Chapter 8 The Welsh-Pentecostal Revival 1900-
The Western Civilization people looked forward to the
Twentieth Century with optimism. Secular historians predicted a
century of peace, prosperity, and progress even talking of a
utopia. Religious authors gloried in the past of how divine
providence had brought three revivals to America, and they
trusted that the Holy Spirit would move again in the new century.
However, a variety of opinions and prophecies were offered in
Reuben A. Torrey, the President of Moody Bible, wrote How to
Promote and Conduct a Successful Revival with Suggestive Outline
in 1901. He said, "Revival is in the air. Thoughtful
ministers and Christians everywhere are talking about a revival,
expecting a revival, and best of all, praying for a revival.
There seems to be little doubt that a revival of some kind is
coming, but the important question is what kind of revival will
it be? Will it be a true revival, sent of God because His people
have met the conditions that make it possible for God to work
with power, or will it be a spurious revival gotten up by the
arts and devices of man?"
Frank Beardsley closed his 1904 A History of American Revivals
with these words, "there was a diminishing number of
accessions to the churches, and indications were not wanting that
the religious life of the nation was suffering a decline, but
with the efforts now under way in various denominations, it is
hoped that the opening years of this new century may be
characterized by a sweeping revival which shall greatly increase
the usefulness and spiritual power of the churches."
Leonard Woolsey Bacon's A History of American Christianity was
published in 1901. He was so impressed by the Chicago celebration
of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus' discovery that he
called it "those seventeen wonderful September days of 1892."
He predicted that from their "World Parliament of Religions"
that "a Christian union" would be a "divine event"
of the new century, and the Protestant and Roman Catholic
churches would combine their "ingenuity and resources"
Josiah Strong, a leader in the Evangelical Alliance and the
League for Social Services, wrote The Next Great Awakening in
1902. He called for a program of "Jesus' social legislation."
He said that "the church should save men not souls" by
transforming the selfish and competitive principals of modern
capitalism. The next awakening would be a reformation of American
social, political, and economic life through "divine grace,"
and not some more spectacular mass meetings by another
sensational revivalist. This would be accomplished by "loving
persuasion and voluntary cooperation" or when needed, by
local, state, and national legislation. Supporters of the Social
Gospel loved Strong's opinions, but the friends of old-time
religion denounced him.
J. Wilbur Chapman wrote in 1903 in his Present-Day Evangelism,
"America is fast following the steps of the old Roman Empire.
The home is despised, children are an encumbrance, a poodle dog
is of more value than a baby. Wealth and pride consume the
lifeblood of the nation and aristocratic weaknesses sap our
democratic vigor. And yet in the presence of all these
discouragements, we confidently believe that the skies are
brightening and that there is the assurance of the dawning of a
new day. There is an increasing number in the Church too longing
for better things. There is a great volume of prayer ascending to
God in behalf of the unsaved."
The religious journals were filled with suggestions about 20th
Century evangelism. George F. Pentecost, who had abandoned the
field of itinerant evangelism, and George E. Horr, editor of the
Baptist weekly, The Watchman, both felt personal evangelism by
the laity and pastoral evangelism should be the methods of the
Amzi Clarence Dixon, a Baptist pastor in Boston and Brooklyn,
became head of the Moody Church in Chicago. He published
Evangelism Old and New in 1906. He called for "True
Evangelism" that preached "new birth," "repentance
and faith," and "winning souls to Christ." He
denounced the new socialistic approach as "bloodless
evangelism" and "academic evangelism" as "False
Evangelism." Dixon said that colleges and academic
institutions were turning into "hot-beds of infidelity or
refrigerators of indifference." He pointed out that the only
true revivals in the past were led by "believers in the
inspiration and infallible authority of The Word of God."
Warren A. Candler, bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, wrote his Great Revivals book in 1904. His 10th and final
chapter "The Next Great Awakening" provides one of the
most detailed expectations for a 20th Century revival. He
predicted a "revival of religion" where dead things
would come to life. The revival would "conquer death"
and give a "hope of new life." It would "regenerate
a nation" and "inspire philanthropy." It would
produce religious emotions that would "stir the heart,"
but not "the fanatical excitement, begotten of earthly
Candler said that the next awakening would be doctrinal with
"inspired truth" like Whitefield, Edwards, Stoddard,
Wesley, Finney, and Moody preached. Would there be more great
leaders? "Yes, mightier than in past awakenings." He,
also, predicted new songs, and he said, "there are no great
revivals without hymns." William McLoughlin called Candler's
book "the most forceful and eloquent proponent of the
nationalistic school of evangelicalism."
Premillennialism was not fashionable in middle-class churches
at the turn of the century. Candler warned evangelical
revivalists to steer clear of the pessimistic doctrine of the
imminent second coming doctrine. He thought it was fatalistic and
the world was not a wrecked vessel where only a few could be
saved. After 1920 premillennialism reappeared in revival
While there was plenty of talk about revival, the climate in
America was changing dramatically. Immigrants were pouring at a
rate of almost a million a year. Most were coming from Southern
and Eastern Europe of Catholic, Jewish, and Orthodox background.
They were referred to as the "new" immigrants, who did
not assimilate with the mainline traditions of white, Anglo-Saxon,
Protestant, and Western European. They only complicated the
problems of urbanization, labor unrest, and furthermore they
looked different, they had different customs, and they spoke
different languages from the "old" immigrants. Plus,
they had no experience with Evangelical Awakenings or Protestant
evangelism. Too many were unchurched, unsaved, and unfortunately
American Christians were still aware of the Laymen's Awakening
of 1858. However, the average American church thought revival to
impossible without an evangelist or the regular revival meetings
on the church calendar. Nevertheless, the mainline denominations
made preparations for an awakening, and some parachurch
organizations began to pray for the new century and a possible
The Methodists across the nation joined the "Twentieth
Century Forward Movement." Their goal was to win two
millions souls to Christ, and they appealed for twenty million
dollars for the project. The Baptists, also, began to pray for an
awakening in their annual revival meetings.
The Presbyterians Church (USA) even joined efforts for revival.
Under the leadership of Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, twelve hundred
pastors united in a circle of prayer for revival. Special
evangelistic services were held in all 1285 Presbyterian churches
in 1903. They, also, called for interdenominational cooperation.
The Methodists and Baptists praised their initiative.
From the hopes for revival and the vision for world evangelism
came the first American attempt at a world-wide evangelistic tour.
It was planned by R.A. Torrey, superintendent of Moody Bible, and
Charles M. Alexander, who was a student at Moody Bible during the
World's Fair in 1893. The tour started in 1901 in the South
Pacific and went to Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The
evangelistic pair continued to Asia in China and India. After the
British Isles they finished in Canada in 1906. Much credit for
their success was given to the "prayer circles" of the
wives back in Chicago.
However, when the revival occurred, it did not start in the
United States. In fact according to James Edwin Orr, the greatest
revival expert in history, it did not even begin with the
phenomenal Welsh Revival of 1904-05. Orr claimed that it was
worldwide, and it touched the most obscure places. It seemed to
arise simultaneously all over the world. Like the 1858 Revival
the early days of the Twentieth Century found their beginnings in
I. The Welsh Revival:
The Awakening in Wales and the fame of Evan John Roberts was
heard around the world in 1904-05. Evan Roberts was born in the
village of Loughor near Swansea in 1878. His devout family was
strongly involved at Moriah Church of the Welsh Calvinistic
Methodist denomination. He was a communicant by his teenage years.
He attended meetings six days a week at his church, and he was
deeply committed to praying for revival for over ten years.
He worked in the coal mines for twelve years, and then became
a blacksmith. In 1903 Roberts entered Newcastle Emlyn Academy to
prepare for the ministry. In his search for a deeper spiritual
life, he crossed paths with Rev. Seth Joshua, an evangelist, who
called for a deeper obedience to the Holy Spirit. During one of
his meetings Evan Roberts came to the front, kneeled, and cried
in agony, "Lord, bend me." While some observed it as an
ecstatic emotional experience, Evan later gave testimony that a
wave of peace flooded his soul, and that he felt ablaze to tell
all of Wales about The Savior.
In October, 1904 under divine impulsion Evan suspended his
studies and went home to preach the gospel. He was given
permission to hold meetings at his home church in Loughor and its
chapel Pisgah. He centered on four essential conditions for an
out pouring of the Holy Spirit: first, confess of all past sins,
do away with any trace of doubt, obey the Spirit promptly and
unquestioningly, and finally, make a public confession of Christ
as your Savior.
The second night the service lasted 3 hours, and within a week
the crowds were staying until three o'clock in the morning. The
second week the Moorish Church was overflowing with 800 people.
Although the young layman was not an outstanding speaker, his
passion and sometimes sobbing moved the crowds. He prophesied
that he'd had a vision that 100,000 would be won to the churches
Immediately large crowds began attending prayer meetings, and
they lasted past midnight. There was no advertisement or
publicity. Shop keepers closed early to get a seat in the crowded
churches, and they simple put a sign in the window "Closed
gone to prayer meeting." The spirit filled meetings stressed
spontaneity by concentrating on the work of the Holy Spirit as
people confessed their sins and Jesus Christ as Savior. At times
the service only consisted of Evan Roberts opening with "Let's
pray." South Wales was ablaze and within two months
conversions numbered 34,000.
Everywhere changed lives were proclaiming in the Welsh tongue
"Diolch Iddo" (Praises to God) or (Thanks be to Him). A
pronounced decline in drunkenness and profanity was noticed in
the coal mining regions. Some pit-men remained at prayer meeting
throughout the night only to go directly to their jobs. The pit
ponies provided the best witnesses to these new creatures in
Christ; they could not understand their hailer's commands as old
things like kicks and obscenities passed away. Also, a tavern
keeper mourned that it took six months to sell the beer he had
previously sold in six days. The Swansea County Police Court
announced that they did not have a single charge for drunkenness
during the 1905 New Years holiday.
At Cardiff during an International Rugby football match a
Baptist Minister said that he had heard only one swear word in
the crowd. When he reproved the offender, the man thanked him,
and thousands of spectators began singing the hymn "Throw
out the Life Line." The hymn "Bread of Heaven"
became a popular song at the rugby games.
Within six months 100,000 converts were added to the Welsh
churches. Spirit-filled gatherings were held in homes, barns,
coal mines, quarries, and even a pig-sty. It was estimated that
eighty percent of the people were still in the churches five
Evan Roberts received invitations to speak around the world.
However, he spoke almost entirely in Wales and in the Welsh
language. He spoke once in Liverpool, but it was to Welshmen; and
he only used a few English words. He only toured with a group of
singing young women, and refused all requests for tours and even
Observers including R.A. Torrey came from other countries to
see him preach. At one meeting where he intended not to speak,
one foreigner complained, "I came to see Evan Roberts."
Roberts replied, "You don't need to meet me, you need to
know Jesus Christ." Mostly, Evan Roberts tried to avoid the
In 1906 he experienced two setbacks. Peter Price, a
Congregational minister, and several others criticized Evan
Roberts and the emotionalism of the revival. Also, Roberts health
broke from exhaustion. He retired from public ministry and lived
with friends until his death at Cardiff in 1951. Eventually his
critics were discredited. Regardless without him the awakening
continued and it spread. One of the first areas touched by the
Welsh Revival was at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where thousands
of Welsh folks had settled in the United States.
II. The American Phase:
The tidings of the Welsh Revival kindled reports in every
religious journal that a revival was coming. Every Protestant
denomination published news of the spontaneous events in Wales.
When the awakening among the Pennsylvania Welshmen occurred in
December of 1904, it started a cleansing wave that touched every
part of the United States in 1905.
During the first two months of the new year churches from
Philadelphia to Pittsburgh were jammed with repenters coming out
and confessing Jesus. Philadelphia claimed the greatest number of
converts since the days of Moody and Sankey. The Methodists in
Philadelphia avowed that they had 10,000 converts by springtime.
The Baptists declared that every part of the state was
The Northeast was ablaze. New Jersey reported that spacious
churches were overflowing, and the "Young Peoples"
societies were gaining new members at a rate of 10 to 300 percent.
Newark said that "Pentecost was literally repeated."
Atlantic City claimed that only 50 people remained unconverted in
their town of 60,000. Town after town said that church life was
being revived. In Schenectady, New York the local minister's
association reported that all the evangelical denominations had
joined for prayer, and that revival meetings were crowded at
noon, afternoon, and evening regardless of the church. The
secular press had daily columns with headlines on the "Power
of Prayer," "Great Moral Liftup," "The Fires
of Pentecost," and "Yesterday's Conversions."
New York City was having its best spiritual days since 1858.
By April the awakening was throughout New England. Even without
any organized evangelistic effort churches were experiencing
responses everywhere. They came for membership, baptism, prayer,
and especially for confession. In Danbury, Connecticut Daniel
Shepardson, the wheel-chair evangelist, saw results and repenters.
On one Sunday in Boston 150 professed conversion at Dr. A.C.
Dixon's church. In Rutland, Vermont the union prayer meetings at
the YMCA received such a response that they asked Dr. Dixon to
help with the harvest. Within a week 450 inquired for instruction.
Even the most unlikely responses took place. At Northfield,
the birthplace of D.L. Moody, the stories of the Welsh revival
caused a wave of confessions and repentance at the Christian
meetings. In Forest City, Maine where drunkenness was common and
the churches closed for eight months of the winter, a revival
broke out during the summer of 1905 affecting the entire state.
Gloversville in New York's Mohawk River Valley reported a cross-section
of converts: infidels, drinkers, moralists, black, white,
Italian, Swede, American, fathers, mothers, and youths. In Boston
the daily prayer meeting at the Old North Church became so
crowded that businessmen expanded to other churches in the city.
Throughout the Northeast church leaders agreed that this was not
a man-made revival for they had planned nothing, but the Spirit
of The Lord was upon the land.
The first phase of the awakening in the South took place in
Atlanta. Nearly one thousand businessmen had agreed to pray for
an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They succeeded in establishing
a midday prayer on November 2, 1904. In an overwhelming show of
unity stores, factories, offices, saloons, amusement places, and
even the Georgia Supreme Court closed their doors for the noon
hour of prayer.
Louisville, Kentucky claimed the most remarkable revival in
the city's history with conversions numbering 4,000 and 58
businesses closing for noon-day prayer meetings by March of 1905.
The Presbyterians felt that the awakening was statewide. At the
First Baptist Church of Paducah the devoted ministry of Dr. J.J.
Checks ended with a blessing of over a thousand new members in
1905 just before he went home to The Lord.
Throughout the other Southern states the Awakening of 1905
followed a similar pattern. Reports in the churches and their
religious papers covered the Welsh revival and Evan Robert's
sermons. A hope of revival spawned evangelistic and prayer
services. The leading denominations the Methodist, Baptist,
Presbyterian, and Episcopal cooperated in unified meetings. Every
place confirmed that there was a great outpouring of the Holy
Spirit and a great ingathering of souls.
Norfolk, Virginia had a tremendous unified effort by their
churches. In the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia many local
congregations reported the same results. In Florida the most
prominent evangelist was Mordecai F. Ham, who became more famous
after a teenager committed his life to Christ at the 1934
Charlotte, North Carolina crusade. The youth was Billy Graham.
The revival rolled across the Deep South and reached Texas by
the spring. In Houston the churches were crowded and the gambling
dens were closed. Dallas and Waco, including Baylor University,
were moved by the Revival of 1905.
When news of the Welsh Revival reached the Midwest,
intercessory prayer meetings sprang up in every state. In
Michigan many places declared "the greatest religious
revival in history." Adrian, Bay City, Grand Rapids,
Saginaw, Marquette, Trimountain, and others proclaimed their
finest spiritual awakening. Big cities and small towns, Baptists
and Methodists all experienced revival.
In Ohio fifty Dayton churches enjoyed an extraordinary
spiritual season. In Indiana ministers from throughout the state
gathered in Indianapolis to share the results of the revival.
From Illinois to Iowa a rising evangelist and former baseball
player named Billy Sunday had a sensational season. The headlines
in Burlington Iowa read "Billy Sunday has made a graveyard
out of once fast town."
The spontaneity of the meetings was a similar characteristic
of the Revival of 1905 whether in big cities or small towns.
Sometimes the simple call like Evan Roberts "let's pray"
was enough. Chicago had some great, unstructured noonday prayer
meetings. St. Louis and Kansas City admitted amazing results at
unprogrammed prayer meetings, especially the confessions of sin
and the conversions to Jesus.
In Denver at the beginning of 1905 a team of ten evangelists,
the most famous being J. Wilbur Chapman and W.E. Biederwolf,
shared in a successful campaign that resulted in January 20th
being an extraordinary day of prayer. Stores and every school
closed. The Colorado Legislature adjourned. Churches and theaters
were filled for midday prayer and evangelistic services with 12,000
On the West Coast Methodists reported a remarkable spiritual
awakening throughout Southern California. In Los Angeles over a
hundred churches cooperated with a team of visiting evangelists
in meetings that had an attendance of over 180,000. In Oregon it
was called the "Portland Pentecost" when 200 stores
agreed to close from 11 to 2 for noonday prayer meetings. Seattle
had a similar blessing when J. Wilbur Chapman preached. He had
been called the "greatest evangelist in the country" by
Dwight L. Moody a decade earlier.
At the end of 1905 every denomination reported membership
increases of ten percent or more. The Methodist, the largest
Protestant group, had 102,000 new members which was double their
usual annual increase. The Baptists reported that baptisms were
up over ten percent everywhere. The five largest Protestant
denominations Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and
Episcopalian increased 264,253 members in 1905. The Protestants
grew 150 percent more than the Roman Catholics, despite their
overwhelming advantage from immigration.
The Awakening of 1905 had a similar spontaneous impact on the
secular and Christian colleges across the nation. The World
Student Christian Federation designated February 12, 1905 as a
"Day of Prayer for Students." John Mott declared,
"the rise of an unparalleled interest of men in spiritual
things." On numerous campuses there was an increase in
voluntary Bible studies and Bible classes, membership in
Christian associations (particularly the YMCA), prayer groups,
and evangelistic meetings.
Career preparations uncharacteristically reflected new
spiritual goals with a marked increase in missionary studies and
social action occupations. In 1896 two thousand students were in
missionary studies, and in 1906 eleven thousand students were
pursuing missions. The response was so great that the Laymen's
Missionary Movement was founded at NYC's Fifth Avenue
Presbyterian Church. Their meeting commemorated the 100th
anniversary of the William's "Haystack Meeting." Under
the inspiration of J. Campbell White they agreed to support and
raise funds for the Student Volunteer Movement goal to evangelize
the world in this generation.
Many college campuses were touched by the awakening. Among
those that proclaimed memorable renewals were Yale, Cornell,
Princeton, Rutgers, Trinity, Stetson, Baylor, Stanford,
California-Berkeley, Seattle Pacific, Drake, Missouri,
Northwestern, and Michigan. Taylor in Upland, Indiana spent the
week of January 6, 1905 in prayer. They called it the greatest
revival in the school's history.
In February 1905, an extraordinary revival occurred at Asbury
College in tiny Wilmore, Kentucky. The school was practically
closed because the classes turned into prayer meetings of
confession, reconciliation, restitution, dedication and even of
conversion. The event originated in a dormitory prayer meeting,
when a Maryland student was called to be a missionary. The
following day the Holy Spirit changed the regular chapel service
as a student the famous young E. Stanley Jones showed a
remarkable transformation. After graduation Jones became the best
known Twentieth Century missionary to India.
III. The Pentecostal Phase:
A distinctly unique and a minority phase of the 1905 Awakening
was the Pentecostal Movement which found its birthplace in the
United States. Tracing its ancestry to the Holiness Movement and
the Keswich Conference of the Methodist Church, Pentecostalism
centered on the Holy Spirit baptism, a post conversion
experience, and particularly the gifts of glossolalia (speaking
in tongues) and divine healing. Their message was taken from the
second chapters of Joel and Acts, and was directed at the nominal
Christians, who were often lethargic in their beliefs rather than
unconverted. Like the orthodox Christians they believed in the
infallibility of the Scriptures, and they interpreted these
events as signs of the "last days."
Critics contented that the spectacular gifts "ceased"
after the apostles, and that everyone received the Holy Spirit at
the moment of salvation. They criticized the Pentecostals for
satanic influence and as heretics. Some judged the glossolalia as
"gibberish" and "the babbling of fanaticism."
Their meetings were described as "nerve racking" and
called a "free vaudeville show." The opposition
resorted to mobs, violence, and even arson. Nevertheless, the
Pentecostals encouraged the emotional excesses by quoting the
Apostle Paul's admonitions "do not forbid speaking with
tongues" and "quench not The Spirit." Although
sporadic occurrences of tongues had taken place after the
Reformation particularly with the Irvingites in Britain, the
American roots took place in 1901 at Bethel Bible College in
Topeka, Kansas. Charles Fox Parham, a Holiness evangelist, was
teaching on Acts 2 on New Years Eve, when a student Miss Agnes
Ozman requested that he lay hands on her so she could receive
this Holy Spirit baptism. She experienced glossolalia. Classes
were suspended and the entire student body began praying
sometimes for hours. Others began speaking in languages, also.
Parham and his students began a series of one-night stands
throughout Kansas and Texas over the next several years. They
mostly faced ridicule until the meetings in Galena, Kansas when
divine healings and conversions were proclaimed. By 1905 their
efforts were called "Pentecostal" and "Full Gospel"
meetings. A total of 25,000 believers and 60 preachers were the
result of Parham's campaigns.
The movement finally gained worldwide fame in Los Angeles. It
began when Pastor Joseph Smale of the First Baptist Church
traveled to the Holy Lands to rest and recuperate after an
illness. On his return trip he stopped in Wales to witness the
awakening by Evan Roberts. In his home church Dr. Smale began to
admonish his congregations to experience a similar reviving by
the Holy Spirit. Hundreds fell to their knees and began sobbing,
repenting, being converted, and speaking in inarticulate prayers.
The meetings continued for fifteen weeks and the Glendale church
had similar happenings. Nonetheless, the Baptist deacons rejected
In February of 1906 Dr. Smale moved downtown to Burbank Hall
and started the "First New Testament Church." One
charter member Frank Bartleman, a volunteer skid row mission
worker, began exhorting and praying that a Pentecost-type revival
would occur. When it happened his diary and his reports to
Christian magazines chronicled the events.
The most famous figure of the revival was William J. Seymour,
a Black Holiness evangelist from Texas. He was blind in one eye
and was trained by C.F. Parham in Houston. He gathered believers
at the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry on Bonnie Brae Street to
receive this Holy Spirit baptism. When it happened the crowds
became so great that the building collapsed; and they were forced
to move to an old Methodist church at 312 Azusa Street.
The two story frame building in the heart of the Los Angeles
industrial section was named the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission.
The main room was 40 by 60-foot and had unmatching backless
chairs made of planks and old nail kegs. It was as plain as their
preacher Brother Seymour, who spoke in the common language of the
uneducated and in an unemotional manner. He was very humble and
displayed no pride. He did not thunder his voice or flail his
arms. He urged worshipper to speak to outsiders about their need
for Jesus as Savior and not about speaking in tongues. No
subjects or sermon was announced. There was no platform so
everyone was on the same face-to-face level. Everything including
the speaker was spontaneous at Azusa Street.
Beginning in April of 1906 for three years sessions were held
day and night, and all-night prayer meetings became common. The
crowds were inter-racial, and as Bartleman explained, "the
color line was washed away by the Blood." Speaking in
tongues was the main feature of the meeting, but healings were
not uncommon, too. They had no hymnbooks or instruments so they
sang everything from memory. It was called "the church
without a collection plate." Early on the San Francisco
earthquake (April 18th) provided a shock that increased the size
of the crowds. The press and the regular church people came as
inquisitive spectators and at times to scoff at the occurrences.
However, seekers made pilgrimages from around the world, and
every night several dozen ministers and foreign visitors were in
attendance. Most were "tarrying" to receive the
manifestations of the Holy Spirit that Paul wrote about in First
Corinthians chapters12-14. Azusa Street became the shrine of
Pentecostalism for the world to view.
From Azusa Street in Los Angeles the Pentecostal flame burst
forth to other places. William H. Durham, at first a skeptic,
received the Spirit baptism and returned to Chicago with a
supernatural ministry. Eudorus N. Bell, who eventually became the
first chairman of the Assemblies of God, carried the Pentecostal
message back to Fort Worth, Texas. Charles H. Mason, a Negro from
Memphis, received the baptism of the Spirit at Azusa Street, and
founded the Church of God in Christ, one of the largest Black
Pentecostal bodies in the world.
After Azusa G. B. Cashwell was a spirit-filled revivalist, who
carried on successful meetings in Tennessee, North Carolina,
Georgia, and Florida. He brought the Pentecostal experience to
one A. J. Tomlinson, who was the influential leader of the Church
of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). In Dunn, North Carolina Cashwell's
message brought the tongues experience to J. H. King. Later King
became the Bishop of the Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Although the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission on Azusa Street
spawned only 42 churches and less than 5,000 members, its
influence stretched around the globe. Some, who were baptized in
the Spirit there, carried the message directly to Toronto, Italy,
and China. Their spiritual experience resulted in a clear zeal
for evangelism. They were strongly moved by Acts 1:8, "when
the Holy Spirit is come upon you, you will be my witnesses (to
the uttermost places - that is worldwide)."
The news of Azusa Street caused Pentecostalism to branch out
to other areas, too. In Nyack, New York the Christian Missionary
Alliance school had one of several Pentecostal outbursts within
their fellowship. At a CMA mission in New York City Tom Ball
Barratt, a Cornishman, spoke in tongues and sang in the Spirit.
The experience started Barratt on a missionary tour that spread
Pentecostalism to Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Britain.
He, also, toured Switzerland and Germany on the continent with
By 1910 Pentecostalism had spread not only throughout the
United States and Canada, but it had become international. It had
reached Europe, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and
Latin America. Every continent with population had Pentecostals.
Though less than 100,000 they would grow to millions. Eventually,
it would be called the "third force" in American
Unfortunately the movement was tarnished by the treatment of
two leaders: Parham and Seymour. Parham was charged with sodomy;
however, rumors and innuendoes left followers believing that he
might have been framed. Seymour' leadership was crippled when his
mailing list of 50,000 readers of the periodical titled the
Apostolic Faith was stolen by two white women in the movement.
Also, other Pentecostal leaders differed with his views on the
positive witness of an interracial Christian church in a
segregated nation of those times. By 1914 Azusa Street was just a
local Black church. Regrettably, the historians of the
Pentecostal movement omitted the founding work of William J.
Seymour. Only in recent years his reputation and respect has been
re-established. Christian History chose him as one of "the
ten most influential Christians of the Twentieth Century."
IV. Worldwide Results
The worldwide impact of the 1905 Awakening was almost totally
unnoticed by Christian historians. Only J. Edwin Orr, the great
English revival writer, was able to discern the global effects in
his 1973 work The Flaming Tongue. Most students of the era
favored the glorification of the numerous evangelists and their
big business, revivalism methods rather than the wide-spread God-inspired
renewal. However, Dr. Orr was able to document how all six of the
populated continents experienced a noticeable, and a spontaneous
spiritual awakening around 1905.
Around the world the stories of the Welsh Revival had an
encouraging touch on Christians and missionaries everywhere and
immediately. The news quickened the British Isles and
particularly the coal-mining regions. When the Torrey-Alexander
tour arrived, offerings for missions increased dramatically. The
continent of Europe experienced only a slight lag in revival
events. The biggest thrust took place in France among the less
than one million evangelical Protestants. They experienced an
awakening, a unity, and a growth that had not been seen before.
The German Tent Missions enjoyed inspiring attendance's where
thousands received the gospel under the big-tops. A spiritual
renewal penetrated Central Europe and even Russia. Scandinavia
was especially moved after the 1904 earthquake took place in
In Latin America the distribution of Bibles gave a spontaneous
impetus to the revival. In a seven-year period evangelical
Protestants increased 180 percent. Pentecostalism was strong in
Chile and Brazil. Valparaiso had been called one of the most
wicked cities in the world. After the 1906 earthquake it was
christened "the Azusa of South America," and spiritual
tremors traveled throughout the continent.
In the Pacific realm the familiar Christian missionary
strongholds were encouraged by the reports from Wales. The 1902
Torrey-Alexander campaign proved to be a blessed preparation for
a later harvest by the evangelicals of Australia. As the Welsh
reports reached mission stations throughout Oceania, prayer
meetings increased from Hawaii to Madagascar. The conviction of
sin was everywhere, and "seekers" became "finders"
of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doors for missionaries opened in
the Philippines and even the Dutch East Indies.
On the continent of Asia prayer meetings and Bible studies
turned many hearts to confessions, tears, and commitments to
Christ. There was a marked increase in requests for communion and
baptism in lands where Buddha and Mohammed reigned. During the
first decade of the century in India Christianity increased
sixteen times faster than the Hindu religion, and ninety-percent
of the nurses became Christians. At Mukti in India the dramatic
story was reported about a girl with a visible fire around her
during a prayer meeting. One single church in Burma baptized over
3,000 in 1905. In China after a hundred missionaries were
martyred during the Boxer Rebellion, people were awakened to
prayer and finally a revival broke out in 1908-09.
The most dramatic revival occurred in Korea after Japan gained
control during the Russo-Japanese War. Some even paralleled their
revival with Wales. Once a persecuted church Christianity
quadrupled and became the strongest single organization in Korea.
The revival was called the spiritual birth of Korean Christianity.
In Japan a well-planned evangelism campaign called "Taikyo
Dendo" began in 1901. It meant "aggressive evangelism"
or "Forward Movement," and it reaped over 5,000
confessions of faith in Christ in five weeks. Originally the
house-to-house visitations took place in Tokyo, however, the
program spread to other big cities. When the war and a famine
took place, the news of revival in Wales and Korea renewed the
movement. The preaching of two Moody Bible graduates Kimuri and
Nakada with several Japanese pastors and evangelists led to the
Japanese Evangelical Alliance. In Tokyo in 1907 John R. Mott
succeeded in holding the first international World's Christian
Student Federation conference in Asia.
The continent that experienced the greatest progress in
Christianity was Africa. Annually for the first two decades of
the 20th Century there was a uniform increase in Christians over
twice that of the population growth. Although the Boer War was
called "the last war of gentlemen," evangelist Gipsy
Smith had a successful harvest of converts with his "Mission
of Peace." Also, John Mott, the apostle of unity, visited
South Africa in 1906 and healed the wounds of war with a
conference of great cooperation between the Protestant ministers.
Missionary activities heightened and awakenings were numerous in
all areas of Africa, even into the once "impossible"
Islamic regions of North Africa.
The results of the 1905 Awakening were emphatically worldwide.
Overseas Christianity, which had been mainly a Western religion,
gleaned the greatest international harvest in history. In many
places gains of hundreds of thousands souls were common. The
seven leading US denominations grew by two million in a five year
period. While it appeared to some that each awakening was weaker,
J. Edwin Orr argued that in reality the scope of Christianity had
a wider influence with each outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the
case of this awakening the ingatherings in Wales, Chile, Burma,
and Korea were the greatest in their histories.
V. Billy Sunday
During the first decade of the 20th Century professional
evangelists enlisted the practices of big business organizations
and the showmanship of vaudeville. They well may have ridden on
the coattails of the 1905 Awakening. These evangelists used some
version of Chapman new "simultaneous citywide evangelism
meetings," and they gave entertaining tirades against the
general sins of society. Their crusades attacked drinking, card
playing, dancing, and theater going. They belittled any public
figures and local ministers, who did not support their cause.
However, the climax of their message was the free-will
offering and the salvation call. By this time the "converts"
could be harvested by either raising their hand or standing when
everyone was in prayer (heads bowed and eyes closed). Even decent
people could walk the aisle and sign a "decision card."
Rodney "Gypsy" Smith made the entire process more
passable by announcing that it cost $4.92 to produce each convert.
After all as J. Wilbur Chapman advertised, this was "The
In 1904 because of concerns over the system the
Interdenominational Association of Evangelists (IAE) was formed
at a Bible conference in Winona Lake, Indiana. It was an attempt
to enjoin most of the evangelists of the day into some unified
practices. They held annual meetings until the mid-1930's.
By the second decade of the century 650 revivalists and 1,200
part-time campaigners conducted an estimated 35,000 revivals
between 1912 and 1918. Their theme included a mix of social
gospel, patriotism, prohibition, and old time religion. While
Chapman and Torrey seemed to be the heirs to Moody's mantle in
the first decade, in the second decade the most popular and
spectacular evangelist was clearly William Ashley Sunday, who was
better known as "Billy" Sunday.
Billy Sunday was born on November 19, 1862 on a farm near
Ames, Iowa. A month later his father died of a disease while
serving in the Union Army. He never saw his son. After many
family struggles with poverty, Billy was sent to a soldier's
orphan home in 1874. Although he never graduated from high
school, he did lead the baseball team to the 1883 Iowa State
Championship. It opened the door for an eight-year major league
baseball career as an outfielder for the Chicago (White Stockings),
Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia teams. His speed and base stealing
gained him fame, and he was the first major leaguer to circle the
bases in fourteen seconds.
One evening in the fall of 1887 Billy and five teammates got
"tanked up" at a Chicago saloon. They were sitting on a
curbstone when a band from the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission
invited them to the service. He went to the mission. At the
persuasion of Mrs. George Clark, wife of the founder of the
mission, Billy Sunday went forward and publicly accepted Christ
as his Savior.
He continued playing baseball, but refused to play on Sundays.
On road trips he spoke at local chapters of the YMCA. He joined
the Jefferson Park Presbyterian Church where he met his future
wife Nell Thompson. In the off season he took public speaking
classes at Northwestern University. When he gave up baseball in
1891, he took a full-time position with the Chicago YMCA at one-sixth
of his baseball salary.
His position gave him experience with grassroots evangelism
and an adequate income for his wife and two children until the
Depression of 1893 occurred. Then, providentially, he was offered
a job as the advanced man for the great evangelist J. Wilbur
Chapman. He, also, served a time with Milan B. Williams. He
learned all the details of a professional evangelists.
In 1895, when Chapman was called to a pastorate in
Philadelphia, Billy Sunday was asked to be a replacement in
Garner, Iowa for a one-week revival. It was the first of 300
revivals and the beginning of a 40-year career. During the first
decade he preached mainly in small towns. By the second decade it
was cities like Spokane, Toledo, Columbus, Boulder, etc. At the
end of 20 years he was at the top and every metropolitan city
His 20 most successful most successful revivals were held from
1912-21, when a total of 593,004 people hit the sawdust trail.
The free-will offerings were over three-quarters of a million
dollars. The New York City campaign was his most spectacular. It
was a ten-week meeting from April-June of 1917. It was during the
US's entrance into The Great War (W.W.I). At the sixteen-thousand
seat tabernacle on Broadway and 168th Street the famous of
society as well as the common unchurched masses were in the
attendance of one and three quarters of a million. Sunday was at
his best on sin and patriotism. His most remember statement was
if "hell could be turned upside down, you would find stamped
on the bottom 'Made in Germany.' He announced that the entire
free-will offering of the final week would be donated to war
charities. Overall 98,264 "trail-hitters" responded to
his "Come, you (fill in the blank with: nationality, or
position, or occupation)." It was the pinnacle of his fame.
Although many saw him as the culmination of Edwards, Finney,
Moody, and others, Billy Sunday's success was attributed to his
personality and his business organization. His revival
corporation was the equal of Standard Oil and US Steel. It was
referred to as "The Sunday Party." Several dozen
directors coordinated everything from building the wooden
tabernacles to the thousands of volunteers, who carried out the
chores of the campaign. It took 50,000 the put on the New York
meetings including the 5-10,000, who met for prayer at the "cottage
The key figures in the Sunday Party included his wife Nell or
"Ma" Sunday, who acted as a business manager. The
crucial advance man scheduled everything with the local ministers
and laymen. Two men, who did nothing but supervised the
tabernacles which were required at every revival. At the meetings
the only person, who shared the limelight on the platform, was
his choir leader. After 1909 Homer Rodeheaver was Sunday's suave,
charming teammate. "Rody" warmed up the audiences with
his congenial personality and musical skill which included the
trombone, an instrument more for the circus than for worship.
Rodeheaver was a success with on his own businesses in music
publishing and phonograph manufacturing. For twenty years the two
were a great compliment to each other's talents.
The half-hour "singfest" was like a pep rally or a
political convention. The music was jazzy and patriotic, usually
culminated with some old-time hymns. When Sunday finished his
message, "Rody" broke in with a marching tune like
"Onward Christian Soldiers," or "Softly and
tenderly Jesus is Calling." The choirs, as large as 2,000
with two pianos, wooed the audience to the sawdust trial as Bill
Sunday stood at ground level to greet them with a handshake.
The overwhelming attraction of Billy Sunday was his flamboyant
preaching style as he spoke and moved in dramatic fashion on the
platform. He was an overpowering speaker using 300-words a minute
that kept every eye riveted on him. For every description he had
a stream of rapid-fire, hyphenated slang terms. When he said,
"the church needed fighting men of God," he said that
it did not need, "hog-jowled, weasel-eyed, sponge-columned,
mushy-fisted, jelly-spined, pussy-footing, four-flushing,
He was a defender of muscular Christianity, American
patriotism, womanhood, hard work, and especially "The Lord's
work." He was most effective when using caustic barbs about
the sins of the world such as booze, tobacco, gambling, dancing,
theater-going, evolution, the liberal preachers, and the
politicians, who would not vote for prohibition or Sunday blue-laws.
He was a spectacular story teller especially when making a Bible
story into a plain, practical pantomime of daily life.
The five-foot eight athletic Billy Sunday not only preached a
muscular Christianity like using the phrase "Jesus was the
greatest scrapper that ever lived," but Sunday displayed it
on the stage. He ran, walked, skipped, bounced, and gyrated
around the platform. Every story included some physical action
that transfixed the observers. He would use a chair to fend the
Devil, and then smash it over something on the stage. He
portrayed a believer's entrance into heaven with a baseball
slide, and ended with "Safe in the arm's of Jesus." He
did handstands. He pounded the podium and jumped off the pulpit.
Throughout the sermon he'd shed his coat, pull off his tie, roll
up his sleeves, and leave the audience emotionally drained. The
New York Tribune drama critic said of the Broadway superstar,
"George M. Cohan has neither the punch nor the pace of Billy
After 1920 the crowds did not follow Billy Sunday. He was
almost sixty years old. His message was out of date for those who
could not remember the values of the 19th Century. America was
tired of crusades and causes. The Jazz Age of pleasure and
Hollywood was more attractive. As Bernard Weisberger wrote,
"Once more, a sinful world turned its back on the old-time
religion." Only small towns and neighborhood churches call
him to preach, and the big city super campaigns disappeared for
the next three decades. Besides that the Sunday family had
problems with their three sons, and George committed suicide in
1933. Finally, Billy concluded that only the Second Coming of
Christ would end the problems of the Thirties. He predicted that
1935 might well be the year of fulfillment. The sensational
revivalist died of a heart attack on November 6, 1935 at age 73
While critics faulted his wealth, his irreverent language, and
the sincerity of his converts, the life and times of Billy Sunday
saw a significant swing in the respect for Christianity in
America. Although he was ordained by the Presbyterian church
without a seminary degree, nevertheless, he was the voice of old-time
religion, the throwback to patriotic American virtues, and no
popular figure his time could hold an audience like he did.
During his forty year career Billy Sunday preached to 100 million
people and he claimed a million conversions. In most of the cases
he personally shook their hands at the end of the sawdust trails.
While some hoped that the evangelist would reach the
unchurched, urban blue collar masses, Billy Sunday proclaimed he
was "a halfway house between the brownstone church (of the
rich) and the Salvation Army (of the poor)." He spoke the
language of the middle-class, church-oriented, city dwellers from
farm or small-town roots, and native-born Americans. If revival
is an awakening of the church, Sunday built his reputation on
calling the religious to "return to God," depart from
their sins, and walk in decency; and he did it in a spectacular
VI. A Modern Church for a New Century:
Christianity entered the 20th Century facing even greater
challenges from science, history, and the social and economic
problems of the Industrial Age. Between 1860 and 1920 America had
completely changed from a nation with a rural, small town
character to a society with an urban, big city, industrial makeup.
New ideas and changes produced a skepticism and doubt as to
whether Christianity could meet the needs of modern times. Church
leaders and theologians responded with everything from retreat
and accommodation to a firm, steadfast orthodoxy.
While the nation centered on the material needs of the people,
the Progressives passed legislation to solve the social problems,
and the Social Gospel blossomed as a Christian's answer to the
difficulty. Unfortunately, too many Protestants centered on
Rauschenbusch's conclusions which said, "Social religion,
too, demands repentance and faith: repentance for our social sins:
faith in the possibility of a new social order." Meanwhile,
a growing liberal wing moved away from traditional Christianity,
and for the first time in American history a broad and
influential theology was not evangelical.
The Modernists embodied the Enlightenment and German
philosophies toward Scripture and God's revelation to man. The
historic approach toward the supernatural and especially the
redemptive purpose of Jesus Christ was abandoned by the movement.
Scientifically, it was impossible to explain the miracles of the
Bible. Even Jesus was only viewed as a historical figure and not
as God or The Savior of mankind.
Some theologians took a liberal view that God was to be
experienced primarily in nature and human reason. They viewed the
Scriptures as poetic, mystical, and even mythical. It was nothing
more than a flawed human record of history and certainly not a
divine revelation. Therefore, reason was left as the final
arbitrator of truth.
Another rising segment of liberal Protestants promoted Jesus
as the King of love and the beautiful unseen friend. They wanted
to eliminate doctrines and creeds, and particular the view of
sinful, fallen man, who needed redemption. To them mankind was
basically good without any serious sins and any preaching about
the Cross was to be avoided. Horace Bushnell and Henry Ward
Beecher paved the way for this approach.
Despite this, on the other side, defenders of the faith came
forward to support the essential elements of the Christian faith
against the eroding attacks of evolution, biblical criticism, and
comparative religions. They became known as the Fundamentalists.
From 1910 to 1915 R. A. Torrey and A. C. Dixon wrote a series of
twelve small books designed to defend the truths of Christianity.
Eventually 64 authors contributed to the undertaking. Lyman and
Milton Stewart, wealthy oilmen from Los Angeles, financed the
project and distributed 3 million free copies to seminary
students and Christian workers throughout the nation.
The booklets were titled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the
Truth. The central doctrines were namely: the Virgin birth of
Christ, His deity, His substitutionary atonement for sinful
mankind, His resurrection and Second Coming, and the authority
and inerrancy of Scripture. Curtis Lee Laws, a Baptist editor,
coined the term "fundamentalists." They were the
conservative and honorable defense against modernism. By 1920 a
large random Protestant following identified with their
principles. As W. G. McLoughlin wrote "the vast majority of
fundamentalists were respectable, pious folks who expressed their
fervor by intensively devout praying, hymn singing, Bible
reading, and soul-winning, At the same time the Protestant
liberals found a strong voice in the The Christian Century
magazine. Their editors saw fundamentalism as out of date and the
Bible as a book of human origin. Also, historians labeled the
fundamentalists as rigid, bigoted, narrow-minded, and "losers"
for two battles that they neither sought nor desired to fight.
The first was the Scopes "Monkey" trial in 1925, and
the second was the Klan vs Catholic Presidential candidate Al
Smith in 1928. Both will be found in the next chapter.
Another dogmatic expression "dispensationalism" grew
in respect as the 20th Century looked more and more like the
"last days" or the "end times." The modern
roots came from J.N. Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in the 19th
Century. However, the Scofield Bible published in 1909 helped
popularize the ideas. Dispensationalists held that God dealt
differently with men in different eras of Biblical history.
Scofield held that man was in the sixth age of grace, and that
the Millennium or thousand year Kingdom of Christ on earth was
near. The Dispensationalists agreed that the premillennial return
of Christ was imminent. Consequently, they placed a great deal of
stress on prophecy and the literal interpretation of the Bible.
When World War One occurred, the tremendous devastation and
the staggering number of deaths stimulated a greater interest in
eschatology and apocalyptic literature. Also, the deviant sects
of Christianity Seventh Day Adventists, Latter-Day Saints (Mormons),
and the Jehovah's Witnesses claimed credibility by their interest
in the Second Coming of Christ, and they increased their
Sydney Ahlstrom said that, "No aspect of American church
history is..so difficult to summarize as the movements of dissent
and reaction that occurred between the Civil War and World War I."
The evangelical consensus had disappeared. Biblical inerrancy
became the theological battleline. Some tried to accommodate
evolution and higher criticism, while others firmly held that the
Scriptures were "not the will of man, but holy men of God
spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
Regardless of the divisions, there were many attempts at
ecumenical unity and interdenominational cooperation. In 1906 the
Layman's Missionary Movement was born out a Nashville SVM meeting.
They made plans to support the Student Volunteer Movement's goal
to "evangelize the world in this generation." In 1908
thirty-three denominations formally joined the Federal Council of
Churches of Christ in America. Their preamble proposed a "oneness
of the Christian Churches of America in Jesus Christ as their
Lord and Savior." Also in 1908, Father Paul Wattson, the
founder of the Atonement Frairs, started the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity. Protestant churches have joined with the Roman
Catholic Church, and the January event is now celebrated
throughout the world by most Christian churches. The Gideons
began distributing free Bibles to schools, hotels, hospitals, and
prisons in 1908. In 1911 the Men and Religion Forward Movement
was launched with a goal to win three million to the churches. It
was an interdenominational movement with an emphasis on men
joining the churches. It was called the greatest pre-war crusade,
and their social service division was the most active component
of their crusade.
Historians look at the impact of causes by the results of an
era, and certainly many social changes took place during the
early decades of the Twentieth Century. Usually religious
revivals result in some reforms in the surrounding society. Since
the 1905 Awakening was either forgotten or unnoticed until Orr's
1973 book, it is debatable how much influence the event had on
the Progressive Movement. The muckrakers exposed the evils in
society with their sensational journalism. The election of 1912
proved the popularity of reform. Woodrow Wilson, son of a
Presbyterian minister and an outstanding Christian, tremendously
changed the Presidency when he took the leadership of legislation
from the Congress. Social legislation was passed in banking, the
tariff, trust busting, temperance, consumer products, and
By this time social reform clearly won a platform in most
denominations and Christian organizations. One outstanding
initiative was the Goodwill Industries. Edgar J. Helms, a
Methodist minister in Boston's poor South End, conceived the idea
of collecting unwanted household goods and employing the poor to
refurbish them. Income from the resold goods paid the workers'
wages. By 1907 the title "Goodwill Industries" was
adopted from a Brooklyn shop. Another Christian endeavor The
Volunteers of America was an offshoot of the Salvation Army. It
was founded by Commander and Mrs. Ballington Booth. The
Volunteers were at first noted for their work in penal
institutions and particularly the Hope Halls work with released
prisoners. Nevertheless, the optimism about mankind's basic good
and his hope for progress was shattered, when the four year Great
War lingered on the Western Front in France.
VII The Great War: The First World War:
John R. Price in his book America at the Crossroads:
Repentance or Repression pointed out the similarities of the four
awakenings in America or what he called periods of national
repentance. Each was followed by a war: The First Great Awakening
then the War for Independence, The Second Great Awakening then
the War of 1812, The Noonday Prayer Revival then the Civil War,
and the Awakening of 1905 followed by World War One. He contended
that "Our Lord, therefore, again used a national repentance
of His believers to prepare them for them tragedy of war."
Before 1914 America was a latecomer to international affairs,
and to Europe's imperialistic competition. The Monroe Doctrine
had been not only a shield from European expansion, but also a
deterrent for American involvement. The US had only dabbled in
foreign affairs like the Spanish America War in Cuba and the
Philippines, the Open Door in China, and the European Conferences
such as the Hague and Algeciras.
In 1913, America looked back to the faded memories of the
Civil War, and they scheduled a re-enactment for the 50th
anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. The surviving veterans
from each side lined up to stage Pickett's third-day charge. When
the march toward Cemetery Ridge was repeated, the old soldiers on
both sides dropped their weapons and embraced on the former
battlefield in tears and weeping. Little did they realize that
the pains of the past war would be experienced by a new
generation in a foreign fray.
In 1914 Europe was an armed camp. Germany, after its 1870
unification, was anxious to have a colonial realm like Britain
and France. France hoped for revenge from the quick and
embarrassing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. Austria's Francis
Joseph, who had ruled since 1848, was related to the Czar, the
Kaiser, and the King of England. Great Britain controlled one-fourth
of the World, and the popular saying was that "the sun never
sets on the British Empire." Germany pleaded that they only
wanted "a place in the sun." Finally, when Germany
invaded Belgium with the Schlieffen Plan, Sir Edward Grey,
British Foreign Minister, said, "The lights are going out
all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
After the first offensive was stopped at the Marne, the Allies
and the Central Powers suffered through a four-year stalemate.
Everyone was shocked at the devastation and the carnage of the
modern weapons. The trench warfare produced despair and
discouragement. The battles over the same ground at Verdun,
Ypres, and the Somme were referred to as "the bells of Hell."
The poison gas, the Big Berthas, the machine guns, the
dreadnoughts, airplanes, tanks, submarines - the slaughter would
kill ten million and wound another twenty million. It was nothing
like the World had ever experienced before. Some thought it was
the Apocalypse, and others began talking about Armageddon. In the
end only a fresh supply of American doughboys would go "over
there" to break the deadlock.
Meanwhile in America, President Wilson established a policy of
neutrality and ran for re-election on the slogan "He kept us
out of war." The Friends, Mennonites, and Brethren (Dunkards)
maintained their traditional position of pacifism. President
Wilson set aside Sunday Oct 4, 1914 as a day for prayer. The New
York Times front page read Whole Nation Prays for Peace. Most of
the clergy upheld the appeal.
At the outset America had a large minority with German roots
and did not appear to prefer a side. However, stories of
atrocities in Belgium and the sinking of the Lusitania swayed the
Yanks to the Allies. While the government soon used propaganda to
promote war hatred, the ministers were quick to abandon
neutrality and to preach a "holy cause" against the
German tactics. Ironically, when Congress voted for a declaration
of war on April 6th 1917, it was "Good Friday."
Newell Dwight Hillis, minister of the Plymouth Congregational
Church of Brooklyn, became far and away the most popular and
outstanding lecturer on German atrocities in the war. Dr. Hillis
made trips to Europe and gave first-hand reports. On a tour to
sell the second Liberty bonds he spoke 400 times in 162 cities.
Listeners were aghast by his narrative about German soldiers with
syphilis, who raped French and Belgium women, and then mutilated
their breasts as a contamination warning to the next German
soldier. He included his vivid details and even pictures in his
book German Atrocities. Former President Teddy Roosevelt, who
volunteered to lead a regiment to France said, "I would
rather have Dr. Hillis as chaplain than any other man I know."
Ray Hamilton Abrams, University of Pennsylvania Sociology
professor, wrote Preachers Present Arms, and he enumerated the
vigorous role that the churches and the Christian leaders played
in the war efforts. His chapters "The Holy War" and
"The Church as a Servant of the State" testify that the
church and the State were partners in the promotion of the war
hysteria. While some have said that Abrams exaggerated the
wartime role of the churches, Sydney Ahlstrom defended him by
saying, "No successful refutation has been forecoming - nor
is one likely to appear."
Nevertheless, activities for the war in the church buildings
were numerous. Ladies met to roll bandages, knit socks and sew
sweaters. Liberty loans and war saving stamps were practically
sold from the pulpit. Raising quotas for every kind of war
activity was preached from the pulpits. The local Red Cross units
held their meetings at the church. Many ministers followed the
government's propaganda outlines. William W. Sweet offered this
opinion, "At least for the period of World War I the
separation of church and state was suspended."
As the nation mobilized for war, the government began to
manage the economy. The man selected to lead the Food
Administration was Herbert Hoover, a Quaker and an outstanding
humanitarian. He had organized the feeding of Belgium after the
German invasion. The commitment of "wheatless and meatless"
days and the voluntary vow to planting "victory gardens"
by the civilians enormously stimulated food production.
When the draft or Selective Service was established, Congress,
also, approved the status of chaplains and decreed a ratio of one
for each twelve hundred soldiers. The War Department used the
YMCA as their semiofficial agent for chaplains and volunteers to
operate the canteens to comfort the men in the training camps and
eventually overseas. However, there were numerous religious
agencies to minister to the armed forces, and an overwhelming
spirit of cooperation between the religious groups.
The Federal Council of Churches organized a General Wartime
Commission to coordinate the efforts 35 different groups of
Protestant churches, the YMCA, YWCA, the American Bible Society,
and similar institutions. The chairman was Robert E. Speer, a
prominent Presbyterian layman, who had a brilliant career on
Foreign Missions Boards and the Presbyterian Church.
The National Catholic War Council made a huge impact on the
Catholic Church in America. They recruited about a thousand
military chaplains. The most famous chaplain of the war was
Father Francis Patrick Duffy of New York's "Fighting 69th"
of the famous 42nd Rainbow Division. Also, the Knights of
Columbus raised over $14 million for the Church's war work.
When the men went overseas, they were accompanied by over
eleven thousand civilian service people. They came from every
religious organization and national groups like the Red Cross,
the Salvation Army, the Jewish Welfare Board, and the Library
Association. The response was so great that the United Fund Drive
of 1918 set an American fund-raising record of $200 million.
Local church congregations were the focal points for the
volunteers and quotas of the war effort.
During the final campaign of the war in the Argonne Forest
America was given its most celebrated soldier of W.W.I Alvin
Cullum York. He almost single-handedly captured 132 German
soldiers and silenced 35 machine guns. When he marched them back
to the Allied line as POW's, an officer asked, "How many do
you have," and Sergeant York replied, "I got a-plenty."
The redhead rifleman from Pall Mall, Tennessee was honored by
numerous groups and received the highest medals from France &
the US Congress.
His life became a Hollywood movie which won Gary Cooper an
Academy Award as Sergeant York in 1941. Most history book neglect
to include York's Christian testimony. His future wife Gracie
Williams let him know that she had no intentions of marrying a
hard-cursing, hard-drinking, gambling ruffian like he was. At a
revival meeting in a small country church, Alvin York gave his
heart to Jesus. Of his conversion he said that he was "struck
down by the power of love and the Great God Almighty, all
together." In the movie version they had him struck by
lightning. However, the movie does include his spiritual struggle
with the 6th Commandment "Thou shalt not kill," and his
pacifist reluctance to go to war initially.
Finally, when the Armistice silenced the guns, it was suppose
to be Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points that would end "the
war to end all wars." But at Versailles, the "Tiger"
Clemenceau wanted 1871 undone and restitution from Germany. He
said that, "President Wilson's Fourteen Points was "worse"
than Almighty God. He had only ten." Clemenceau, also,
quipped that Wilson was, "talking like Jesus Christ."
However, in the end, the US Senate rejected the League of Nations
and the peace settlement did not survive twenty year.
The War stimulated all kinds of interest in Bible prophecy.
Jerusalem was captured by British General Allenby. He was a
devout Christian. He said that he received his battle plan to
just fly planes over the city, while reading the book of Isaiah (31:5).
The most holy city of Christianity was liberated from Moslem rule
for the first time since the seventh Century without firing a
Even more astounding was the springtime of modern Zionism. In
1917 Great Britain made a pledge to Chaim Weizmann that their
nation would secure "a national home for the Jewish people."
It was called the Balfour Declaration. Who can know God's
timetable, but perhaps this was the bud for graffing the
slumbering natural branch back into the eternal vine. (Romans 11).
While the First World War was limited mostly to Europe, a
worldwide influenza epidemic known as the "Spanish Lady"
reached every country on the globe by 1919. The virus killed 20
million people and affected half the world's population. It,
also, produced a hysteria of blame on the Kaiser, the Jews, the
Bolsheviks, and any foreigner immigrating to another country.
Bible students pointed out that this was the "beginning of
sorrows" from Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). "Nation
shall rise up against nation...and famines and pestilence and
earthquakes." Some asked, "Was this that pestilence
before His return?"
W.W. Sweet gave this final generalization, "No war has
ever helped the cause of vital religion. Religion always slumps
as a result. At no time in the history of organized religion in
America has it been at such a low ebb as after our great wars.
How could Christianity be expected to thrive in an atmosphere of
hate? Hate is horrible anywhere- but hate in actual war is hate
at its worst."
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