Founding Vision or Visions


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 Founding Vision or Visions? The Sources of Early Church of God Ecclesiology


By Dr. Dale M. Coulter



            When the original members formed the Holiness Church at Camp Creek in May of 1902, they could not have anticipated the enormity of the decision. Frank Porter, R. G. Spurling, and W. F. Bryant provided the nucleus of a group that would eventually become a new denomination. The addition of A. J. Tomlinson and M. S. Lemons in the following year put in place the major players who would have a formative role in the initial decades of this new denomination. Among the members of this new group, the nature and purpose of the church would be the primary focus for the first two decades (1903-1923). This fact raises two sets of issues that speak directly to the questions regarding the formation of the Church of God and what or who were the primary influences on its early formation. One set concerns the organizational continuity between the churches Spurling founded in the late 1880s and 1890s and the 1902 Holiness Church, while the second set concerns the theological continuity between the two. These issues coalesce around this central question: was there a founding vision that was adopted and adapted or must we speak of multiple competing visions out of which a dominant vision emerged?

            In an article in Pneuma, I answered the question in favor of a single vision by arguing that R. G. Spurling was the founder.1 Discussions with Harold Hunter subsequent to the publication of the article have clarified a lack of specificity in my previous article that complicated this argument. I had failed to demarcate organizational continuity as distinct from theological continuity. While the question of the organizational relationship between the Christian Unions of 1886 forward and the Holiness Church of 1902 remains somewhat ambiguous (although David Roebuck has suggested a congregationalist association of individual churches), my primary argument centered on the theological continuity between Spurling's vision and Tomlinson's in the area of ecclesiology.2 Even more, I suggested that Spurling set the ecclesiological agenda in the first phase of the formation, which I dated from 1886 until 1910. It is because of this theological continuity on the nature and purpose of the church that one could place the founding of the Church of God at 1886 and Spurling as its founder.

            Even given the clarification, Hunter has also alerted me to several issues that the previous article left unaddressed.3 First, the relationship between Spurling's vision and other competing visions that had some degree of influence upon founding members in 1902 and 1903 like Tomlinson, Lemons, and Porter. These competing visions reduce to three possible sources: 1) B. H. Irwin and Fire-Baptized Holiness ecclesiology; 2) Frank Sandford's ecclesiological vision of a theocracy; 3) Martin Wells Knapp, Seth Cook Rees, and their holiness agenda of an enlivened and revitalized church. While the historical evidence surrounding the fact of influence seems clear, the nature and extent of their influence requires a close comparative analysis. For example, the terminological continuity between Irwin's use of the title General Overseer and Tomlinson's adoption of it does not reveal how the term was understood and the office functioned. A continuity of terms does not guarantee a continuity of function or meaning. Secondly, the complications in dating surrounding Spurling's own writings remains an outstanding concern. If Spurling's magnum opus, The Lost Link, was not actually published until 1920, then how can one argue for a one-way influence from Spurling to Tomlinson? It may be that Spurling's ecclesiology was formed under the influence of discussions with Tomlinson et al., from 1902 until 1920. Finally, there remain a host of issues surrounding the interpretation of various letters and reflections upon those heady days by the founding members. For example, how one interprets Tomlinson's statements about Spurling's influence depends upon additional interpretive moves, some of which include assumptions about Tomlinson's state of mind. Did Tomlinson really mean to imply that Spurling formed a lasting theological influence upon him when he referred to him as a father figure or was this mere nostalgic musings in the face of a man who had been there from the beginning?4 Formulating some answer to these issues is necessary to substantiate the view that Spurling's ecclesiological vision was foundational.

            In this article, I wish to argue in support of my original contention for theological continuity between Spurling and Tomlinson by taking up the issues I outlined in part. While a complete answer must await a fuller analysis, I hope at least to offer some initial observations that reinforce my previous claims. Despite my indebtedness to Hunter's keen historical analysis and his helpful criticisms, I still maintain that the weight of evidence supports the thesis for the primacy of Spurling's ecclesiological vision and the legitimacy of his bearing the title, Founder. To this end, the article will briefly discuss the second set of issues as they relate to chronology before turning to a comparative analysis of the different views of the church that may have influenced the development of the early Church of God ecclesiology. It is the context of a comparative analysis that the meaning of later statements about Spurling’s involvement in foundational events will emerge. 


II. Issues in Chronology


            One of the difficulties in assessing the early development of the Church of God resides in establishing a clear chronological account of persons, events, and writings from 1896 until 1910. Later accounts by Tomlinson, Lemons, and Bryant differ in important ways. This is in part because events occurring over a number of years at times are blurred together or rearranged.5 Historians such as Conn, Hunter, Roebuck, and Philips have spent a great deal of time attempting to reconstruct the historical context, and I will not repeat their work here.6 Instead, I want to focus on Spurling’s early writings and events that highlight his involvement in the movement until 1913. In addition, I hope to clarify what ideas in his writings reflect his own thinking rather than the influence of Tomlinson, Lemons, or other early COG leaders. When one puts together the ideas set forth in Spurling’s early writings with his role in the infancy of the denomination from 1902 until 1913, one can see a continuity in his thought as well the leadership role he occupied.

            The year 1895 was significant in terms of events that would impact the formation of the Church of God. Frank Sandford launched his first periodical, Tongues of Fire, in January and by October he had opened “Holy Ghost and Us” Bible School in Shiloh, Maine.7 During the same month of October, B. H. Irwin claimed to have received a “baptism of fire” in Oklahoma. The following month Irwin defended this new doctrine in The Way of Faith, a holiness periodical in South Carolina then under the editorship of John M. Pike.8 During this same year, in the Appalachian region of southwestern North Carolina, Spurling composed a summary of the “basis of union” for the Christian Union’s he had already established. Although he included the basis in The Lost Link, which was not published until 1920, given that the work contains material from the late 1890s, some confidence can be placed in the accuracy of the date. This would make the “basis of union” the earliest of Spurling’s writings.9 What emerged from these events would collide in the small mountain home of W. F. Bryant between 1902 and 1903.

            The next seven years saw the rise and fall of Irwin as well as the impact of his movement on those who would help form the Church of God. While Irwin was a regular contributor to and an holiness evangelist supported by The Way of Faith, he did not enter the southeast until December of 1896. By this time, the initial Shearer Schoolhouse meeting had already occurred, which suggests that Fire-Baptized Holiness (FBH) theology may not have impacted the first meeting. By 1897, however, the impact had been felt and court records show that Bryant was a target of persecutions.10 Under the weight of these persecutions, Spurling penned a short manifesto in the language of an “appeal.”11 Since Tomlinson did not arrive in North Carolina until July of 1899, it seems safe to assume that the manifesto, “An Appeal,” and the “basis for union” represent Spurling’s thought free of Tomlinson’s influence.12 Moreover, Irwin’s influence on Spurling’s ecclesiology would be minimal at best since Irwin did not hold organizational meetings until 1898 and 1899. These two writings help establish the basic parameters of Spurling’s thought prior to the formation of the Holiness Church in 1902.

            Both of Spurling’s early writings reveal an exclusive preoccupation with ecclesiology as the solution to the persecutions resulting from FBH teaching. Spurling defended an anti-creedalism on the basis of a historical narrative of the church’s Constantinian fall. While this narrative framework stems primarily from Spurling’s reading of the English Baptist historian, G. H. Orchard, he applied it to the immediate contextual issues emerging from the impact of FBH theology on the Methodist and Baptist churches of Appalachia.13 In the place of creeds as the basis for union, Spurling desired to return to Christ’s law and government, which he described as the lost link of love.14 While the “Jewish Church” had its covenant in the Mosaic law, the “Gospel Church” was under a new covenant represented by the law of Christ.15 Covenant, law, and government all went together. As the embodiment of Christ’s law of love and the new covenant, Spurling concluded that the New Testament must be the only rule of faith and practice.16 True to classic Baptist ideas, his three fundamental principles were love, liberty, and equality. Finally, Spurling grounded his understanding of love primarily in Johannine texts while utilizing Pauline ideas to underscore liberty and equality.17 What held them together was a pneumatology in which the Spirit is the source of love that both frees and equalizes while also becoming the ground of fellowship.

            In the year after they joined the Holiness Church, Tomlinson and Lemons launched a periodical, The Way, that provides another window on Spurling’s importance. First, although the inaugural issue is not extant, it is clear that the title of the periodical intentionally reflects Johannine themes. In the June issue, Spurling had the lead article in which he argued that creeds were dangerous because they destroyed brotherly love. He cited 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 as “proof” of the problem of one man imposing his will on another and John 13:35 to illustrate the cure as love for one another, which is the law of Christ. These two texts had also been used in “An Appeal” for the same purpose.18 As one moves through the rest of the periodical, Johannine thought dominates, including a “bible lesson” on John 13-17 and an article on true worship grounded in John 4, 14, and 16. This focus on Johannine themes seems to echo Spurling’s thought, which would have resonated with Tomlinson’s own Quaker sensibilities and their Johannine basis in the inner light.

            Secondly, Lemons and Tomlinson give brief accounts of the “meetings” they held.19 There is a pattern to these accounts in which the preaching begins with a call to salvation, followed by a baptismal service, pleas for entire sanctification, and, finally, a discourse on the “New Testament Church,” after which an invitation to join this church was given. In one account, Lemons notes that Tomlinson invited the newly sanctified to come into fellowship and “take the New Testament for their only rule and practice.”20 This pattern reflects Spurling’s early thought that church membership is subsequent to baptism and that entrance into the kingdom is not entrance into the church. In addition, one finds Spurling’s ecclesiological agenda reflected in a letter written by a Methodist teenager, which states: “I agree with Bro. Spurling on Christ’s law. God speed the time when we all can work in unity and build The Church that has no creed.”21 In its brief run from January 1904 until September 1905, the content of The Way suggests that Spurling’s ecclesiological ideas were in the ascendancy.

            The next several months marked a significant turning point. At the conclusion of the last issue of The Way, Tomlinson and Lemons pointed their readers toward The Church Herald, noting that the remainder of their subscriptions would be filled by that holiness periodical. From October 1905 until April 1906, Tomlinson and Lemons published reports that had them continuing to hold meetings in Bradley County, Tenn. and Culberson, N.C. They also seemed to consider briefly the idea of joining the “Church of God,” which was the organization behind The Church Herald. The unofficial break resulted from an article on the nature of the church published in the January 19, 1906 edition of The Church Herald that prompted a response from Tomlinson.22

            Tomlinson objected to a claim made in a previous article that individuals become part of the church by regeneration or the new birth.23 To counter the claim, Tomlinson argued that in the New Testament, the term “church” referred to a locality or a place or assembly rather than any denomination. Within these assemblies, many individuals came together, not all of which were active Christians as evidence by calls to remove them in various New Testament texts. As part of his argument, Tomlinson summarized his definition of the church as “composed of many members, keeping Christ’s laws, or under His government.” This shorthand understanding of the church echos the basic ideas Spurling had set forth in the late 1890s.

            Just one week after the offending article appeared in The Church Herald, the fledgling denomination held the first of its annual meetings or general assemblies (January 26-27, 1906). When one examines the first four assemblies, Spurling seems to have the primary role in articulating the vision. The structure of these assemblies indicates that discussions and discourses/sermons were the two mechanisms by which important issues or topics were introduced. The agenda of the first assembly was driven by a series of discussions led by different persons present. By the second assembly (1907), Tomlinson and Spurling were the two primary speakers with Spurling giving sermons on Wednesday (the opening night) and Friday evening and Tomlinson speaking on Thursday and Saturday (closing night) evening. Spurling delivered all of the evening sermons at the next assembly in 1908 and is the only one listed as giving discourses in the 1909 assembly. While there were others leading discussions, Spurling was the dominate speaker between 1907 and 1909. 

            Out of the seven discourses Spurling gave over the course of three assemblies (1907, 1908, 1909), three are on the church, two have no subjects listed, and the final two deal with sanctification and evangelism. Unfortunately, the Minutes only provide brief descriptions of the five sermons with a clearly identifiable topic.24 The sermon on “Christ’s Church” in 1907 addressed the principles necessary to rebuild the torn-down structure of the church. For the 1908 sermon on the difference between the Church of God and other bodies, the Minutes suggest that Spurling extended his ideas by claiming that “the Church must be made exact in every part as the tabernacle was exact.” Finally, in 1909 Spurling unveiled a canvas with a picture showing the church and its apostasy. Three out of the seven total sermons concerned the subject of ecclesiology. 

            Spurling had one more significant article on the church in 1910.25 In this article he builds on an idea he had first asserted in “An Appeal” that the “Jewish Church” became the church in the wilderness when it received the Mosaic law and embraced God’s covenant. The “Gospel Church” also became a church in Jerusalem under a new covenant established by Christ and summarized by his law of love. This is a visible church in covenant or gospel fellowship that is set in order by establishing apostles and other offices as well as by keeping the decrees of the apostles. The decrees are connected to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. He concludes the article with a call he had issued in “An Appeal” to rebuild the temple of God out of apostolic stones.26 This conclusion also echoes the brief descriptions of the sermons Spurling had preached in previous assemblies. However, this article is the first place where Spurling explicitly talks about the church in the wilderness and keeping the decrees of the apostles as part of covenant. These two motifs would become important for the subsequent development of COG ecclesiology, but it is difficult to know whether they originate with Spurling or not.

            The previous chronology suggests a continuity between Spurling’s writings prior to 1902 and those post-1902. I have explicitly avoided the content in The Lost Link that cannot be linked directly to his thought in the 1890s. The connection between covenant and church as mutually constitutive is a common thread. Another thread is the narrative of a fall and the need to rebuild this church, which is also described as the temple of God. Central to restoring the church is recovering Christ’s law of love by rejecting creedalism and embracing the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice. In “An Appeal,” Spurling repeatedly described creedalism in terms of the church creating laws rather than following Christ’s law, which constituted the covenant. Even though Spurling’s target was the Nicene Creed of the fourth century, it may be best to understand his arguments as being against the kind of confessionalism that had emerged within Protestantism with its focus on confessional identity as the demarcation between Protestants and Catholics as well as various forms of Protestantism. It is this founding vision that I would suggest all members of the Holiness Church had to embrace by rejecting central ideas associated with Irwin and Sandford.    


II. Irwin and the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church


            Irwin’s meteoric rise and fall was another influence upon the ecclesiology of the early Church of God. He introduced himself to holiness readers of The Way of Faith through a testimonial to his own experience of a “baptism of fire.” Along with this testimonial, the editor of the weekly, John Pike, published an explanation and endorsement of the Wesleyan Methodist elder, noting that he was “stirred deeply” by reading it.27 This alliance between editor and emerging evangelist would last for several years and proved mutually beneficial as the former defended and propagated Irwin’s teaching in the southeast while the latter won more readers to Pike’s publication.

            Within a month of Irwin’s testimonial, readers were reporting experiences of a baptism of fire beyond entire sanctification.28 Irwin would write in the January 8th edition of The Way of Faith that by December 26, 1895 he had preached eighteen meetings and had three more scheduled.29 By June 1986, Pike was publishing Irwin’s schedule beside George Watson’s and A. B. Crumpler’s as Irwin crisscrossed Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma in a flurry of meetings that finally forced him to rest in September.30 On September 3, 1896, the Lucas County camp meeting began at Olmitz, Iowa with Irwin’s close associate, Oliver Fluke, noting that “people are coming from thirty-three miles to tent.”31 While his physical exhaustion kept Irwin from speaking until the final night, it was most likely at this camp meeting that “in an awful agony of prayer for the prosperity of Zion. . .it was clearly opened up to us by the Spirit of God that the Fire-Baptized saints should unit together in a definite organization, and the name of the Association and the outlines of the constitution all came to me like a divine revelation.”32 In a flash of revelation, the first Fire-Baptized Holiness Association was born. Just a few months later, Pike introduced his readers to Irwin’s arrival in the southeast at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Piedmont, South Carolina. Once Irwin hit the southeast, his message became so successful that within two years he was forming a national body, the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association, with a new constitution.33 This was followed by the establishment of Live Coals of Fire in October of 1899 as the official organ of the association. In just three short years Irwin had progressed from an elder in the Wesleyan Methodist church to the General Overseer of a new movement that would soon become a holiness denomination.

            Irwin’s initial testimony of a baptism of fire was less theological and more experientially driven. He claimed to see a “cross of pure, transparent fire” above him as he lay on his bed. The intensity of his first experience was surpassed by a subsequent one in which Irwin states that “all at once I became conscious of the fact that I was literally on fire.”34 This powerful experience combined with his immediate successes etched several ideas in Irwin’s mind. First, the need to propagate the message of entire sanctification and the need to press for subsequent experiences of fire. Secondly, that these experiences were the primary vehicle to enliven the churches and bring about the necessary reform in the behavior of individuals. Finally, the experience of fire empowered the evangelist to begin to wage spiritual warfare against all foes, doctrinal and otherwise.

            As Irwin began to hold meetings in various holiness associations and churches within Methodism, he saw forms of Christianity that did not allow for powerful experiences of grace as part of the problem. After one such meeting in Des Moines, IA, he noted that the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church where the meeting was held was “in the midst of a hot bed of rank Campbellism.”35 Irwin’s antagonism toward the Stone-Campbell movement concerns “that lie of the devil that ‘the Holy Spirit calls nothing regeneration but the act of immersion.’”36 In a similar manner, he expresses distaste for a Baptist evangelist noting, “for my part I have no confidence in the popular hold up your hand, join the church, be baptized sort of conversions that fail even to wean them from the common dance.”37 Moreover, Irwin’s doctrine began to draw criticism from others within the holiness movement so much so that he authored another article entitled, “Pyrophobia,” to defend his position. His fundamental charge against holiness preachers who opposed him was that they were engaging in a divisive sectarianism.38 For Irwin, the battle lines were clearly being drawn between a watered-down or sectarian form of Christianity and the unifying and enlivening spirituality of fire-baptized holiness.

            The opposition to Irwin’s message, his insistence on a rigorous form of holiness, his continuous emphasis on the baptism of fire, and his constant use of warfare imagery resulted in a mission-centered ecclesiology that called for a unity of spirituality reinforced by a doctrinal unity. At the core of his message was a spirituality that called for conscious and continuous encounters that propelled the individual down the path of perfection. In his early defense, Irwin noted that the baptism and other positive operations of the Spirit went beyond forgiveness and cleansing from sin to a deeper illumination, love, boldness, and empowerment.39 This spirituality united all individuals through a common set of experiences immersing them deeper into the divine presence. In addition, Irwin had witnessed how these encounters mobilized individuals and gave them a new sense of power. As he once quipped, “I am scattering the glowing coals of living fire over the country as fast and as far as I can.”40 The metaphor,“coals of fire,” would stick becoming the title of Irwin’s own weekly as well as a shorthand for the “living Word of God” handled by the Fire-baptized evangelist.41 Ultimately, he yearned for a church of highly mobilized fire-baptized warrior prophets who waged continuous warfare against the enemy on all fronts.42   

             For Irwin, such a mobilized army of prophets required “unity of purpose and concert of action throughout the entire ranks of the fire-baptized movement.”43 As he later reflected on the formation of the first FBHA, the original constitution came out of a divine revelation of the need to unite in one organization.44 The second article of the constitution encapsulates Irwin’s mission-centered ecclesiology in which doctrinal unity preserves spiritual vitality. In the article, a three-fold purpose of the FBHA is given: 1) to deepen the spiritual life among its members; 2) to send forth those divinely called and set apart to work; 3 to unify and conserve the work.45 Spirituality, doctrinal conformity, and evangelism all protected under the sure hand of a General Overseer who could keep the ranks in file and send the soldiers into battle. The subsequent article grounds the “basis for union” in a doctrinal statement that concludes with the prohibition to change or alter it. In print, Irwin would emphasize that all members should study the basis of union and the basis of membership, and that if they could not affirm these parts of the constitution, they should leave the association.46 

            In a sermon on the “Pentecostal Church,” Irwin identifies marks of an apostolic church.47 The first is that the church is a true witness, which Irwin defines in terms of martyrdom. For Irwin, the Fire-baptized evangelist was a prophet who entered the “meeting” as an arena of battle in which he or she must be willing to lay down everything. No doubt, this imagery stemmed from his early meetings in which, at times, gun-wielding locals threatened his life if he did not stop.48 The second mark was the “unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith,” which were mutually constitutive. Genuine spiritual union was made possible by a set of fundamental truths that could not be abandoned. The final two marks were Spirit baptism and baptism of fire that deepen the spiritual life to display the marvelous works of God.

            The sermon and the constitution both encapsulate the cluster of ideas at the center of Irwin’s ecclesiology. Mission is the sine qua non of the church’s existence. Irwin characterized this mission in military terms as a battle with the forces of darkness. To succeed the church must be fueled by a vibrant spirituality along with an organizational structure that allowed for rapid deployment. Moreover, the unity of the army requires order in the ranks through doctrinal conformity and the unwavering hand of a general who can direct and discipline where necessary. This is not a pastoral model that seeks to disciple Christians from cradle to grave. Instead, it is a conversionist model in which the evangelist wields the living word that creates powerful encounters, which, in turn, drive persons down the path of perfection.

            Irwin’s vision of the Christian life and the church intersected with the Holiness Church at Camp Creek in the persons of R. Frank Porter and M. S. Lemons. Porter had been a Fire-Baptized evangelist and ruling elder from at least 1899.49 Lemons claimed to have received the baptism of fire and was attempting to become part of the association in late 1899 and early 1900.50 Given the nature of Irwin’s ecclesiology, it seems that to join the Holiness Church both Porter and Lemons would have had explicitly to reject the FBHA basis for union and the strong creedalism it implied. Spurling’s ecclesiology held precisely the opposite from Irwin’s. For Spurling, spiritual unity required a rejection of doctrinal conformity whereas Irwin claimed that one could not have the former apart from the latter. Porter and Lemons would also have to reckon with Spurling’s more positive appraisal of the Stone-Campbell movement than Irwin’s. Irwin’s vigorous protests against “rank Campbellism” had its counterpart in Spurling’s equally strong endorsement of Campbell as a reformer in the stream of Luther and Wesley.51 The early general assemblies of the Holiness Church and then Church of God attest to the triumph of Spurling’s vision over Irwin’s.

            Even before Porter and Lemons, the meetings associated with the Shearer Schoolhouse from 1897 on were driven by Fire-baptized evangelists like William “Billy” Martin who lived just a few miles from its location.52 It is ironic that Spurling dealt with the ecclesial conflict that FBH theology produced in Appalachia by denying the ecclesiology Irwin forged to support the spirituality being preached. In his discussion with a Methodist Elder, Spurling called for a rejection of creeds rather than simply claiming that the Methodist should conform to his creed as Irwin had done. Irwin and Spurling set forth two radically different bases for union, and all early members of the Holiness Church had to choose Spurling’s over Irwin’s.

            The choice as to which basis of union one should follow did not imply a wholesale rejection of FBH ecclesiology. Irwin’s wedding together organization and evangelism as well as his conversionist model could still be affirmed, and, as will be suggested below, were influential on early COG ecclesiology as it began to develop away from Spurling’s more pastoral model. However, at this point, it should be clear that in joining the Holiness Church, Lemons and Porter were embracing an ecclesiology that did not ground spiritual union in doctrine.


II. Sandford and the “Church of the Living God”


            Although Sandford and Irwin emerged from regional obscurity around the same time, they had different conceptions of how to achieve similar goals. Whereas Irwin built a national organization through an itinerant ministry that became a denomination, Sandford established a base of operations from which missions could be launched. Sandford also had a strong desire to act in concert with God’s design that propelled him into a long-term quest to determine not only the precise set of “apostolic principles” that would ensure the success of his mission, but also the correct timing and implementation of those principles. He dedicated his first building to the worship of “God Almighty on purely apostolic lines, and the practicing of every minute part of the Scriptures.”53 The source of Sandford’s missionary program was unlocking apocalyptic symbolism that would function as an interpretive framework within which God’s voice on the right courses of action could be discerned at any moment. Such an evangelistic program rested on a different set of premisses than Irwin’s and this program made its mark on Tomlinson that would force him, like Porter and Lemons, to chose between Spurling’s vision or Sandford’s.

            Sandford began the January issue of Tongues of Fire in 1897 with a historical recounting of his own life and ministry, beginning in 1893 and concluding with a forecast for 1897. It was a familiar strategy for his readers. Sandford excelled at historical and biographical narrative. He utilized story in the service of his understanding of restoration. It was a way to remind himself and his readers where they were in God’s plan to restore what was lost. Restoration was essential to evangelism, which in turn ushered in the millennium. As he recounted at the outset of this particular history, Luther brought justification, Wesley brought sanctification, but now it was time to bring glorification, the powers of the new age to bear on the present.

            His narrative continued to set forth the basic ideas of what he termed a “movement” of world evangelization, which was grounded upon apostolic principles. In its simplicity, his constitution encapsulated the movement’s heart: the scriptures were the bylaws; Christ was the head; the Spirit was the director.54 The restoration program concerned the discovery and appropriation of those principles through a deep investigation of the scriptures and prophetic revelation. This was the Sandfordian understanding of theocracy: Christ’s headship through the Spirit’s direction in interpreting scripture and giving prophetic revelation. Such a theocracy required a school run by the “Teacher,” as Sandford referred to the Spirit. Of course, true to the prophetic dimension of his theocracy, Sandford began the school the very week he received divine revelation to do so.55 The name, “Holy Ghost and us” was taken from the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 although Sandford never explicitly refers to the context. The “Teacher” wrote the text, which was the scripture, and the “Teacher” would unlock its meaning. The school was the center of the restoration program where, under Sandford’s close watch, students searched for those elements lost to Christianity as well as the meaning of apocalyptic symbols. Both were necessary for the success of this movement.

            The pages of Tongues of Fire and its successor, The Everlasting Gospel, clearly articulate  Sandford’s restoration program through biblical symbolism that formed the backbone of his apocalyptic narrative. Numerous times he reminded his followers that Maine was the location of modern Shiloh. Like Joshua, the modern “Israel of God” would launch the “last great conquest” that had been witnessed to by prophets of old from this house of God.56 By embedding his apocalyptic narrative in Old Testament symbolism, Sandford effectively wedded together evangelism and spiritual warfare. This can be clearly seen in a series of sermons he preached at the beginning of 1901 on “The Art of Christian Warfare,” which later were collected into a book. A quick glance at the architecture of Shiloh will reveal the depth of Sandford’s indebtedness to biblical symbolism. Buildings, ships, flags, etc., all had biblical names like “The Truth,” “Victory,” and “The Everlasting Gospel” to ensure that Sandford’s followers would constantly sense that they were caught up in a grand narrative.

            Whether Tomlinson understood the dynamics of Sandford’s program when he returned for the second time at the end of September in 1901 is difficult to tell. What is certain is that Tomlinson’s arrival would coincide with Sandford’s return from England with the news that God had finally given him the revelation of how to set the church in order, which was one of the final steps in restoration. Up to this point, Sandford’s comments on the church had primarily centered upon an anti-denominational rhetoric in which he had claimed that the divisiveness of denominations proved that they had missed God’s plan.57 Divine restoration was not intended to divide the church, but restore her to pristine unity. This unity of the faith would be brought about as persecution removed the uncommitted, leaving only “the church of all gold.” Sandford’s favorite description was “the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of truth.” Taken from 1 Timothy, it encapsulated a realized eschatology in which the glory of the divine presence of the living God permeated the people of God and the way in which restoration was embodied in this people.58 So important was this name that Sandford eventually changed the subtitle of his periodical from Tongues of Fire from the World’s Evangelization Crusade on Apostolic Principles to Tongues of Fire from the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth.59  However, all of this was evidently talk about the nature of the restored church. It was not until Sandford preached the series at the fall convention from September 25 until September 29 in 1901 that he proclaimed that this church had been in fact restored.

            In his biography of Tomlinson, Robins indicates that Tomlinson arrived at Shiloh September 24, 1901 and immediately had to go to the faith-healing hospital in order to recover from his long journey. Since the convention began a day later, it is not clear how much Tomlinson actually heard from Sandford himself, but this momentous event in the life of Shiloh would have been communicated in a variety of ways. Tomlinson’s re-baptism, along with several hundred on October 1st, suggests his awareness of what was happening. In fact, it may be that the ecclesiology of these sermons convinced Tomlinson that entrance into the church was entrance into the kingdom.

            Sandford waxed eloquent for several days and nights on the golden candlestick in the tabernacle as a symbol of the church (Lev. 24.4). Some of his sermon titles were “The Pure Candlestick,” “The Candlestick Prepared,” “The Candlestick Set in Order,” “The Church of Gold,” and “The Formation of the Candlestick.” The candlestick symbolized the exact pattern given to Moses for the tabernacle of the church in the wilderness. For Sandford, this meant that “the Church of the Living God has a pattern, a plan, an exactness. To deviate from the plan is to defy God.”60 This plan had now been revealed to Sandford himself and thus was part of his commissioning as an apostle. One could not be part of the church and resist the apostle of God. In his second sermon, Sandford sketched a history of the “Church of the Living God” by showing how Old Testament figures practiced and professed the truth. This is how the church became the pillar and ground of truth. There was yet one final dimension lacking: the ordinances that set the church in order.

            On September 29th, Sandford preached a sermon in which he outlined four ordinances without which the church could not exist. These were water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, healing by anointing, and public worship. While all ordinances were necessary, water baptism was the first and most important. One could not belong to the church without an “authoritative baptism.” However, to have an “authoritative baptism” was to be baptized by God’s authoritative representative. With this move, Sandford brought his anti-denominational rhetoric to a conclusion. No baptism administered by denominations was scriptural because “God never authorized a man to baptize people.”61 God had authorized Sandford to baptize on October 1st with a revelation on the final day of the convention, “Be ye ready against tomorrow.”  As he baptized 218 persons, including Tomlinson, he noted “the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it. . .the kingdom of God has now come.”62 At Sandford’s hands, Tomlinson had entered the kingdom by receiving an authoritative baptism into the Church of the Living God from God’s prophet.

            When Tomlinson first encountered the small group forming the Holiness Church at Camp Creek, Sandford’s theocracy would have been in the forefront of his mind.63 It would have included something along the following lines: A restoration program with its apocalpytic symbolism fueled by a close examination of the scriptures and the direct revelation of God to the authoritative representative of God; the need to form the Church of the Living God exactly according to the pattern found in the church in the wilderness; the need to set the church in order by restoring its ordinances as the culmination of an entire history of restoration beginning with Luther; the close connection between baptism, church, and kingdom so that to receive an authoritative baptism was simultaneously to enter the kingdom and the church; and a pneumatology in which the Spirit was director and teacher who brought about restoration. In addition, Tomlinson would have most likely heard about Sandford’s declaration that he was Elijah, which occurred a few months after Tomlinson left Shiloh. Such a declaration had left Tomlinson with reservations about Sandford, or, as Robins suggests, “disillusioned.”64 While Tomlinson came to the Holiness Church under the influence of Sandford’s ecclesiology, his suspicions also raised questions as to its legitimacy.

            Tomlinson’s later reflections about Spurling’s influence may provide a clue as to what transpired when he joined the Holiness Church. In his reflections on Spurling’s life, Tomlinson noted that Spurling taught him that one entered the church by covenant and the right hand of fellowship. He also pointed out that Spurling convinced him of the difference between the church and the kingdom.65 If Tomlinson was still entertaining Sandford’s views about baptism when he encountered Spurling, it is clear that Spurling would have reacted negatively. Spurling would have interpreted Sandford’s views as simply a different form of what he had encountered among Landmark Baptists. He would have attempted to persuade Tomlinson that baptism does not bring one into the church as Sandford had proclaimed, nor is belonging to the church the same as entering the kingdom. Consequently, Tomlinson would have had to reject ideas central to Sandford’s ecclesiology to become part of the Holiness Church. The church could not have been restored in the way Sandford had suggested if Spurling were correct. This also may explain why Tomlinson considered Spurling a kind of father figure. Spurling’s ecclesiology helped purge Tomlinson of bad theology, which Tomlinson later came to see as an important part of the development of the Church of God. It may also explain why Tomlinson would decide to begin his brief history of the Church of God in The Last Great Conflict with Spurling’s efforts in the 1880s and 1890s rather than the 1902 Holiness Church.66


IV. Assessing the Influences: Toward a Narrative Framework


            Given the above analysis, we are now in a better position to suggest the development of early COG ecclesiology. The individuals who joined the Holiness Church at Camp Creek had to reject previous definitions of the church and thus embrace Spurling’s vision. Given Spurling’s involvement in the general assemblies between 1907 and 1909, the dominance of his Johannine understanding of the church in the early periodical, The Way, the enshrinement of his core convictions of covenant and anti-creedalism, and the ongoing prominence of his Constantinian narrative, his role becomes clear. It was his vision everyone embraced in 1902 and 1903, and it was also his vision that had to be modified from 1911.

            Spurling’s basic ecclesiology formed the founding vision and seemed to hold sway over the group until 1910. In this picture, it is not entirely clear whether the content of Spurling’s article on the church in the March edition of The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel represents his own thinking or the influence of Tomlinson and Lemons. In that article, Spurling extends his ideas to include the notion of the church in the wilderness and the Jerusalem council as handing down the “decrees” of the apostles rather than creeds. What seems clear is that the weight of the early successes to grow the small denomination began to reveal the limitations of Spurling’s pastoral model. It was a model forged in Appalachia and dependent upon the tight-knit communities for its success. Indeed, Spurling intended this pastoral model of living by a law of love to bring peace to these communities by restructuring their fellowship around the New Testament. Unlike Spurling, Tomlinson and Lemons were fundamentally oriented toward mission and conversion. By 1910 they were beginning to modify Spurling’s vision in the direction of a mission-centered church. It is at this stage that Irwin’s and Sandford’s influence begin to emerge.

            The mission-centered model of a conversionist church started to take shape in 1911. By 1913, Tomlinson was claiming in The Last Great Conflict that end-times evangelism was the final great battle in which the church, as the pillar and ground of truth, was the primary vehicle to assault. Where Spurling had avoided the language of spiritual warfare, FBH theology, Sandford, and the radical holiness out of which they emerged had taught Tomlinson and Lemons to breathe its atmosphere. When one reads chapters 15 and 16 of the Last Great Conflict, the restorationist narrative and the Constantinian fall narrative have been fused together so that the latter explains how the church went wrong while the former illustrates how she continued to be the ground of truth out of which restoration emerged. It was up to Tomlinson and Lemons to complete the job.

            The following year of 1914, Tomlinson and Lemons had turned their faces to organization, which is what Irwin thought necessary for successful evangelism. Unlike Sandford, they did not wish to build a new Jerusalem. Instead, they wanted a missionary strike force with all parts functioning smoothly. It is this conversionist model of a missionary force that explains in part why Church of God ministers never conceived of pastoring as a long-term enterprise. They were not pastors, but warrior evangelists who entered an area with the power of the gospel, broke strongholds, established or strengthened churches, and then moved on. By 1914 Sandford’s and Irwin’s influence can be seen in the way in which Tomlinson and Lemons implicitly saw how limiting the pastoral model of Spurling was. If nothing else, Spurling’s own behavior and dress reminded them constantly of the need to move beyond him. As both Bryant and David Lemons would later indicate in oral interviews, Tomlinson and Lemons saw Spurling’s dress and his refusal to move to Cleveland as evidence of his marginalization.




            There was a significant moment at the end of the 13th annual assembly. Tomlinson had just been reappointed General Overseer with a message in tongues and interpretation. At the conclusion of his acceptance speech, in a distinctly unSandfordian manner, he knelt down and asked Spurling to lay hands on him. This is essentially how the minutes close for this year.67 In an important sense, Tomlinson had asked Spurling one more time to come and speak, and then to lay hands as a symbolic passing of the leadership. Even though it had been Tomlinson’s church for sometime, there was a strong sense in which this action anticipated Bryant’s later reflections that the church could not do without Spurling.

            In this article, I have tried to offer a brief explanation as to why the church could not do without Spurling. It was not because of his organizational genius for, as David Lemons, the son of M. S. Lemons later indicated, Spurling was not particularly gifted at organization.68 Nor was it because of some personal charisma that Spurling possessed and which came through in his speeches. Again, Bryant’s remarks that Spurling was a through-going  mountain man whose demeanor, look, and dress put him out of sync with anything other than the small communities of Appalachia.69 Instead, it was Spurling’s ecclesiological vision that made him indispensable in the early years, and it was this vision he articulated one more time at the 1913 General Assembly. By the time Spurling paid Tomlinson $100 to publish 2000 copies of his little pamphlet, The Lost Link, the Church of God had already moved well beyond him.70 Long after the split within the Church of God, in 1931 Spurling penned a brief letter to Tomlinson on the back of an invitation to an organizational meeting of another “Church of God” in which he asked, “I would like to have a few lines from you and what you got out of my little book, The Lost Link. I would like to hear what you will say before July 15.  I want to pull the thing together so we would have one church. I do not object to your plan of helps and governments to make the work go, so long as conscience is free.”71 This letter represents a final attempt to define a church his vision had birthed, but could no longer contain.        


1.Dale M. Coulter, "The Development of Ecclesiology in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN: A Forgotten Contribution?" Pneuma: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 29.1 (2007): 59-85.

2.See David G. Roebuck, "Restorationism and a Vision for World Harvest: A Brief History of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)," Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 5 (February 1999), (accessed March 30, 2009). Roebuck points out that the early Christian Unions were organized along the lines of Baptist polity, and that this was the relationship among those early congregations before Tomlinson transformed it into “a centralized and episcopal organization.”

3.Hunter takes up some of these issues in his response to my initial article. See Harold D. Hunter, "A.J. Tomlinson's Emerging Ecclesiology," Pneuma: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 32.3 (2010): 369-389.

4.Hunter conjectures that these were "sentimental musings." Hunter, "A.J. Tomlinson's Emerging Ecclesiology," 371.

5.See "History of Pentecost," Faithful Standard 1.6 (September 1922): 6, 20-21. Harold Hunter, “Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads: Parham, Tomlinson, Sandford, Irwin,” Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research 1 (January 1997), (accessed March 30, 2009), fn 84, suggests that Homer Tomlinson compiled the report that formed this article. In “History of Pentecost,” extensive quotations are used from Bryant, but it is clear that Bryant’s account blurs events in the late 1890s with events after 1903. See also A. J. Tomlinson, The Last Great Conflict (Cleveland, TN: Walter E. Rogers, 1913), pp. 188-191. Tomlinson collapses the Shearer meetings from 1896 until 1902 into one event, the Shearer Schoolhouse Revival. He talks about subsequent meetings occurring at Bryant’s home, but blurs events stretching out over several years.

6.Charles W. Conn, Like a Mighty Army: A History of the Church of God, definitive edition (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1996); Hunter, “Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads,”; Roebuck, “Restorationism”; Wade H. Phillips, “Richard Spurling and the Baptist Roots of the Church of God,” Paper presented at the Twenty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Guadalajara, Mexico; and idem, “The Life and Times of Richard Spurling,” Church of God History & Heritage (Summer/Fall 2002): 6-7

7.See Tongues of Fire 3.1 (January 1, 1897): 3-16. Sandford gives a running history of his movement from 1893 until the end of 1896.

8.B.H. Irwin, "Baptism of Fire," The Way of Faith (November , 1895): 2-3. Irwin lists the date of his experience as October 23, 1895. Randall Stephens places the starting date of The Way of Faith as 1891. See Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 109. The weekly quickly became the primary vehicle for the holiness movement and associations in the southeast. In a letter dated October 24, 1895, Irwin also provided a brief report of his experience in The Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness, a northeast and midwest holiness periodical with offices in Boston and Chicago. Isaiah Reid, the head of the Iowa Holiness Association, was the editor who reported on the midwestern and western holiness movement. See “Letter from B. H. Irwin,” The Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness 13.45 (Nov. 7, 1895): 10.

9.R.G. Spurling, The Lost Link (Turtletown, TN, 1920), p. 45. Spurling states, “We here give the agreement or basis of union as it stood in 1895.” There is no way to corroborate Spurling’s date and thus it must remain a conjecture.

10.Wade H. Phillips, "Baptist Rejection of Holiness Revives the Church of God," Church of God History & Heritage Summer/Fall (2002): 8-9. A photocopy of the legal document is provided in this issue. The date is August 26, 1897.

11.R.G. Spurling, "An Appleal," Handwritten manuscript, 1897, Church of God of Prophecy Archives, Cleveland, Tenn. I have entitled the manuscript "An Appeal" after the opening words.

12 See R.G. Robins, A.J. Tomlinson: Plainfolk Modernist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 128. Robins notes that Tomlinson arrived at Murphy, N.C. on July 14, 1899 and within three months had moved to Culberson, N.C., where he set up his mission.

13.G.H. Orchard, A Concise History of Foreign Baptists, American edition (Nashville, TN: Graves and Marks, 1855).  Reprinted as G. H. Orchard, A Concise History of Baptists: From the Time of Christ Their Founder to the 18th Century (Lexington, KY: Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 1956; reprint, Texarkana, AR-TX: Bogard Press, 1987).

14.R.G. Spurling, "An Appeal," p. 17. Spurling states, ". . . I will prove first that God [sic] law is love from testament authority" (p. 17).

15.Spurling, "An Appeal," p. 2. Spurling explicitly links covenant and church together in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

16.Spurling, The Lost Link,  p. 45.

17.Spurling cites John 3:8; 13:34, 35; 15:12; 1 John 3:11, 14, 23, 24. From Pauline texts he cites Romans 2:29; 5:5; 7:22; 14; 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 Timothy 6:9.

18.See "An Appeal," pp. 4, 5, 17.

19.M.S. Lemons, "Meeting Report," The Way 2.8 (August 1905): 3-4; “Meeting Notes,” The Way 2.9 (September 1905): 3.

20.M.S. Lemons, "Meeting Report," The Way 2.8 (August 1905): 4.

21.H.P. Hall, "Letter," The Way 2.3 (March 1905): 6.

22.In the previous issue, Mary Tomlinson had published two accounts of a Thanksgiving Day meeting in Culberson at a Baptist church with Methodists and holiness folk in attendance. See Mary Tomlinson, “Thanksgiving,” The Church Herald 6.37 (January 5, 1906): 3; and eadem, “Thanksgiving Service, Culberson, N.C.,” The Church Herald 6.37 (January 5, 1906): 8

23.See W.H.A. Smith, "An Open Letter to Two Sect Preachers," The Church Herald 6.39 (January 19, 1906): 2. For Tomlinson’s rebuttle to Smith, see A. J. Tomlinson, “Of The Church,” The Church Herald 6.52 (April 20, 1906): 2.

24.The minutes are available on Church of God Publications 1901-1923, DVDRom, Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, 2008.

25.R.G. Spurling, "The Church," The Evening Light and Church of God Evangel 1:2 (March 15, 1910): 4.

26.See "An Appeal," p. 7, where Spurling states, "As we return from our captivity in Babylon (it is) to rebuild the temple of God and to crown it with the corner-stone of his law." This same language is found in "The Church," p. 4, in which he states, “when you are called out of Babylon, do not go into the wilderness of Judea, but stop in Jerusalem and get your Pentecost and help us rebuild the temple of God and the wall of Jerusalem out of Apostolic stones.”

27.John M. Pike, "The Baptism of Fire,” The Way of Faith 6.20 (Nov. 13, 1895): 4. In the following year, Pike wrote an introduction to Irwin’s arrival in South Carolina by stating “Bro. Irwin is a local elder in the Wesleyan Methodist Church.” See “Rev. B. H. Irwin,” The Way of Faith 7.21 (November 25, 1896): 4.

28.See J.T. Miller, "The Baptism of Fire," The Way of Faith 6.25 (Dec. 18, 1895): 5. See also Oliver Fluke’s letter in which he testifies that “I sought the baptism of fire and got it. On the 19th of December, 1895, in a meeting near Coon Rapids, Iowa, where I was engaged with Bro. Irwin in charge.” Oliver Fluke, “Olmitz, Iowa,” The Way of Faith 7.1 (July 1, 1896): 5. Oliver Fluke became the ruling elder of the FBHC in Iowa and was with Irwin from the beginning.

29.B.H. Irwin, "Letter," The Way of Faith 6.28 (Jan. 8, 1896): 5. See also Jim Kerwin, “Isaiah Reid (1836-1911, His Life, Leadership, and Influence in the American Holiness Movement” (master’s thesis, Regent University, 2006), pp. 279-288. Kerwin utilizes Irwin’s reports in Isaiah Reid’s Christian Witness to trace his movements from October 1895 until March 1896. Irwin’s letters have him preaching in Mulhall, OK (September 25-October 7) and Holt, OK at Indian Creek (October 10-?). Irwin places Holt, OK as 22 miles from Enid, OK. In the November 5th edition of Christian Witness, Irwin writes that he had been home in Nebraska one week.

30.See The Way of Faith 6.48 (June 3, 1896): 5. Irwin’s itinerary takes him in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa from June until September 1896.

31.Oliver Fluke, "Olmintz [Sic], Iowa," The Way of Faith 7.11 (September 9, 1896): 4. Fluke dates the letter September 3rd. Although no longer even a town, Olmitz had been an important center of annual camp meetings for the Iowa Holiness Association and Fluke’s family seemed to be central to the association. At the 1895 camp meeting (roughly between September 8 and September 15), Oliver Fluke’s mother died and Isaiah Reid, head of the Iowa Holiness Association, had performed the funeral. On the 1895 camp meeting and the funeral, see Isaiah Reid, “Western Horizon,” Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness 13.39 (September 26, 1895): 4; Oliver Fluke, “Letter from Olmitz, IA,” Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness 13.39 (September 26, 1895): 12.

32.B.H. Irwin, "The Central Idea," Live Coals of Fire 1.6 (November 10, 1899): 4. In the article Irwin reflects back that “while at the Olmitz camp meeting” this happened. I speculate that it was the Olmitz camp meeting of 1896, but it could have been 1897. J. Campbell, The Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1898-1948 (Franklin Springs, GA: Publishing House of Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1951), p. 197, indicates that the Iowa association was organized in 1895 at Olmitz. Vinson Synan, Old Time Power: A Centennial History of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (Franklin Springs, GA: LifeSprings Resources, 1998), p. 48, follows Campbell’s date. The ultimate source of this information appears to be J. H. King who gave the date in his article on the history of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church. See J. H. King, “History of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, Chapter 1,” Pentecostal Holiness Advocate 4.47 (March 24, 1921): 5. However, there does not appear to be any evidence to support this year. Kerwin, “Isaiah Reid,” pp. 280-287, was the first to call this date into question by noting that it does not fit with Irwin’s correspondence in The Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness from September 1895 until March 1896.

33.See B. H. Irwin, “Bro. Irwin’s Letter,” The Way of Faith 8.16 (Oct. 20, 1897): 2. Irwin mentions that at a meeting in Mound Valley, Kansas in September 1897, the second Fire Baptized Holiness Association was formed. This association also adopted the constitution of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association of Southern Iowa “as the basis of union.” According to King, Irwin and others present voted to form a single, national association out of the various state associations at the Anderson, SC, meeting that began July 28, 1898. See J. H. King, “History of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, Chapter 2,” Pentecostal Holiness Advocate 4.48 (March 31, 1921): 11; Synan, Old Time Power, p. 50.

34.B.H. Irwin, "The Baptism of Fire," The Way of Faith 6.20 (November 13, 1895): 2.

35.B.H. Irwin, "Letter," The Way of Faith 6.47 (May 20, 1896): 2.

36.B.H. Irwin, "Letter," The Way of Faith 6.31 (Jan. 29, 1896): 5. See also  B. H. Irwin, “Letter,” The Way of Faith 6.35 (Feb. 26, 1896): 1, in which Irwin claims that his meeting “has stirred the devil and the Campbellites for twenty miles in every direction.” For other references, see B. H. Irwin, “Furnace Fires in Iowa,” The Way of Faith 7.9 (Aug. 26, 1896): 2. Most of these early references stem from Iowa. However, the antagonism toward the Stone-Campbell movement continued in Live Coals of Fire. See Irwin, “Editorial Correspondence,” Live Coals of Fire 1.1 (Oct. 6, 1899): 1; John Dull, “Letter,” Live Coals of Fire 1.2 (Oct. 13, 1899): 3.

37.B.H. Irwin, "Letter from Woodward, OK,” The Way of Faith 6.50 (June 17, 1896): 6.

38.B.H. Irwin, "Pyrophobia," The Way of Faith 7.17 (Oct. 28, 1896): 2. See also “Editorial Correspondence,” Live Coals of Fire 1.1 (Oct. 6, 1899): 1. Irwin states that "The fight in the Moonlight meeting was emphatically against sectarianism, church pride, and idol worship, and the victory was decisive and complete" (my emphasis). He goes on to talk about the “sectarian devil.” By "sectarian" Irwin seems to mean the way in which others in the holiness movement were denying the reality of spiritual experiences like the baptism of fire and thereby driving a wedge between different parts of the movement. To be "sectarian" is to presume that all spiritual experiences must be validated by the theology of a particular tradition or denomination.

39.Irwin, "Pyrophobia," The Way of Faith 7. 17 (Oct. 28, 1896): 2.

40.B.H. Irwin, "Letter from Chetopa, Kansas," The Way of Faith 7:10 (Sept. 2, 1896): 1.

41.B.H. Irwin, "Sermon," Live Coals of Fire 1.1 (Oct. 6, 1899): 5. Most likely Irwin borrowed the metaphor from George Watson’s Coals of Fire, which Irwin had indicated was one of the original stimuli for his seeking a baptism of fire.

42.Irwin called the school he opened at Beniah, Tenn., the "School of Prophets.” See B. H. Irwin, “Editorial: The School of the Prophets,” Live Coals of Fire 1.5 (November 3, 1899): 6

43.B.H. Irwin, "Visiting Brethren," Live Coals of Fire 1.2 (Oct. 13, 1899): 4.

44.B.H. Irwin, "The Central Idea," Live Coals of Fire 1.5 (Nov. 3, 1899): 4.

45."Article 2," Constitution and General Rules of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association of America (n.p., 1900), pp. 1-2. The constitution appears to have undergone several revisions from Irwin’s initial “revelation” in September of 1896 to the final version given at the Royston, GA, meeting in April, 1899. See King, “History of Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, Chapter 2,” p. 11, who notes several changes between the South Carolina and Georgia meetings.

46.B.H. Irwin, "The Central Idea,” Live Coals of Fire 1.5 (Nov. 3, 1899): 4.

47.B.H. Irwin, "The Pentecostal Church," Live Coals of Fire 1.20 (June 1, 1900): 2-3.

48.See W.E. Stevenson, "A Murderous Assault of Evangelist B.H. Irwin," The Way of Faith 7.7 (Aug. 12, 1896): 1. Stevenson notes that masked gunmen rushed into the tabernacle firing their guns and threatening to kill Irwin. See also B. H. Irwin, “Letter from Coon Rapids, Iowa,” The Way of Faith 7.5 (July 29, 1896): 2. Irwin recounts where an enraged preacher came toward him during a meeting making threats. Irwin’s response was “If you lay your hands on me, God will strike you dead on the spot.”

49.Frank Porter appears in the pages of Live Coals of Fire too many times to list. For his role, see Hunter, "Beniah At the Apostolic Crossroads."

50.Lemons writes two letters that are published in Live Coals of Fire. See M. S. Lemons, “Letter,” Live Coals of Fire 1.9 (Dec. 29, 1899): 8; M. S. Lemons, “Letter,” Live Coals of Fire 1.13 (Feb. 23, 1900): 8.

51.Spurling, The Lost Link, p. 20.

52.William "Billy" Martin appears in several issues of Live Coals of Fire as a companion of Porter. In addition, Martin’s home address is listed as Epperson, Tenn.. See Live Coals of Fire 1.5 (Nov. 3, 1899): 5, where Martin is listed as an evangelist.

53.Frank Sandford, "The Erection of the Temple," Tongues of Fire 3.19 (Oct. 1, 1897): 157.

54.Frank Sandford, "The History of the World's Evangelization Crusade on Apostolic Principles, During 1893-1894," Tongues of Fire 3.1 (Jan. 1, 1897): 3.

55.Tongues of Fire 3.1 (Jan. 1, 1897): 10.

56.Frank Sandford, "Shiloh," Tongues of Fire 3.15 (Aug. 1, 1897): 125, 136.

57.See Frank Sandford, "The Church," Tongues of Fire 3.11 (June 1, 1897): 90-94.


59.The first edition with the new subtitle is November 15, 1898.

60.Frank Sandford, "The Pure Candlestick," The Everlasting Gospel 1.34-37 (Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 1901): 263.

61.Frank Sandford, "Authoritative Baptism," The Everlasting Gospel 1.34-37 (Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 1901): 273.

62.Ibid., p. 275.

63.See Robins, A. J. Tomlinson, pp. 167-171; Hunter, “A. J. Tomlinson’s Emerging Ecclesiology,” pp. 373-374. Hunter sees Tomlinson’s commitment to theocracy as connected to a core idea that the general overseer be appointed for life.

64.R.G. Robins, A. J. Tomlinson, p. 170.

65.A. J. Tomlinson, "The Life of Rev. R.G. Spurling," typed mansucript, Church of God of Prophecy Archives, Cleveland, Tenn., p. 2. According to Hunter, Tomlinson's manuscript was published in the June 22, 1935 edition of the  White Wing Messenger, shortly after Spurling passed away on May 28, 1935. See Hunter, “A. J. Tomlinson’s Emerging Ecclesiology,” p. 372.

66.Tomlinson, Last Great Conflict, pp. 205-212

67.Echoes from the Eighth General Assembly of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN, 1913), p. 42, 44.

68.David Lemons, "Taped Interview," Dixon Pentecostal Research Centre, Cleveland, Tenn.

69.W.F. Bryant, "Interview with Chesser," typed manuscript, Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, Cleveland, Tenn.

70.This claim is based on a receipt found in the Church of God of Prophecy Archives from Tomlinson to Spurling. The receipt is for $100 in exchange for 2000 booklets. Unfortunately, the upper right-hand corner is torn off of the receipt making it impossible to date. However, it is difficult to imagine another scenario under which Spurling would pay Tomlinson for such a large quantity of booklets.

71."Letter from Spurling to Tomlinson," July 1, 1931, handwritten, Church of God of Prophecy Archives, Cleveland, Tenn.


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