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Religion Library: Holiness and Pentecostal

Early Developments

Written by: Arlene Sanchez Walsh

In keeping with Seymour's desire to place women in church leadership, he gave permission to Florence Crawford to begin a church in Portland, Oregon.In a curious side episode, Seymour's decision to marry Jeannie E. Moore in 1908 allegedly elicited a rather negative reaction from his church secretary, Clara Lum.Lum promptly left Azusa Street and joined Crawford in Portland, taking the mailing list for Seymour's magazine, The Apostolic Faith, with her. Crawford at first did not want anything to do with the purloined list, but eventually relented and began building her ministry from the list. Crawford's church, The Apostolic Faith Church, would not be the last Pentecostal church built on less than stellar circumstances.

Among other notable persons at Azusa Street were Rosa and Abundio Lopez, who began a ministry among the Mexican population in Los Angeles and, subsequently, in their native Mexico.There is also evidence that Armenians and Russians took their newfound faith back to their homelands as missionaries. Aside from the growth of the movement beyond Los Angeles, one more leader of note needs to be included here. Charles H. Mason went as a skeptic to Azusa Street in 1907, and upon receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, began to organize the Church of God in Christ in Memphis; this denomination is the largest African American Pentecostal denomination in the United States.

One of the most influential Pentecostal leaders of the early 20th century was "Sister" Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), who almost single-handedly spread the Pentecostal message of divine healing throughout the United States and around the world. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, and its college in Los Angeles, which trained numerous Pentecostal leaders. McPherson was known both within church circles and as a public persona, partly because of her itinerant preaching and partly because of the well-publicized and occasionally scandalous events of her life.

As diffuse as the early Pentecostal movement was, the desire to maintain its spiritual effervescence meant for many an aversion to organizing around denominations, since this was thought to be one sure way to "quench the Spirit."Despite the early Pentecostal desire not to organize, they, like others who are drawn to charismatic leadership, gradually formed organizational structures.Ironically enough, then, Pentecostals founded denominations-as early as 1907-and fellowships intended to add structure to their often disorganized ministry and missions efforts. With this organization, though, came the inevitable divisions over doctrine, practice, and personality.