Azusa Street, 1906

The events that occurred in a dilapidated building on Azusa Street, Los Angeles in 1906-7 are widely regarded as the beginnings of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.  Those events originated through the teaching of two men: Charles Fox Parham and William Joseph Seymour.  Charles Parham, who had been influenced by Weslyan “second blessing” holiness teaching, had come to the conclusion, through his study of the Acts of the Apostles, that there was a third blessing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit which was evidenced by speaking in tongues.  He taught this to his students among whom was William Seymour.

Seymour moved to Los Angeles and set up a mission in Azusa Street.  His teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the glossolalia, and people falling “under the power” aroused considerable excitement.  This, together with news of the revival that had occurred in Wales in 1904-5 caught the attention of the newspapers.  Crowds began to gather.  Unfortunately, along with well-meaning Christians, the excitement also drew in mediums, hypnotists, and members of other sects.  Chaos ensued.  Feeling out of his depth, Seymour wrote to Parham begging him to come and help restore order.  When Parham eventually arrived he was horrified by what he observed and denounced the whole thing, thus ending his friendship with Seymour.  However, Seymour himself later came to reject speaking in tongues.  It is ironical that the men regarded as the founders of Pentecostalism themselves rejected the whole or part, respectively, of what happened at Azusa Street.

For further details see the Appendix by Nick Needham in William Goode, Charismatic Confusion, (Trelawnyd, K & M Books, 2000), and Stanley Jebb, The Azusa Street Phenomenon in Where Reason Fails, papers read at the 2006 Westminster Conference, London.

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