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The Pentecostal century

By Ken Horn, Managing Editor

1900: the beginning of the 20th century – destined to be the most momentous 100 years in all of history. The century began with prosperity and optimism in the United States and the English-speaking world. In England, the Victorian era (1837-1901) was drawing to a close. The U.S. was seeing immigrants stream into the land of opportunity in unprecedented numbers. The population had climbed by 17 million in a decade to 75.9 million – more than 27-percent growth in 10 years. Newcomers came through Ellis Island at a rate of 100 an hour.

1900 was a presidential election year and the incumbent, William McKinley, was extremely popular, running the country with "an iron hand in a velvet glove." Young Teddy Roosevelt was his vice presidential candidate.

Transportation in the nation came via 8,000 automobiles, 10 million bicycles and 18 million horses and mules. There were only 1.3 million telephones.

The U.S. was also rapidly rising as a world power. But there were problems in other parts of the world. In China, for example, missionaries and Chinese Christians were slaughtered by the hundreds to the cry of "exterminate the foreigner," by a sect known as the Boxers.

In the U.S., the spiritual climate was largely stagnant – a lukewarm church greeting the new century on many fronts. Churches had grown more formal, and many catered to the upper middle class, leaving the common man, on whom the denominations were built, somewhat disenfranchised. Meanwhile, people of the Holiness persuasion sought a deeper Christianity. The technical beginning of the century, January 1, 1901, saw Agnes Ozman become the first person reported to speak in tongues at Charles Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kan., launching Parham as the first strong voice of the Pentecostal century.

In 1900, it had been only 35 years since the end of the Civil War, and African-Americans still experienced a high degree of segregation and discrimination. This makes a man named William Seymour all the more significant. Seymour, an African-American who had to sit separately in a hallway in Houston to listen to Charles Parham teach, later became the primary pastor during the biggest part of the Pentecostal revival that exploded at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1906.

This was the century that greeted the first flushes of modern Pentecost. Read on to discover more of how Pentecost became a major spiritual movement during the century.


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