A Little History on Racial Division in Pentecostalism in America


We have seen plenty of disunity within the churches of the United States. Take for example, the Church of God in Christ. According to The Azusa Street Mission Time Line, Morgan writes that the Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshiped Baptists, most notably Charles Price Jones (1865–1949) and the founder Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961). Jones and Mason were licensed Baptist ministers in Mississippi in the 1890s that were disfellowshiped by the local Baptist association for preaching the doctrine of Christian perfection also known as “Holiness.” They became associated with a group of men who would become the early African American leaders of the Holiness Movement in the late 19th century.

Later, Mr. Charles Harrison Mason visited the Azusa Street Revival in 1907. Bishop Mason received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which caused his theology to change drastically. That caused for him and Charles Price Jones to part ways. In the spirit of The Azusa Street Revival, Bishop Mason started a multicultural approach in ministry. I guess this is the reason why I am so impressed with the Azusa Street Revival as it brought people of different nationalities together as a true united family. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit burned away racism.

An interesting fact is that Bishop Mason was the first spiritual leader in the Pentecostal movement that was able to ordain ministers; including many white ministers. In spite of all the racial tension of the time, God was moving through the Azusa Street Revival led by Bishop William J. Seymour, also a black man and son of slaves. God was also blessing Bishop Mason’s work. These two black men were filled with love, they walked in great humility and they were greatly used by the Holy Spirit. I believe they both give us a lesson on how to get out of the way and let God have His Way.

Nevertheless, the days for the Azusa Street Revival were numbered; the spirit of racism and the ambitions of men got in the way. A white minister by the name of William Durham, from the Chicago area went to the Azusa Revival in Los Angeles California on May 2, 1911 with a nasty and selfish agenda. He wanted to take over the Revival, a very common action.  It is amazing to me that there are always those that feel they can do it better. Morgan (http://www.azusabooks.com/time.shtml) reports that Evangelist Durham stole about six hundred members out of the Azusa Revival; all of them white. This particular group later became the Oneness denomination; another of many Pentecostal denominations in America.

Bishop Mason with The Church of God in Christ, also faced great troubles as of 1914 when a group of white ministers, many whom were ordained by Bishop Mason himself, also abandoned him to form their own denomination. The Assemblies of God is another product of division and racism. The church of God in Christ today is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. They are still going strong, but it is not multicultural any longer. We can say that Pentecostals are divided, in general, between Blacks and White Pentecostals. Evangelist Durham and many other white ministers were able to successfully steal people from these two very important black minsters in our history; William J. Seymour and Charles H. Mason, but they could never move in the power of the Holy Ghost as the Holy Spirit moved in Azusa.

We have indeed seen a few so-called multicultural churches in America, however the pattern continues to be the same; it is, for the most part, a white pastor over these congregations. Not even TD Jakes or Eddie Long can claim that they have multicultural churches. Personally, I don’t believe we can truly say that we have multiculturalism until our fellowship is such.

I strongly believe that we will see the church in America coming together the way Azusa did. It is my deep conviction that the best representation of how a real church should look like so far, took place in Azusa Street under the leadership of Bishop William J Seymour. It is my conviction that those days will return; they must, before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ; for we trust that God will pour out His Spirit according to Joel 2:28. It is also my deep conviction that the greatest evangelistic tool in America will take place when we become color-blind and we start loving one another as a true family of God in accordance with John 13:35 when it says:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NIV