Women in Ministry
In the summer of 1919 (sometimes called the Red Summer), the state of Illinois was forced to call in a militia group to restore order; race riots had broken out on the streets of Chicago. Over 500 people were injured, and 1,000 black families were left homeless. Not long after, despite increasing amounts of tension even among Christian organizations, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the U.S.A. (the original name) was founded with the intent of piercing the racial divide. African American W. C. Thompson was one of the five charter members, and in the third semi-annual convention held in January of 1921, the General Moderator of the Church of God in Christ, C. H. Mason, preached one of the services. In fact, discussion occurred concerning a merger.
The Chicago Era was also marked by women in ministry. Of course, the first ordained minister was Ida Tribett, who was an outstanding evangelist, and women like Clara Brinkman and Violet McClure were both elected to serve in the executive office of general treasurer. By 1922, the still newly-formed movement claimed a near 50:50 male to female ratio, with 57 of the 124 ministers and 5 of the 8 missionaries, identified as women.
Overall, the Chicago Era punctuates the notion that the PCG was founded as a missional movement with strong leanings toward multi-cultural inclusivity and women in ministry. Regardless of race or gender, the PCG was truly a grassroots movement of people who simply wanted to reach the lost and equip and send the found.
By 1928, the PCG headquarters moved to Ottumwa, Iowa. Interestingly, the first assets purchased in the transition were not properties, but printing equipment—a critical and strategic move intended to continue the advance of the Gospel. Of course, it was during this time that the name of the magazine changed from the Pentecostal Herald to the Pentecostal Messenger.
Another notable moment during this period involved the birth of youth ministries, which was formally organized under the name “Pentecostal Young People’s Association.” The PYPA began to flourish under the leadership of Alfred Worth and especially Ferne Bruce, who was actually elected and recognized as the first PYPA President. Of course, she would later distinguish herself as a prominent missionary, but she, even as a young woman, serves as another example of the significant role that women played in leadership in those early years.
Why is the Ottumwa Era so important? Because it reveals a unique concern of the PCG to strategically commit itself to utilizing information technology for the advancement of the Gospel and intentionally investing in the next generation. As a 2nd-Century PCG begins, may these emphases continue to remain at the forefront of our movement.
JOPLIN CITY ERA
After over thirty years of transition, the movement finally settled in Joplin, Missouri. Of course, the Joplin Era represents the longest life span and most common narrative for the PCG, from 1951 through 2011—sixty years. In 1975, the name of Pentecostal Church of God of America was changed to Pentecostal Church of God, International. Even then, the movement was seeking a transition from an American church to a global church.
After four different locations in Joplin, the Headquarters landed at 50th Street and Pennsylvania. In fact, one of the more significant moments of the era included the consolidation of Southern Bible College and Pentecostal Bible College into Messenger College at that same location. The dream envisioned during the Kansas City era was now a reality.
With the sale of the college properties, development of the new campus started on a tract of land across the street from the International Headquarters, and in 1987, Messenger College officially opened. Eventually, the college received accreditation and the privilege of offering accredited degrees as a resource to equip world-changing Pentecostal leaders.
The Joplin era was marked by many beloved and noteworthy leaders, who truly emphasized ministry and resource development. Under the incredible leadership of R.D. Heard, Roy Chappell, James Gee, Ron Minor, H.O. Pat Wilson, C. Don Burke (who served as Indian Missions Director for 46 years), and others, several new ministries and endeavors were launched (i.e. Pentecostal Ladies Auxiliary and King’s Men, Christian Education, Home Missions, and the Military Chaplaincy). Also in 1979, the Minister’s Study Series was implemented, which still serves the PCG to this day. Much could be said of the Joplin Era, but one thing is certain: “The Pentecostal Church of God stands on the shoulders of giants.”
KANSAS CITY ERA
In 1933, the PCG headquarters moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Not too many years later, J. W. May became the General Superintendent and inaugurated explosive growth. In fact, during this period, the PCG became known as the fastest-growing denomination in America. The Movement grew from 11 districts to 22, the number of missionaries increased from 4 to 30, the number of ministers and churches doubled, and twenty acres of land were purchased on Cleveland Avenue to house a new headquarters building and Bible School. Although the dream of a centralized Bible School never came to fruition, our district and national leaders at the time clearly advocated for the importance of ministry education, since three regional ministry schools were affirmed to multiply ministry and equip the saints as effectively as possible.
Due to the rapid and expansive growth of the period, the need surfaced for dedicated and directional leadership in missions. Arguably the greatest achievement in Kansas City involved the establishment of full-time leadership in world missions, as well the development of a Hispanic Convention and an Indian missions thrust. The era is often remembered for the missionary appointments of W.A. Parsons (Indonesia), Hazel Kleintop (Lebanon), and even T. L. Osborne (who later built one of the great parachurch and missional organizations of its time). New fields were also vigorously pioneered in locations such as China, India, South Africa, Mexico, and many more. Perhaps more than any other era, Kansas City demonstrates the missional call of the PCG—not just in America, but across the globe.
DALLAS-FORT WORTH ERA
Unity in Mission
In 2011, Bishop Charles Scott transitioned the PCG to the Dallas-Fort-Worth metroplex. Of course, the story of the Dallas-Fort Worth Era is even now being written, but reminiscent of its early beginnings in Chicago, the relocation marks a strategic advance to a major hub of transportation and communication. And even more so, it represents a missional paradigm shift for the PCG, broadening its influence and eternal impact by reaching, in addition to the rural communities, the urban and metropolitan areas of the world. For this reason, the General Office or “Headquarters” was renamed the “International Mission Center,” becoming a global resource and communication hub for a 2nd-century PCG.
The exciting news is that the Pentecostal Church of God is yet to realize her future, and because of this divinely providential moment, we all get to participate in writing the next chapter. The prophetic declaration of One Mission—One Movement has accelerated missional pace toward a daring destination. There is no retreat. There is no plan B. There is no alternative. The story of a 2nd-century PCG is about to be written, so may the Dallas-Fort Worth Era be marked by its urgency to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and its commitment to function as a “global church with a global mission.”