Wesleyan Pentecostals are Pentecostals (persons and/or denominations) whose spiritual roots can be traced to the post-Civil War Holiness movement birthed by holiness teaching as taught by John Wesley. Wesleyan-Pentecostal denominations in America include United Holy Church of America, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Fire-Baptized Church of the Americas and Pentecostal Free-Will Baptist Church. A legacy is “anything handed down from…an ancestor”.1 Because of the impact of the pre-Civil War Methodist movement in America on the institution of slavery, the interracial worship that characterized the post-Civil War Holiness Movement and its offspring, the Pentecostal Movement, the Wesleyan-Pentecostal legacy is impacting racism.
Although this legacy may be found in many Wesleyan-Pentecostal ministries, three major ministries are worth noting. They are Oral Roberts University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cathedral at Chapel Hill of Decatur, Georgia and the Azusa International Fellowship along with its “mother church”, Higher Dimensions Family Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. All three ministries were founded by Wesleyan-Pentecostals.
Oral Granville Roberts (1918-2009), founder and chancellor of Oral Roberts University is a son of Pentecostal Holiness Church. He was ordained by Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1936. Between 1941 and 1947 he served four pastorates of the denomination. His father was also a Pentecostal Holiness Church preacher.
Roberts began a healing ministry in 1947. He held his first city-wide crusade in Enid, Oklahoma. He also wrote his first book, If You Need Healing – Do These Things, started a monthly magazine, Healing Waters and based his ministry in Tulsa. The following year he began traveling across America, holding crusades in a tent that seated 12,500. His ministry soon expanded to provide healing revivals across the world. Because of the success of his ministry, he became a leader of dynamic revivalists who “took the message of divine healing around the world”.2 Roberts preached and practiced “the rights of all people to attend” his meetings.3
In 1965, Roberts founded Oral Roberts University, a coeducational liberal arts school.4 It is a “charismatic university, founded in the fires of evangelism and upon the unchanging precepts of the Bible”.5 Oral Roberts University has a “multiracial and multinational student body composed of people from nations around the world”.6 The Board of Regents of the university is also integrated. African-American members of the board include Ozro Thurston Jones, Jr. (1922- ), a Church of God in Christ General Board member and Carlton Pearson, Presiding Bishop of Azusa International Fellowship of Christian Churches and Ministries.
In a 1987 [televised] conversation with Carlton Pearson, Oral Roberts made the following comment concerning the leadership of African-Americans in the latter-day outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Pearson had commented that the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost was on an integrated inner-city church. To this, Roberts responded,
“Now transfer that to the early part of this century, when a black church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, pastored by a black man and the Holy Ghost outpouring was birthed in the black church. And the healing power and the speaking in tongues and the signs and wonders swept out across America. And if it began in a black church, what’s it gonna do when it comes to the climax, when God’s black people will be coming out of the inner city, getting on television and the power?…Oh I feel the glory of God! God’s gonna do it! He’s gonna do it! Wake up! Receive the power of God! Quit listening to all the mess that’s going on and listen to the Holy Ghost! For the Holy Ghost is sparking a new revival in our midst.”7
Earl Pearly Paulk, Jr. (1927-2009), is a founder and archbishop of Cathedral at Chapel Hill.8 He is also a member of the college of bishops of International Communion of Charismatic Churches.9 Paulk is a son of Church of God who has “devoted his life to preaching and teaching a gospel of reconciliation between the races, declaring that [they] are ‘one blood, under God’”.10
Paulk’s conviction concerning reconciliation of the races was born from a childhood experience of witnessing the shooting of a close African-American friend for cutting corners while plowing a row of cotton. Paulk’s uncle shot the boy in the back with bird-shot. Devastated, Paulk, while tending to the boy’s wound, promised his friend, “…I’ll make this up to you someday”.11 As an adult, Paulk kept his promise to his friend by preaching on the ills of racism, becoming a member of the Civil Rights Movement, taking a stand for the integration of public schools and founding a church that is multiracial.
Paulk began preaching against the ills of racism in the fall of 1948 while pastoring a Church of God congregation in Buford, Geogia. This was his first pastorate. The Klu Klux Klan confronted him because of his stand. The confrontation was designed to scare him into retreating from his convictions. Paulk had been troubled by the extreme poverty of African-Americans, the insistence of Caucasian-Americans that Africcan-Americans “stay in their place” and lynchings. He condemned the difference in the quality of life between the two races and rejected the “theological” explanations of preachers who tried to justify racist stands with the Bible. He also questioned the missionary efforts of Caucasian-American Christians to Africa while overlooking the needs of African-Americans in America. He also viewed Jim Crow laws as contradictory to the Constitution of the United States.12
In the fall of 1951 or spring of 1952, while pastoring Mt. Paran Church of God (then known as Hemphill Avenue Church of God) in Atlanta, Paulk became a member of Concerned Clergy. This was a group of men determined to “hear the cry of the various ethnic groups and be concerned enough…to ‘put their name on the line’ for their convictions. The group met in the basement of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, and was lead by Martin Luther King, Sr. As a member of Concerned Clergy, Paulk was one of the brethren who “gave final approval and support for the first civil rights march” in Selma, Alabama.
From his pulpit at Mt. Paran Church of God, Paulk preached support for the U. S. Supreme Court ruling “requiring state governments to provide equal education for all citizens”. The Atlanta Christian Council, of which he was a member, appointed him to a committee commissioned to observe schools in the state of Georgia. The purpose of the observation was to “determine if…schools were…separate but equal”. As a result of his observation, Paulk reported that in Georgia public schools, “there was absolutely no such thing as ‘separate but equal’”.
Paulk also held private conversations with Lester Maddox, whose Pickrick Restaurant was near to Mt. Paran church. Maddox thought Paulk was “far too liberal”. Paulk promised Maddox to pray that he get saved!
After signing the Atlanta Manifesto, a declaration supporting the integration of schools according to Federal law, Paulk resigned his pastorate at Mt. Paran and his affiliation with Church of God. His stand against racism had strained relationships with leaders of the local church. He also felt a change was necessary.
In 1960, Paulk and his younger brother Donald founded Chapel Hill Harvester Church. The new ministry was housed in the old St. John’s Lutheran Church building located “near the ‘Little Five Points’ area of Atlanta”. The location was near the “dividing line between African-American and Caucasian-American areas of the city”. From its founding the vision of the church was to have an integrated congregation. 13 Now known as Cathedral at Chapel Hill, the church’s vision is stated as follows:
“This dream was that all people from differing backgrounds could come together to worship and make a difference in the world, becoming an example of what God desires for His creation on the earth. The poor, the rich, the young, the old, the American, the Filipino, the Asian, the African…all stand united under the banner of Jesus Christ. The dream was that all people, regardless of ethnic background or social, financial or political standing could come together before God and be One Blood. Today, this dream is lived out every week as thousands of red and yellow, black and white join hands and spirits together in worship. And, many of them live together in various communities that encircle the Cathedral.”14
This vision of an interracial church was confirmed early in its existence by a prophetic utterance delivered by Ida Sanders, an elderly Caucaisian-American woman who was a member of the church. On the occasion of the first attempt to integrate the congregation, many Caucasian-American members walked out of the service. Following this display of resistance, Ida delivered a fifteen-minute sermon in “righteous indignation” under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. The following is an excerpt of what she said:
“That which God has called clean, how can you call unclean?…It is not the will of God that we should have prejudice.”
According to Paulk, this woman would have been the most likely person to be a racist. The reasons were 1) she was born and raised poor and uneducated in the South. 2) Racism sanctioned by the state helped her maintain her [social] status in southern society. However, in spite of her background, she was a vessel prepared of God to deliver a message against racism with “supernatural eloquence”.15
As pastors of Chapel Hill Harvester Church, Earl Jr. and Donald Paulk investigated and picketed a neighborhood produce market which sold spoiled produce and other foods to African-Americans at inflated prices. Their efforts closed the market. They also cooperated with law enforcement officials in the quest to apprehend the 1979 serial killer of Atlanta’s African-American children. The local chapter of the NAACP had requested their help.16
Since its inception, the congregation of Cathedral at Chapel Hill has grown to over 12,000.17 Ministries of the church include Youth Ministry, Education, Worship and the Arts, Harvester Human Services and Outreach.18 The staff is integrated. African-American staff members include Kirby Clements, a former dentist. For many years Clements served as a pastor. Presently, he represents the Office of the Bishop to networking churches across America and throughout the world.19
Clements is a Morehouse College graduate and holds a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Howard University and a degree, Master of Science in Dentistry, from Boston University School of Graduate Dentistry. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Christian International, Higher Dimensions Family Church and Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.20 He does not consider race to be a distinctive of the Church (Body of Christ). He views the Church as a “transcendent community”. In A Philosophy of Ministry, he writes:
“There are only three Biblical [distinctions] that are of note historically. The first is the distinction between man and woman….The second is the distinction made between the believer and the unbeliever….The third Biblical distinction is between young and old….What is to happen to the ethnic church? Is it Biblically valid?…Most if not all ethnic churches grew out of persecution….Theirs was a struggle for existence and their Gospel was one of liberation and social change. Unfortunately, unregeneracy still exists in the Church perpetuating the excuse of continued existence….There may be sociological, theological and philosophical rationale for the furtherance of ethnic [churches]. However, the only thing that will effect and challenge the unregeneracy of man in these areas is a Church of the redeemed that transcends cultural and ethnic distinction and is predicated upon Biblical directives. The Church as a transcendent community is the Biblical model. The influence of such models will be as leaven in a stratified and culturally oriented society.”21
Bishop Paulk believes God entrusted him with the “revelation of the Kingdom of God” because of his faithfulness in waging war against racial prejudice. He believes the Kingdom of God to be “timeless and eternally existent”. Part of the work of the Kingdom of God is to combat evil forces such as racism.22
Carlton Demetrius Pearson (1953- ) is the founder and bishop of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma and founder and presiding bishop of Azusa International Fellowship of Christian Churches and Ministries. He is a son of Church of God in Christ. His father, Adam Lewis Pearson, and his paternal grandfather and maternal great-grandfather were also Church of God in Christ ministers. His grandfather and great-grandfather were pastors.
Pearson received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord at the age of five years old. At the age of six, he “founded his first church” in an empty house next door to his parents home. There, he and his childhood friends, although they were sincere, “played church”. He was also Holy Ghost baptized at an early age. As a youth of junior high school age he was a witness and a leader among his friends of varying races – Spanish, Indian, Japanese and Korean.23
Junious Augustus Blake, Sr. (1912-1984), pastor of Jackson Memorial Church of God in Christ in San Diego ordained him. At that time, Blake was also Administrative Assistant to Samuel Martin Crouch (1896-1976), prelate of First Jurisdiction of Southern California and General Board member Church of God in Christ.24 Pearson was eighteen years old. He received much of his pastoral training under Bishop J. A. Blake.
In the early 1970s, Pearson enrolled in Oral Roberts University (ORU) and became a part of the World Action Singers. Later he became a staff member of Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association as an Associate Evangelist. He is also a spiritual son of Oral Roberts.
While at ORU, Pearson met Kathryn Kuhlman. They met on the occasion of her first visit to the university as a guest speaker. In 1975, Kathryn prophetically spoke the following words to Pearson:
“…God has great things for you. God has unusual things for you, Carlton. I always remember what the old gentleman said to me, as he took my hands in his scrawny hands – he was past eighty then – he said, ‘Girl, you’re, you’re young. There’s much to be experienced, but never get out of the will of God.’ Carlton, your potentialities! You have everything. But remember, if I could give you one advice, just one, I would say to you, ‘Never get out of God’s will’ – and you won’t! Carlton, you’d die for what you believe. That’s the reason those thousands and thousands of students at Oral Roberts University have such confidence in you. Do you know what confidence they have in you? Do you know what confidence President [Oral] Roberts has in you? You know…you know…and the faculty. And I have such confidence in you. Know that. One of these days when you’ve lived your last day, when you’ve preached your last sermon, I pray that thousands and thousands will enter into the gates of glory because of Carlton Pearson. I’m proud of you. I would pray but one thing, ‘Give him the best that You have! You give us the Holy Spirit without measure. Give to Carlton the best that You have.’”
In 1977, at the leading of the Lord, Pearson left Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association to enter full-time ministry as an evangelist. During the same year he founded Higher Dimensions Ministries, Inc. He traveled across the country preaching “a relationship with God through Jesus Christ”, responsibility and the need for a national African-American spiritual leader. In 1980, Pearson stated,
“America, particularly Blacks in America…have no strong religious or spiritual leader right now….We have a lot of men who have reverend in front of their names who are political activists, but we don’t have a strong spiritual leader...”
In 1981, Pearson with the help of his college roommate, Gary McIntosh, a Caucasian-American, founded Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Church.25 Pearson believed “in the 80’s, God would be moving through the local church”. Pearson and his evangelistic team continued to travel while McIntosh searched for a building. McIntosh found “an empty shopping center in Jenks” and the first service was held August 31, 1981.
The congregation is “a sociologist’s fantasy, a compilation of people from every socio-economic class…a racial melting pot”. It is a church “composed of many races and cultures”. Pearson calls it “a stew…each ingredient stays as it is, but they begin to take on the ‘flavor’ of one another”.26 The pastoral staff is integrated and includes the following areas of ministry: Children’s Ministry, Family & Life Enrichment (counseling), Pastoral Care, Worship and Fine Arts and Joshua Generation (youth ministry).27
Since moving into the facility in Jenks, the church has relocated twice. Currently it is housed at 8621 South Memorial Drive on more than 18 acres of property. The congregation has grown to 5,000. In August 1995 the church name was changed to Higher Dimensions Family Church.28 From a traveling ministry begun in 1977, Higher Dimensions Ministries, Inc. has grown to include Higher Dimensions Family Church, Raven’s Next Feeding Ministry, Life Alternative Crisis Pregnancy Center, Hannah’s Prayer Adoption Agency and St. Dominic’s Maternity Home for Unwed Mothers, Rainbow Preschool, a School of Ministry, a broadcasting (radio and television) ministry and “a local and direct marketing facility”.29
In 1988, Pearson hosted the first Azusa Conference.30 “The purpose of the…conference was to revive the spirit of unity experienced during the” 1906 outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street Mission.31 The conference was born out of a desire to facilitate unity in the Body of Christ that would allow people of varying racial, cultural and ethnic background to worship and praise God “in a spirit of oneness of purpose and vision”. For years, Pearson had carried a heart-felt burden “for an organization that would serve as a force in the Body of Christ for the unification of churches and ministries from [varying] ethnic, social and denominational backgrounds”. The Azusa Conference brought together a “variety of races, cultures and religious beliefs in an unprecedented experience of glorious fellowship and spiritual communion”.
Azusa Interdenominational Fellowship of Christian Churches and Ministries was born at the 1990 Azusa Conference. “Upon an open display of surrender…to the will of the Lord, hundreds of ministers [African-American and Caucasian-American] evidencing a strong spirit of unity, gathered around Pastor Carlton in voluntary submission to the anointing of God on his life.”32 Immediately following this display of unity, the following prophecy was given:
“And yea, the Lord will say unto thee this night My son, for this purpose you were born, for this purpose you’ve been called. For this reason I’ve brought thee unto this city, saith thy God. For even when one of My manservants…came forth with the song, ‘Yes’, it was a prophetic call unto a people to come forth into their place.
Yea, I have raised thee up, saith thy God, to carry that tune even unto this generation. I have brought thee in an area where man says you should have not made it. I’ve raised thee up in circles that they said you ought not be. But for this purpose I’ve called thee, saith the Lord.
And now you are coming into the place; and I bring thee now to the Valley of Dry Bones. And I will cause you to prophesy and to bring forth this army, saith the Lord. For you shall not lift up thine hands in thine own strength no more from this night forward. But as I have assigned men unto thee that are lifting now thy hands, saith the Lord, I bring them and join them unto thee. For thy have brethren that said, ‘Ha, ha, ha, ha…’ that mocked thee shall now be joined unto thee. And covenant shall be established and rekindled again.
You have been called to carry the baton at the close of this century and to open up the next century with a glorious awakening, for you are one among many, saith the Lord. Fulfill thy purpose and fulfill thy call. For I raised thee up as a Samuel in the house of Eli. Give sight to Eli. Give sight to Eli. Eli calleth for thee in the night season. Give sight unto him. For thou art a voice in the land being raised up.
For this night marks a new beginning of that prophetic call and that apostolic anointing and you shall go forth and you shall establish. No more wrestling, for the healing has begun. And this night I make thee whole, saith the Spirit of the Lord. Speak unto My Church. Speak to My people saith the Spirit of the Living God.”33
The fellowship is “a coalition of Christian churches and ministries [that] recognizes the need for networking, accountability, fellowship and resource facilitation”. Its mission is “to become a catalytic and resource agent for the unity and support of churches and ministries who desire to fulfill their destiny”.34 The fellowship is composed of “over 500 churches and ministries”. Its leadership is integrated. Gary McIntosh serves as a bishop and the First Assistant to Pearson. The group of pastors and bishops who serve as regional overseers of the fellowship is also integrated. In 1997, the fellowship held its first International Conference in Durban, South Africa.35
Concerning the Azusa Conferences Pearson stated,
“We are not trying to compete with the original Azusa Street Revival; rather we are allowing God to complete at the end of this century what He began at its beginning, which was to bring the nations and denominations together, black, white, red, yellow and brown; Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. We must tear down the walls that divide us, and focus on what unites us – the unconditional love of God through His Son, our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.”36
At the 1996 Azusa Conference, Pearson was consecrated to the office of bishop. A subsequent Investiture Service was held on April 15, 1997. In attendance was Bishop Earl Paulk, Jr. who spoke about the office of bishop and the purpose of investiture:
“It was the head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, who bowed and prayed, ‘Father, make them one so the world may know’. What we’re doing here tonight is accomplishing something ordained of God that the world may know….The office of the bishop [symbolizes] unity….St. Ignatius wrote…from the church at Antioch to the church at Smyrna…’wherever the presence of Christ is there is the catholic Church’….not the Roman Catholic Church but the catholic Church which represents the universality of the Church and represents the orthodoxy of the Church which we are commissioned to protect. And since that day this historic Church…has perpetuated that gospel faithfully….it has been that traditional catholic Church that has given to us…the canon which we now call our Bible. Those books were chosen by bishops of the Church….they gave us the great creeds of the Church….they have given unto us…the various liturgy and the forms of worship. The traditional Church cannot be ignored. While we may call it the old, it is something very valid to us and without it you and I would not exist. For the continuation of the Church, there has always been…the office of the bishop. The title of bishop is peculiar to the Church….The office of the bishop belongs to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ….
In the early Church…[in] a little village, you probably would find a man who was called a bishop and maybe he had just a small congregation. But as the years went along those churches…became…’mother churches’. Those ‘mother churches’ began to create…churches…nearby. And so the bishop of that local congregation soon became known as the bishop or the pastor of pastors. It is in that kind of persuasion, that this brother is being set forth and put in vestments for the cause of not only pastoring a church…but also has the authority to lay hands upon others, to ordain presbytery…to ordain deacons…to send forth those who would go out with the fivefold ministry….it is also an administrative office....
The burdens that fall upon the shoulders of a true and God-called bishop is represented by the purple that he wears that says to all, ‘I’m ready to give my life for the Church and for the Lord Jesus Christ’. Be not deceived in thinking that the vestments are worn to be pompous or ostentatious, but they are worn with the spirit of humility in the spirit that we must represent the head of the Church the Lord Jesus Christ and we are covered in these vestments.”
Then Bishop Paulk spoke prophetically concerning Bishop Pearson:
“This is not a work of man, this is a work of God. Many years ago, this young man walked into the church that I pastored and the Spirit of the Lord came upon me and I gave him the prophetic word of the Lord…that he would begin a church, knowing in my heart that one day that church would become…the seat of a bishop….And so God [has] gone before us and [has] prepared this day. And then the Spirit of the Lord came upon this man and he comprehended the mission that began in 1907 with the Azusa Street Mission. And God put that in your heart, Bishop Carlton Pearson, and this is the beginning of the second Azusa. This is now what God has called you to not only appreciate the old, but to carry it into the new. You are called of God to be a bridge. And maybe there are those nations where there are racial groups that are not integrated and you will be their integration. But where there is an amalgamation of people, you must always know you are not called to a particular race, you are called to the Body of
You now transcend that of a local bishop and become one to reach out to the world. As I sat here tonight, the Spirit of the Lord moved upon me…but you will be one set forth of God to speak to heads of the Church and heads of the nations….You will not only open new doors, but you will speak to the Pope. You will speak to he head of the Greek Orthodox Church because you are called to unity. The only thing that keeps Jesus Christ from coming back to this Church is the lack of unity. And where the bishops come into unity, the sheep automatically follow. Be not called down from the place that God has given you. Know that you are there to look above those situations that would call you down. God will make you indeed an overseer where you can see the future. You’re upon that wall for a reason.
I pray God’s rich blessings upon you in the future knowing, there are many corrections to take place in the Body of Christ. We must do away with competitiveness. We must come to understand the real since of unity. We must protect one another. Know that we as your brothers are here to protect you. You now have a true fellowship of bishops. We surround you and cover you like a wall of protection. You will stand strong and tall and you will be an instrument used of God preparing for that day when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come again. For He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and you are called to prepare the way before Him. May God bless you.”37