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Assemblies of God

The largest denomination to stem from the Pentecostal movement of the early twentieth century. Pentecostals were at first reluctant to form separate churches, hoping to transform existing churches. As early as 1914, however, American Pentecostal leaders agreed to form a simple fellowship of churches with the name “Assemblies of God” as a scriptural designation. A Presbyterian type of structure was adopted in 1918, with headquarters at Springfield, Missouri. In Canada, assemblies were incorporated in 1917 as “The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada” (see Pentecostal Churches).

In Britain, the sole Pentecostal organization till 1924 was the Pentecostal Missionary Union (1909). The opposition aroused by the movement, its growing self-consciousness, its lack of large assemblies to act as points of concentration (as in Scandinavia), and concern over the development of the Apostolic Church combined to produce growing desire for some form of organized fellowship. An application by Welsh Pentecostal assemblies for acceptance as a Welsh District Council of AOG, USA, precipitated action. On the initiative of Thomas Myerscough and J. Nelson Parr, a preliminary conference in Birmingham (1924) recognized the need for unity and fellowship, and agreed to the name “Assemblies of God.” Three months later a conference in London adopted a constitution which created an executive presbytery of seven with Parr as chairman and secretary and as editor of a paper, Redemption Tidings. The first annual conference followed in London. In 1925 the Pentecostal Missionary Union merged with AOG which also undertook responsibility for the annual Pentecostal Whitsuntide convention, then held in Kingsway Hall, London. The 1925 conference agreed to compile a hymnbook, Redemption Tidings. Two independent Pentecostal Bible colleges, at Hampstead and Bristol, were united in 1951 and handed over to conference. Situated on a new site at Kenley, this institution became the official AOG Bible school in Britain.

AOG support a large missionary force which has established assemblies in most parts of the world. They are particularly strong in France and Italy, Congo and Nigeria, and especially in Brazil. AOG describe themselves as “Pentecostal in experience, evangelical in outlook, and fundamental in their approach to the Bible.” They include baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues among the fundamental truths of Christianity. In organization they use a Presbyterian structure, accepting the autonomy of the local church, but also utilizing district councils and a general council which acts as “the controlling body.” This latter operates through a general conference which meets annually.

See D. Gee, Wind and Flame (1967).

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