III.A.4.b Holiness Revivalism Rejects Pentecost

Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

 Subpart A  –  The Pentecostal Renewal

 Article 4  – Holiness Rejection of the Baptism

Section (b)  –  HOLINESS REVIVALISM REJECTS PENTECOST

           i.  Burning Bush             ii.  Pillar of Fire

  Section (b)  –   HOLINESS REVIVALISM REJECTS PENTECOST

i.  Burning Bush

The most severe anti-Pentecostal reaction occurred in Germany where the Pentecostal-Movement was adamantly and unambiguously condemned by church and state.  In September of 1909 a sharply-worded censure of Pentecostals issued, known as the Berlin Declaration.  The statement denounced the Pentecostal-Movement as a work of Satan, stating that the work was “nicht von oben, sondern von unten”, which translates; “not from on high, but from below”.[1]  The statement was signed by fifty-six leaders of German Protestantism.  Strangely, many of the signatories were affiliated with that movement from which we might least-expect such opposition; the Holiness Movement.  In fact, one notable leader to sign was Otto Stockmayer, whose name was closely-associated with England’s Keswick movement.  Stockmayer was well-known in the Healing Movement for his healing-ministry, his advocacy for the Healing Through the Atonement doctrine (that arose in the late 19th century), and as a frequent guest-speaker at Keswick meetings in England, and Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) meetings in the United States and Canada.

The fiercest opposition to Pentecost came from that movement upon which Pentecost came, ie. the Holiness Movement.  Leaders of the various Holiness groups and churches were known to denounce Pentecostals, tongues, and the doctrine of Initial Evidence in the most terse and unyielding of terms. The Burning Bush was one such organization.  Formed in Chicago as a result of the Methodist-rejection of holiness-teaching, this particular “come-outer” group was one of the more stalwart advocates of Wesleyan-sanctification and one of the more stern in their views of “personal holiness”.    Those baptized by the Holy Ghost at Azusa Street included one of their national-leaders – a man by the name of Alfred Garr.  After Garr was baptized by the Holy Spirit on June 16, 1906, he and his wife traveled to Chicago to communicate their experience to the Burning Bush leadership.  After his meeting with church officials, the church published a stinging rebuke of the Garrs in The Burning Bush magazine, characterizing them as being of a; “a burned-out, hollow look” and denouncing them as having “lost the Holy Ghost”:  Writes the Burning Bush:

It now remains for the devil to give him more “light “ and further “blessings”, etc. until the poor man will wake up and find his boat wrecked and his soul lost.[2]

Alfred Garr went on to become a highly-effective  evangelist, his anointed-ministry introducing Pentecost to China, India, and Japan.  He spread Pentecost throughout North America for decades thereafter.  As to the Burning Bush, that organization became more entrenched in its quarrels and litigation with other Holiness Groups, most notably, Alma White’s Pillar of Fire.

 ii.   Pillar of Fire

The Pillar of Fire was another “come outer” group from Methodism that approximated the views and fervency of the Burning Bush.  Its leader was Alma White who claimed to have received the work of “sanctification” in 1893 “by faith”.  This came subsequent to advice given her by Finnis Yoakum consistent with the teachings of Phoebe Palmer that she should simply “claim the blessing by faith”.  She reports she received the experience “in the twinkling of an eye” onMarch 18, 1893.  She states:

. . . there was no great outpouring of the Spirit, but simply a deep soul rest and the consciousness that my heart was pure.”  She interpreted her experience as the eradication of inbred sin from her nature, sensed by; “a deep realization of purity in the depths of my inmost soul. [3]

White’s husband (Kent White) was a Methodist minister under bishop Stephen Merrill and active in the Colorado Holiness Association.  While they began their marriage with the understanding that Alma would have a supporting role to Kent’s ministry, the forcefulness of her personality and pulpit-persona soon overshadowed the ministry of her husband.   Her preaching as a woman and her brash tone aggravated church officials.  Arguably it was her militancy as a woman-preacher and domineering-personality as much as her Wesleyan-views that factored into her departure from Methodism and formation of the Pillar of Fire denomination.  In her zeal in the cause of her right to preach she wrote:

If I could not prove by the word of God that women have as good a right to preach as men, I would have but little use for the Bible.[4]

This trait may also have factored into her separation from her husband who often expressed his objections to her attempts to control church affairs, and of whom she often expressed a condescension:

My husband began on the old score, complaining about different things. . . . . I was satisfied that the only thing that would quiet him was to give him the opportunity preach a time or two to the largest congregations, and so it proved. [5]

He was trying to seek the favor of the Church officials and build up a reputation for himself as the result of my labors. [6]

However, Alma did work tirelessly to make a name for herself through her magazine The Pillar of Fire and through many evangelistic works which included several trips to England.  The first of these occurred in November of 1904 in a joint-effort with the Burning Bush just weeks after the onset of the Welsh Revival.  White and the Burning Bush drew crowds to watch her emotional fire and brimstone delivery, and her unique form of worship that she called “Holy Jumping”.  These opened her to substantial ridicule in the British newspapers who wrote of her very public ministering:

They howled like dervishes, danced like red Indians, and roared out anathemas till the blood rushed to their faces and their throats became hoarse. [7]

Her husband Kent was mockingly referred to as “Obadiah”, and was described as:

. . . rather weak in the terpsichorean line.  His stiff and painful caperings resemble those of a performing bear.[8]

The newspaper describes Ms. White’s evangelistic-presentation in equally-unseemly terms:

Once in an ecstasy of intense excitement, Mrs. Kent White rose from the pianoforte, rushed to the further end of the platform, uttering a piercing cry like an Indian war-whoop, and returned to her seat in a series of pirouetting movements of surprising rapidity.  But the effect was by no means elegant.  For if the truth must be told, nature has fashioned the lady upon rather a bulky model,  and her caperings bore a not remote resemblance to the gamboling of an elephant. [9]

These displays and the notoriety they achieved are remarkable in their timing in relation to the Welsh revival that had commenced just several weeks previously (in October).  The young minister Evan Roberts had been particularly moved-upon by God in the previous months, and suddenly a great wave of intercession began to sweep the villages of Wales.  The most intensive period of this revival was the month of November, even as the Whites and their  Burning Bush associates were in route England from America to import their own idea of fervent-religion.   Their odd display throughout the months of December and January could not have helped the situation for Evan Roberts who found himself the subject of heavy criticism from the church and the media during the same months that the Pillar of Fire and the Burning Bush were exhibiting themselves as objects of public-ridicule.   In February, Roberts (a mere 26 years of age) seemed to succumb-emotionally to the attacks against him and was forced to take leave from the revival for a week.  When he returned, he seemed to be suffering symptoms of emotional-breakdown until finally being forced later that year into a self-imposed seclusion.  The revival seemed to fade away at the same time.  While there is nothing to suggest that the Burning Bush or the Pillar of Fire had any direct-role in the injury done to the Welsh Revival, their activities arguably would have added to the cumulative burden upon and sentiments against the work in Wales.  Upon their return to America, the destiny of these two groups would make a terrible cross-road with Azusa Street.

Upon their return the two groups entered into a bitter dispute over a private-donation of real estate in New Jersey that the Burning Bush felt White had interfered-with to redirect to the benefit of her own organization.  This led to a breakdown in civility and 1905 was a year of recriminations, name-calling, and efforts by each to mount organizational take-overs of the other.  Each would refer to the other derisively as The Pillar of Smoke and The Bramble Bush.[10]  The quarrel would consume the energies of the two groups at just the time God was about to bring the phenomenal outpouring of His Spirit that was Azusa Street.[11]  In fact, it was this mutual combat that even brought both groups into collision with the events at Azusa.

During that year, Alma White took her fight against the Burning Bush to Los Angeles and attempted to acquire its membership through accusations of financial and moral misconduct.  This led to turmoil in that congregation, and in response, the Burning Bush sent one of its most capable leaders, Alfred Garr, to assume authority of the church.  He arrived in February of 1906, the same month that William Seymour arrived from Texas and just weeks before the Azusa Street outpouring.   However, once he perceived the tremendous supernatural work that was occurring at Azusa Street, Garr lost interest in the organizational-battle and became fixed upon the move of God’s Spirit.   In June, Garr closed the doors of the Los Angeles branch of the Burning Bush and redirected those remaining in the congregation to rather follow him to “the Azusa Street Mission, where they are enjoying the presence of God.”[1]  This led to his own baptism in the Holy Ghost on June 16th and his later condemnation by the Burning Bush organization that included their blasphemous public recriminations concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Alma White’s collision with Azusa would be yet more severe.  Several weeks before the outpouring it seems that William Seymour actually made a stop at her Denver mission when in routeLos Angeles from Houston.   Seymour had just departed the Houston Bible School  newly-equipped with the restored Pentecostal message.  He was received into the Denver mission for dinner, and was asked to pray.  This event came into significance for White later.

After the events at Azusa, White began expressing substantial criticism of the Pentecostal Movement.  Things became complicated for her in 1908 when her husband Kent attended Pentecostal services and began to embrace and to promote Pentecostal doctrine, although he himself had not had the experience. Alma became worried that her reputation as an authority on religious matters might be damaged by her husband’s affirmations of Pentecost.  She writes:

To go back now on all we had preached and taught while a minister in the Methodist Church and an instructor in our Bible School would subject us to ridicule and the charge of inconsistency which I feared we should be unable to live down for an indefinite period of time. [2]

My concern was for the reputation of our society on which there had never been a stain or a real cause for reproach.[3]

Amidst her Methodist-husband’s affirmation of Pentecostal-teaching and Alma’s outspoken criticisms of the same, the marriage began suffer a new level of strain.  Kent found himself increasingly having to step up and object to his wife’s harsh-statements against Pentecostals and  the doctrine of the baptism.  Alma, who believed that “the curse of subordination is removed in a sanctified home” [4] would not back down.   He finally separated from Alma after she published an editorial in the Pillar of Fire denouncing the Pentecostal Movement. Kent later wrote:

Any word spoken against the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of tongues caused me great pain.[5]

Kent’s departure was a great personal sorrow for Alma, and for many years she would plead with him to return.  From time to time he would return for short periods only to leave when she proved unable to hold back her opinions on the issue of Pentecost.  In November of 1909 Kentagreed to travel to England with Alma and some of the church membership, but he refused to participate in the meetings they held.  She returned to America without him.  While crossing the Atlantic on her way home she wrote a scathing book condemning the Pentecostal Movement called Demons and Tongues wherein she spared no adjective in denouncing Pentecostals and their doctrine as “satanic”.  She referred to Azusa Street as “a hotbed of free-loveism” and recounted her visit with William Seymour, calling him a “faker” and a “tramp”.  She goes on to describe her loathing of Seymour as he prayed at dinner during his visit in February 1906, saying; “I felt serpents and other slimy creatures were creeping all around me.” [6]

Alma continued to seek reconciliation with Kent while the two were living on separate continents but he would not answer.  She returned to England in May of 1910 seeking reconciliation.  Shortly after her arrival, her husband was invited by W.D.A. Hutchinson to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit at his church there in England.  Kent describes his experience of July 7, 1910 wherein he states he: “received the outward manifestations of the truth”:

I spoke fluently for about an hour in one language, and then changed to another entirely different, and with the strongest kind of guttural sounds that worked all my vocal organs in a way that astonished me.  That night as I went into the service I was so filled with the power of God that I did not know what to do.   My body became so hot I put my hands on flesh to see if it was physical heat, but I found it was not;  it was the fire of God, the Pentecostal flame, burning all through me.[7]

In 1937, Alma held the dedication of her new church attended by the Mayor of Denver.  She named it Alma Temple.  On July 4, 1940, Kent White arrived in Denver at the invitation of his son for treatment of a serious throat-condition.  He had not seen Alma since 1922.  Her biographer writes:

Kent visited Alma and put his arms around her.  After the many years of contention, they still cared for each other.  When Alma decided to travel to Zarephath, Kent begged Ray to use his influence to convince her to stay.  Alma left after recording in her diary, “It is too late after his 25 years of separation to tell me what to do.”  Alma was gone from July 18 until July 26, the ay Kent was scheduled for an operation.  In spite of the operation, Kent died on July 30, 1940, at age seventy-nine.  In his funeral sermon, Ray shared that his father had come to Denver to be reconciled with his family whether or not they embraced the doctrine of glossolalia.[8]

The Burning Bush and Alma White’s Pillar of Fire represented two of the most public and zealous  Holiness organizations in the country at the time the Pentecostal restoration came.  As such, these organizations and the people within them sat poised in a wonderfully-unique way to receive what God had to give men to bring forth His kingdom within them.  But all the opportunity in the world could not benefit those that did not come when the call was made.  In fact, what could once be regarded as opportunity can suddenly become peril if it is not an opportunity-taken.  Recall the Lord’s words to the Jews who attributed His works to the devil during the time God’s power was on display:

Therefore I say to you, any sin & blasphemy shall be forgiven men, But blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.  & whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.”                                                                                Matt. 12:31-32


[1]A 20th Century Apostle; The Life of Alfred Garr, by Steve Thompson © 2003, Morningstar Pub.  pg 58

[2] Feminist Pillar of Fire, by Suzie Cunninham Stanley © 1993, Pilgrim Press, pg. 71 quoting Alma White; The Story of Life & the Pillar of Fire

[3] Ibid. pg. 71

[4] Ibid. pg. 72

[5] Ibid. pg. 72 quoting Kent White’s Victory Through Prevailing Prayer

[6] Ibid. pg. 74 quoting Alma White; Demons and Tongues

[7]  Ibid. pg. 76 quoting  Kent White’s Victory Through Prevailing Prayer

[8] Ibid. pg. 119

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About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
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