentecostal Publishing House, n.d.).

11Particularly significant in that Missouri and Arkansas were Assemblies of God strongholds. See Carl Brumback, Suddenly From Heaven (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), p. 192.

12Paul Dugas, ed., The Life and Writings of Elder G. T. Haywood (Stockton, Ca.: Apostolic Press, 1968), p. 19.

13Robert M. Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 193.

14Brumback, Suddenly, 197.

15Ewart, Phenomenon, 117.

16See the comments on John 3:3-5 in Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 4 (New York: Funk and Wagnall's, n.d.). Compare G. T. Haywood, The Birth of the Spirit and the Mystery of the Godhead (Indianapolis: Christ Temple, n.d.), p. 5.

17Arthur L. Clanton, United We Stand: A History of Oneness Organizations (St. Louis: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1970), p. 5.

18See the following articles by E. N. Bell, "Baptized Once For All," Weekly Evangel, March 27, 1915, p. 1; "To Act in the Name of Another," Weekly Evangel, May 8, 1915, p. 1; "The Great Outlook," Weekly Evangel, May 29, 1915, p. 1; "The Sad New Issue," Weekly Evangel, June 5, 1915, p. 1; and "Scriptural Varieties in Baptismal Formula," Weekly Evangel, July 3, 1915, p. 1. See also these articles by J. R. Flower, "Editorial," Weekly Evangel, June 19, 1915, p. 1; "Preliminary Statement," Word and Witness, June 1915, p. 1; and "Mis-statement Corrected," Weekly Evangel, July 17, 1915, p. 2.

19A defense of Trinitarianism is notably absent from these articles. This does not mean that Oneness studies of the divine name had yet to equate the radical monotheism of Jehovah and the "absolute deity" of Jesus. Rather, this shows an incomplete understanding of the issue by Bell and Flower.

20Brumback, Suddenly, 196.

21E. N. Bell, "Who Is Jesus Christ?: Jesus Christ, Exalted As Jehovah of the Old Testament," Weekly Evangel, August 14, 1915, p. 1 and Word and Witness, September, 1915, p. 1.

22Note especially D. C. O. Opperman's comments in Clanton's United, p. 19.

23Note especially E. N. Bell, "There is Safety in Counsel," Weekly Evangel, September 18, 1915, p. 1.

24Brumback, Suddenly, p. 198.

25This is David A. Reed's term. See his "Origins and Developments," p. 124.

26Welch continued to sit as chairman throughout the Council despite Collins later appearance.

27Assemblies of God, Minutes of the General Council, 1915 , p. 5. (Typewritten.)

28Brumback, Suddenly, p. 201.

29Assemblies of God, Minutes, 1915, p. 5.

30Brumback, Suddenly, p. 202.

31See "Controversy Discouraged," Weekly Evangel, September 18, 1915, p. 2; "Controversy Discouraged," Word and Witness, October 1915, p. 4; and "Editorial," Weekly Evangel, October 30, 1915, p. 2.

32See E. N. Bell, "Bro. Bell on the Trinity," Weekly Evangel, November 6, 1915, p. 1; M.M. Pinson, "What Think Ye of Christ?," Weekly Evangel, November 20, 1915, p. 3; "The Holy Ghost as a Person," Weekly Evangel, November 27, 1915, p. 2; and "The Mystery of God," Weekly Evangel, May 20, 1916, p. 1.

33Brumback, Suddenly, p. 202.

34J. W. Welch, "Editorial," Weekly Evangel, June 14, 1916, p. 1.

35By this time, Bell had denounced the New Issue and reaffirmed [re-embraced] Trinitarianism. For a Oneness response, see Clanton, United, p. 21.

36Assemblies of God, Minutes, 1914, p. 4.

4 comments:

  1. This is such excellent work, Joe! Even though, as you frankly conceded, your doctoral thesis was written a good while ago, it still is particularly relevant as a scholarly, neutral history of what happened in those turbulent days of early Pentecostalism. Your one short statement offers an admirable summary of the whole, "Nurtured by poor exegesis, misapplied literalism, and the lack of sufficient rebuttal, the New Issue shifted from an academic debate concerning the baptismal formula to a revolutionary application of monotheism to the person of Christ, and ultimately to a rigid, exclusive doctrine of salvation. This exclusiveness necessarily bred schism." This summary could hardly be expressed better!

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  2. As strange as it sounds, this may be the most important chapter in my dissertation. Normally, I would be tempted to point to my original analysis in the “sociological” sections of this work — the chapters on “Ritual Worship in Oneness Pentecostalism,” “The Belief System of Oneness Pentecostalism,” and “The Oneness Community and the Social World” — as the most significant contributions to the study of American Pentecostalism. But Thomas Fudge’s “Christianity Without a Cross” change all that.

    Throughout this work, Fudge offers an unstated (although sometimes clearly stated) insistence that the Pentecostal Church International (PCI) one-step soteriology — that is, salvation by repentance/new birth followed by the subsequent non-salvational experiences of water baptism in Jesus’ name and spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia — was possibly (if not likely) the majority view in oneness Pentecostalism at the time of the 1945 United Pentecostal Church merger.

    In contrast, this chapter sheds strong light on the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) three-step soteriology — the new birth experience as consisting of all three steps of Acts 2:38 (repentance, water baptism administered in the name of Jesus, and Spirit baptism evidenced by tongue-speaking) — and its centrality in the 1916 New Issue split in the Assemblies of God that marks the institutional separation of Oneness Pentecostalism.

    While it is certainly true that some of the New Issue men embraced only the Jesus name baptism formula (for example, E. N. Bell who remained in the Assemblies of God) and others embraced only Jesus’ name baptism and the emerging oneness theology of God, the breaking point in the New Issue controversy came in the emphasis on baptismal regeneration as a salvational necessity and the logical corollary of the necessity of spirit baptism. This occurred when the new birth passage — John 3:5’s “birth by water and spirit” — was united with Acts 2:38’s “baptism by water and spirit.”

    Was there a variety of views concerning the nature of God and the requirements of Christian salvation among the New Issue man in 1914 to 1916? Absolutely. But the doctrine that forced institutional separation was the Acts 2:38 “plan of salvation” with its requirement of rebaptism in Jesus’ name and spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia as necessary ingredients in Christian “full” salvation. To me, this sounds a lot more like three-step PAJC theology than one-step PCI theology.

    All Oneness Pentecostal “one-steppers” retain the classical Pentecostal/Assemblies of God notion of “subsequence” — spirit baptism is “distinct from and subsequent to” the new birth. While in 1916, the Assemblies of God “spirit of liberality” could tolerate the practice of Jesus’ name baptism and even the debate about the nature of monotheism, it could not tolerate the abandoning of the classical Pentecostal doctrine of subsequence that the Acts 2:38 "plan of salvation" demands.

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  3. Joe, I too share Dan’s view of your work. I am grateful for your release of it on this forum and believe it to be quite useful in gaining a full perspective of our shared backgrounds. I have some random thoughts regarding this discussion. These thoughts, for whatever they might be worth, hopefully will add a differing perspective. At the very least, further a very interesting exchange of ideas.

    We are all very aware of the deficiencies of scriptural interpretation originating in early Pentecostalism. I am somewhat hesitant to totally discount the entirety of the Pentecostal experience out of hand. I guess as with most movements one should take care to not proverbially, “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

    Pentecostal interpretational deficiencies aside, one aspect of this discussion does intrigue me, this being the role of the Spirit as related to the development of Pentecostalism and other movements. While one should always exercise a great deal of caution regarding how much onus one should place upon what might be claimed to be a work of the Spirit, neither should such be discounted unduly. Historically, certain Pentecostal interpretations were given credence within the movement based upon what was claimed to be “Apostolic Authority,” or inspired of the Spirit. I am not so sure everything laid at the feet of the Spirit was necessarily accepted of the same.

    This being said, there are times when the Spirit can be seen to correct the misinterpretations of man. If the life of Jesus was nothing else it was such, that being a clear challenge to the intellectual hierarchy of the day. This is also seen in the post conversion to Christianity life of Paul. Here was a high level intellectual mind trained under the foremost scholar of the day, radically realigned by a Spiritual experience. Thus a challenge is presented to us, where does one draw the line between reasoned scriptural interpretation and the work of the Spirit?

    With Joe’s gracious release of this venerable document and Dan’s subsequent commentary have reawakened my thinking regarding this subject. I see a mutually beneficially tension between the word, in this case properly interpreted, and what might possibly be described as a work of the Spirit. When these two forces are not in proper alignment error can occur on either side of the equation. In the case of the development of Pentecostal thought, without the proper interpretation as alluded to by Dan, an imbalance can occur. From a Christian perspective could not the same be said of first century Jewish thought as well, in the context of an imbalance with the Spirit?

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  4. One quick postscript, after posting I do need to admit I blurred the lines in a couple areas for the sake of brevity.

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