- Assemblies of God
- The Assemblies of God, an American-based Pentecostal denomination, has emerged as one of Pente-costalism's most globally important organizations.Pentecostalism spread quickly during and after the famous Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, which began in 1906. While in general agreement with the teachings of mainstream Protestant Christianity, the early exponents had also been associated with the Holiness movement that grew out of Methodism. Holiness teachings emphasized the possibility of becoming sanctified or perfect in love in this life. Within Holiness churches, the experience of sanctification, a gift of the Holy spirit to the believer, actually became the norm. Pentecostal believers shifted the emphasis from the experience of sanctification to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which evidenced itself by the believer speaking in unknown tongues.Very early in the movement, as the revival progressed, a difference of opinion developed. The founders of the movement taught that the baptism of the Holy spirit was a third experience for the believer, available only to those who had first experienced salvation (become a believer) and then sanctification. However, some teachers, most notably William H. Durham (1873-1912), rejected the idea of Wesleyan sanctification and argued that Christ's finished work becomes available to the believer immediately after they accept Christ as savior.The earliest Pentecostal organizations, such as the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee) and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, continued the Wesleyan emphasis and taught three experiences of justification, sanctification, and baptism of the Holy spirit. The Assemblies of God brought together those who came out of the Finished Work Controversy in basic agreement with Durham's position (though Durham passed away prior to its formation).In April 1914, leaders of the many independent Pentecostal congregations met in Hot springs, Arkansas, and created the Assemblies of God congregational fellowship to promote cooperation and coordination. Wishing to avoid the strong central authority associated with the Methodists or Presbyterians, the participants appointed a General Council without any constitution or doctrinal statement.Nevertheless, the assemblies were forced to take doctrinal position when it was discovered that some of the leaders had adopted a non-Trinitarian theology, popularly known as the Apostolic or "Jesus Only" teachings. In 1916, the assemblies adopted a Statement of Fundamental Truth and dis-fellowshipped the Jesus Only Pentecostals. The ordination of women (see women, ordination of) became another controversial issue. Though the assemblies always accepted women as evangelists and missionaries, only in 1935 were they fully accepted into the ordained ministry.Pentecostals always favored world evangelism. Most believed that the revival at Azusa signaled the end-time descent of the Holy Spirit that heralded a significant spread of Christianity in the last days before Christ's return. One of the primary motivations for forming the Assemblies of God was to support missionary activity. The mission program was impressive even in its first generation. Assemblies churches and indigenous Pentecostal movements emerged in many countries. In the last decades of the 20th century, however, the growth of the assemblies was spectacular; it spearheaded the spread of Pentecostalism around the world.In the late-1980s, the U.S. church was forced to deal with scandal as two prominent televange-lists connected to the assemblies, James Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, were charged with sexual misconduct and defrocked. Swaggart's ministry, in particular, had been a major source of mission funds. In the 1990s, the assemblies also took some initial steps to face its history of racial division, primarily by supporting the formation of the interracial ecumenical Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America.The assemblies currently report 1.5 million members in the United States and 41 million members worldwide. The spectacular growth has fueled an extensive program of higher education based in 19 universities, colleges, and seminaries in the United States. Missionary personnel are now supported in more than 190 countries. Globally, the American-based Assemblies of God should not be confused with the many national Assemblies of God movements that originated in the Pentecostal/Filadelphia Church in Sweden.Further reading:■ Edith Blumhoffer, Assemblies of God: A Chapter on the Story of American Protestantism, 2 vols. (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1989); , Restoring the Faith: the Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism, and American Culture (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1993)■ William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1971)■ Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.