June 4th 1873 to January 29th, 1929
“He counted no sacrifice too great that he might cause the Gospel light to shine unto the darken lives, and bring the deeper truths to those who knew God. When amidst bitter persecutions, of dangers seen and unseen, we would often fear for our life, he would always assure us that, ‘this life was immortal till his work was done.”1
Charles Fox Parham was a man who sought to see the restoration of the truths of healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the church. He would proclaim in 1901 that “Speaking in tongues was the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”2
Charles Parham had a reformer spirit and as such he quickly gained the attention of church leaders who saw great potential in him, but also recognized that fire that would challenge the status quo and make them uncomfortable. Parham was a pioneer who helped lay the foundations for the Pentecostal movement. He was a highly opinionated man, and was not afraid to share those opinions. He was also not a perfect man, yet the Lord looked at his heart and saw a vessel He could use and He did. Parham was not satisfied with church as norm, feeling a burden for the lost and a desire to do something big for God.
The Early Days
The Word declares that before we were even formed in our mother’s womb, He knew us and that while in the womb He consecrated us to His purpose. Somehow the enemy can see the call on a person even before they are saved. One day all of us will stand before the Throne and give an account of the call. The enemy seeks to kill, steal and destroy. If he can he will kill the person before they know the Lord or step into their call. He will also seek to steal the call. How many worship leaders has he deceived and today they are worldly and demonically possessed singers? They may have gained fame and success on the earth, but they aborted the purpose of heaven. The enemy also seeks to destroy the call. In life we often have negative experiences that can taint us and pervert our thoughts.
Charles Parham was no different in that the enemy recognized the call from an early age and sought to stop him before he even started. Charles Parham’s family traced their ancestry back to William the Conqueror. 3 His family had moved to Muscatine Iowa along the Mississippi River which divided Iowa and Illinois. In 1870, it had a population of almost 22,000. Charles was born here before they moved in 1878 to Kansas. They would settle in Sedgewick County which ranked second in Kansas for wheat production. 4 They were located in Anness south of Cheney.
Parham’s father became very successful farmer with 160 acres. His father would serve on the school board and in 1880 became the local postmaster.
The Lord so often calls people from the remotest of places that in the natural seem totally inappropriate for someone who would change the world.
Charles as a young boy suffered from may attacks of sickness. He was in the constant supervision of his mother and many today would describe him as a mother’s boy. At the age of six, Parham contracted a fever that resulted in him struggling over the next year in a fight for his life. He would suffer as he himself stated, “dreadful spasms, and enlargement of the head, until my forehead (sic) became abnormally large.”5 Then when he was nine he would suffer an attack of another life-threatening disease, rheumatic fever. “The hard hitting ‘inflammatory rheumatism’ left him ‘virtually tied up in a knot’ and by the time the illness abated, his young body was so emaciated that he could count the bones in his hands by holding it up to the light.”6
Following this he came down with tapeworm, which although it sounds so trivial it can in fact be deadly. The tape worm resulted in stomach issues and in Parham not growing very tall. Now add to the list:
- Headaches- probably migraines
- Stigmatized eye
- Abscess of the liver
What was clear was the enemy wanted to stop him.
Even before Parham received Jesus as Savior he felt the burden for ministry and thought, “Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel.”7
“Our parents were not religious- we scarcely knew anything about church and Sunday School; preachers seeming to be as scarce in those days as hen’s teeth… We don’t remember to have heard but one or two preachers before reaching the age of thirteen years…”8
When he was nine, Parham was taken to the Congregational Church where Brother Lippard was holding a meeting. He urged people to receive Jesus and based on all Parham’s health issues he immediately stood up and was marked as a convert. However, it was on the road home that the real conversion came. The Holy Spirit began convicting him and he knew he could not live fully a Christian life without a real conversion. He found himself unable to pray and could only hum a hymn. When he reached the third verse, and something happened…
“Here, I give my all to Thee
Friends, and time and earthly store,
Soul and body Tine to be,
Wholly Thine forever more.”9
As he repeated, “Wholly,” he felt a flash from Heaven that penetrated every part of his being. Parham would then begin preparing himself for ministry.
In 1885, Charles mother died which he was twelve years old. Her death had a major impact on him and left him with an overwhelming sense of grief and loneliness.10 As his mother said good-bye to everyone she looked at Charles and said, “Charlie, be good.”11 Those simple words would have a deep impact on Charles.
After his mother’s death his father remarried, Harriett Miller, whom the family loved and honestly needed.
After, his conversion Parham began to serve as a teacher in the Sunday School. He continued in this position until he was fifteen before he began preaching. Then in entered Southwestern Kansas College at the age of sixteen. Parham had planned to enter ministry. But he discovered how much people disdained ministers and the harsh ships and poverty ministers often endure he began to look towards other professions. A lot because of his childhood and battle with sickness he decided to consider medicine. However, the burden of the call keeping disturbing him on the inside.12 In 1893 there was a national panic and this economic crisis had an impact on Parham. 13
“His experience at college had been an ordeal comparable to his childhood struggles. Priorities were a problem at first as he ‘pursued the religious work with more vigor than the studies.’ He took the consequences personally, noting that such zeal caused him to be ‘severely reprimanded and graded down in the examination.” 14 During those difficult economic crisis ministers were seen as a burden on society.”15 No longer financially secure living with his father, Parham saw medicine as a better option than ministry, plus he could still minister to people through medicine and alleviate much suffering.
As he changed focus, he spiritually backslid. Parham would later write, “the devil tried to make us believe that we could be a physician and a Christian too.”16
In walking away from the will of the Father, Parham loss the divine favor that was on his life and the inward struggle grew. Soon he found himself fighting the devils of sickness he had fought as a child. Rheumatic fever had returned, and the pain was so intense, Parham wished he was dead. He would spend months highly sedated with morphine while all the while knowing he had a call to preach. Finally, a doctor declared Parham was near death with no hope of survival.
As, he lay dying Parham remembered the call and kept hearing, “Will you preach?” 17, 18
In December of 1891, Parham got his breakthrough. Under an oak tree he rededicated his life to the Lord and committed himself to preaching the Gospel. Further, he would quit college. Instantly he was healed. 19 Parham told the Lord, “If You will let me go somewhere, someplace where I wouldn’t have to take collections or beg for a living, I will preach.”20
Take the Valley
In May of 1892, Parham held evangelistic meetings at the Pleasant Valley School House which was near Tonganoxie Kansas. Before the first service, Parham went up to a hill overlooking the valley and “with hands stretched out over the valley, prayed that the entire community might be taken for God.”21 The Lord anointed Parham and he began to preach with a bold confidence that drew people and a revival broke out in the community. He was preaching not a “a hope so” or “guess so” but a “know so” encounter and experience with the Lord with an assurance of the forgiveness of sins.
At his first meeting the Thistlewaites were present along with their daughter Sarah. Sarah saw in Parham a preacher different to what she was used to. Parham didn’t come with notes but had a trust the Holy Spirit would tell him what to say. She was convicted and so consecrated her life totally to the Lord.22 She also began to develop a friendship with Parham.
The Holiness Movement
At the age of nineteen, Parham began to pastor the Methodist church in Eudora, Kansas. By the end of 1893 as a result of his revivals he began pastoring the Congregational church in Linwood.23 The Linwood church congregation grew so much they had to build plans for a new building.
In the 1890’s the holiness movement was very strong in the Midwest. Voices like Benjamin Irwin, a Nebraskan preacher, had become a national sensation for the holiness movement. He began preaching a fire baptism. In the holiness movement they had strict beliefs as they sought to live a holy life. The Wesleyan holiness movement called for a second blessing24 that enabled believers to triumphant over sin. However, by the 1890’s the holiness movement was threatening the hierarchical system and authority of the church. The Methodist church which was once a burning fire had settled for cold religious formalism.
No More to Denominations
To the Methodist leadership Parham was “a firebrand whose energy could work ecclesiastical wonders if properly harnessed.”25 However, not all was well between Parham and the Methodist leadership. Parham sought to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. In his evangelistic works he would encourage new converts to find a church home even if it was not Methodist. Parham also disagreed on theological positions with the church.26
“Finding the confines of a pastorate, feeling the narrowness of sectarian churchism, I was often in conflict with higher authorities, which eventually resulted in open rupture; and I left denominationalism forever, though suffering bitter persecution at the hands of the church… Oh, the narrowness of many who call themselves the Lord’s own!”27
It would become a time of great persecution. Parham’s parents who were strong supporters of the church did not welcome their son’s decision. “Many slanderous accusations had been leveled against him, and he was concerned that the rising persecution would forever ruin his work. Then one day while deep in prayer, he heard the words, “I made Myself of no reputation.”28
Strengthened by Heaven’s response Parham pushed forward no longer associated with any denomination. He resigned his position and seemed to confirm what many had thought, he had a rebellious streak. He began to hold meetings in schools, halls, churches, etc., trusting the Holy Spirit to turn up and move in a mighty way in all of His meetings. The next five years would be a major learning curve for Parham as he ministered independently. 29
Parham launched his independent ministry in 1895. He continued to maintain close connections with Sarah Thistlethwaite and in the summer of 1896, he proposed. Charles warned Sarah before they were married that his life was totally dedicated to the Lord and that their future was unclear. 30 They were married on December 31st, 1896. Their wedding was done in the Quaker fashion.
The newlyweds set up home in Baldwin, Kansas. In September 1897 they saw the birth of their first son. Claude Wallace.
The Healing Ministry
The new season in Parham’s life brought a new giant that he would have to finally conquer, sickness. Parham had seen a dramatic healing while in College and had promised to preach divine healing. However, Parham had not stressed healing in his ministry. 31 In late 1897, Charles faced a health crisis. Facing a heart issue, Parham, watched his strength decline and no amount of medicine seemed to help. Then, without warning his son, Claude, was stroke with a fever. His doctor advised him to give you preaching.32
Parham was called to pray for a man who was sick. While praying for the man the Scripture began to burn on the inside of him, “Physician heal thyself.”33 As he prayed the power of God touch Parham and he was healed instantly.
Parham rushed home to tell his wife and pray for his son. He then threw away all medicines and made a vow to trust nothing but the Word of God.
A Vow to the Lord
Not long after Parham had made his stand on divine healing he got the news that two of his closet friends had died. Parham went to their graves and that day made a vow that changed his ministry…
“As I knelt between the graves of my two loved friends who might have lived if I had but told them of the power of Christ to heal, I made a vow that “Live or Die” I would preach this Gospel of healing.”34
Soon after this, the Parham’s moved to Ottawa, Kansas. It as here the Charles launched his healing ministry. Parham at this time was not aware of many preaching the healing message. He boldly preached Jesus the Healer and that by His stripes you were healed.”35 The Lord confirmed His Word and “signs and wonders were done in the Name of the Holy Child, Jesus.”36 People from all ranks of society began to come to the Parham’s home seeking healing.
One lady who was healed was Mrs. Ell Cook who lived in Ottawa. She suffered from dropsy. Doctors had given her only three days left to live so she was carried upstairs to where the Parham’s were holding a meeting. At this time they were meeting at the old Salvation Army Hall. The woman was prayed for and instantly healed. She fell on the floor as if dead which caused an uproar as people thought the Parham’s had killed her. Parham stood by her body and told the people she was not dead. A few moments alter she opened her eyes and was assisted to her feet. The woman then walked by herself down the stairs and a mile to her home shouting God’s praises as she went. 37
The testimonies of people miraculously headed began to grow. At the same time many claimed he healed by the power of the devil. But Parham decided he would no longer be moved by persecution or slander. 38 He also decided to open a healing home where those who were ill could find a refugee until they recovered.
Parham suffered great persecution throughout his ministry. Parham committed himself to pray long regarding the issue. He kept pressing in until he experienced the Presence of the Lord. 39 So many of us encounter persecution and it becomes a stumbling block. But Parham discovered the importance of going after God and refusing to quit until he meets with Him. It was here in His Presence that the Lord spoke. We must get past the noise and our flesh so we can hear. A holy desperation must consume us and drive us further and refuse to let us quit until we make such vital contact with Him.
The Lord reminded him that “I made Myself of no reputation.” The Lord showed how He received no honor from mem (John 5: 41). The Lord then said, “Behold, I made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead against their foreheads. As an adamant, harder than flint, have I made thy forehead; fear them not neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 13: 8-9).”40
The Lord was faithful to make Parham strong in the face of persecution. He learned not to look towards man but keep his face focused on Jesus. Even in the face of death, Parham had the peace of heaven. His validation and approval were from heaven. He understood that the Lord made Himself of no reputation meant that before men they failed to see who He really was or receive Him. Persecution can be a poison that slowly steals the life of God and destroys our identity in Him. It must be killed by focusing on Jesus and allowing Him to strengthen us. We must not look to men, but heaven and we must never allow anything to take out attention from being wholly on Jesus.
All the Way
During the summer, Parham moved his family to Topeka Kansas and secured a place on the corner of Fourth and Jackson in downtown Topeka to be the center of his ministry. Regarding medicine at that time a historian wrote…
“The average physician had only a hazy notion of etiology, and he prescribed largely for such symptoms as fevers, coughs, diarrheas, consumptions and sore throats. The treatments itself was often hit or miss. While dosage was moderating, quinine, aconite, opium, alcohol, mercury, strychnine, arsenic, and other potentially dangerous drugs still formed the basis of material medica.”41
In November 1898 on Thanksgiving Day, their daughter, Esther Marie was born. Shortly afterwards they opened, “Bethel.” It was a healing home located in Topeka, Kansas. It would provide a home- like atmosphere for sick to come and trust God for their healing. The ground floor had a chapel where daily services were held. They top floor had fourteen rooms which they kept filled with fresh floors. The Word of God would be taught powerfully, and people would be prayed for and over.
In addition, Bethel would provide a place to train people for ministry. Regarding Bethel, someone wrote…
“Who can think of a sweeter name than Bethel? Surely it is the House of God. Everything moves in love and harmony. On entering rooms one is impressed with the divine influence she abroad here… It is a Faith Home all the way through.”42
Parham then began his newsletter, “the Apostolic Faith.” It was a bi-weekly publication and initially had a subscription price, but Parham based on Isaiah 55: 1, simply asked the readers to give as they were led. In the newsletter he published testimonies of people who were wonderfully healed. He also included many of the sermons preached at Bethel.
It is important to note that Parham never preached or claimed he could heal. Rather he preached and stated that Jesus could heal, and that healing came to all through faith in God. He denounced the title “Divine Healer,” and made it clear he could only help those who had faith that God could heal.43 Evangelism remained his major focus not publicly preaching healing. Like Dowie, Parham believed that taking medicine was wrong. 44 And like Dowie, he believed taking medicine revealed a lack of faith in God. 45 Liardon explained that Parham’s “personal faith” inspired him to take such a stand. His family stood with him on this but Parham left the final decision regarding whether to take medicine or not to the individual. In Liardon’s words, “There will always be those who follow the inspiration of another, without any revelation themselves. Because of this we have seen entire sections of the Body of Christ refuse to use medication and call those who do ‘sinners.’” 46
Parham believed that God would provide all of their needs, so he trusted Him for the finances for Bethel and the newsletter. He would see many miracles in how God would provide the money necessary. 47
In March 1900, they had another son, Charles. The family now had outgrown Bethel, so a parsonage was built. Parham begin to travel and minister in Chicago, New York and Maine. Inside of Parham there was a deep hunger, believing God had a greater outpouring for His people.
“I returned hone fully convinced that while many had obtained real experiences in sanctification and the anointing that abideth, there still remained a great outpouring of power for the Christians who were to close the age.”48
This longing was seen in many heroes of faith believing they would possibly be that final generation. They saw in the Word a great and final outpouring reserved for that generation and longed to taste it.
Surrounded by a Halo
It was time to start a formal Bible School, so Parham shut himself away and committed himself to prayer and fasting. In October 1900, Parham obtained a beautiful building where he could have his Bible School. It was called, “Sone’s Folly.”49
The building looked like an English castle but the builder ran out of money, so the building was not fully completed in the style intended. The first and second floor had a beautiful carved wood staircase made of cedar, cherrywood, maple and pine. The third floor was common wood and paint.50
At the dedication a man saw a vision when looking out from the Prayer Tower. He saw a “vast lake of fresh water about to overflow, containing enough to satisfy every thirsty need.”51 The Bible School was open to all who would forsake all. They would have to trust the Lord to meet all of their needs.
Before Parham left on a trip once he gave his students an assignment based on the Book of Acts. They were to diligently study the book and the Biblical evidence for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. They were to report their findings in three days.
Parham returned from his meeting in Kansas City for the annual Watch Night Service. The next morning the assignments were due, and Parham listened to the reports of the forty students with amazement. Every student concluded that the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues!52
A great excitement filled the people and at the next evening Watch Night service a spiritual freshness filled the atmosphere. One student, Agnes Ozman, asked for Parham to prayer over her for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. She believed she was called to the mission field and wanted equipping from Heaven. Initially, Parham was reluctant but due to her persistence he did. Parham later wrote of the event…
I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak in English for three days.”
It is important to note that in the early years of the twentieth century many had been seeking revival and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, the Baptism of Fire preached by B. Irwin which had gained great popularity in the late nineteenth century was now under questions due to the failure of Irwin. Dowie was also beginning to derail and there was concern in the church. Regarding the fire baptism of Irwin, after his failures “everything west of the Mississippi River went to pieces in the course of a few years.”53 Despite the enemy’s attempts to disgrace the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that believers would not seek it, there was a hunger in the Body for revival and the real fire of the Holy Spirit.
Having been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit the students removed their beds from the dormitory and made it a prayer room. There they prayed and waited for two nights and three days.
In the January of 1901, Charles Parham began preaching and sharing about what was happening at the Bible school, Stone’s Folley. He was convinced that he too would soon begin speaking in tongues. When he returned to the Bible school, he was led to the prayer room. When he came inside, he found twelve denominational ministers there. In the room people were speaking in tongues as they kneeled, sat or stood. Some even trembled under the power. 54
Charles Parham was soon overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit as well. He began asking the Lord for the Baptism. As he did, he heard the Lord telling him to stand.
“Right then and there came a slight twist in my throat, a glory fell over me and I began to worship God in Swedish tongue, which later changed to other languages and continued…”55
People soon heard about how Pentecost had come to Stone’s Folly. The students at Stone’s Folly were speaking in languages from all over the world.
Parham began to distinguish the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is students were having from the Baptism of fire. Parham taught that the same power was being given as on the Day of Pentecost and enabled the recipient the power necessary to go and serve the Lord. 56
‘In addition, Parham saw tongues as the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Parham taught that “glossolalia (tongues) would be the utilitarian link between Holy Spirit power and evangelism.” 57 Parham taught at his school two major concepts, “Life by faith and Holy Spirit baptism for the purpose of world evangelism.”58 Regarding the revival at Stone’s Folly, Parham stated…
“No sooner was this miraculous restoration of Pentecostal power noised abroad, when we were besieged with reporters from Topeka papers. Kansas City, St. Louis and many other cities sent reporters who brought with them professors of languages, foreigners, Government interpreters, and they gave the work the most crucial test. One Government interpreter claimed to have heard twenty Chinese dialects distinctly spoken in one night, but all agreed that the students of the college were speaking in the languages of the world, and that with proper foreign and intonation.”59
Charles Shumway in his research on Parham was not able to find people to corroborate the evangelist’s claims. Proof would be impossible to verify.60 Shumway is a leading expert on glossolalia. Many have tried to understand tongues and claims Pentecostals have made. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. We know that the early Church spoke in tongues and people heard them speaking in their own dialogue. Early Pentecostals believed that the tongue they were given was an indicator of where they were called to go as a missionary. Many people at the time and even today believe tongues to be mere “gibberish.” Yet, tongues is a powerful prayer language given by the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Book of Acts, we see that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is followed with or confirmed by tongues. Tongues is the doorway to the supernatural and through tongues we can birth the will of God into our spirit. 61
Preaching the Baptism
Parham began to travel throughout the country, preaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. During one service he began to speak in tongues. As he did a man was healed and heard the Twenty-Third Psalm in his own tongue.62 This soon became the norm for Parham.
As the mighty outpouring continued in Parham’s ministry persecution grew and along with that attacks from the enemy. On March 6th, 1901, their youngest child named Charles died. The Parham’s were accused of causing or at least contributing to the death of Charles. However, the Parham’s kept their hearts soft toward the Lord during this intense time and won the test of faith. The enemy loves to harden our hearts through bitterness and cause us to abort the purpose of Heaven.
In the fall of 1901, Stone’s Folly was sold out suddenly without Charles Parham knowing. Parham warned those who bought the building that if they used it for secular reasons, the Lord would destroy it. By the end of December, the building had been destroyed by fire.63
As Parham gained greater publicity, he found out that he was either loved or hated.
A Voice Crying Out
In 1901, Parham would write his first book, “A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness.” The book was based on sermons. Parham’s missionary heart is clear in the book…
“Now a word to men and women who have a call from God to preach, who have been accepted by your Church or society or not. Preach you must and preach you will have to whether you are received properly licensed or not; God will not cast you off or fail to own your labors. If you do not obey, there is left you in this world only a path of thorns- misery, woe, want and nothing that you touch shall prosper…”64
The book spoke on healing and the importance of obedience to the Lord to preach healing…
“praying for the sick- I drew back from and many were the severe punishments received from the Father for this rebellion; how many time He withdrew His presence because I refused to declare the matchless power of Him who bare our sickness.”65
In First Corinthians it says…
Now these things brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.”
1 Corinthians 4: 6
We are not to “exceed what is written.” This is a powerful lesson we must learn. As you read “A Voice Crying in The Wilderness,” you gain an understanding of how Parham thought and that he saw marriage of difference races as wrong. Further, he felt such marriages were the cause of many evils on the earth.64 This helps explain his comments later regarding the Azusa Revival.
In the fall of 1903, the Parhams moved again, this time to Galena Kansas. Here Parham preached using a large tent that could hold two thousand people However, the crowds were too large so they found a building they could use. Even the building proved not large enough and they had to leave the doors open during the services. The revival saw strong manifestations of the Holy Spirit. 66
At that time, it was common at meetings for card to be handed to all who were sick. They were asked to fill out the cards and randomly the cards would be selected, and the person called forward for prayer. Parham didn’t follow this and prayed for all who were sick regardless of how long it took. 68
“The Catholic Advance wrote… “The wicked are being forgiven and blessed; the blind are made to see and cripples throw away their crutches and walked as never before.”69
The Jeffersonian Gazette wrote of Parham… “Rev Parham is one of the brightest, best and squarest young men we have known. He is an indefatigable worker, and will doubtless make a success of his work.”70
The Modern Light wrote… Galena has a man, Rev. Parham who is holding bog meetings and cures diseases by the laying on of hands.”71
The Baxter Springs News wrote… “Chas F. Parham projector of the Apostolic Faith Movement, is holding a series of meetings on East Third Street and Galena Avenue, Galena KS. He teaches divine healing by the power of Almighty God, in connection with the salvation of souls. The blind see, the lame walk, deaf ears are unstopped.”72
The Independent wrote… “In very bad weather Rev. Charles F. Parham formerly of Kansas City, baptized 250 converts in Spring River at Lowell, three miles southwest of Galena.”73
The Leader Courier wrote… “Rev. Mr. Parham the divine healer and evangelist, who has been holding a six week’s session of meetings here, finished baptizing by immersion the remaining 250 converts New Years day. This was the third baptizing, the whole number aggregating over 500. Many profess to have been cured of their diseases and infirmities by Rev. Mr. Parham’s power. Life-long cripples, partial blindness and cancer in many forms furnished testimonials of complete restoration.”74
The Independent-Journal wrote… “The Rev. Mr. Parham a divine healer and evangelist, who has been holding a six weeks’ session of meetings in Galena, Kansas, has finished by baptizing by immersion over 500. Last week to have concluded the meetings, but the people clamored for more and the business men gave $100 to have them continue a month longer.”75
The Cherokee County Republican wrote…. “The evangelist meetings which have been held at this place by Rev. Charles F. Parham formerly of Kansas City, for the past six weeks, celebrated New Year’s by baptizing the converts in Spring river this afternoon. The meetings have been a success from the beginning and fully 500 have been converted…Many of the most prominent people in town have professed to having been healed of blindness, cancer, rheumatism and other diseases, and it has been such a spiritual revival as Galena has not experienced in years.”76
This is a very limited number of what was recorded in the newspapers but it is clear Parham was having successful revivals and many were being healed, including prominent people in the cities.
One newspaper described Parham in these words…
“In person, Mr. Parham is below medium height, pleasant looking, has a fierce reddish-faddish beard. A voice like a pirate and a manner as brusque as a janitor in a flat. He is a native of Kansas and talks at the rate of 250 words a minute, and if it is a matter of doubt about having the gift of tongues, he has at least the gift of one, for in his flights of rhetoric… he never stumbles for a word.”77
Houston, We Have a Mission
On March 6th 1904, Wilfred Charles was born to the Parhams. One month after his birth the Parhams moved to Baxter Springs. Then in 1905, Charles Parham moved his family to Orchard, Texas. During his Joplin, Missouri revival, Parham saw a relapse of his rheumatic fever and heard “the unmistakable divine voice that had spoken so often in the past seemed to tug at his heart and say, ‘Go to the southland!.’” 78 Several also sought to convince him that the climate in the Houston area would aid in his recovery. Initially Parham went for a three-week vacation.
Just like in Kansas, Parham’s meetings saw great power. He also felt his strength returned. 79
Parham “had come to expect divine guidance through the occasional flareups and setbacks of rheumatic fever.”80
Parham called the meetings, “Rally Days.” His first Rally Day was planned for Houston, Texas. It would be held at the Bryn Hall. Parham had a great love of the Holy Land, had an array of Holy Land artifacts which got the attention of the local newspapers.
Texas proved a great place for training missionaries. Parham said to his family, “the revival at Orchard was the grandest scene I have witnessed since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Bible School in Topeka.”81 Parham was assisted in Houston by the Holiness movement and the healings helped generate interest with the press. One healing was of a five year old boy whose spine was straightened and his weak legs suddenly gained strength.82 Such healings gained the interest of the local community. Another healing that gained the attention of the press involved a wife of a prominent attorney who was paralyzed in a car accident. She was unable to walk despite spending vast amounts of money.
“Two of the women placed their hands upon her and others prayed and sang. In a short time Mrs. Dulaney arose from her chair and walked about the hall in a state of ecstatic joy shouting, clapping her hands, and praising the Lord for restoration. The incident created much excitement. Mrs. Dulaney walked down the stairs from the hall and went home. She has attended their meetings daily since, but not in the chair, and is still rejoicing and praising God for her recovery.”83
Tongues proved to be the big attention getter. Shumway claimed to have found now evidence of the claims once again of people speaking in different languages and professors confirming it. However, the claims were so wide spread it was hard to cast them aside. Many claimed to have heard messages spoken in their native language. 84
In late 1905, Parham closed down his Houston campaign and went back to Topeka Kansas. Initially they moved to Baxter Springs but then in June he moved to Melrose, Kansas. Also in June they had another boy, Robert. It was at this time, Parham received the news from Seymour regarding Azusa. Seymour wanted Parham to come quickly to help discern regarding the spiritualistic manifestations that were occurring. Parham, despite the plea decided to go to Zion, Illinois. 85
The Christian utopian city of Dowie was in shambles. The city was bankrupt and the people in great distress. Dowie’s ministry at this time was totally derailed and his compassion for the people almost nonexistent. Dowie had been preaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through the powerful ministry of Dowie they fully received the healing ministry, and many were hungry for more. Parham’s timing seemed perfect.
A student from the Topeka Bible school who spoke in tongues had moved to Zion, Illinois with his family in 1903. 86 Then in 1904 a Mrs. Waldron who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit moved to Zion. She began witnessing and led another sister to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and she spoke in tongues. Mrs. Waldon was forbidden to hold any more prayer meetings and after great pressure was put on her family they moved away. However, the seed was planted and when people heard of Azusa many became interested and requested Parham to come.
Parham said, “I saw Zion City in a vision, and the troubles of its people were made clear to me.”87 In September of 1906, Parham held a campaign at the Elijah Hospice. George A Rogers the manger of the Hospice, invited Parham. The meeting was quietly planned but the crowds were extremely large. Wilbur Glenn Voliva, Dowie’s successor stated of Parham, “this man is winning some of our most faithful people.”88 Hundreds came to his meetings. Parham was kicked out of the Elijah house and was forced to hold meetings in the home of Mrs. Ames. It took several weeks before anyone received the baptism. But they came hungry and felt the need to tarry for the Holy Spirit.
More people sought the Baptism and it was necessary to find other homes to hold meetings. One of the homes belonged to Fred F. Bosworth. 89 On October 18th, the Daily Sun wrote… “Of the twenty four persons who are said to have been seized with the sudden ability to talk in other languages than their own, some have spoken in German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and a few Norwegian.”90
One of the early people to receive the Baptism included Marie Burgress Brown who after the Baptism left for New York and established “Glad Tidings Tabernacle.” It was here people like Smith Wigglesworth would preach.91 Bosworth would do in to be a powerful voice for the Lord leading over one million to Jesus before he died at the age of eighty. 92
Winning over key people in Zion would prove a powerful tool to spread the message of Pentecostalism. Dowie with all his flaws was a man who preached evangelism and that seed when the people were filled with the Holy Spirit stirred them to just go. And go they went all around the world.
The leaders of Zion launched all out war against Parham. Dowie and Voliva publicly attacked Parham. They sought to drive him out of Zion. VOliva wrote Parham a letter asking how long he planned to stay. Parham responded… “I am going to stay, as Long as the Lord wants me here.”93 Parham also made it clear that he was not seeking the downfall of either Dowie or Voliva. 94
In late October, Parham felt his work was done and it was time to answer the request from Seymour.
Test the Spirits
Parham set off by train to the Azusa Street Revival. Seymour had been taught by Parham and when Seymour started the work in Los Angeles, he taught what Parham had preached. Seymour saw Parham as a spiritual father, and he was hungry for the Lord. Seymour was humble and in Los Angeles had sought the Lord until the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit. The work that happened at Azusa would change history. It was an incredible work and God moved powerfully. However, the enemy was seeking to come in and “tear it to pieces,”95 so Seymour had sought the help of Parham.
Parham’s account of what happened was…
“When he came to the Azusa Mission, Seymour introduced Chas. F. Parham to the Azusa people as his ‘Father in this gospel of the Kingdom,’ and all wanted to see the father of the black son. This stirred up the devil in a great shape; satan’s servants swho had been at work in the mission in great power, saw their destruction. The next day he closed the door against his father.”96
Parham would had attended a few meetings at Azusa was disturbed by what he saw. He had heard of a hypnotist and spiritualists who had infiltrated the work. Also, Parham was disturbed by the fanaticism or manifestations he saw. He sought to convince Seymour to change his ways. Seymour responded by padlocking the door to Parham. Parham unable to get into the mission rented a hall and started his own series of meetings in Los Angeles.
To Parham the problem was a matter of spiritual pride on Seymour’s behalf.97
Back to Zion
When Parham returned in December and secured a lot on Elizabeth Avenue and 26th Street, which was two blocks away from the Elijah Hotel/ Hospice.98 The tent was heated using stoves of red hot coals. The tent stood as a thorn in the side of the Zion leaders who sought to have it declared a public nuisance.99
December 31st, 1906 Parham preached for two hours on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. He held meetings for two weeks and drew crowds of around two thousand.100 Many of the people came from different states surrounding Illinois. In fact “If you didn’t get there early, you wouldn’t get a seat.”101
His meeting was meet with such excitement several called on Parham to begin a movement in Zion and start a church there. However, Parham felt he was called to Zion because of those in oppression and not to build a church. Parham felt that if his message was I true value, it didn’t need a movement or organization. As a result, Parham decided to official resign as the ‘projector” of the Apostolic Faith Mission. Parham wrote in his newsletter…
“Now that they (apostolic faith tenets) are generally accepted, I simply take my place among my brethren to push this Gospel of the Kingdom as a s witness to all nations.”102
Key elders like Elder Brooks, who held a prominent position with Dowie, when he learned that “Mr. Parham was against demonstrative manifestations, as he himself was, he was more open to listen to him.”103 John G. Lake who had lived in Zion for a time was connected with E. V. Orvis who joined with Parham. John G. Lake well not able to join the Parham meetings, would also receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.104
Parham then left Zion to go to Toronto and Boston, stopping in Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio on the way. 105 While he was gone, Parham left his family in Zion, Illinois, where they endured great persecution. Things grew so bad that Mrs. Parham decided to take the family back to Kansas.106
The Flames of Hell
During this time period, Parham experienced incredible persecution. He has upset Voliva and the leaders in Zion. The resignation of Parham as projector of the Apostolic Faith Mission was fuel for the fire. A rumor spread that he was caught in sexual immorality. The newspapers accused of sexual assault on a boy. The rumors claimed circulated in the Waukegan Daily Sun, clamed Parham was forced to leave Zion quickly because detectives were on their way to arrest him. The paper would later admit the account was based on a rumor and the Zion police department knew nothing of the incident.107
Then in Chicago Tribune in September ran an article that claimed Parham had been arrested for an incident involving a child.108 More papers would run similar articles. The San Antonio Light claimed he had been arrested and charge with sodomy under Texas law.108 Parham began fighting back against the claims which he believed were from Wilbur Voliva. Newspapers declared that as a result of Parham’s work in Zion, that many key supporters had abandoned him and he was no longer a minister but just a lay person.109 Parham was determined to clear his name. Mrs. Parham who became aware of the allegations had already left Zion and moved back to Kansas. A lot of the allegations made against Parham could be traced back to the Zion Herald.111
Parham was arrested and was released from bail after a payment of $1,000 was made. 110 Eventually the district attorney called for a dismissal of the case and on the 28th of June, Bexar County Court did dismiss it. 112 Parham’s ministry was severely damaged with many groups declaring him anathema.
Parham’s followers in Zion, Illinois were attacked ruthlessly. They were branded “adulterers” and ‘immoral.” Despite calls for legal action against those behind the attacks the Parham followers refused. In Zion, Illinois posters were placed nine years later when Parham revisited the city, stating that Parham had confessed stating, “I hereby confess my guilt in the commission of Sodomy with one J. J Jordan in San Antonio.”113 J. J Jordan’s association with Parham was never substantiated. Further, he was charged earlier with “theft.”114 The Zion Herald which immediately after Parham’s arrest began attacking Parham and declaring him guilty attributed the story to the San Antonio newspaper to suggest an unbiased source. Goff wrote, “The charges as specified in this Zion Herald account are suspect at best. The lack of any corroborating evidence suggests Voliva was making the most of Parham’s dilemma by leaving no rumorous stone unturned.”115
Goff wrote in summary of the scandal…
“In the final analysis the Parham scandal remains a mystery. There is neither enough evidence to condemn him nor enough doubt to sufficiently explain the preponderance of rumor which circulated during his lifetime. Unfortunately, Parham neglected- or was unable- to secure San Antonio’s officials’ testimony in clearing his reputation. He naively left the matter to the discretion of his followers, believing that those faithful to his cause of the Apostolic Faith would never believe the rumors, and those opposed to his ministry would never accept a defense.”116
Parham later wrote…
“I think the greatest sorrow of my life is the thought that my enemies, in seeking my destruction, have ruined and destroyed so many precious souls.”117
Despite the scandal that followed and the rejection by many ministry organizations, Parham continued to travel across the country preaching. His messages seemed to be more critical of Pentecostal Christians as he was never able to recover from the Voliva attack.
In 1913, while preaching in Wichita, a mob came with clubs and pitchforks. Fortunately, a friend was able to find a way out for Parham. The meeting was able to continue and hundred came to the Lord.118
Parham pressed on though wounded by those he thought were his friends. He continued to preach every way the Lord lead him and refused to back down. He had incredible meetings in Los Angeles and during one of his meetings in Oregon and Washington, Gordon Linsey came to the Lord. Gordon Lindsey went on to start an amazing ministry and stabled, Christ for the Nations Bible School in Dallas, Texas.
In 1927, Parham a dream come true when funds became available for him to visit the Holy Land. Parham was able to see Jerusalem and walk through the Galilee and other areas where Jesus ministered. When he returned he brought with him slides to share and show people the Land where Jesus lived. Parham called the slides, “the 23rd Psalm.” During his time in Palestine, he had gained a great revelation of Jesus the Great Shepherd and His Sheep. 119
His Final Days
It was clear that by August of 1928, Parham was tired and worn. He told his friends that hs race was almost finished. He said…
“I am living on the edge of the Glory Land these days and it’s all so real on the other side of the curtain that I feel mightily tempted to cross over.”120
He spent Christmas 1929 with his family and afterwards was scheduled to present his slides on the Holy Land in Texas. His health was not great so his family was concerned and they quickly learned that after his departure his health had further declined. Parham collapsed during a presentation. He regained consciousness and said he wanted to continue with the slides.
When his family arrived in Temple it was decided to cancel the presentation and to bring him home to Kansas by train. Parham was ow so weak he could barely talk but he awaited the return of his son Wilfred from California. Parham true to his beliefs refused any medication.
His youngest son who was working in a department store quit his job so he could come home and fast and pray. His son then told his father that he had “surrendered his life to he call of ministry.”121 Parham gained strength on hearing his two sons would carry on the work of ministry and said…
“I can’t boast of any good works I have done when I meet my Master face to face, but I can say, I have neem faithful to the message He gave me, and lived a pure, clean life.”122
Parham’s face glowed as his prayers for many years had been answered. On his last day, Parham kept quoting, “peace, peace like a river. That is what I have been thinking all day.” That night he sang “Power in the blood.” He then asked his family to sing it and sing it again 123
On January 29th, 1929 at the age of fixity- six years, Charles F. Parham was promoted to heave.
At his funeral over twenty-five hundred people attended. Offerings would pour in and enabled the family to buy a grave memorial that looked like a pulpit. On the memorial was carved, “John 15: 13,” and “Greater love hath no man than he lay this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”124
Betrayed in the House of the Lord
The Dictionary defines “Betrayal” as: –
- Violation of a person’s trust or confidence
- Revelation of something hidden or secret
- To fail or desert especially in time of need
- To disclose in violation of trust
All of us at some time in our life have been or have betrayed someone. In saying that certain betrayals cut very deep and leave wounds that hurt more than anyone can imagine. Such wounds can paralyze you and, on this cruel battlefield, lay the broken and destroyed lives of so many, slain by the cruel tongue and action of another. Listen to the words of David…
“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
Psalm 41: 9
A True Pioneer
Pioneers are the driven few who pay an incredible price so that those who follow can settle and enjoy the vision so often birthed through many tears, sweat, hard work and intense pain. His ministry resulted in over two million coming to know the Lord, both directly and indirectly. He drew massive crowds to his meetings and lead so many in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. While many spoke in tongues before Parham, he brought back the revelation of tongues being the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Parham’s life on the harsh plains of Kansas was symbolic of his life as a spiritual pioneer. He suffered great conflict and persecution as a clarion voice of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Parham was clearly not a perfect man. He was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and was opposed to inter marriage of races. Yet, he was a man of great sacrificial love and faithfulness. To claim he was racist would not be true. Parham became for a season a spiritual father to Seymour. The law at the time forbid black and whites being taught in the same room and yet Parham did find a solution for Seymour. We must understand that it was not Parham’s law that caused Seymour to be in another room and Seymour didn’t feel that Parham was being racist toward him.
Parham was a man who despite the harshness of the road he traveled down stayed the course. When we look at Zion, Illinois and the criticism that Parham was seeking to steal sheep we must understand the desperate state of Zion. The people of Zion, Illinois were severely suffering, and Parham brought to them a message of hope and deliverance. We as ministers are called to seek out the broken and to go after the one, leaving the ninety-nine behind. Compassion must consume our heart and must be our driving force.
Parham was a faithful man. From his early days he was forced to challenge the status quo and prove himself faithful to the voice of heaven over men. Faithfulness must be to heaven and not man. Many saw Parham as a rebel. But settlers who boast in their faithfulness to man, remain in their pews and give off an appearance of religion, but faithfulness to God demands that we go and we hear His voice and obey it. Parham could have had a successful career as a doctor or even as a minister, but the call of heaven always was before him and like his predecessors the words, “woe is me if I do not preach” haunt the soul.
Faithfulness means stepping out of the comfort of the settlers life and walking the life of faith of a pioneer. Trusting Him totally that He will fulfill His promises. As Roberts Liardon states, “How wonderful it will be to hear the Lord say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant!’ instead o Him saying only, ‘Well…?”125
Those whose names populate the halls of the heroes of faith are those who dare to step out and go! Those who simply know, love and obey Jesus. Too many make the Christian life and walk so complex and have lost sight of the simplicity of simply hearing the Holy Spirit and doing. Changing the nations and reaching souls for Jesus requires that we live boldly for Him. May we take up the challenge and to search the Scripture so we get it for ourselves. We live not off the revelation of someone else but we pay the price to discover the truth for ourselves and then pay the price to boldly live it out, manifesting Jesus for the world to see. May we too be driven by compassion even when we face the severest of persecution and deep hurting betrayal of friends. May we not simply say or quote the Word o make declarations through songs or words, but actually prove to be doers of the Word. Not taken captive by men through obedience to minor things in the Word, but to catch the heart of Jesus, His compassion, mercy and fire and with these to live out the full counsel of the Word.
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