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Across the Lines: Charles Parham’s Contribution to the Inter-Racial Character of Early Pentecostalism, by Eddie Hyatt

Separation At Azusa Street

During the Spring and summer of 1906, Parham and Seymour kept up a lively correspondence concerning a visit by Parham to Los Angeles. Their letters were very cordial and both were anticipating a wonderful reunion. In a letter dated August 27, 1906, Seymour wrote,

Dear Brother Parham,
Sister Hall has arrived, and is planning out a great revival in this city, that shall take place when you come. The revival is still going on here that has been going on since we came to this city. But we are expecting a general one to start again when you come, that these little revivals will all come together and make one great union revival.6

Both were overly optimistic about the reunion. When Parham finally arrived he was appalled at what he considered to be fleshly and demonic manifestations in the Azusa meetings. In his usual straightforward style, he confronted the situation head-on and offered correction based on what he believed he had learned about discerning between the flesh and the Spirit. The Azusa saints took offense. After preaching two or three times, he was informed by two of the white elders that he was no longer welcome. Seymour apparently went along with the rejection.

Parham’s falling out with Seymour has often been ascribed to racism. William Seymour never made this accusation, nor did even his enemies accuse him of racism while he was alive.

Parham was very embittered by this rejection. This bitterness later came out in a diatribe against the perceived excesses at the Azusa meetings. In this denunciation Parham used the “n” word in referring to an unnamed “fleshly” individual he had observed. This, however, was not normal verbiage for Parham. To his credit, this is the only recorded time he ever used this derogatory term. He always, before and afterwards, referred to African-Americans with accepted terminology for his day, i.e., “Negro” or “colored.”

Perhaps because of the above slur, Parham’s falling out with Seymour has often been ascribed to racism. The evidence indicates that it was over differences and questions concerning order, worship style and the genuineness of certain spiritual manifestations. Interestingly, the “racist” accusation was never made by Seymour, Farrow nor by any of his friends or enemies while he was alive. And although Parham afterwards criticized the Azusa Street revival because of its alleged excesses, he did not blame Seymour or the black participants. Instead he pointed the finger at the “Holy Rollers” of Los Angeles whom he said invaded the meetings. He later wrote,

There was a beautiful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Los Angeles. Then all of a sudden a Holy Roller religious meeting in the city dismissed and came down to Azusa Street, and everything that was prevalent in their meeting was turned loose into the Azusa Street Meeting.7

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Category: Church History, Fall 2004, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Eddie L. Hyatt, D.Min. (Regent University), M.Div. and M.A. (Oral Roberts University), serves the body of Christ around the world by teaching with academic excellence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He has authored several books, including 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. His passion is to see authentic spiritual awakening transform the Church and impact the world in the Twenty-first century.

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