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One of the most significant developments in recent Christianity is the appearance of many pentecostal denominations throughout the world during the past century. Beginning in the United States and spreading rapidly to most nations of the world, they now comprise a major “third force” in Christendom whose phenomenal growth has commanded the attention of the world.


One of the first groups to designate itself officially as a member of the pentecostal movement was the Pentecostal Holiness Church. With roots in the midwestern and southeastern United States, the Pentecostal Holiness Church has played a significant role within the movement from the beginning.

The character of the church is to be seen in its name, which places it astride two major revival movements: the holiness revival of the late nineteenth century, and the pentecostal revival of the twentieth century. As its distinctive contribution to contemporary Christianity, this church has attempted to preserve the Wesleyan tradition, while perpetuating the pentecostal tradition.

The fundamental faith of the church is that God’s power to redeem man and society is resident in Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, who sent the Holy Spirit into the world as the Agent of salvation. It is this faith-that God’s power is directly available to everyone to save, cleanse, empower, and heal-that gave the Pentecostal Holiness Church its birth.

Our Sprititual Heritage

The theology and heritage of the church flow from many sources. Basically, Pentecostal Holiness Church people look to the Day of Pentecost as the beginning of the early Christian church that ultimately produced the denomination. The atmosphere of the Upper Room (Acts 2), with the “sound of a rushing mighty wind,” the “cloven tongues as of fire,” the speaking forth in “other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance,” and the dynamic public witness that followed, has inspired the church to perpetuate the power of pentecost in this generation.

In its statement of faith, the Pentecostal Holiness Church distills and preserves the three great spiritual reforms of recent Christianity-Lutheran, Wesleyan, and pentecostal. Each of these revival movements brought to light and reemphasized truths concerning the Christian experience that apparently had been lost since the times of the early church.

The first spiritual reform was the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. The most enduring contribution of the Protestant Reformation to Christian experience was Martin Luther’s doctrine of the believer’s justification by faith alone.

This doctrine became the bedrock of the Reformation and remains to this day the basic doctrinal foundation of all evangelical churches, including the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The church regards the “new birth” as the conversion experience that admits the believer into the family of God. The church’s belief on this crucial point of doctrine is expressed in her eighth Article of Faith.

We believe, teach and firmly maintain the scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone (Romans 5:1).

Pentecostal Holiness people thus regard themselves as spiritual heirs of the Reformation. Therefore, great importance is given to evangelism. The saving of the lost is seen as the primary task of the church.

The Methodist movement, begun by John Wesley in eighteenth-century England, produced the second major contribution to the church’s theology, the doctrine of sanctification as a second work of grace. In pentecostal history this is seen generally as the second spiritual reformation of the church.

From the beginning Wesley’s Methodist Societies emphasized sanctification as a “second work of grace” following conversion, calling for a life of holiness and separation from the world. Wesley also used the terms “heart purity,” “perfect love,” and “Christian perfection” to describe the work of sanctification and the life of holiness in the believer.

The burden of the Wesleyan revival was that the converted believer need not live out his lifetime as a slave to inborn sin; Christ “suffered without the gate” in order to “sanctify his people with his own blood.” This experience of sanctification is the birthright of every Christian.

Holiness Movement

When American Methodism was formed in 1784, the church accepted Wesley’s mandate to “reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness over these lands.” For over a century the holiness cause was promoted by Methodist preachers and churches throughout the nation. As the church grew larger and wealthier, however, the holiness testimony tended to fade as a distinctive teaching and experience in the church. Despite attempts to renew the holiness message in the church both before and after the Civil War, the trend away from holiness theology and experience was clearly established by the end of the nineteenth century.

The last major holiness revival among the Methodists and other mainline Protestant churches came after the formation of the National Holiness Association in Vineland, New Jersey, in 1867. But the resulting revival failed to bring the majority of the American church back to the holiness cause. When the Southern Methodist Church rejected the holiness movement in 1894, over 25 new holiness groups were formed in the United States dedicated to the promotion of holiness preaching and living.

The Pentecostal Holiness Church was one of those holiness groups in America which began after 1894 as a result of the controversies over the question of sanctification.

Pentecostal Movement

During the last years of the nineteenth century, there arose a conviction among many fervent people in the holiness movement that a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the great need of the church. A general attitude of seeking for deeper and further spiritual grace seemed to permeate the movement as the new century was about to dawn. This cry for a “new pentecost” was experienced in both Europe and America.

The modern pentecostal movement had its origins in Topeka, Kansas, in a small Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness evangelist who began his ministry as a Methodist pastor. In 1901, Agnes Ozman, a student at Parham’s school, received the baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. Ozman was a member of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, which merged with the Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1911.

The pentecostal movement received worldwide influence in 1906 in Los Angeles, California, in the Azusa Street revival led by the African-American holiness evangelist William Joseph Seymour. From Azusa Street, the pentecostal experience spread around the world as holiness people by the thousands received the pentecostal baptism with the Holy Ghost with the apostolic sign of speaking with other tongues.

Not since the days of the early church had any revival movement spread so quickly and so far. In every continent, holiness people flocked to altars to receive their own personal pentecost.

Once again the gifts of the Spirit were experienced by the church. The atmosphere of the book of Acts became the norm for the thousands of pentecostal churches and missions that appeared throughout the world. Everywhere, the restoration of the charismata was understood as proof positive that the second advent of Christ was near.

The Pentecostal Holiness Church was a part of this pentecostal outpouring. From the beginning it played a part in the unfolding drama of this third spiritual reformation of the church. Organized as a holiness denomination in 1898, the church officially incorporated the theology of the Pentecostal Reformation in its Articles of Faith in 1908 by adopting the following statement:

We believe the pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire is obtainable by a definite act of appropriating faith on the part of the fully cleansed believer, and the initial evidence of the reception of this experience is speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 8:17; 10:44-46; 19:6).

The Pentecostal Holiness Church also holds to the other basic doctrines of historic Christianity such as the Trinity, the deity, the virgin birth, and the second coming of Christ, and future rewards and punishments after the final judgment. It was, however, the distinctive doctrines of holiness and pentecost that gave birth to the denomination.

The first congregation to bear the name of the Pentecostal Holiness Church was organized in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1898 as a result of the evangelistic ministry of Ambrose Blackmon Crumpler, a Methodist evangelist. In 1897 in Magnolia, North Carolina, Crumpler organized the inter- denominational North Carolina Holiness Association.

Because of his uncompromising holiness ministry, Crumpler was tried in 1899 in a Methodist ecclesiastical court for “preaching the glorious doctrines of Methodism,” as he explained it. Although he was acquitted in the trial, Crumpler soon withdrew from the Methodist Church and with several followers began a new denomination which generally was called the Pentecostal Holiness Church.

In 1900 the church’s first convention was conducted in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Crumpler was elected to serve as president, and a Discipline was adopted. Several congregations were organized principally in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. In 1901 at Magnolia, North Carolina, the word pentecostal was eliminated from the name, and for eight years the church was known as The Holiness Church of North Carolina.

Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1906, and after many members received the baptism of the Spirit according to Acts 2:4, the word pentecostal was restored to the name at Falcon, North Carolina, in 1909.

The Fire-Baptized Holiness Church

The Fire-Baptized Holiness Church came into being as the result of the evangelistic ministry of Benjamin Hardin Irwin of Nebraska. A Baptist lawyer converted to Wesleyan holiness theology, Irwin postulated a “baptism with fire” following the experience of sanctification.

From 1896 to 1900, Irwin’s preaching campaigns in the Midwest and South resulted in large numbers of followers from the holiness movement, many of whom were also attracted to his healing ministry. When leaders of the National Holiness Movement rejected his teaching as “third blessingism,” Irwin began to organize Fire-Baptized Holiness Associations around the nation, the first of which was organized in Olmitz, Iowa, in 1896.

From 1896 to 1900, Irwin’s preaching campaigns in the Midwest and South attracted large crowds, including many holiness ministers. At Anderson, South Carolina, in August 1898, Irwin led in the formation of a national body known as the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association. Irwin was elected to serve as “general overseer” for life while “ruling elders” were appointed over eight states and two Canadian provinces. A periodical promoting the movement, Live Coals of Fire, was published in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When Irwin left the movement in 1900, Joseph Hillery King was chosen to serve as general overseer. In 1902 the name was changed from Fire-Baptized Holiness Association to the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church.

Pentecost & Mergers

Soon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in 1906, members of both churches were attracted to the experience of speaking in tongues as evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In 1906, G. B. Cashwell, a minister in the Holiness Church of North Carolina, journeyed to Los Angeles where he received the pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Azusa Street mission.

In a historic meeting in Dunn, North Carolina, in January of 1907, Cashwell led many of the leaders of the Southern Holiness Movement into the pentecostal experience. Soon both the Holiness Church of North Carolina and the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church embraced the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues.

In the next few years a strong feeling arose among the members of both denominations that these two groups should unite. Both were preaching the same basic doctrines, were operating in the same territory, and had experienced a growing fellowship over the years. After several preliminary steps were taken during 1909 and 1910, these two groups consolidated in 1911.

The merger took place on January 31, 1911, in the octagon-shaped Pentecostal Holiness Church building at Falcon, North Carolina. Here duly elected delegates from the Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church met for the purpose of effecting a consolidation of the two bodies. Although the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church was much larger, the name Pentecostal Holiness Church was adopted for the new organization. G. F. Taylor, F. M. Britton, and J. A. Culbreth served as the committee to draw up the Discipline which became the basis upon which the consolidation was made. The first general superintendent of the united church was Samuel Daniel Page.

The first general conference after the merger was held at Toccoa, Georgia, in 1913, at which time the change from biennial to quadrennial meetings was affected. At the time of the merger, missionaries sent by both churches already had opened fields in Hong Kong, China, Africa, and India.

In 1915 at Canon, Georgia, the Tabernacle Pentecostal Church consolidated with the Pentecostal Holiness Church. This merger brought the Holmes Bible and Missionary Institute of Greenville, South Carolina, into the fellowship of the church. The founder of both the Tabernacle Pentecostal Church and the Bible Institute was Nickels John Holmes of Greenville.

Early missions work of the combined churches included the Hong Kong field begun by Anna Dean in 1909; the Indian field opened by Della Gaines in 1910; the South African field started by J. O. Lehman in 1913; and the Central American field opened by Amos Bradley in 1913. Later efforts by K. E. M. Spooner (1915) and D. D. Freeman (1924) in Africa; W. H. Turner (1919) in China; and J. M. Turner in India (1921) greatly strengthened the early overseas missions of the church.

In 1917, the church began publication of an official journal known as the Pentecostal Holiness Advocate. The first editor was George Floyd Taylor. Two years later, in 1919, Taylor also founded the Franklin Springs Institute near Royston, Georgia. In 1933 the name of the school was changed to Emmanuel College.

Foreign missions work opened in this period included Argentina, started by Janet Hart in 1931; the Mexico field, founded by Esteban Lopez in 1933; and the Hawaiian field, founded in 1936 by Mildred Johnson Brostek.

In 1937 at Roanoke, Virginia, the honorary title of bishop was bestowed on the general superintendents. The two general superintendents elected at that conference, Joseph H. King and Dan T. Muse, were the first to bear this title.

At the general conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1945, the church voted to have four general superintendents. Elected to serve with King and Muse were Joseph A. Synan and Hubert T. Spence. At the death of Bishop King in 1946, Muse assumed the leadership of the church. He served as presiding bishop until his death in 1950 when he was succeeded by J. A. Synan who served as chairman until 1969.

After twenty years of changing the number of bishops, the 1957 General Conference that convened in Oklahoma City decided henceforth to have only one general superintendent.

During the 1950s the church experienced rapid expansion in the mission fields. Works were opened in this period in Costa Rica, Cuba, Northern and South Rhodesia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, and Botswana.

In the late 1960s affiliations were initiated with sister pentecostal bodies abroad. The first international affiliation was with the Pentecostal Methodist Church of Chile in 1967, followed by a similar agreement with the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Brazil in 1983.

J. Floyd Williams was elected general superintendent in 1969 in Memphis, Tennessee. During his tenure of office, the headquarters of the church was moved in 1974 from Franklin Springs, Georgia, to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 1981 the general conference elected Leon O. Stewart as general superintendent. He was succeeded in 1989 by Bernard E. Underwood, who had served as executive director of World Missions for 16 years. Underwood was reelected at the 1993 General Conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

The First World Conference of Pentecostal Holiness Churches met in September of 1990 in Jerusalem, Israel. This was a significant milestone in the church’s history. There the PHC established the Target 2000 goals globally. The church adopted The Jerusalem Proclamation, which has become a global battle cry for PHC people.

Out of that meeting also came the School Of Ministry (SOM) program for equipping pastors and church planters, and the Global Desk (which is now merged into the NET). NET is an acronym for New Evangelism Technologies. The NET is an electronic communications network designed to unite the various ministries and conferences of the IPHC.

Those who led the churches before the consolidation at Falcon in 1911 were:

Fire-Baptized Holiness Church

  • 1898-1900 Benjamin Hardin Irwin

  • 1900-1911 Joseph Hillery King

Pentecostal Holiness Church of North Carolina

  • 1898-1908 Ambrose Blackmon Crumpler

  • 1908-1911 A. H. Butler

Those who have served as general superintendents since 1911 are:

  • 1911-1913 Samuel Daniel Page

  • 1913-1917 George Floyd Taylor

  • 1917-1946 Joseph Hillery King

  • 1937-1950 Daniel Thomas Muse

  • 1945-1969 Joseph Alexander Synan

  • 1945-1946 Hubert Talmage Spence

  • 1946-1949 Paul Franklin Beacham

  • 1946-1953 Thomas Alexander Melton

  • 1953-1957 Oscar Moore

  • 1969-1981 Julius Floyd Williams

  • 1981-1989 Leon Otto Stewart

  • 1989-1997 Bernard Edward Underwood

  • 1997-2009 James Daniel Leggett

  • 2009-2012 Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.

  • 2012-Present A. D. Beacham, Jr.

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