We’ve Come This Far By Faith

We’ve Come This Far by Faith: Readings on the Early Leaders of the Pentecostal Church of God, by Larry Martin. Pensacola, FL: Christian Life Books, c2009.

This is the best-documented history of the founding and early days of the Pentecostal Church of God. Based on Martin’s earlier book, In The Beginning, this work contains much new information on the church’s founders and is well documented. He covers the backdrop of the founding of this movement, tracing its roots back to Charles F. Parham at Topeka and influences from John Alexander Dowie, William Durham, William Piper, George Brinkman, John Sinclair, and many others. Several of the early leaders also had close ties with the Assemblies of God.

Originally called the Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA, the organizational meeting took place at George Brinkman’s Pentecostal Herald Mission in Chicago on December 29-30, 1919. John Sinclair was elected the first chairman, an executive committee was formed, a constitution was formulated, and Brinkman’s Pentecostal Herald was established as the official paper of the group. The denomination was reorganized as the Pentecostal Church of God in 1922.

Larry Martin has done extensive research on the origins of the movement, particularly on its early leaders. He covers the years when the denomination’s headquarters and printing operation were located in Chicago and then gives some information about when the offices moved to Ottumwa, Iowa in 1927. Beginning in 1934, the group was headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, and those years are scheduled to be treated in a forthcoming sequel.

He then includes chapter biographies of each of the early leaders and chairmen of the Pentecostal Church of God. These notables include: George Brinkman, John Sinclair, Edward Matthews, John B. Huffman, Silas Shepard, Osborn Gilliland, Rik Field, A. D. McClure, and Alfred Worth. His information is augmented with photographs and footnotes. Photographs of some of these early leaders are published for the first time.

One chapter includes a Who’s Who of the founders of the denomination which provides brief biographical information on these additional leaders: R. E. McAlister, James A. Bell, Ida Tribbett, W. C. Thompson, Wilmer Artis, Herbert J. Wilson, Fred O. Price, Watson E. Tubbs, Thomas B. O’Reilley, and Eli DePriest.

Not only is this an important history of the beginnings of the Pentecostal Church of God, Inc., now headquartered in Joplin, Missouri, but it is noteworthy that many of these individuals had a wider influence that impacted the broader Pentecostal movement as a whole.

Reviewed by Glenn W. Gohr

Softcover, 216 pages. $11.99 plus $3.99 shipping. Order from Amazon.com or from azusastreet.org/.

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Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day

The 2010 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine includes an article that will raise eyebrows — the story of John McConnell, Jr., the Pentecostal founder of Earth Day. McConnell’s parents were founding members of the Assemblies of God, and his grandfather identified with the Pentecostal movement at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906.

Forty years ago, McConnell established the first governmentally-recognized Earth Day on March 21, 1970. The United Nations adopted the holiday the following year and has been celebrating Earth Day on the March equinox since 1971.

This original Earth Day was quickly eclipsed in prominence, however, by a second Earth Day (celebrated on April 22). The founder of the April observance, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, took the name Earth Day for his Environmental Teach-In, scheduled to be held on the 100th anniversary of communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s birthday.

According to McConnell, a representative of Nelson approached him at a United Nations conference and asked McConnell to switch the original Earth Day to April 22. McConnell refused, because he believed the celebration should be on nature’s event. Furthermore, McConnell intended Earth Day to be a non-partisan event that would unite people from various backgrounds and foster peace. In contrast, Nelson’s purpose was a political protest against pollution – he viewed Earth Day as a means to force the environment on the national agenda by mass demonstration.

McConnell states that Nelson “stole” the name Earth Day and used it for his own personal political agenda. McConnell contends that the April 22 observance is too politicized, which alienates many people, including Christians and conservatives.  He maintains that the day should be celebrated on the March equinox. Significantly, he views Earth Day as an opportunity for Christians “to show the power of prayer, the validity of their charity and their practical concern for Earth’s life and people.” McConnell’s call is not for earth worship, but for responsible stewardship (which he prefers to call trusteeship) of the earth.

McConnell also spearheaded two nationally-recognized peace movements: the Star of Hope (1957) and the Minute for Peace (1963-present). He also served as a leader in Meals for Millions (1961-1963), an organization that fed starving people.

McConnell credits his Pentecostal background for his concern for peace, justice and care of earth. He wrote, “If there had been no Christian experience in my life there would be no Earth Day – or at least I would not have initiated it.”

In a 2009 interview, McConnell stated, “I definitely still believe what my father taught and preached.” His father, J. S. McConnell, was an Assemblies of God pastor and evangelist from 1914 to 1928. According to McConnell, his father emphasized the teachings of Jesus above all else.

McConnell’s story offers an intriguing example to Pentecostals from their own history of how one can love Jesus and care for creation; these two attitudes are not mutually exclusive.

To read the entire article about John McConnell in the 2010 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage, click here.

To watch an interview of McConnell discussing his Pentecostal background, click here.

To read the article on McConnell published by Charisma magazine, click here.

Posted by Darrin J. Rodgers