Very little is known of Florence L. Crawford except that this mother of two was active in social work and women’s organizations in spite of a childhood injury and spinal meningitis.
Though her parents were atheists, she was converted sometime in her childhood or youth, but it was after her encounter with God at the Azusa Street Mission in 1906 that she gained historical significance.
Along with other ‘holiness believers’ of the day she professed an experience of sanctification and was filled with the Holy Spirit and healed at Azusa Street. Thereafter she became an active worker in the mission. She was soon parted from her building-contractor husband of 16 years, Frank Mortimer Crawford, who did not accept her faith until after her death.
Reports of her experiences and ministry can be found in each of the first twelve editions of the Apostolic Faith, the official magazine of the Azusa Street Mission, proclaiming the truths of Pentecost across the world in 50,000 editions at the height of its ministry.
In the 9th edition dated Jun-Sep 1907 she recalls her early consecration to God: "I can't forget how, kneeling at the dear old board in Azusa street, I promised God I would go where He wanted me to go and stay where He wanted me to stay, and be what He wanted me to be. I meant every word of it and God has taken me at my Word. How His glory is flooding my soul. O how I worship His precious name! I have to stop and wonder how God can bless the Word through me. To think He has saved me when all my family were infidels and everything that would drive me from God. No one can ever know how I feel for the way God has dealt with me. O how I love Jesus. It thrills my very being to think of the Blood. It has done so much for me. I am filled with wonder love, and praise that God would permit me to see the workings of His mighty power in these last days. O to think we have lived to see the return of the apostolic power and to see the gifts restored back to the church. I find we cannot compromise with anything or anybody. O we must stand for all the light we have received, and having down all to stand. Florence Crawford.”
In the 11th edition dated Oct-Jan 1908 she writes this endearing testimony: "I never was so determined as now to stand in all the fullness of this great Gospel. O my life is in His hands to do just as He will with me. I can say from my heart, I count not my life dear unto myself; and there's something down in my soul that says:
"Though earth and hell my way oppose,
Jehovah's mightier than my foes."
I bless and praise God that the Holy Ghost fell in dear Los Angeles. Oh, and it took me in. Oh, how hungry I was, and how the glory of heaven flooded my soul as I sat and listened to dear Brother Seymour expound the Word of God. "This is that" which the prophet Joel said should come. Glory to His holy name, it's come! It's in my innermost being and abiding there. Oh the glory of the anointing that abideth. It's clean hands and pure hearts and a walk blameless before God, in holiness, in fear, meditating day and night in the law of God that keep this wonderful anointing. Few will pay the price to get that that Joel should come, and few will continue to pay the price to keep it; but by His grace and power, I mean to keep it if all hell should shake and conspire to make me fall or step for one moment aside. I've taken the narrow way. O I love it. I mean to go through with the despised few.
O how I love Jesus. I never loved Him as I do now. His word never was so sweet. It's my meat and drink day and night. How can I ever praise Him enough or do enough or suffer enough for what He's done for me! What a privilege to suffer a little with Jesus. This awful power and prince of the air is our worst enemy. We don't fight against flesh and blood now. This is a greater fight-and with the greater fight comes far greater power. For every ninety-nine pounds of trial comes one hundred pounds of grace.
How it thrills my heart to think of the dear blessed saints that are standing true. As never before we are going to see the mighty signs follow the preaching of the Word; as we keep in line with the truth and in no way compromise, preach the word and let the Holy Ghost magnify Jesus. Glory, glory to His precious name. How my very soul does thrill with the thought of what God is going to do through a clean people. O I want to be spotless and have every thought brought into subjection. This Gospel is going like wildfire. It shall sweep everything before it, compromisers and all. The blessed Lord does let us see a little ahead to encourage our hearts while the fight is on. The blessed Jesus is so precious to me. Amid evil reports and great demands for help, He gives such assurance in my poor soul that all is well, and O the calm that's coming after the storm.”
In the very first edition her evangelistic zeal shines through the pages: “Sister Florence Crawford says: ‘There is no spot on earth so dear to me as this place, but I must go out and tell this story. Souls are perishing far and near. The Lord told me yesterday to go into all the world and preach His Gospel. 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand,' and 'Behold, I come quickly.’ What He says to me, He says to every baptized soul. He wants us to go out into the highways and hedges and declare this Gospel. He has anointed me to tell the story of Jesus and I can go alone for Jesus is with me. Oh, glory to God!’”
There is also mention of her working alongside other principal workers at this time: “In the City of Oakland, during the five weeks that the band from Los Angeles was there, Brother and Sister Evans and Sister Florence Crawford, sixty-five souls received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and thirty were sanctified and nineteen converted. (AF vol 1, no. 2, Oct 1906) A ‘sister Mead’ testifies, “Then Bro. Seymour, Sister Crawford and another Sister laid their hands upon me that I might receive the Holy Spirit. As they prayed, I felt the power go through my body, but did not receive then the full baptism.”(AF vol 1, no. 3, Nov 1906)
The papers are peppered with stories of how the Lord used sister Crawford in conversions, healings and outpourings of the Holy Spirit, particularly in Oakland and Portland. The 12th edition dated Jan. 1908 records a powerful visit she shared with others to the Pentecostal Convention in Winnipeg, Canada beginning November 15th. A huge crowd gathered and many were healed, baptized in the Holy Spirit and delivered from demons.
After this convention Mrs. Crawford returned to her native Oregon under somewhat surprising circumstances. William Seymour had married Jenny Moore, much to the disapproval of another white woman, Clara Lum and Mrs. Crawford. Feelings were so strong that Clara Lum left Azusa Street to join the Apostolic Faith evangelistic organization Mrs. Crawford founded in 1907 in Portland, OR. But she took with her the Apostolic Faith mailing lists with the agreement of Seymour but without the permission of the board of elders. They then reproduced the publication from Mrs. Crawford’s Portland, Oregon, headquarters. This cut off the world-wide financial and prayer support from Azusa Street and struck a death blow to its continuing influence and survival.
For the next 30 years Florence Crawford used her position as general overseer of the Apostolic Faith Church to maintain a strict Holiness standard of doctrine and practice. Though the Apostolic Faith organization had fewer than 3,000 members at Crawford’s death, branch churches extended its influence around the world.
Bibliography: The Apostolic Faith vol.1 Nos 1-12, 1906-1908; L. F. Wilson, art. “Florence Louise Crawford,” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Ed. Stanley M. Burgess, 2002; Cecil M. Robeck, Florence Crawford: Apostolic Faith Pioneer, in Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders. Ed. James R. Goff Jr. and Grant Wacker University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 2002, pp218-235.
Tony Cauchi 2004