Azusa Street's Critics

F. M. Messenger

According to Charles F. Parham, the apostle of the modern “tongues” movement, this wave of fanaticism originated in a Bible school conducted by him in Topeka, Kansas, on October 15th, 1900, about seven years ago but it did not attract much attention, until about one year ago, when it seems to have taken a start and has spread over the country with remarkable rapidity.* Los Angeles, California was evidently a fertile spot for its propagation, and here the devil marshalled together a horde of the dissatisfied and of old floaters and backsliders of every shade and color, as a nucleus for the institution of a great revival(?). We desire to emphasize that Charles F. Parham was not only the self-claimed “Moses” of this movement, but that he was really its instigator, being acknowledged by the Los Angeles wing, to be its leader.

“Apostolic Faith.” September 1906

The Apostolic Faith, published in Los Angeles, in its September 1906 number, says on its front page, “Bro. Chas. Parham, who is God's leader in the Apostolic Faith movement, writes from Kansas,” etc., and under the heading, “The Old Time Pentecost,” it says, “This work began about five years ago last January, when a company of people under the leadership of Chas. Parham, who were studying God's Word, tarried for Pentecost in Topeka, Kansas.”

The Sadly Polluted Stream

From the time that the Burning Bush staff was attracted by this outburst, there was, unanimously, to the minds of those at headquarters; a peculiar something about it, that did not sound right, that was decidedly unpalatable.

It reminds the writer of his experience at a country village boarding house some years ago. The water supply became short and they began getting their drinking supply from a small stream which came from a beautiful spring up on the hillside; but this nice and supposedly pure spring water had an unpleasant odor after it stood a little while, and after repeated remonstrances, the writer, accompanied by several of the male boarders, determined to search out the cause, and tracing the water to its source, we found a dead frog in the spring.

The claim was made by the “tongues” people that the Bible was their only textbook, and much Scripture was quoted by them; yet, there was in reality, (although they attempted to deny and cover it) a third blessing taught, and many other things which proved that the precious gospel stream was sadly polluted. Then we noticed the class of people who found solace in these waters. Men and women whom we know had lived crooked lives, some of whom had left the Burning Bush work, being full of evil, and in other cases those who were deeply in debt, all without having made an attempt at restitution, or confessions of any kind, joined in and got the tongues.

Great Exaggerations In Reports

Then we noticed the tendency to great exaggeration in the reports of their meetings. Mr. Parham reports in the little pamphlet published by W. F. Carothers, that a lady who “after a special time of tarrying, received her Pentecost and was enabled to speak, sing, write, and interpret certain African dialects, God also giving her a set of teeth.” The Rev. A. G. Garr reported praying a man through in Hindustani, in Los Angeles, California, but after arriving in India, it was acknowledged that neither himself nor his wife could speak any language understood in India, but claimed it was a “heavenly language,” which no one understood. One, Maxwood Moorhead, issues a pamphlet from India in which he gives an account of Garr's work there, showing big results which read like the New Testament, and practically equal those of Jesus' preaching, while letters from Miss Gammon, traveling companion of the Garrs, written to her relatives in Virginia, indicate that the results of the India trip have been far from coming up to their expectations.

Garr Writes From India

A letter from Garr himself, published in one of the “tongues” papers in Georgia, says, “Quite a number have been baptized with the Holy Ghost (since coming to India) sinners saved and some healed.” This account would not warrant such a remarkable story as this man, Moorhead, writes up about Garr's work. In a little paper printed in Salem, Oregon, the claim is made that all the signs in Mark 16:16-18 have followed except the raising of the dead, and they believe that God will have someone to receive that power. Parham himself stated that the reports from the Pacific Coast were greatly exaggerated.

F. M. Messenger was an editor of the Burning Bush magazine. Published by the Metropolitan Church Association (known as the "Holy Jumpers"), this periodical was probably the most vicious and prolific in its anti-Pentecostal attacks. This article was excerpted from the Burning Bush printed on September 19, 1907. The narrative continues with an attack on Charles Parham, who was accused of not paying his debts and sexual impurity.

This article and other articles by F. M. Messenger and many other critics are available in Dr. Martin's book, Skeptics and Scoffers . Click here to order.

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