Interview on the Deborah Sweetin Show

A few weeks back I was invited to be on the Deborah Sweetin Show, which airs on KGEB. It was a delight. Deborah is a very gracious host and a skilled interviewer. We talked about ORU, the healing movement, and some of the treasures in the Holy Spirit Research Center. I am grateful to Deborah and her co-host Robert for allowing me to share about the HSRC and ORU.

You can learn more about the Deborah Sweetin Show on her website: http://deborahsweetin.com

 

Reclaiming Racial Spaces in Tulsa: Oral Roberts and Beno Hall

In the aftermath of the 1921 Race Massacre in Tulsa, many of the residential areas surrounding the Greenwood District were still in ruins. Into one of those spaces, the Tulsa KKK built a giant white building in 1923 at 501 N Main called Beno Hall.  The new building that housed the 3,000 member klavern served as a constant reminder to the black community of Tulsa’s racial supremacy. From there, Klansmen terrorized the traumatized black citizens. It was also here that the “Tulsa Benevolent Society,” a front group for the KKK, oversaw the supposed rebuilding of the Greenwood area.

In the early 1930s, the building was sold and became several other businesses until in God’s providence, a revival tent was set up next door at 601 N. Main.

In a vacant lot under the shadow of Standpipe Hill, Pentecostal Holiness pastor, Steve Pringle, set up a revival tent and began conducting services. He invited a popular young evangelist named Oral Roberts to conduct meetings in May of 1947.  There, in the shadows of Tulsa’s past, Roberts reclaimed lives for the gospel. During the nine week campaign, Oral Roberts made front page headlines when a man shot at him during a service. From that point, crowds swelled to over 2,000 a night.  Roberts meetings were so popular that Pringle began to think of a permanent home for his new converts. Naturally, he had his eye on the large building next door, the infamous Beno Hall.  Pringle worked to remodel the 1,800 seat building and named it “Evangelistic Temple.”

Some who have told this story believe that the white Pentecostal congregation would be perfectly at home in a building that was once a symbol of white supremacy. But this  certainly misses the providential power of this moment. The reclaiming of Beno Hall through the popularity of Oral Roberts is not coincidental.  Over the next few years, Roberts became a pioneer in racially integrating his healing meetings around the US.  As a report from a 1949 Tacoma Healing Crusade comments, “They came, old and young, white and colored, from all portions of the tent.”  But when he was home, Evangelistic Temple became the Roberts’ home church.  From this home base, as pointed out in my recent article in Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology, Roberts used his position to challenge racial predjudice in American and in Tulsa.

By the mid-1960s, Evangelistic Temple had moved south to 53rd and Peoria and the old white building was eventually torn down. Today, it is a vacant lot. Whereas Beno Hall was erected as a symbol of white supremacy’s power to tear down a black community, today that vacant lot is a monument of the power of the gospel to tear down prejudice and reclaim spaces.

(The view north on Main. The empty lot  is where Beno Hall/Evangelistic Temple once stood. The building in to the north is where the tent crusade took place in 1947. To the right is Standpipe Hill. To the south is Cain’s Ballroom.)

Read more about Oral Roberts’ legacy of racial reconciliation in Tulsa here:

 

Oklahoma’s Pentecostal History: Lamont

A  tiny town of 500 in north-central Oklahoma was at one time responsible for the Pentecostal revival’s spread across many parts of Western Oklahoma from 1907-1908. That tiny town was Lamont, Oklahoma. This video tells the story of Lamont and the revival of 1907-1908 that impacted the Pentecostal Movement in Oklahoma.

Lamont was the location  for the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association of Benjamin Harden Irwin in Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th century. Irwin was a holiness revivalist that taught there were three experiences: salvation, sanctification, and a fire baptism in the Holy Spirit. in 1902, the FBHA disbanded and the Lamont church was left without a group to associate with.  In 1907, Glenn A Cook left the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles to come to Lamont to hold meetings. There he found a group of Holiness believers (likely FBHA believers) who were hungry for the Pentecostal experience. Cook stayed two weeks with great success.  After Cook left, several other early Pentecostal leaders also came including J.H. King and G.B. Cashwell.  During the next two years, believers from all over Oklahoma came to Lamont to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. The revival moved elsewhere by 1910, but the little town of Lamont certainly made a big impact.

Here is Cook’s report from the January 1908 issue of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper.

An Open Letter to Samson and Luck, The African Slaves Owned by My Isgrigg Ancestors

Dear Samson and Luck,

You are part of my Isgrigg family that I didn’t know existed until just recently. Nearly two decades ago, my father began a journey of writing the story of our Isgrigg ancestors who came to America in 1740.  The story he discovered was that at the age of 16, our ancestor, William Isgrig, was arrested in London England for stealing from a silversmith he worked for and was sentenced to seven years of indentured servitude in the Colonies. He came to Baltimore, Maryland, aboard a convict slave ship and was sold at a slave auction.  I can’t know what that would have been like to be a young man being a sold as a piece of property for the profit of a land owner in a land far away. I have no idea how he was treated, but it couldn’t have been easy. But his story has a happy ending. He was set free after his seven year sentence and by 1747 he was a free man. Over the next ten years he worked odd jobs until May 17th, 1771, he leased a large 135 acre estate. His story is a remarkable one.  It is a story I have shared freely with people. I was proud of that history, at least until I re-read the story and realized what happened next.

According to our history, in 1771 William purchased several “white convict slaves” and two African slaves to help him work his land.  That is where you enter my story and my family. My ancestor, William Isgrig, bought you as slaves, perhaps for as little as $300 each. The shame of admitting these words is too much to bear. My great (x8) grandfather was a slave owner.  I had read that story before, but for some reason I didn’t remember this sad reality. The man who came to America as a slave became a slave owner. What is remarkable is that my father even uncovered your names: an African male named Samson and a African female named Luck.

Dear Samson and Luck, I cannot possibly express how sorry I am for this. My ancestor, who knew himself the torture of being sold as property, turned around and purchased human beings—you Samson and Luck—to be his property for his own financial benefit. Shame on us.  You worked our land. You cooked our meals. You took care of our livestock. You had no choice. You belonged to us. On the backs of both of you, my ancestor grew in wealth and established himself as a respected man and Revolutionary colonist. He even took up arms to fight for freedom for his new country, but cared little for the freedom of the enslaved human beings in his own household.

What is worse is his son, John Isgrig, carried on the tradition and owned his own slaves to work his own 200 acre farm in 1790 in Pennsylvania. John eventually moved to Clinton County, Indiana, our home county which my father’s family has called home for generations. Our story from there is the American dream, from convict to successful middle class American family. But it was built on a foundation of exploitation. Shame on us.

Like anyone who is forced to confront this ugly reality, I wanted to qualify it by hoping my ancestors were good to you. But there is no way to know this. I have to face the reality that they could have been cruel just as easily as “good slave owners.” Even so, I won’t justify these actions by saying “it was just the way it was” or by pretending that a nice slave owner makes it ok.  It is not OK. My family line sinned against God and against the image of God in you as valuable human beings. My family gained an advantage in this new world, this land of freedom, by exploiting you for our own personal gain. They were Christians, Methodists by profession, but did not see the indignity of what they did. My ancestors prospered, in return you and your descendants continued to be enslaved.

I have no idea what happened to you. But I want you to know I am sorry. I am asking you to please forgive me, forgive my family for owning you as property. I repent before God for what my family did. I cannot undo what the Isgrigg’s did to you. But I know your name now, Samson and Luck. You were precious human beings, created by God, created to be free. But evil men brought you to the Colonies and sold you to a white man named Isgrig, who as a slave himself should have known better, but chose prosperity over humanity, to my ever living shame.  I know that now. The world now knows your name. And we will not forget it.

Your brother,

Daniel Isgrigg, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson of your slave master.

A Short Clip of My Graduation

Here is a short clip of when I was recognized for the completion of my PhD from the Centre for Pentecostal Theology at Bangor University (Wales, UK) at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary Commencement held on May 21, 2019. I was the only PhD graduate that day so my program director, Dr. John Christopher Thomas, was able to say a few words about my thesis. It was  great moment.

Write On

For Christmas, Amonda bought me this shirt. It has a simple phrase: “Write On.”  This shirt was such a blessing to me because it has ably characterized this season of my life. My dissertation was finished nearly a year before I submitted it. In the mean time, I found it refreshing to write about other things I was interested in that I couldn’t do when I was focusing on my dissertation. This was when I wrote my first two Spiritus articles on Oral Roberts.  I found a way to channel the energy and rhythms of my life I had developed to work on some new areas of research and writing.

For many PhD students, the relief of completing the thesis is too great to jump back into writing other things. They simply stop writing. I certainly understand that temptation. It is an exhausting journey. But this wasn’t the case for me. The fact is, God called me to write. I always have.  When I finished my MA thesis in 2007, I was also writing my other book I published.  Its just who I am.

But I also recognize that I am very fortunate that my job is such that I am surrounded by materials and conversations that keep ideas fresh in my mind. While I don’t right during my work hours, I am constantly exposed to areas that need to be explored. When I get home at night, I can’t help but dig into these ideas and write about them. This has led me a a remarkable number of publications that are slated for this year. Here are some of the exciting writing projects I have been working on.

  1. I have been assigned to be a special issue editor for the fall Healing Special Issue of Spiritus: ORU Journal of theology. I not only assisted the contributors with their pieces, but I also will write the editorial in which I will focus on the legacy of Oral Roberts to expand the definition of healing to be multidisciplinary.  Oral’s vision was that healing would extend to “every person’s world.” With this outlook, healing could take many forms: medicine, music, evangelism, and other fields and professions. This issue will focus on that legacy.
  2. Also In the Healing issue, I have written an article Oral Roberts and his legacy of racial reconciliation situated in the backdrop of Tulsa, a city that has a tragic history of racial division. I am so excited about this article. I believe that it will showcase the radical vision Oral had for racial inclusion with details about his work that few are aware of, even within the university. This will be my 4th article on Oral Roberts as I continue to strive to become the foremost scholar today on Oral Roberts and ORU.
  3. I was asked by the editors of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Global Pentecostalism to contribute two entries. One is on Alice Luce, a pioneer in the Assemblies of God missions who founded Latin American Bible Institute. She is a remarkable woman who was a missionary strategist and  founder of Latin American ministry in the US. The second was on A.A. Allen, the famous healing evangelist who was an Assemblies of God minister. Allen was a flamboyant evangelist who had amazing miracles take place in his ministry. He was also controversial. The HSRC has a wonderful collection of Allen resources and it was a delight to research and write about his life.
  4. A few years back, my friend and fellow AG scholar, Rick Wadholm, talked about working on an edited volume together. After several ideas, we began to think about compiling some studies on the emerging discipline in Pentecostal studies of Reception History.  Things really came together when it was announced that the theme for the 2019 SPS conference was Reception History.  The SPS program chair and noted AG New Testament scholar, Martin Middelstadt, joined our editorial team to help us assemble some of the studies presented at the conference into a volume to be published with CPT Press. I am just thrilled to be working with these great friends and scholars on this ground breaking volume.
  5. In the Reception History volume, I will publish the SPS paper I wrote on the reception history of “tarrying” for the baptism in the Holy Spirit from testimonies in the Azusa Street Mission paper, The Apostolic Faith. This paper was well received at the conference and I believe gives insights into the dynamics,  methods and struggles for people being baptized in the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement.
  6. I was also approached about contributing a chapter to an upcoming edited volume that is a primer on Pentecostal Theology edited by David Bradnick called Voices of the Spirit. It is a survey of various leading scholarly voices in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement. I was asked to write a profile of Dr. Peter Althouse, one of the most notable theologians of the Pentecostal tradition. Althouse was a very important scholar in my dissertation because of his publications on Pentecostal eschatology.  No one has done more to bring to light the importance and issues surround Pentecostal eschatology. It was a real joy to bring his important contributions to light.
  7. In my role as director of the HSRC, I was asked to submit an article on the HSRC resources pertaining to Canadian Pentecostalism in the Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity. This too was a joy because it was wonderful for me to become more familiar with my own collection in the HSRC as well as the history of Canadian Pentecostalism.  This should come out later this year.

As you can see, I have been very busy. But I have loved every project. Some have asked how I have time and energy to do all of this. The answer is simple: Write On.  Although its not every day, it is not unusual for me to spend a couple hours a night several times a week working on research and writing (not binge watching Netflix certainly helps!). This was the pattern I developed when I was working on my dissertation. I just kept the same pace and have stayed curious about what is out there that needs explored. But beyond that, I love to do it. This is what I am called to do and I am thankful for the opportunities that I have been given to do it. I hope I can keep up this pace. I feel like I can because I found the secret.  “Write On!”

The Spirit of The Millennium – Perspectives on Assemblies of God Eschatology

Recently I was asked to teach a series of classes at my church based on my dissertation on the development of Assemblies of God eschatology. This was the first opportunity for me to present some of the findings of my research.  I did a week for each of the four AG eschatological statements in the Statement of Fundamental Truths: The blessed hope, the millennium, the final judgment, the new heavens and new earth. For one of the weeks I had to be out of town and recorded the lecture for the class.  Here is the video I shared on the development of the doctrine of Millennium. In it, I discuss the role of the millennium in AG visions of the future. I talk about how AG believers were committed to the premillennial coming of Christ in response to other postmillennial and amillennial views. I also discuss the role that Israel plays in AG visions of the future, noting the dynamics of the AG responses to developments in Israel through the twentieth century.

Link to Power Point slides: Spirit of the Last Days 3 Spirit of Justice