Parham, Charles Fox
(1873-1929)
   founder of modern Pentecostalism
   Charles Fox Parham was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on June 4, 1873. He grew up in Kansas, where he became a Sunday school teacher and then a licensed minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (now an integral part of the United Methodist Church). After preaching for several years, he left the Methodists in 1894 to become an independent evangelist. In 1896, with his wife, Sarah Thistlewaite, he opened Bethel, a healing home, in Topeka, Kansas. He eventually lost control of his home, and in 1900 moved across town and opened a new Bethel, where students could reside and learn from his evangelistic experience.
   Late in 1900, departing for an evangelistic trip, he asked his students to search Scripture for citations about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Among Methodist Holiness people, the baptism was associated with their experience of sanctification, a second act of grace, which God worked among believers to make them perfect in love. The students discovered that speaking in tongues seemed to be the sign of the baptism. On New Year's Eve, the group began to pray for the baptism, and in the morning hours of January 1, 1901, Agnes Oznam (1870-1937) became the first person in modern times to successfully pray for the baptism and actually speak in tongues. The connection between the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues became the distinguishing feature of Pentecostalism. In the context of his Holiness background, Parham presented the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a third work of grace in the life of a believer who had already experienced sanctification.
   Parham introduced this new teaching, which he called Apostolic Faith, into Holiness circles in Kansas and neighboring states, and eventually moved to Houston, Texas, where he opened a Bible school. In 1905, William J. Seymour, a black Holiness minister formerly with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, audited his classes, although Texas segregation laws forced him to listen to the lessons from outside the classroom.
   In 1906, Parham helped Seymour move to Los Angeles, where he had been invited to be pastor of a small church. Seymour was soon presiding over the three-year-long Azusa Street revival, which became a national and then international phenomenon. Parham eventually split with Seymour over issues of church practice as well as charges of sexual impropriety brought against Parham.
   Alienated from the mainstream of the Pentecostal movement, Parham returned to the Midwest and settled in Baxter Springs, Kansas, to teach in a small Bible school and preach in nearby communities. A set of congregations grew up around his ministry, which later became an association that continues to be known as the Apostolic Faith. After Parham's death on January 29, 1929, his wife wrote a biography defending Parham's character.
   Further reading:
   ■ James Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles Fox Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988)
   ■ Charles F Parham, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1944; reprint, Charles F. Parham, 1902); , The Everlasting Gospel (Baxter Springs, Kans.: Charles F Parham, 1911)
   ■ Robert L. Parham, ed., Selected Sermons of the Late Charles F. Parham and Sarah E. Parham, Co-Founders of the Original Apostolic Faith Movement (Baxter Springs, Kans.: Robert Parham, 1941)
   ■ Sarah Parham, The Life of Charles Fox Parham (Baxter Springs, Kans.: Sarah Parham and Tri-State Printing, 1930).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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