Tag Archives: azusa street

The Forgotten Origin of Pentecostalism Among Women in India

I used to think that Pentecostalism started with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles 1906, preceded by events at Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College in Kansas 1901. From the US, Pentecostalism then spread rapidly across the world, impacting Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America so that it became the global phenomenon we know of today.

I know realize that I was severely wrong.

To be fair, the Azusa revival had a tremendous impact and is surely among the roots of Pentecostalism. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it is not the earliest. Frank Bartleman, one of American Pentecostalism’s most important pioneers (and a pacifist), acknowledged that “The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was ‘brought up in India, following; becoming full-grown in Los Angeles later.” While the Welsh revival was quite different than what Pentecostalism became known for, the Indian revival wasn’t.

Contrary to Bartleman, I would describe what they experienced as just as full-grown as Azusa. It also managed to remain much more egalitarian and racially inclusive, something American Pentecostalism ultimately failed at as the revival grew older.

ramabai
Pandita Ramabai teaching girls about the Gospel and their rights.

A key leader in the Indian revival was Pandita Ramabai, a theologian and women’s rights activist who translated the Bible into Marathi and started a community center for women and girls, Mukti Mission in Pune, while campaigning politically for women’s education and an end to British colonial rule. She was baptized in the Spirit in 1894, and the women at Mukti started to speak in tongues, prophesy and heal the sick long before William Seymour and his fellow believers even had access to the chapel on Azusa Street.

Pentecostal scholar Allan Anderson points out in the first chapter of his book To the Ends of the Earth that the Mukti revival had a huge impact in the region. Minnie Abrams, an Episcopalian missionary who joined Mukti and worked with Ramabai for many years, wrote a booklet called The Baptism of the Holy Ghost & Fire in 1906 which is likely the first published Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism. 30,000 copies of it circulated during the early 1900s and influenced May Louise Hoover, who led the Pentecostal revival in Chile together with her husband Willis.

Another acquaintance of Ramabai, Shorat Chuckerbutty, was the one who prayed for Alice Luce when she received her Spirit baptism. Luce, who was a missionary in India at the time, went on to spread Pentecostalism in the southern US and in Mexico, pioneering the concept of indigenous churches that became very influential in Pentecostal missions.

Anderson also points out that the Christian Pettah revival led by John Christian Arulappan experienced “outpourings of the Spirit” with prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues as early as the 1860s in southern India. Ironically, the Brethren church which Arulappan belonged to later became hostile towards Pentecostalism, but phenomenologically they had experienced the same thing before Pentecostalism existed, according to Anderson.

Anderson goes on to point out that similar pentecostal-type movements sprung up in England, Estonia, Korea, China and Liberia with hardly any input from Azusa. Christians in Russia and Armenia experienced Spirit baptism and tongue-speaking as early as 1855, and were dubbed “Pentecostal Christians” by their countrymen fifty years before Azusa was a thing!

Long story short: Pentecostalism does not have one root, it has many. Just like the gift of tongues, the Pentecostal revival is truly an international miracle. And from the very beginning, God used women just as much – and sometimes even more – than men.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The International Miracle of Pentecost

Happy Pentecost! This weekend, millions of Christians all across the globe are celebrating the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the apostolic church. Pentecost has always been very important for me, since the apostolic Pentecost as it is described in Acts 2 combines everything I like: charismatic fire, economic redistribution, universal evangelism as well as simplicity, worship and joy.

It all started when the wonderful Holy Spirit descended with fire and the international gift of tongues:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? (Acts 2:1-8, NIV)

In my experience, this is quite a common miracle. When the early Pentecostals met at the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles to enjoy the restoration of Spirit baptism, many claimed that people actually started to speak real languages. In the October issue 1906 of The Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the Azusa Street church, the following article is included:

Sister Hutchins has been preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. She has received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Uganda language, the language of the people to whom she is sent. A brother who has been in that country understands and has interpreted the language she speaks. Her husband is with her and her niece, who also has been given the African language.

Continue reading The International Miracle of Pentecost

The Multicultural DNA of Pentecost

God is not a nationalist. He does not only speak English, or Chinese, or Swedish or Hebrew or Swahili. He knows all our languages – and more.

He dramatically demonstrated this when he sent his Holy Spirit to baptize the church on the day of Pentecost. The disciples “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This included Latin, Arabic, Greek, Coptic and many other languages (vv. 5-11).

The Holy Spirit is an international Spirit. Or rather, non-national.

Shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians reflect this? Shouldn’t we be examples of international, multicultural love rather than tribalism and isolationism?

Jesus’ command was clear: make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Pentecost was a Tower of Babel in reverse to equip the church to do its job. We need to migrate, study other cultures and even be a part of them in order to share the Gospel effectively.

This is why Paul was a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). He didn’t put his ethnic identity before his missionary task. In fact, he viewed his achievements from Phariseic Judaism as a “loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:7).

As a Christian, his focus was on something else: inviting people to become citizens in another state, another Kingdom. Heaven (Phil 3:20).

This is why Pentecost shatters nationalism and tribalism. It was repeated on Azusa Street, where the Holy Spirit once again enabled people to speak other languages. The power was real: the first issue of Azusa’s magazine, The Apostolic Faith, relates the following amazing miracle:

A Mohammedan, a Sudanese by birth,a man who is an interpreter and speaks sixteen languages, came into the meeting at Azusa Street and the Lord gave him messages which none but himself could understand. He identified, interpreted and wrote in a number of the languages.

Did you catch that? So many saints at Azusa spoke real foreign languages as they were spirituall baptized, that an interpreter who knew sixteen languages was overwhelmed and even heard messages directed specifically to him!

Azusa Street was a rare multi-racial and multicultural church, led by a team of different ethnicities. As Frank Bartleman said, “the ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”

Don’t we need some more washing today? Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with your colorblind power and love!


Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Indian Women’s Rights Activist Who Became a Pentecostal Before Azusa

Ramabai on an Indian post stamp
Ramabai on an Indian post stamp

One of my favourite Pentecostal saints of all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated.

Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.

In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”

Continue reading The Indian Women’s Rights Activist Who Became a Pentecostal Before Azusa

Why Aren’t There More Female Pentecostal Pastors?

by Cecil M. Robeck Jr. Originally published here, reposted with permission.

The modern Pentecostal movement is a child of the radical wing of the Holiness movement, which championed the doctrine of sanctification as a second, definite work of grace. The Holiness movement was very active in works of social justice, including but not limited to various compassionate ministries, interracial work, temperance, and women’s suffrage. Especially from 1850 onward, it produced a number of women who ministered as evangelists, Bible study leaders, and even a bishop. Mrs. Alma White had been a popular Methodist preacher who participated in the Metropolitan Church Association, one of many such Holiness associations. Ultimately, Alma left both groups and founded the Pillar of Fire Church. She was consecrated a bishop by the Holiness evangelist William Godbey.

With this kind of backdrop to the Pentecostal movement in the United States, it would seem likely that women would play a significant role. And so they did. Charles Fox Parham trained women for ministry in his Apostolic Faith Movement from 1900 onward. His sister-in-law, Lilian Thistlewaite, held meetings of her own throughout the midwest and appeared alongside Parham in extended meetings elsewhere. Parham commissioned a number of women to establish church plants and serve as pastors.

The African American preacher William Joseph Seymour brought the Apostolic Faith Movement to Los Angeles in 1906. His Azusa Street Mission quickly became known as an interracial congregation led by an African American pastor, with capable women and men providing leadership and outreach. The Mission was even ridiculed on the front page of the Los Angeles Evening News, July 23, 1906, for violating Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 regarding the silence of women. Continue reading Why Aren’t There More Female Pentecostal Pastors?