A Summer Update

It is July and I haven’t mentioned much lately about the progress on my PhD. I have had several people ask about my PhD and am I done yet.  Well, the answer is yes and no.  I finished writing my dissertation back in March and my supervisor has read it and given the OK for it to be submitted.  However, I am actually trying to submit a year earlier than my acceptance letter had indicated. So, even though I am done, I am still waiting for Bangor to approve me to submit. We are trying to work through the red tape as we speak. Meanwhile, I am just sitting here waiting, thesis in hand.  So please pray with me that I can receive favor to submit as soon as possible. After that, I can proceed on with the Thesis defense process and finally move on.  (Although at times I miss working on my thesis!)

On another note, I am also please to announce that as of August 1st, I am officially the new director of the Holy Spirit Research Center. While this was a large part of my job when I came to ORU in November, I didn’t receive my official appointment until a few weeks ago. I am so excited about this opportunity. I cannot imagine a job I would enjoy more than being the director of the HSRC.  I simply love what I do and feel so privileged to be the steward of what is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive collections of resources on the Holy Spirit in the entire world.  I praise God for his grace in bring this opportunity my way and am grateful to Dr. Mark Roberts for believing in me. I stand on incredibly strong shoulders as I take over this responsibility.

Finally, I am very excited about some other writing projects I have been working on.  I have three pieces on Oral Roberts coming out later this fall in a special edition of Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology in recognition of the centennial of Oral’s birth.  The first is a bibliography of Oral’s works that is intended to provide scholars with a list of items we have at ORU that are available for Oral Roberts studies. The second is a historical piece I wrote with Vinson Synan about an early account of Oral’s healing that was published in the Oklahoma Pentecostal Holiness newspaper, in which his account is curiously different than his later recollections of his healing from tuberculosis.  The third article is a study of the role that the baptism in the Holy Spirit played in shaping the healing ministry of Oral Roberts.  I am so excited about these pieces and look forward to producing more studies of Oral and Oral Roberts University in the future.

What can I say except I feel really blessed right now. This season of my life is a good one for me and my family.  I am pleased to agree with Oral Roberts; “God truly is a good God.”

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A Proposal – by James Smith

In the past few weeks,  I have been reading proto-pentecostal books about the Holy Spirit. These works about the Holy Spirit are remarkable. Their passion for the Holy Spirit is unequaled even among modern Pentecostals.  During the mid-1800’s, pastors from many traditions were awakened to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

This is an excerpt from a chapter called “A Proposal” in the book The Early and Latter Rain by the Rev. James Smith in 1856.  Smith pleads with his readers to join him in praying that God would awaken in the church their awareness of the Holy Spirit and that pastors and laypeople would seek the outpouring of the Spirit. At the end of the chapter, challenges those who are willing to “snatch a few minutes from this greedy world and plead with God to pour out his Spirit” upon the church to take this pledge:

Will you take your pen and sign the following:

“I, __________ being deeply convinced that the church in general, and myself in particular stand in need of the putting forth of the power of the Holy Ghost, do hereby solemnly engage, in the sight and presence of God, who searches the hear, once at least, in each day, to go directly to the throne of grace, on purpose to plead with my God and Father, that He will pour out His Spirit in all the fulness of His gifts and graces upon the church in general, and upon my own soul particularly.”  Witness my hand this _____ day of _______1856

The sincere call to prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit in books like this one may have been the very catalyst that would eventually result in the what we know as the Pentecostal movement. They prayed for us.  As we approach the season of Pentecost, I am challenged by this proposal by the Rev. James Smith and am inspired to join him in this prayer that God will indeed pour out His Spirit in all his fullness of His gifts and graces on the church for a future generation. Will you join me in this proposal?

How Eschatology Shaped AG Social Ethics

This week I attended the annual meeting for the Society for Pentecostal Studies. It was a wonderful meeting.  The theme this year was “Pentecostals and the Poor”.  This theme appealed to me because one of the questions my thesis attempts to answer is how Assemblies of God eschatology translated to how they engaged in social issues.  Did their belief in the soon coming of Christ mean that they ignored issues such as poverty?  I submitted this paper and I was grateful it was accepted.

My paper was given on Friday afternoon in the History interest group. I was excited about sharing my paper, but I was also excited because there were three other excellent papers that were also scheduled during my session: a history of Church Mothers by Jane Coulton, a history of the Church of God by historian David Roebuck and a paper about the origin of Oral Robert’s doctrine of healing by the renown Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan. Needless to say, it was a great crowd and I felt so honored to be in the same session as these excellent scholars. My paper was well received and people seemed very interested in my research.

Isgrigg – Interpreting the Signs of the Times SPS

Abstract:

This paper will seek to explore how the AG’s premillennial beliefs affected the way they interpreted three primary social issues: political attitudes, economic issues, and responses to social and moral issues.  I had to limit the time frame and issues covered because of length, but my thesis looks at these attitudes all the way up to the present. This paper give just a taste of what I found. To aid in this task, commentary on social issues through the lens of eschatology in the Pentecostal Evangel will be analyzed through the first two periods of AG history: Formative Period (1914-1926), Scholastic Period (1927-1948).

Explaining a PhD to a 9 year old

Over the course of the past 3 years, my boys have become very aware of the fact that daddy is writing a PhD thesis.  Early on I described what I was doing as ‘writing a book’. Will is perhaps the most interested in what I am doing and will often come into the room where I am writing and ask, ‘Are you done writing your book yet?’ My answer over the past 3 years has been, ‘Not yet son. But I am trying to finish soon.’  I know they get tired of this thing having my attention.

The older my kids get, the more they are starting to understand that what I am doing is more than just writing a book.  They are starting to understand that a doctorate means you can become a professor or scholar.  Getting a job at ORU has really helped them understand why I have been working so hard on this.  The idea of a PhD as an expert is starting to resonate with Will, who is 9 years old.  He is an avid reader and fancies himself as an expert on a number of things like Legos and Star Wars. In fact, he said told Amonda he wants to get a PhD in Legos.

indiana-jonesThanks to a set of junior novels Will got for Christmas, the newest subject he has become an expert in is Indian Jones. We already have the movies and the Lego Indiana Jones Video Game, but now he has the novels that give more details and he loves to tell me what he is learning about his new favorite hero. We talked the other night about the fact that Indy is a different kind of hero because he is imperfect. He makes mistakes, gets caught, fails, gets shot, get tricked and so forth.  That is what makes Indiana Jones so cool. He’s not your typical hero.

Tonight, as I was writing, Will sat next to me and once again asked, ‘Are you done yet?’  I told him once again that I was very close.  He asked, ‘What are you writing about?’  I decided to use his new found knowledge of Indian Jones as a way to teach him what a PhD dissertation is about. Here is the illustration I gave:

A PhD thesis/dissertation is an original contribution to knowlege on a topic that no one has explored before.  Lets say that every book you read talks about Indiana Jones as a ‘perfect hero.’ But when you the stories about him, you notice that he is portrayed as an imperfect hero.  What you have noticed, that no one else has noticed, becomes the subject of a thesis. So you decide to gather evidence to support your thesis and present a case that your view of Indy is more accurate than what others have said. Here is what you do:

You come up with your thesis statement:  Your thesis is that Indy is an imperfect hero.

You review the literature: You show what other people have said about Indy.

You collect your evidence: You demonstrate in all the stories all the various ways that Indy is portrayed as an imperfect hero in contrast to what people have said about him.

You make your conclusions:  You talk about what your study has found and what it means to the conversation about Indiana Jones.

You submit your thesis:  A group of experts on Indian Jones reads your thesis and decide if you made your case convincingly. If you have convinced your thesis committee, they approve your thesis and you publish your findings so that other people who study Indiana Jones will have to include your research in their studies of the character.

Bingo! That illustration helped Will to understand why his Daddy has been working so hard and why this process makes you a scholar.

Its hard to believe, but as I near the end of this thesis I think I am finally fully comprehending what I am doing myself. It is definitely something I am not sure I fully understood starting out. But, it sure felt good to be able to articulate it so clearly today. Maybe this explanation will help others want to become scholars too! (Perhaps even Will!)

As I am in the finals stages of completing this degree, I feel so thankful for Amonda and my boys. They have been so supportive of this pursuit.  I am few weeks away from having a final draft. I am so thankful for those of you who have supported me and the times so many of you have asked me how things are going.  I feel you all cheering me toward the finish line. Thank you.  Please keep me in prayer as I finish strong.

A New Season

Over eight months ago, we left a church we loved and I laid down my calling as a pastor in order to seek out what God had next for our family.  It has been a difficult 8 months and we often have been tired from the waiting, from what seemed to be open doors that inexplicably shut, and from living in scarcity.  Yet, even in the difficulty of these past months, God has been faithful and we have not only survived, but we have thrived through our transition.

I am excited to announce that this time of transition has finally came to a close.  20 years ago, in a freshman class at ORU, I heard the Lord say to me, “You are going to get a PhD”.  10 years ago, as I finished my masters degree at ORU, I started my journey toward getting my PhD believing that one day God would lead me back ORU. That day has arrived.

For the past several months I have been in talks with Dr. Mark Roberts, the new dean of the ORU Library, about joining his team.  After months of waiting and unexpected challenges, last Friday things finally came together. On Monday morning I began a new career as a Faculty Librarian at ORU.  I am so thankful to Dr. Roberts showing me favor in offering me this position.  My primary job is to help the Theological Librarian acquire new scholarly books for ORU’s new PhD program that will begin soon.  In addition, I will  support other outstanding librarians and assist Dr. Roberts with the Holy Spirit Research Center.  (In short, God gave me a job where I get to buy books and help students to do research on the Holy Spirit! How awesome is that!) This opportunity couldn’t be a better fit for me and I give God all the praise for making this happen.

In addition to this awesome development, during this transition time I have received several opportunities to share about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in several churches in the Tulsa area. I have been given opportunities to preach in Sunday services and have given several seminars on Holy Spirit in Wednesday night services, small groups and Young Adult groups and have seen God do some amazing things.  God’s people are so hungry for solid teaching as well as authentic experiences with the Holy Spirit.  Some of the talks I have given have been: Three experiences with the Holy Spirit,  the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,  Reasons you should pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, and the nature of Spiritual gifts. In every session, the Holy Spirit has stirred up weary believers, filled hungry hearts, and truly brought times of refreshing and renewal to believers.  Everything God has taught me through my education, writings, and ministry in the church are being used to help stir up a passion for Spirit-filled ministry in other churches. What an honor God has given to me to have these opportunities.

This is definitely a new season for the Isgrigg family.  I am so thankful to God for his goodness. And thankful to those who have prayed for us and supported us during this time.  I am especially thankful to God for a wife who was courageous enough to step out in faith and who has been my rock though it all.  I still have one more goal to achieve, that is to finish my PhD.  I am nearing the end and it is just in time. I am truly excited about my new season and what God has for me to do.

Eschatological Women of the Assemblies of God: Alice E. Luce

Alice Eveline Luce was a missionary to India and church planting pioneer who entered the Pentecostal movement in 1910. She was born in England in 1873 and at age 22 she became a missionary with the Anglican Church Missionary Society.[1] While in India, word of the Pentecostal movement had reached her in 1910 and she sought out the baptism in the Spirit for herself. Not long after, she became ill and returned to England in 1912 to recover. In 1915 she moved to Texas to become a missionary to Mexico and was ordained in the AG by M.M. Pinson. In 1926, she helped to found the Spanish speaking Berean Bible School (now Latin America Bible Institute) in San Diego with veteran missionary to Mexico H.C. Ball. Alice Luce was known in the AG as a missionary strategist, Bible school educator and Hispanic missionary. She wrote three books that were published by the GPH: The Messenger and His Message (1925), The Little Flock and the Last Days (1927), and Pictures of Pentecost.

Luce’s Little Flock and the Last Days is a significant work because it is the first GPH book specifically on eschatology by a woman. While she did not intend the book to be a ‘exposition on prophecy, nor yet a study of social or international conditions in the twentieth century’, she wanted to bring light to the topic of Christ’s return and encourage believers to be prepared for his coming. [2]

One unique element of Luce’s premillennial eschatology is understanding of ‘signs of the times’. She recognized that the signs of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes mentioned by Jesus were intended to be  ‘characteristic of the whole of this church age, the dispensation of grace.’ [3] For Luce the true signs that she was living in the last days were 1) the budding of the fig tree (rise of the Jewish nation), 2) the sign of summer in all the trees (awakening of the nations), and 3) the Latter Rain outpouring of the Spirit.[4] She devotes a chapter to each of these significant signs of the soon coming of Christ.

Another unique element in Luce’s eschatology was that she argued that the Millennium was important for the purpose of reversing the curse upon the created order.  She believed Jesus must come to restore nature. Based on Romans 8:20-22, Luce understood that restoration of creation was part of the millennial agenda. Since the second coming will bring the resurrection of believers, it will also signal the resurrection of creation.  Jesus will institute peace, reverse natural disasters, extend the ability of the earth to produce and sustain people and reverse the curse on animals and nature. She says,

The suffering and groaning of nature in this time of the dominion of sin, is not a hopeless mourning over something irrevocably lost. On the contrary, it is a suffering in hope, a death which is only the gateway of entrance into new life … the whole creation, though it suffered with him in this fall, will ultimately be redeemed and restored to greater beauty and fertility than ever.[5]

Luce is another example of the type of pneumatological orientation of AG eschatology and the role that women played in the theological shaping of AG doctrine.  Luce was highly respected missionary and teacher within the AG.  Her books showed a great theological maturity and wisdom.  Together, Alice Luce and Elizabeth Sisson represent some of the earliest eschatological testimony in print for of the AG.

[1] Alice Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1927), p. v.

[2] Gary B. McGee ‘Luce, Alice Eveline’ DPCM, pp. 543-544.

[3] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 32-37.

[4] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 32-33.

[5] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 47-48.

 

Eschatological Women of the Assemblies of God: Elizabeth Sisson

In my studies of AG eschatology I was delighted to uncover a couple women who were influential with their eschatological writings.  One such woman was Elizabeth Sisson who had the unique opportunity to transition with from the late nineteenth century healing holiness movement, to the Pentecostal movement and finally into the AG.

Sisson had a long and varied career as an evangelist, missionary to India, editor and was close friends of Carrie Judd Montgomery and Maria Woodworth-Etter. In 1871, prior to leaving for India as a missionary, Sisson attended a holiness convention led by William Boardman in which she testifies, ‘God met me again, baptizing me with His Spirit, and taking me into closest relation with Himself’.[1] In the early 1880s, Sisson left India in order to recover from an illness and she settled into a healing house in Bethshan, London. In 1885, she attended the Keswick convention and spoke during many sessions.[2] In 1887, equipped with her health and an experience with the Spirit, she returned to the US to minister with Carrie Jude Montgomery. She even for a short time she co-edited Triumphs of Faith. [3] She also regularly spoke at meetings in England at the Sunderland Pentecostal conventions of A.A. Boddy.[4] Prior to the organizing of the AG, she spent time ministering along side of F.F. Bosworth and S.A. Jamieson in Pentecostal Meetings in Texas.[5] Sisson was well known in early Pentecostal circles and was a regular guest at the Stone Church in Chicago.[6]

As a high profile evangelist and voice in Pentecostal literature, Sisson was invited to be the first woman to be a keynote speaker at a General Council when she gave the keynote address at the 1917 Council in St. Louis.[7] Later that year, she officially joined the AG at the age of seventy-four, despite her insistence that she did not need ordination ‘from man’.[8] Since the AG did not accept women as Presbyters, Sisson held no official office but she holds the distinction of the only woman to speak at General Council early years of the AG.[9]

She was a frequent contributor on eschatological topics to the many Pentecostal periodicals including the Confidence in England, Carrie Judd Montgomery’s Triumphs Of Faith, the Pentecostal Evangel and Latter Rain Evangel. The Evangel Publishing House published her book Foregleams of Glory in 1912, which contained a collection of her writings including a collection of ‘Resurrection Papers’.[10]  Sisson also became the first AG woman to have a doctrinal book published when GPH published her Faith Reminiscences as a part of the first series of books called The Pulpit and Pew Full Gospel Series that were offered in 1925.[11]

Sisson regularly wrote articles on the latter rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the return of Jesus, and her favorite eschatological topic was the resurrection.  She believed that not only was the Pentecostal movement a sign of the nearness of Jesus, but that Pentecostal people themselves were signs.  She says, ‘Pentecost with all its demonstrations of the Spirit is a sign. A mighty sign. And the Pentecostallers when yielded to the Holy Spirit are a sign people’.[12]

One important aspect of Sisson’s eschatology was the relationship that resurrection had to creation and Romans 8:19-20. She recognizes that the world is ‘groaningly anticipating a release form bondage into the liberty of the glory of God’s children’ and that ‘with resurrection is somehow involved the liberation of all creation’.[13] The creation, which was subject to sin and frustration, shares the fate of the human beings God created. The resurrection of believers therefore ‘ends creation’s wait, and begins creation’s deliverance from the bondage of sin into the liberty of the resurrection.[14]

Another significant eschatological concept in Sisson’s writing is the Tribulation. Reading Revelation in a literal sense, she believes the Tribulation will be an awful period in the future, but will not be empty of purpose. The tribulation period will be a time of purging for the Church, Israel and the nations. The coming judgment in the tribulation is not an act of vengeance, it is an act of his grace and love. Jesus came in love to the world as ‘remedy’ for sin, however, many did not receive this gift of his love. As part of God’s plan, the tribulation serves as a gift to the world. She says, ‘A new expression of his love! Judgment is His second remedy when His first has proved ineffectual’.[15]

More of Sisson’s eschatology will be featured in my dissertation. Sisson represents several firsts for the AG. Sisson as the first AG woman to publish a book on eschatology in her Foregleams of Glory in 1912.  She was the first woman to have spoken at General Council in 1917.  She was the first woman to have a doctrinal book published by the Gospel Publishing House in 1925.  Although women were not permitted to be pastors in the early years of the AG, Sisson was an influential woman that was highly respected.  A.G. Ward called Sisson ‘a rare Christian character, a woman deeply taught of God, and of wide Christian experience. Her articles are worthy of a place in the writings of the church’. I agree.

Darrin Rogers and the The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center has featured Sisson in several articles.

Sisson’s 1905 vision of a World Wide Revival

This Week in AG History

[1] Elizabeth Sisson, Foregleams of Glory (Chicago, IL: Evangel Publishing House, 1912), p. 126; Cecil M. Robeck Jr, ‘Sisson, Elizabeth’ IDPCM, pp. 788-89; LRE (May, 1909), p. 6-10.

[2] Record of the International Conference on Divine Healing and True Holines, (London, UK: 1885), p. 74-75, 161-62.Sisson attended the 1885 Keswick Convention where she was exposed to Boardman and teaching on the latter rain teaching on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

[3] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 195-98.

[4] Confidence, (June, 1908), pp. 6-7.

[5] Confidence, (June, 1914), p. 110. See also Robeck, ‘Sisson, Elizabeth’, pp. 788-789.

[6] The Latter Rain Evangel published over 70 of her sermons and articles, many of which she delivered at the Stone Church Pentecostal conventions.

[7] GC Minutes (Sept 9, 1917), p. 5. Sisson also spoke in response to a sermon by A.P. Collins on the Second Coming of the Lord where she remarked that she ‘left a letter at home directing what to do in case she should be caught up whilst away on her present trip’. p. 20.

[8] In Sisson’s application for ordination, when asked whom she is ordained by, she replies, ‘By the Lord’. ‘Application for Ordination’, (Dec 18, 1917), held at IFPHC, Springfield, MO.

[9] For more on the role of women in the early AG see Joy E. Qualls, ‘‘God Forgive Us for Being Women’: The Rhetorical Negotiations and Renegotiations of the Role of Women in the Assemblies of God’ Unpublished (PhD Thesis; Regent University, 2010) pp. 25, 161.

[10] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 9-88. Foregleams was a collection of sermons and articles published in the LRE from 1909-1912. Although an AG publishing house did not publish this work, I have included it with the criteria that the Latter Rain Evangel was so closely associated with the AG and because it predates the formation of the AG.

[11] Elizabeth Sisson, Faith Reminiscences and Heart to Heart Talks (Springfield MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1927). For a full list of this series see the ad in PE (Dec 17, 1927), p. 16.

[12] Elizabeth Sisson, ‘These Wars! Why?’ LRE (July, 1916), p. 16.

[13] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, p. 9.

[14] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 50-51.

[15] Elizabeth Sisson, ‘A Sign People’ PE (Jan 11, 1919).