Pentecostal Origins in Global Perspective

Desmond Cartwright

Unpublished paper given at the Brighton Conference July 12 1991

pentecostalflameWhen we look for the source and origin of the Pentecostal Movement we are presented with several options.

Let us suppose that we are seated in a boat in the delta of the great Amazon River. One of the passengers turns to the captain with this question. 2 Where does this great river begin”?

In one way the answer is simple. It has a source high in the Andes in far off Peru. There are tributaries in Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.

At the mouth of the river it would be difficult to tell which drop came from which source. Some drops would have travelled a thousand miles, others only a few. They are all part of that great river. Yet even the Amazon gets lost in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

The beginnings of the Pentecostal Movement can be traced to several different sources. Earlier movements involving revivalism (in 1859 and 1904-05); the Wesleyan and Holiness tradition; Healing Movements embracing A. J. Gordon, A. B. Simpson, John Alexander Dowie and others; a revived interest in the return of Christ. Though this had never been entirely lost sight of it became a subject of increasing interest on both sides of the Atlantic. From the first Albury Conferences held between 1826 and 1830.1 Later in Chicago in November 1886 the second American Bible and Prophetic Conference was held (the first had been in 1878).

It is my view that each of these elements helped to make the conditions necessary for the creation of that which was to become known as the Pentecostal Movement.

Writing in 1900 Dr A. T. Pierson in his book, Forward Movements of the Last Half Century, has a chapter entitled “The Pentecostal Movement.” This turns out to be on the life and ministry of the missionary martyr, George Lawrence Pilkington (1865-1897).2

When Pilkington was still a schoolboy in the spring of 1875 a conference was held in Brighton. The subject was under the heading of the promotion of Scriptural Holiness.3

The local corporation provided the Town Hall, the Corn Exchange, the Dome and the Royal Pavilion free of charge. Four businessmen offered up to £500 each to cover the cost but this was not needed.

The meetings had followed the more sedate and selective gatherings at Broadlands, Romsey beginning in 1873 and at Oxford 4 in 1874. At Oxford things were very sedate (as one might expect). There were prolonged times of silent prayer. At Broadlands small groups would gather under the trees. The larger gatherings in Brighton that ran from May 29th to June 7th in 1875 attracted up to 8,000 people. The written record describes the meetings as:
“…singularly exempt from the insidious attraction of pleasurable religious emotion, and the character of the hymns chosen did not admit of purely aesthetic gratification.”

At Brighton, apart from the main meetings, Asa Mahan (1799-1889)5 addressed sectional gatherings in the Drawing Room. The theme of the meeting was the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. This was, “…a baptism not vouchsafed on conversion, but given ‘after we have believed.’”

Twenty years later, Pilkington writes to his mother on May 30th, 1895:
“ Next Sunday is Whit-Sunday, Oh, for another Pentecost here, and at home.”6

The first Keswick Convention8 followed very shortly after the Brighton Conference.

It is however to an earlier period that we have to look for the source of the theological basis of the Pentecostal Movement. This was a follow on from the Albury Conferences and the call for special prayer by James Haldane Stewart (1776-1854)9 in 1826.


The place where speaking in tongues were first heard was in the West of Scotland at Gairloch in the parish of Robert Story (who was one of those who was present at the first Albury Conference).10 The first person to do so was Mary Campbell of Fernicarry, Gairlockhead that lies at the head of the loch beyond Faslane that is now Britain’s nuclear submarine base. The date was March 28, 1830.

The next parish adjoining was Row (pronounced Rhu) where John McLeod Campbell (1800-1872) was minister11 from 1825 to 1831. Edward Irving’s assistant, A. J. Scott preached in the area after visiting Greenock in the winter of 1829 following the death of his mother. He clearly taught that the church should be aware of and make place for spiritual gifts in its life and ministry. It was no coincidence that these gifts appeared in that vicinity so soon after. Among the many people who came to visit the area were some who subsequently became prominent in what became known as the Catholic Apostolic Church.

The manifestations were next seen in Port Glasgow on the other side of the Clyde. The subsequently appeared in London, first in a private house and later in Edward Irving’s Church in Regent Square.12

There was a strong reaction to these events and a large number of booklets and pamphlets were issued on both sides.13 The issues surrounding the fate of Edward Irving and the subsequent history of the Catholic Apostolic Church need not detain us now (though there has been a great deal of interest shown in him in more recent times). It should be recorded that the initial teaching that lead to some to accept the possibility of such gifts helped to prepare for their acceptance. When they appeared also in London they were exposed to a much wider audience. Unfortunately, Irving and those under whom he submitted himself did not handle these things very well. What had had begun as a revival and restoration of lost, neglected gifts became a reconstruction most notable for its ecclesiology. It is not without significance that the last of the Apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church, Francis V. Woodhouse died at Albury on February 3rd, 1901 at the age of 90.14

On the other side of the Atlantic there had been an isolated instance of speaking in tongues at meetings held in the Shearer Schoolhouse near Camp Creek, Cherokee County, North Carolina in 1896. The leader was a Baptist layman, W. F, Bryant.15
Though this was an isolated case unconnected with a specific theology at the time it involved up to more than 100 people. Because of the lack of teaching, fanaticism, persecution and other things these gifts did not continue. The significance was only realised when a more publicised events occurred at the beginning of the 20th century.

The next important date was on New Year’s Eve, 1900. The place was Topeka, Kansas. The location was Charles Fox Parham’s Bible School situated in a building known as “Stone’s Folly.” In the earliest published account Ages Ozman16 that some three weeks previously she had spoken three words in an unknown tongue. It was however on the first day of January 1901 that she spoke more fully after the laying on of hands. Two days later thirteen others also spoke in tongues. The local papers took a considerable interest in these events for a short time.

1. Edward Miller, The History and Doctrines of Irvingism, Two volumes 1878,pp.30-47. Rowland A Davenport, Albury Apostles, revised, 1975, pp.21-28.

2. Christopher F. Harford-Battersby, Pilkington of Uganda, Marshall Bros. 2nd. Ed. 1898,p.222ff.

3. Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness held at Brighton May 29th to June 7th, 1875.W. J. Smith, Brighton n.d. Reprinted Garland Publishing Co 1988 No. 39 “Higher Christian Life “ Series.

4. Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held in Oxford, august 29 to September 7, 1874, Boston, n.d. Reprinted Garland Publishing Co. 1985

5. See B. B. Warfield, “ Mahan’s Type Teaching” in Perfectionism, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Philadelphia, USA, 1958, pp.64-124. Record, p.19.

6. Record, p.384.

8. John C. Pollock, The Keswick Story, Hodder and Stoughton, 1964. 9 David D. Stewart, Memoir of the Life of Rev James Haldane Stewart, 2nd.1857. Ed., 1857.

9. David D. Stewart, Memoir of the Life of Rev James Haldane Stewart, 2nd.1857. Ed., 1857.

10. Robert Herbert Story, Memoir of the Life of Rev Robert Story Macmillan, 1862.

11. J. Philip Newell, “Scottish Imitations of Modern Pentecostalism: A. J. Scott and the Clydeside Charismatics, “Pneuma," 4:2 fall, 1982, pp.1-18.

12. John Hair, Regent Square: Eighty Years of a London Congregation, James Nisbet, Revised edition, 1899.

13. Thomas Erskine, On the Gift of the Spirit, B. R. Lusk, Greenock, 1830, 24p. Joseph Fletcher, On the Miraculous Gifts of the Primitive Churches and Modern Pretensions to their Exercise, London, 1832, 26 p.

14. P. E. Shaw, The Catholic Apostolic Church Sometime Called Irvingite, Kings Crown Press, New York, 1946, 264p. Rowland A. Davenport, Albury Apostles, Free Society, 1973, 316p.

15. Harold Hunter, “Spirit-Baptism and the Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina, Pneuma.5: 2, Fall, 1983, pp.1-17. Charles W. Conn, Like a Mighty Army: A History of the Church of God 1886-1976, Revised Edition, Pathway Press, Cleveland, Tenn. 1977, pp.18-27.

16. Agnes Ozman, “Where the Latter Rain Fell, The First one to speak in Tongues,” The Latter Rain Evangel, Chicago, vol.1.1 No. 4. January 1909, p.2.

Desmond Cartwright

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