William Joseph Seymour:
The father of Pentecostalism
The Downfall of Seymour’s Vision
Even before the Azusa Street Revival was over things began to fall apart for William Seymour’s movement and would prove to discredit his legacy. Seymour’s teacher, Charles Parham, came to visit Azusa Street and was appalled by the interracial and inter-gender worship style of the meetings. He loudly ranted against Seymour and his revival and eventually took many members from the congregation to a rival mission that he started in Los Angeles. After his mission failed, Parham continued to discredit Seymour and his movement. This devastating treason from his own teacher was not the last incident of betrayal that Seymour would experience.
In 1909 Seymour lost access to his mailing list for the Apostolic Faith magazine, when Florence Crawford and Clara Lum moved to Portland Oregon taking the mailing list with them. It is unknown why Crawford took the list but many believe it was in response to Seymour’s marriage to his wife Jennie, a leader and pianist in the church. Some believe the women were upset with the marriage because it occurred so close to the return of Christ, while others argue that Crawford took the list in a fit of jealousy as she herself planned for Seymour to marry her, even though she was advised that Seymour could never marry her because the world was not ready for and interracial marriage (Crawford was white).
The final personal betrayal that Seymour experienced occurred when he had a doctrinal argument with Chicago leader William Durham. Durham severed his fellowship with Seymour after Seymour locked him out of the Apostolic Mission on Azusa Street. Durham and his followers formed the Assemblies of God movement, which grew into a major division of the Pentecostal denomination.
The schism between Seymour and Durham foreshadowed the future of the denomination. The Assemblies of God developed into a predominantly white group. This schism was echoed across the country in Pentecostalism as congregations and groups felt pressure from those outside the religion that did not approve of the intermingling of the races in worship. Throughout the years between 1907-1920 more schisms occurred. Including racial splits in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the Church of God in Christ to some extent. Most of the groups, these included continued to have relations with their counterparts of other races until the 1930s but were officially divided, generally among racial lines by the mid-thirties.
Within a short time of the Azusa Street Revival’s beginnings, Seymour’s great vision of harmony and tongues began to fall apart. It seems that the pressures of society proved to be too strong for the young churches, no matter how well intentioned the churches were. The example of unity that had been held up to the nation and world was short lived and proved that Christians were not always unaffected by the prejudices of the world no matter how they hard they tried to be separate. By the time of Seymour’s death on September 28, 1922 his church on Azusa Street and his influence on the movement was small and after Jennie Seymour’s death in 1936 the church on Azusa Street was sold and demolished.
This page was created by Ashley Sample. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was last updated April 17, 2001